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How do You Remove a Tow Rope From a Jet Ski Intake? [Video]

How do You Remove a Tow Rope From a Jet Ski Intake? [Video]

If your jet ski sucked up a rope, and you’re trying to figure out how to safely get it out, just follow our step-by-step guide to easily remove it!

Jet skis are always sucking up ropes it seems. In fact, this happens all the time with anchor and dock lines no matter how experienced the driver is. This also happens quite often during watersports like wakeboarding or tubing when the tow rope gets sucked up.

You really should think about this before buying a jet ski rather than a boat if you’re going to participate in tow sports.

Prevention is the key to any jet ski rope sucking problem. This is why it is so important that you continually focus on any ropes in the water. Once you hear someone screaming, “Rope stuck in my jet ski,” you know you’re in trouble and will have no choice but to remove it yourself.

When a Rope is Stuck in Your Jet Ski

The first thing you need to do is to immediately shut off the engine if it hasn’t already shut off by itself from the rope being tangled up in it.

CAUTION: Do not try starting the engine so you can put it in reverse, thinking that will resolve it. Doing this will only make things worse!

Once you shut the engine off, do what you can to return to shore, even if you’re forced to paddle your way back. You should always keep paddles on hand for emergencies like this. If you are so far away that this is out of the question, you will need to ask someone for a tow back to shore or you can maybe dock with another watercraft.

Towing a jet ski behind a boat or some other jet ski is not easy, although some make it look that way. For your safety, you need to read our guide on this, so you know how to do it properly.

How do You Remove a Tow Rope From a Jet Ski Intake?

Once you get back to where your trailer is, you need to get the jet ski up onto the trailer, even though you may think you could remove the rope by flipping the jet ski over in the water. Not a good idea! Never flip your jet ski over in the water! Water can seep into the engine and this could really cause a lot of damage.  When people flip their jet skis upside down while still in the water, it can cause tremendous damage from water getting into the hull and engine. No matter what, you’re still going to have to get your jet ski out of the water!

Here is your step-by-step guide for doing a jet ski rope removal once you have it totally out of the water:

How to Remove a Tow Rope From a Jet Ski Intake:

  • Pull your jet ski up onto the trailer.
  • Drive over and park someplace quiet.
  • Place blocks around the trailer’s wheels so it can’t move.
  • Make sure the engine is switched OFF.
  • Disconnect the battery.
  • Examine the problem by checking the intake grate, which is the protective metal grid on the underside of your jet ski.
  • Do your best to pull the rope out by hand. If the engine was shut off early enough, the rope may not be all balled up and it might come out easily.
  • If it won’t come loose, you have no choice but to cut it up with a sharp knife. You could also use a long-handled razor knife as well. There is no point in trying to save your rope.
  • If you don’t have a knife on hand, look around for a fisherman because they are never without a sharp knife!
  • Keep cutting and yanking until you get the rope out. Be patient because this is going to take time.
  • If it just won’t all come out, you may need to remove the intake grate and perhaps the pump. Once these are removed, you should be able to get the rest of the rope out.
To see how this is done, watch this video:

If you do not know how to properly remove the intake grate or pump, we strongly recommend that you trailer your jet ski over to your dealer or to a reputable repair shop.

At first glance, it may look like it would be fairly easy for you to remove the intake grate. But unless you have solid experience doing this, we do not recommend that you take any parts off your jet ski. You need the right experience and the proper tools to avoid damaging your jet ski.

The intake grate is not at all easy to remove no matter how simple it looks. This process was much easier on the older PWCs, but it could be really tricky on the lastest PWC models! So be careful, if the intake grate is not put back correctly your entire jet ski could sink next time you try launching it!

To avoid costly damages to your jet ski, if the rope cannot be removed from the outside just take your jet ski to the dealer or a good repair shop and pay them to take care of this for you.

What to Do if Your PWC Sucked Up Debris or Rock

Jet skis are capable of sucking up a lot of things besides ropes. It could suck up almost anything, but they most commonly suck up trash, ocean debris and small rocks.

Sadly, rocks and other hard objects are what cause the biggest problems because they can do major damage to the impeller, wear ring and other parts.

No matter what your jet ski may have sucked up, shut the engine off right away. DO NOT give it gas or put it in reverse as these actions could worsen the damage – just like with ropes.

What should you do?

This is not something you can easily manage on shore. If you know what you’re doing and have the proper tools, trailer your jet ski home. You will have to remove the intake grate and/or the pump to access the object that got sucked in.

We can’t emphasize this enough, if you do not have experience doing this, trailer your jet ski over to your local dealer or to a good boat repair shop.

If your jet ski sucked up rocks or other hard objects, your impeller and other vital propulsion parts could be seriously damaged. You need to have professionals check everything out before you risk launching your jet ski again!

Unfortunately, these sorts of problems would not be covered under your warranty.

How to Prevent Your Jet Ski From Sucking Up Objects

After reading the above, you are probably wondering if there are ways to avoid having your jet ski suck stuff up.

You probably know that a jet ski is an extremely powerful vacuum. When the engine is running your jet ski will suck up anything around the intake. So, it isn’t easy to avoid this problem, but there are a few things you can do to help avoid these problems, as follows:

  • Never turn the engine on unless you are in 3 or more feet of water. We recommend that you make it a habit to wait to turn the engine on until you are at least waist-deep in water, even further from shore.

  • Before beaching, switch off the engine before touching land. Also, you need to know that you could damage your ride plate by beaching your jet ski if it has a closed-loop cooling system. If this is the case, avoid beaching your jet ski.

  • Never use the throttle near the ramp area or a no-wake area. In those areas just ride your PWC at idle speed. Go slow because who knows what could be in the water?

  • If you plan on towing a tuber or wakeboarder, but you’re worried about sucking up the rope, get an impeller protector (a.k.a. shock tube) or wakeboard tower. These special jet ski watersports accessories are designed to prevent the tow rope from getting too close to the impeller.

  • Make it a habit to avoid riding after a heavy storm. Branches break off trees and end up floating in the water. These and other storm debris may not be noticeable because they can float around under the surface.

  • It’s a good idea to make and keep a special removal tool in your ski. Although it can’t save you from the jam, you can remove it with this tool much easier:


Now you know that your jet ski is capable of sucking up a lot of things besides tow ropes, which include ocean debris, trash, sticks, rocks and other items that can cause major problems.

Once this has happened and your jet ski has sucked up rope or something else, DO NOT try removing it while you’re still in the water and DO NOT flip your jet ski over so it’s upside down!

Following best practices, you need to get your jet ski back to shore. But towing a jet ski behind a boat can also be dangerous, so you need to learn how to safely do this.After you get your jet ski back to shore and have put it up on your trailer, go step-by-step by following our 10 steps to safely remove the rope. If you lack the experience and do not have the proper tools, you are advised NOT to try removing the intake grate or pump!

In that case, the smartest thing you could do is to trailer your jet ski over to your dealer or a good boat repair shop near you. Let the professionals remove the rope or whatever item has been sucked up. They can also look to see if any parts in your propulsion system has been damaged.

The last thing you want to do is damage your jet ski further by trying to take care of this yourself when you have no idea what you’re doing, much less the right tools.

We hope you found this short jet ski rope removal guide helpful in case a rope gets stuck in your jet ski and that you now know what you can do to prevent this from happening in the first place!