Compare Specs Discover '24 PWCs Browse Reviews
1977-1992 Kawasaki JS440 Review and Specs [Video]

1977-1992 Kawasaki JS440 Review and Specs [Video]

The Kawasaki JS440 was the more powerful brother of the proven Kawasaki JS400, powered by a 436cc, 27 HP engine. This model was introduced in 1977 and remained in production through 1992.

If you want to find out more about this legendary ski, this post is for you.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know into this Kawasaki JS440 review!

1977-1992 Kawasaki JS440 Review

The first mass-produced Kawasaki Jet Ski was the JS400 released in 1976. To satisfy performance-minded enthusiasts, the Japanese manufacturer started developing the more powerful JS440 in that same year.

This new model debuted for the 1977 model year and remained in production through 1992, becoming one of the longest-living Kawasaki Jet Ski models.

The lively JS440 was popular among racers and recreational riders and remained the flagship ski in the fleet until the introduction of the more powerful JS550.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about this model in detail!

Kawasaki JS440 Hull and Top Deck

The Kawasaki JS440 shared its hull and top deck with the entry-level JS400.

Although the very first Kawasaki Jet Skis (labeled WSAA and WSAB) were manufactured in Japan, production of the Kawasaki JS400 and JS440 began in Lincoln, NE USA.

While the hull of the WSAA and WSAB were made of hand-laid fiberglass, the Kawasaki JS440 hull was made of the more advanced Fiberglass Reinforced Sheet Molding Compound (SMC).

This platform measured 84.3 inches in length, 24.4 inches in width, and 25.5 inches in height.

The dry weight of the JS440 was only 244 pounds, so 3-4 people were able to launch it by hand.

The body of the JS440 was much smaller than today’s large stand-up skis. As a comparison, the largest production stand-up jet ski, the Kawasaki SX-R 160 is 104.5 inches long and 30.1 inches wide.

If we compare these two models head-to-head, the difference is shocking:Kawasaki JS440 vs. SX-R 160

Kawasaki JS440 Engine and Propulsion

The power source of the Kawasaki JS440 was a purpose-built 2-stroke, 436cc, inline piston port, vertical twin Kawasaki marine engine. This tiny power mill delivered 27 HP at 6,000 RPM and 27 foot pounds of torque at 4,500 RPM.

The key features of this lively engine were as follows:

  • 2-stroke, vertical-twin, piston port configuration
  • Single Mikuni BN38 diaphragm type carburetor
  • NGK BR7ES spark plugs
  • Water-resistant shielded CDI magneto ignition system
  • Open-loop cooling system
  • Bendix drive type electric starter with separate solenoid system
  • Lubrication: Gas/oil pre-mix (ratio 50:1)
The early models featured a front deck exhaust outlet, meaning that the exhaust pipe protruded out of the side of the top deck. Later models came with a more advanced exhaust system, which was hidden inside the hull.

Thanks to its open-loop water cooling system the engine of the JS440 remained cool even on the hottest days. In contrast, the first Sea-Doos were prone to overheating due to their air-cooled engines.

The JS440 came standard with a single BN38 Mikuni carburetor but didn’t have an oil system. Instead, it took a 50:1 premix of gas and 2-stroke oil.

Engine power was delivered to an axial-flow, single-stage jet pump, featuring a 3-blade, aluminum impeller, and a 6-vane stator. This propulsion system delivered a maximum thrust of 243 pounds.

Kawasaki JS440 Features

The JS440 came standard with some advanced features, including:

  • Handlebar-mounted start/stop button
  • Starter interlock switch
  • Thumb throttle
  • Throttle limiter
  • Continuous self-activating bilge pump
  • 3.4-gallon fuel tank
  • Fire extinguisher compartment
  • Tool kit
  • *Control panel cover
  • *Deck mats on the tray and the rails
  • *Chin pad
(* These features were available on models manufactured in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.)

While in the early years the JS440 was as spartan as its predecessors, over the years it got more and more convenience features.

By the end of the ‘80s, the rails of the tray were already being covered with deck mats, ensuring a better grip between the ski and the rider.

The top of the handlepole was also covered with a soft cushion, called a chin pad. As the name suggests, this handlepole cover was intended to protect your chin and upper body in an accident.

Another game-changing feature of the more advanced JS440 was its handlebar-mounted start/stop button.

On early Kawasaki Jet Skis, this button was mounted on the control panel inserted into the front of the tray. As you can imagine, this awkward position made it difficult to turn off the engine when you were approaching the beach.

Keeping safety in mind, the control panel also got a foldable cover.

Surprisingly, this jet ski was controlled by an ATV-like thumb throttle, which was also equipped with a throttle limiter.

The latter was intended to decrease engine power for novice riders, so it did the same job as the “Learning” or “Slow” modes on today’s jet skis.

Although the JS440 had many innovative features, it still lacked a safety lanyard. This means that the engine didn’t stop automatically after you’ve fallen into the water. Instead, the machine started to go slowly in circles, so you had to catch it to reboard!

Kawasaki JS440 Performance

Thanks to its lively engine, the claimed top speed of the JS440 was about 33 mph in stock condition.

Although this seems fairly slow compared to the extreme speed of the latest models, back then this was an extreme speed on a jet ski.

The JS440 was also very nimble due to its narrow tray and small hull, so riding it required a good sense of balance and a lot of athletic skills, not to mention deep-water starts, which also needed a lot of practice.

The turning radius of the JS440 was only 9 feet, so it could turn very quickly.

The fuel consumption of the ski was 3.2 GPH at full throttle, so its 3.4-gallon fuel tank offered a cruising range of 36 miles or a playtime of 1.1 hours.

Unlike today’s large sit-down “couches”, the Kawasaki JS440 wasn’t for everyone.

This agile machine was intended for avid jet ski enthusiasts and professional racers who had the skills and expertise to tame this agile beast.

After 15 years of production, Kawasaki discontinued the JS440 after the 1992 model year.

Kawasaki JS440 Specs Charts

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the key specs of the 1991 Kawasaki JS440 into these charts:

Kawasaki JS440 Engine Specs

Kawasaki JS440Engine Specs
Engine type2-stroke, vertical twin, 180° firing, piston valve, water-cooled
Displacement436 cc (26.6 cu in.)
Bore x stroke68.0 x 60.0 mm (2.68 x 2.36 in.)
Compression ratio6.1 : 1
Ignition systemMagneto CDI
Fuel / LubricationGas/Oil pre-mix, 50:1 ratio
CarburetorMikuni BN38 diaphragm type (34 mm venturi)
Starting systemElectric
Battery12 V 19 Ah

Kawasaki JS440 Tuning Specifications

Kawasaki JS440Tuning Specifications
Spark Plug TypeNGK BR7ES
Spark Plug Gap0.7 ∼ 0.8 mm (0.028 ∼ 0.032 in.)
Ignition Timing25° BTDC @ 6 000 r/min (rpm) - 3.53 mm (0.139 in) @ 6 000 r/min (rpm)
Carburetor Idle Speed - in water1 800 ±100 r/min (rpm)
Carburetor Idle Speed - out of water2 300 ±100 r/min (rpm)
Compression Pressure825 kPa (8.4 kg/cm2) 120 psi

Kawasaki JS440 Drive System

Kawasaki JS440Drive System
CouplingDirect drive from engine
Jet Pump TypeAxial flow, single stage
Jet Pump Thrust110 kg (243 lb)
SteeringSteerable nozzle
BrakingWater drag

Kawasaki JS440 Performance

Kawasaki JS440Performance
Maximum Speed53 km/h (33 mph)
Minimum Turning Radius2.75 m (9 ft)
Draft (stationary)200 mm (8 in)
Fuel Consumption12 L/h (3.2 US gal/h) @full throttle
Cruising Range (1)57 km (36 mi) @full throttle
Cruising Range (2)1.1 hrs

Kawasaki JS440 Dimensions

Kawasaki JS440Dimensions
Overall length84.3 in (2140 mm)
Overall width24.4 in (620 mm)
Overall height25.2 in (640 mm)
Dry Weight110.5 kg (243.7 lbs)
Fuel tank capacity3.4 US gal (13 L) including 0.9 (3.4 L)
These charts are for informational purposes only! For exact specifications, please refer to the factory manual.


As a takeaway, we’ve answered the most common questions about the Kawasaki JS440 (1991 model)!

What is a Kawasaki JS440?

The Kawasaki JS440 was a vintage 2-stroke, stand-up Kawasaki Jet Ski.

When did the Kawasaki JS440 Come Out?

The Kawasaki JS440 debuted in 1977.

What Years Did Kawasaki Make the JS440?

Kawasaki marketed the Kawasaki JS440 from 1977 through 1992.

What Size was a Kawasaki JS440?

The Kawasaki JS440 measured 84.3 inches in length, 24.4 inches in width, and 25.2 inches in height, while its draft was 8 inches.

How Much Did a Kawasaki JS440 Weigh?

The dry weight of the Kawasaki JS440 was only 244 pounds.

How Many People Could Ride on a Kawasaki JS440?

The Kawasaki JS440 could carry only one adult rider.

What Kind of Engine was in the Kawasaki JS440?

The Kawasaki JS440 was powered by a 2-stroke, 440cc, vertical twin Kawasaki marine engine.

Was the Kawasaki JS440 Supercharged?

The Kawasaki JS440 was powered by a naturally-aspirated engine.

Was the Kawasaki JS440 a 2-stroke?

Yes, the Kawasaki JS440 was powered by a 2-stroke engine.

How Much Horsepower Did a Kawasaki JS440 Have?

The Kawasaki JS440 produced 27 HP at 6,000 RPM and 27 foot-pound of torque at 4,500 RPM.

How Much Oil Did a Kawasaki JS440 Hold?

The Kawasaki JS440 didn’t have an oil system as it ran on premix.

How Much Fuel Did a Kawasaki JS440 Hold?

The Kawasaki JS440 was equipped with a 3.4-gallon fuel tank.

How Much Fuel Did a Kawasaki JS440 Use?

The claimed fuel consumption of the Kawasaki JS440 was about 3.2 GPH at full throttle.

What was the Fuel Range of the Kawasaki JS440?

The fuel range of the Kawasaki JS440 was about 36 miles (1.1 hours) at full throttle.

How Fast Did a Kawasaki JS440 Go?

The top speed of a Kawasaki JS440 was about 33 mph under ideal conditions.

Did the Kawasaki JS440 Have a Reverse?            

No, the Kawasaki JS440 didn’t have a reverse system.

Did the Kawasaki JS440 Have a Brake?

No, the Kawasaki JS440 was manufactured without a brake system.

How Much Does a Kawasaki JS440 Cost?

The asking price of a used Kawasaki JS440 varies between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the year and its condition.