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1982-1989 Kawasaki JS550 Review and Specs [Video]

1982-1989 Kawasaki JS550 Review and Specs [Video]

The JS550 was the flagship stand-up jet ski in Kawasaki’s fleet from 1982 through 1989. It was built on the proven JS hull and featured a 2-stroke, 530cc, vertical twin engine rated at 36/41 HP. The popular JS550 was phased out by the more powerful 550SX in 1990.

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

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know into this Kawasaki JS550 review!

1982-1989 Kawasaki JS550 Review

The iconic Kawasaki JS550 was introduced in the 1982 model year. It shared its fiberglass-reinforced SMC hull with the JS400/JS400 series but had a more powerful 530cc engine option, upgraded exhaust, performance rear sponsons, and the all-new mixed-flow jet pump.

Regarding dimensions, the proven JS platform measured 84.3 inches in length, 24.4 inches in width, and 25.5 inches in height.

This hull housed a purpose-built, high-performance Kawasaki marine engine. This powerhouse was a 2-stroke, 530cc, piston port, vertical twin rated at 36 or 41 HP depending on the model year.

The key features of this 530cc Kawasaki twin engine were as follows:

  • Style: 2-stroke, twin-cylinder, piston port configuration
  • Displacement: 530cc
  • Cylinders: 2
  • Piston rings: 1
  • Ignition Shieled CD
  • Starting: Electric
  • Crankshaft: T-bone style
  • Cooling: Open-loop
  • Carburetor: Minuni diaphragm-type (‘82-‘85: BN38, ‘86-‘89: BN44)
  • Power: ‘82-‘85: 36 HP, ‘86-‘89: 41 HP
Unfortunately, the ski lacked an oil injection system, so it had to be fueled with a gas/oil premix.Engine power was delivered to a high-capacity, mixed-flow jet pump housing a 16” pitch aluminum impeller. This all-new, advanced propulsion system made its debut on the JS550, while the JS400 and JS440 were still utilizing a standard axial-flow pump.

Thanks to its high-performance engine and propulsion, the JS550 produced plenty of thrust so it instantly became popular among racers and performance-minded riders.

It was more powerful and slightly faster than its smaller brothers. To be more precise, the top speed figures of JS-based Kawasaki Jet Skis were as follows:

The standard features of the JS550 were as follows:

Surprisingly, the JS550 lacked some key features, which come standard on today’s jet skis.

As an example, it lacked a shut-off switch and a safety lanyard, so the engine didn’t stop automatically when you fell off into the water.

Instead, it had a self-circling system that forced the machine to idle in circles around you in the water. This meant that you had to catch the ski in the water to reboard.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the difference between model years!

Kawasaki JS550 Timeline

1982 Kawasaki JS550

The JS550 debuted for the 1982 season as the flagship stand-up Kawasaki Jet Ski.

Key upgrades over the predecessor JS440 include:

  • Larger displacement engine (436cc to 530cc)
  • Power increase from 27 to 36 HP
  • High-capacity, mixed-flow jet pump
  • Larger exhaust
  • Performance sponsons
  • Yellow/White color scheme
Drawbacks of the ’82 JS550:
  • Lack of chin pad and side rail pads
  • Lack of rev limiter
  • Front deck exhaust outlet
  • Aluminum wear ring

1983 Kawasaki JS550

Changes and upgrades over the ’82 JS550 include:

  • New Red/White color scheme
  • Silver/Black graphics

1984 Kawasaki JS550

Changes and upgrades over the ’83 JS550 include:

  • Kawasaki decal on the handle pole
  • Silver/Blue graphics on the top deck
  • The color of the pole bracket changed to silver
  • Chin pad

1985 Kawasaki JS550

Changes and upgrades over the ’84 JS550 include:

  • New light blue/dark blue/silver graphics

1986 Kawasaki JS550

The 1986 Kawasaki JS550 was heavily redesigned and returned with many innovative features, including:

  • The exhaust outlet was moved to the right side, below the rub rail
  • New Breadbox Jet Power exhaust muffler
  • Exhaust bypass fitting on the left side of the ski
  • New Mikuni BN44 carburetor
  • Fuel flood style rev limiter
  • Larger intake manifold (increased to 44mm)
  • Redesigned piston rings
  • New B8ES spark plugs
  • The finger throttle was replaced by an ATV-like thumb throttle
  • Redesigned flame arrestor
  • Redesigned fire extinguisher compartment cap
  • Stainless steel wear ring
  • New graphics
The key feature of the new model was its automatic rev limiter (a.k.a. automatic RPM control).

As the name suggests, this was intended to prevent the engine from over-revving when the impeller was out of the water.

It saved riders a lot of headaches since over-revving was a common issue on earlier models.

Thanks to these performance upgrades the engine power of the JS550 was increased from 36 to 41 HP while its pump delivered 368 pounds of thrust.

This translated to slightly quicker acceleration and a top speed increase of 2 mph.

1987-1988 Kawasaki JS550

Changes and upgrades over the ’86 JS550 include:

  • New blue/white graphic kits

1989 Kawasaki JS550

Changes and upgrades over the ’87-‘88 JS550 include:

  • All-white gelcoat
  • White handlebar pole and pole bracket
  • Pink/blue graphics
By 1990 the JS550 had been rebranded to 550SX (a.k.a. JS550SX) and slightly redesigned. You can find out more about the ’90-’95 550SX here.

Kawasaki JS550 Specs Charts

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the key specs of the 1989 Kawasaki JS550 into these charts:

Kawasaki JS550 Engine Specs

Kawasaki JS550Engine Specs
Engine type2-stroke, vertical twin, piston port, water-cooled
Displacement530 mL (32.3 cu in)
Bore and stroke75 x 60 mm (2.95 x 2.36 in)
Compression ratio7.2 : 1
Ignition systemMagneto CDI
Fuel / LubricationGas/ Oil Premix ratio 50:1
CarburetorKeihin CDK 38-32
Starting systemElectric starter
Battery12 V 19 Ah

Kawasaki JS550 Tuning Specifications

Kawasaki JS550Tuning Specifications
Spark Plug TypeNGK BR8ES
Spark Plug Gap0.7 ∼ 0.8 mm (0.028 ∼ 0.032 in.)
Ignition Timing21° BTDC @6 000 r/min (rpm) - 2.52 mm(0.1 in) @6 000 r/min (rpm)
Carburetor Idle Speed - in water1 500 ±100 r/min (rpm)
Carburetor Idle Speed - out of water1 900 ±100 r/min (rpm)
Compression Pressure1 320 kPa (13.5 kg/cm2) 192 psi

Kawasaki JS550 Drive System

Kawasaki JS550Drive System
CouplingDirect drive from engine
Pump typeMixed flow, single stage
Pump thrust167 kg (368.2 lb)
SteeringSteerable nozzle
BrakingWater drag

Kawasaki JS550 Performance

Kawasaki JS550Performance
Minimum Turning Radius2.75 m (9.0 ft)
Draft (Stationary)200 mm (8.0 in)
Fuel Consumption17 L/hr (4.5 US gal/hr) @full throttle
Cruising Range (1)47 km (29.2 mi) @full throttle
Cruising Range (2)45 minutes

Kawasaki JS550 Dimensions

Kawasaki JS550Dimensions
Overall length84.3 in (2 140 mm)
Overall width24.4 in (620 mm)
Overall height25.2 in (640 mm)
Dry weight114 kg (251.3 lbs)
Fuel tank capacity13 L (3.4 US gal) including 3.4 L (0.9 US gal) reserve
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 JS550 (1986 model)!

What is a Kawasaki JS550?

The Kawasaki JS550 was a high-performance, 2-stroke, stand-up Kawasaki Jet Ski.

When did the Kawasaki JS550 Come Out?

The Kawasaki JS550 debuted in 1982.

What Years Did Kawasaki Make the JS550?

Kawasaki marketed the JS550 from 1982 through 1989.

What Size was a Kawasaki JS550?

The Kawasaki JS550 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 JS550 Weigh?

The dry weight of the Kawasaki JS550 was only 251 pounds.

How Many People Could Ride on a Kawasaki JS550?

The Kawasaki JS550 could carry only one rider.

What Kind of Engine was in the Kawasaki JS550?

The Kawasaki JS550 was powered by a 2-stroke, 530cc, piston-port, vertical twin Kawasaki marine engine.

Was the Kawasaki JS550 Supercharged?

The Kawasaki JS550 was powered by a naturally-aspirated engine.

Was the Kawasaki JS550 a 2-stroke?

Yes, the Kawasaki JS550 was powered by a 2-stroke engine.

How Much Horsepower Did a Kawasaki JS550 Have?

The Kawasaki JS550 produced 36 or 41 HP depending on the model year. (‘82-‘85: 36 HP, ‘86-‘89: 41 HP)

How Much Oil Did a Kawasaki JS550 Hold?

The Kawasaki JS550 didn’t have an oil system.

How Much Fuel Did a Kawasaki JS550 Hold?

The Kawasaki JS550 was equipped with a 3.4-gallon fuel tank.

How Much Fuel Did a Kawasaki JS550 Use?

The claimed fuel consumption of the Kawasaki JS550 was about 4.6 GPH at full throttle.

What was the Fuel Range of the Kawasaki JS550?

The fuel range of the Kawasaki JS550 was about 29 miles (45 mins) at full throttle.

How Fast Did a Kawasaki JS550 Go?

The claimed top speed of a Kawasaki JS550 was 35-37 mph under ideal conditions (’82-’85: 35 mph, ’86-’89: 37 mph).

Did the Kawasaki JS550 Have a Reverse?            

No, the Kawasaki JS550 didn’t have a reverse system.

Did the Kawasaki JS550 Have a Brake?

No, the Kawasaki JS550 was manufactured without a brake system.

How Much Does a Kawasaki JS550 Cost?

The asking price of a used Kawasaki JS550 varies between $1,000 and $8,000 depending on the year and its condition.