Towing a jet ski behind a boat may seem simple at first glance, but you need to be careful! If this isn’t done properly or you ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations your engine can be damaged, and your jet ski could even sink.

It would be wise for you to learn how to do this correctly in advance because you could find yourself in a situation in which your jet ski would need to be towed. You may need a tow when your jet ski breaks down or malfunctions or when it accidentally sucks up a tow rope or some other object.

We at JetDrift have put together a step-by-step tutorial on how to tow a jet ski behind a boat properly, which also includes some basic tips and tricks.

Understand that every jet ski model is different, so it’s important that you read your owner’s manual for any specific instructions before you give your jet ski a tow!

If you are planning to tow a jet ski behind a boat on a regular basis, it’s a little more involved. There are a number of different units available that will make it a lot easier for you to tow your jet ski.

To learn more about these units, keep reading because we have compiled a list of the best ones for you!

Towing a jet ski behind a boat at slow speed is typically safe

Towing a jet ski behind a boat at slow speed is typically safe

Towing a Jet Ski Behind a Boat

Towing a jet ski behind a boat looks like it would be fairly easy, but like many things in life, looks can be deceiving.

The truth is that you cannot just attach a tow rope to your jet ski and pull it at high speed. If this is done incorrectly, you risk severe damage to your jet ski’s engine and even swamping it.

If you read your owner’s manual you will find the restrictions as to the speed at which you can tow your malfunctioning jet ski before more damage could be caused that would even void your warranty. In short, be patient because towing it back to shore is going to take some time.

The issue for you is that your engine’s exhaust system is linked to your cooling system, which uses the exhaust from the engine to blow the water out. When a jet ski is towed through the water too fast, water can be forced back in through the engine’s exhaust system, which will flood the engine and probably the compartment where it’s located.

What complicates this further is your engine may have been running before stopping, so the exhaust system may already be flooded to some extent. Therefore, it won’t take much for the back pressure to increase.

How fast you can safely tow a disabled jet ski depends on which brand it is. Most manuals say that you should never go more than 5 mph when towing your jet ski!

Have a Shut-Off Valve Installed

Some owner’s manuals state that a jet ski may be towed at faster speeds if certain steps are taken in advance. This would involve installing a shut-off valve (a.k.a. water-supply valve) to keep the engine from being damaged by the water.

As we mentioned, the issue is that the engine’s exhaust system is linked to the cooling system. When a jet ski is towed through the water too fast, water can be forced back in through the engine’s exhaust system.

Clamp on the water intake pipe: a shut-off valve is a better solution

Clamp on the water intake pipe: a shut-off valve is a better solution

To prevent this from happening, you would need to carefully read your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to install a shut-off valve. If you’re not mechanically inclined and have never done anything like this before, you really should take your jet ski to your dealer and have them install the shut-off valve.

Once you’ve had the valve installed, if your jet ski breaks down, all you need to do is take the engine cover off and quickly shut off the valve before hooking your jet ski up to the tow boat.

CAUTION: Do not forget to reopen the valve before launching your jet ski into the water again. If you don’t do this, your engine will have no way too cool down. Tie your safety lanyard to the shut-off valve so you won’t forget to open it before hitting the water:

Safety Rules Must be Followed When Towing a Jet Ski Behind a Boat

Towing a jet ski behind a boat is dangerous, especially if you don’t know the rulesand/or don’t follow them.

Here are the safety rules:

  • Since each PWC is different, read your owner’s manual for the proper speed limits and any other steps you should take before you decide to tow a jet ski.

  • If you’ve taken the precaution of having a shut-off valve installed, make sure you shut it off before starting. Tie your safety lanyard to it to remind you to re-open it before you start the engine again.

  • If you don’t have a shut-off valve and are instead using a clamp, put bright colored tape on the water intake pipe to identify it so you can quickly grab the right hose when you need to.

  • You must let others out on the water know that you are towing a jet ski. If your boat has signal devices, you need to use them. If not, you can alert other boaters by waving a bright colored flag or flotation device in the air to attract their attention.

  • You will need at least 20 ft. of rope when towing slowly. A floating tow rope will lower the risk of the line getting sucked into the tow PWC or boat.

  • For a slow tow, you must have someone sitting on the jet ski to balance it out. If no one sits on it, the jet ski would likely be nose-heavy, which could cause it to pitch-pole in the wake.

  • If you’re going faster, the tow rope will need to be much longer, maybe double the length at 40 ft. This way the jet ski could ride behind the boat’s rough wake, in a much smoother part. Be careful not to use a rope that’s too long as the longer the distance from the boat, the less control you have, and the jet ski could flip over.

  • When towing at a faster speed, it might be better not having someone sit on the jet ski. The rider would have little to no control over the jet ski because there would be no way to steer or stop it.

Towing a jet ski at high speed: you must install a shut-off valve before towing

Towing a jet ski at high speed: you must install a shut-off valve before towing

Towing a Jet Ski Behind a Boat on a Regular Basis

You may have reasons, other than emergencies, for wanting to bring your jet ski along on a regular basis. Some people store their jet ski on the boat’s swim platform, or in a dinghy garage.

Otherwise, towing your jet ski behind your boat may be the best solution. This being the case, you could have a problem with backing up and/or possible emergency stops. And, if you have an outboard engine, that could present even more problems.

Fortunately, there are a number of units available that can help make your towing experience easier and smoother. We at JetDrift have compiled information on some of the best available solutions, as follows:

Magic Marine Tow

If you tow a jet ski behind a boat on a regular basis, it would help to use an innovative towing devise called the Magic Marine Tow.

These amazing units are designed to make the process of towing PWCs behind boats a lot easier and so much smoother.

Towing a jet ski behind a boat with Magic Marine Tow

Towing a jet ski behind a boat with Magic Marine Tow

With this device, you can turn, back up and/or stop your boat much more easily even though the jet ski is behind. According to the manufacturer’s own test, you can safely tow your jet ski going 55 mph.

These units weigh just 42 lbs., so are fairly lightweight and saltwater resistant. They fit on any boat with a swim platform and you can easily install it yourself.

Magic Marine Tow has models in various sizes, which means the company has gone the extra mile to make sure they are compatible with all current PWC models. What makes this option so good is that it has quick release buttons and an easy connection!

How to Tow a Jet Ski Behind a Pontoon Boat

If you are planning on towing a jet ski behind a pontoon boat or with another type of boat with an outboard engine, a Towdster in-water device would work best for you.

At first glance, it looks like it’s made of two thick rods, but there’s a little more to this device, although it is very easy to use.

At both ends of the rods there are 3” x 5” stainless steel snap hooks made with threaded sleeves that ensure the closure stays locked. The snap hooks attach to elastic ropes that expand as the speed increases and then retract when the boat slows down or comes to a stop.

The most popular arrangement is the Towdster “V” in which 2 rods are hooked up to the back of the boat. This allows you to easily back the boat up, even though the jet ski is behind it.

If you prefer to tow your jet ski behind a boat at a greater distance, it is recommended that you use the Towdster “TRI” configuration.

Aside from the models mentioned above, there are different devices for not only pontoons, but cruisers, waterski boats, houseboats and many other types of vessels. We recommend that you watch this video of you have any one of these boats:

If you plan on towing your jet ski on a regular basis, you need to know that jet skis are different than boats in that you cannot just leave them in the water for long periods of time.

It is safe to leave it in the water for one or two days, but leaving it in the water any longer than that and your jet ski could suffer some damage.

Taking good care of your jet ski means you need to take it out of the water when you’re not using it. The easiest way to do this is with floating jet ski docks or by using jet ski lifts. In the absence of either of these, you would place your jet ski on the trailer, and store it in a secure place.

Towing a jet ski behind a pontoon boat with Towdster in-water device

Towing a jet ski behind a pontoon boat with Towdster in-water device

Conclusion

Towing a jet ski behind a boat is not as easy as it looks, which means you need to know exactly how to do it and you need to follow the rules.

Before anything else, read your owner’s manual to find out how the manufacturer recommends you do this.

As an added safety precaution, you may want to install a shut-off valve on your jet ski. This would be a necessity on certain models if you plan on towing it at a faster speed.

Without a shut-off valve, you may only be able to tow your jet ski at 5 mph. In this case, it would be best to use a tow rope of about 20 ft. in length.

If you plan on towing your jet ski on a regular basis, there are a variety of devices available like Towdster or Magic Marine Tow that can make the entire process a lot easier.

Remember, that you cannot safely leave your jet ski floating in the water for more than one or two days. You need to store it in a safe and secure dry place.

We hope that you got all the information you need for towing your jet ski behind a boat from this short guide.

Image credit: Towdster, Magic Marine Tow

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