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Winterizing any vehicle before a storage period is important, but it is especially vital when considering a watercraft that will be out of the water for a significant period of time. If you do not properly maintain your jet ski during the off season, you are at risk for expensive engine repairs in the spring. Engine repairs often exceed the value of the jet ski and can keep you from getting back on the water. Proper winterization will save you time and money in the long run.
Wash and Dry
Before you put your jet ski away for the season, it is important that it is well cleaned and dried to keep foreign contaminants from damaging the parts. Take extra care to clean any dirt and algae. It's not fun, but it is much more difficult after time in storage. Not only should you wash, dry and wax the outside, but also vacuum the inside to be sure the water is removed from all parts to prevent freezing and corrosion. Spray all metal parts with an emulsifying lubricant so they are not damaged by lingering water and condensation. Do not use a petroleum-based lubricant because it can separate in water and has been known to attract dirt. Water in the engine compartment can freeze and cause a great deal of damage to the engine. If you ride in salt-water, use a salt removing corrosion control treatment to protect metal parts from salt corrosion.
Top it Off
Untreated gas can eat away at your gas tank and hoses. It can cause gas contamination, necessitate replacement of hoses or the gas tank and may even destroy your engine. Fill up your gas tank, use the proper amount of fuel stabilizer and start the engine to circulate. Let it run no more than 30 seconds. This will keep the gas from going bad and prevent condensation.
Oil it Up
To keep your metal parts from corroding, run fogging oil through the carburetors and spark plug cylinders. Lubrication will also help with these issues. Change your jet ski's pump oil at this time to save pump bearings. Replacement of these parts is not as expensive as the engine, but can keep you off the water for a while.
Shut it Down
Leaving the battery in place can cause it to drain completely during the off-season and warrant replacement in the spring. To avoid this, remove the battery and store it in a warmer area of a shed or basement. Do not store it in your living space because it may emit harmful fumes. Check the water level in the battery to prevent it from fully discharging during the storage period.
Improper storage can undo much of the work you've done to winterize, so it's important to pay attention to how and where your jet ski will be resting for the colder months. If you are storing the jet ski in a location where the temperatures will fall below freezing, even for only one night, antifreeze should be added to the cooling system to prevent water from entering, expanding and destroying your system. Place a rag or steel wool in the exhaust system to keep any bugs or small animals from nesting in the system, which can also cause damage from their tendency to chew on wires. You may also want to put ski tape over the opening to protect the system. Finally, cover your jet ski and leave a wedge in the seat latch to allow air to circulate in order to get your jet ski back on the water as quickly as possible in the spring.
Susan Wheeler Capozza has a Master of Arts in English from University of Central Florida, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English and writing from the University of Tampa. She teaches public speaking at Full Sail University and contributes to the university blog. Capozza also published the novel "The Sum of Her Parts" in 2010 and edits for Needlerat Press.