How to Maintain a Jet Ski

by Will Charpentier
Before you push off for adventures on your jet ski, don't forget the maintenance.

Before you push off for adventures on your jet ski, don't forget the maintenance.

Whether you ride a Sea Doo, a Yamaha, a Kawasaki or some other brand, a jet ski's regular maintenance happens at the beginning of the season. All have checklists to guide you in their owner's manuals and manufacturers recommend competent jet-ski mechanics for the tough stuff. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do to get ready for the water.

Owner Prep

  1. Before you take your personal watercraft to a mechanic, take a look in your owner's manual and find out where its corrosion protection -- the zincs -- are located. These small blocks of zinc prevent galvanic corrosion, the accumulation that looks like a rust buildup on the metal parts of your PWC. If any one zinc is more than half worn-away, replace it with a new one. Usually, it's little more than removing a single screw, placing a new zinc, and replacing the screw. You should also tighten the bolts for wake-board poles and any other add-on equipment, check the fuel tank hold-down straps and fill the tank before you head for your PWC mechanic.

Electrical and Electronic Systems

  1. You can check the lights and blow the horn to ensure both still work. Manufacturers include these simple items in the checklist for the mechanic, however. Their performance can tell a tale of woe that goes deeper than flickering lights or a stuttering "beep" from the horn. Regular, seasonal maintenance of a jet ski includes an examination of the electronic starting and security system, a test of the electronic engine management system, inspection of all wiring, the alternator that charges the battery and a test of the battery itself.

Fuel System

  1. Getting the fuel from the tank to the engine requires the fuel system to be in good order. This begins with a check of the condition of the fuel tank's cap and filler neck. It includes a general check of the tank's condition, an inspection of the fuel lines and the fuel line connections at both the tank-end and the carburetor. It also includes a fuel system leak test, to ensure fuel isn't leaking into the PWC's bilge.

Mechanical Systems

  1. While a jet ski is managed electronically, it's powered mechanically. The mechanical systems inspection is the most labor-intensive and includes an inspection and adjustment of the steering system, the off-power assisted steering system, and an inspection of the gearshift and adjustment of the shifter cable. It includes a check of the coolant level, the coolant hoses and their connections. It also includes a complete propulsion system -- the "jet" in a jet ski, an inspection of the exhaust system, intercooler hose and associated fasteners and the condition of the spark plug(s).

Miscellaneous Systems

  1. The oil tank gets a check for leaks and to ensure the motor oil level is within limits. Check the spark plugs, too, and remember that their tip tells the tale of conditions within your engine. If your jet ski has a system that allows you to vary its trim, to compensate for an additional rider's weight, that system merits inspection. The last of the mechanical inspections is a look at the condition and fit of the bilge drain plug.


  • Yamaha Motors: Yamaha WaveRunner - XLT1200 Service Manual/Manual d'Eentretien/Wartunshandbuch/Manual del Servicio 460068 - F0V-28197-2d-C1
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries: Kawasaki Jet Ski STX Watercraft Owner's Manual
  • Bombardier Recreational Products: Sea-Doo - 2008 Shop Manual - 4TEC Series

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

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