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Leaving Your Jet Ski in the Water: Risks and Precautions

Life can get hectic, and amidst the flurry of daily activities, it’s all too easy to forget the little things—like putting away your personal watercraft (PWC) after a thrilling ride on the water.

Whether it’s due to a jam-packed schedule, distractions, or simply slipping your mind, neglecting to properly stow your PWC can lead to a host of challenges and potential hazards.

In this post, we’ll answer some common questions, shedding light on the consequences and offering practical tips to ensure your watercraft remains safe and sound after every adventure.

A Week, Max, In Freshwater

The absolute maximum amount of time you should leave a jet ski in freshwater is a week. When it comes to saltwater, a few days is pushing it, ideally, you take it out of the saltwater every day.

Fresh water is more forgiving and a week will be fine, but you’ll need to check on the jet ski often to make sure it’s okay and not taking on water!!!

It’s not just the corrosion you have to worry about but things hitting it, a storm blowing it away, someone stealing it, animals eating the pump parts and much more.

Honestly, you can do whatever you like with your ski; however, it may, sink. It may get stolen, it may corrode away. Jet skis are not really made to sit in the water for extended periods of time. So do what you think is best, but I suggest you don’t keep yours in the water for too long.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater

Where you keep your jet ski is the real concern. If you keep the jet ski in saltwater, then you don’t want to keep it in there for too long.

I won’t leave my PWC in saltwater for more than two days – the saltwater will corrode things fast!!!

If it’s freshwater, like a lake, I’ve been known to keep mine in the lake for a week. Freshwater lacks many of the strong minerals like salt that will corrode metal components and destroy your watercraft.

But you’re not entirely safe when in freshwater. Components still corrode in freshwater (just slower), and you still have other things to worry about, like the scum that builds on the bottom of the boat, and animals eating parts of the pump.

To give you an idea of why you should not keep your ski in 24/7 even if it’s freshwater, look at the image below. That jet ski was left in freshwater non-stop, and you will see all the corrosion and scum that built upon it. It’s so horrible that the green anti-freeze is leaking out of it because it is so corroded.

Long-Term Storage Vs. Short Term

It’s fine to keep your PWC in freshwater for a few days. I would recommend checking on it every day or more to see if it’s taking on water. I know that’s overkill, but if it’s the first time in the water, it’s better to be safe than sorry with your watercraft.

The way you would check to see if it’s taking on water is to lift the seats off. It’s normal to see some water in the hull, but when you have about 2 inches (or more) of water in the bottom of the hull, then you have issues. I have a post here that talks about what to do if your jet ski is sinking.

If you keep the PWC in saltwater, you have an even shorter time frame – I would avoid keeping a PWC in saltwater for more than two days.

For long-term storage, you need to keep your PWC out of the water. The best way to go about this is to get a drive-up lift, electric lift, dry dock It at a marina, or keep it on a trailer out of the water.

My personal favorite is a drive-up lift, here is a video showing you how they work.

What’s The Worse That Can Happen?

Here is a list of reasons why you don’t want to keep your PWC in the water for too long.

  1. It could sink.
  2. Metal parts of the jet pump will corrode.
  3. Build up scum under the watercraft will slow it down.
  4. It’s more easily stolen if not properly secured.
  5. Animals and fish start to eat them, yes it’s a thing.
  6. Water will seep into any fiberglass damage and cause cracks to get worse.
  7. Fading, especially at the water line as the sun hits the water and back onto the PWC.
  8. Steering could fail as it corrodes at the rear of the PWC that is touching water.
  9. Brakes and reverse systems do fail as they corrode do to over exposure to water.
  10. Trim and VTS do fail due to over exposure to water.
  11. Ride plate will leak and cause the PWC to overheat, as seen in the picture at the very top.
  12. Jet pump swelling and causing running and starting issues.

Been In For Too Long?

If you kept your watercraft in the water for a long amount of time, there are a few steps you should take to make it’s okay and ready for more rides.

  1. Check the engine compartment to make sure it took on no water. If it’s full of water, then it’s most likely hydrolocked and needs to be fixed.
  2. Get the craft on a trailer, or somewhere you are able to clean the bottom.
  3. Use a pressure washer and cleaner to get off the algae and scum that builds up under the watercraft. Make sure to really clean the pump, too.
  4. Flush your jet ski on the hose to make sure it starts and runs fine. Check the functions of the watercraft, make sure it starts, brakes and reverse work, throttle responds, and doesn’t so odd or fills with water.
  5. Wash your PWC.
  6. Using a silicon spray (Amazon Link Ad), coat anything metal and shinny with a good coat to protect and lubricate parts.

Nature Destroys Watercraft

Besides corrosion, another reason to keep your watercraft out of the water is nature. Some lakes have muskrats that like to eat significant parts of watercraft that help keep it afloat. With the PWC in the water, this makes it easy to eat away. It will be rare that they go after boats, but it does happen.

Another reason is storms. One massive storm will trash your PWC and crash it into your dock. Or even worse, the dock lines holding it break, and the PWC could end up crashing into the rocky shore. (I’ve seen this happen many times before.)

I’ve even seen dock lines break and the PWC drift away and never seen again, or crash into a neighbor’s dock causing damage. It’s best not to risk it.

Let’s not forget the scum that builds under the PWC, too. Barnacles and other nasty stuff will start to stick to the bottom of the watercraft. This does slow it down and make it stink too.

You’ll also have to worry about this scum finding its way inside the PWCs cooling system. They will even build up so much that it blocks the cooling system and causes the ski to overheat.

One more point, if you have fiberglass damage under your PWC, it’s very important to not keep it in the water. Water does get into that damage and expand the fiberglass and make things worse.

Theft & Security

One thing no one ever thinks about is theft! If your ski is sitting in the water with only one or two lines holding it to the dock, then it’s nothing for someone to steal.

All they got to do is connect the front hook and cut your lines, and they have a new jet ski they tow away. If you had kept it on a floating dock, you could have used a lock as we mentioned in this post here to keep them from stealing it.

Get A Bilge Pump!

If you do intend to keep the jet ski in freshwater for a few days, then I recommend you look into getting a bilge pump. Get one that has a float or an automatic setting when it sees water.

The only problem with a bilge pump is that if your ski is sinking for some reason, the bilge pump will drain your battery and eventually the bilge pump will die too.

If possible, look into a way to keep the battery charged. I have a great post on that here and talk about what to do if you don’t have a place to “plug in” a battery charger.

I wouldn’t say install a bilge pump is “hard”, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world. Probably the hardest part is creating the exit port for the water to flow out, and then all you go to do is run the power wires to the battery.

You are able to get a Sea-Doo bilge pump kit here (Amazon Link Ad).

Storing your PWC In the Winter

Besides all the stuff we discussed above, a good reason to not keep the watercraft in the water for long-term storage is due to winter.

During the winter, you need to get the watercraft out of the water and winterize it.

Winterizing your jet ski is very important to do if you live somewhere that gets below freezing. Not winterizing your skis when it gets cold could damage the engine or exhaust system. Other thing start to fail, like your battery.

Rain Won’t Hurt It!

It’s no big deal to have a jet ski out in the rain.

It’s best you keep a cover on your jet ski when you’re not riding it, this will protect it from the rain. Even without a cover, your jet ski will be fine, so long as the seats and storage compartments are closed.

It’s a jet ski, it’s made to get wet, but if you keep it on a trailer, I suggest taking the drain plugs out, so it won’t sink on land.

After a terrible storm, I suggest checking on your jet ski, especially if it’s not on a trailer. Check the engine compartment for any water, a few cups of water is fine, and scoop any water sitting in the footwells out.

For fiberglass PWCs, you want to get any sitting water out of the footwells as it will blister the fiberglass. I keep a battery-powered transfer pump near the jet ski on the floating dock, as it’s the easiest and less messy way to get the water out.

Watertight Storage

If you’re keeping a jet ski out in the water or worried about the rain getting to it, you may have items in the jet ski you don’t want to get wet.

While many PWCs have watertight storage, I would not rely on it to stay always dry. I would keep anything important in a dry bag, as waves and rainwater will find its way into parts of your jet ski.

The jet ski itself is not watertight, as air needs to get to the engine. So, a dry bag for important items is a must.

Beaching Your PWC?

Beaching your jet ski is better than keeping it floating in the water, but there are things like rocks and sand that will scuff the bottom of your jet ski.

If the jet ski is on land it won’t sink, or at least as easily while floating. The drawback is that most beaches have sand and rocks that do damage the bottom of your jet ski.

The best solution is to not fully beach the jet ski, but let it float in about 3 feet of water and tie off with a screw anchor, as shown in the video below.

This way, the jet ski is floating, but not too deep in water, and avoids rocks and sand that will damage the hull.

A plastic screw anchor will work, but they don’t last nearly as long as the meal ones, and you still need to get the bungee cord and hooks. I would stick with the screw anchors that have everything and are metal.

When leaving the beach, make sure to rock the jet ski left to right to free any sand, shells or rocks in the pump, so you don’t suck them up. I like to kick off around 3 feet of water to deeper parts before starting the jet ski engine.

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

Comments

  1. For Sea Doos ,Is Saltwater the primary reason the carbon ring goes bad or do they happen often in fresh water too? I called a shop about installing a bilge pump and he said he didn’t think i really needed it unless i was a salt water driver. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Carbon rings usually fail due to engine misalignment or not being in the water to keep cooled or a defective ring. I haven’t seen one fail due to saltwater. Contact your local dealer and run your VIN to make sure you don’t have a recall or a warranty claim if you’re having carbon ring issues.

      Reply
  2. Hey Steven , I have a question. I have a lift on my doc at the lake and it’s not very high above the water. Sometimes the water gets rough and crashes into the jet skis . I just bought a new sea doo so do I have to worry about the water entering the jet ski when it’s docked and is it possible that the water can break the plastic at the back of the jet ski if it’s to rough

    Reply
    • I haven’t heard of the plastic in the back breaking due to rough water while on a lift. I’ve heard of jet skis coming off the lift and crashing into the shore before. Make sure you keep a cover on your jet ski when you’re not using it and tie off the front for the just in case it does fall off the lift.

      Reply
  3. I have a dock at my house but haven’t gotten any type of lift let to keep the ski out of the salt water. Until I get something installed, I will be paying for dry storage at a marina that will launch it and take it back out and flush and rinse it each time. I know it’s not good to leave it in the salt water for very long but I was wondering if I launched it on a friday afternoon, then parked it at my dock for the weekend for continued use, is the salt water already going to do some damage. On sunday afternoon, I would be riding it back to the marina where they would do the rinsing.

    Reply
      • I read his question and your reply. What about seven days? I am bringing a PWC from Lake Michigan to Tampa Florida and docking it for seven days. We were thinking of hosing the top of it and where the engine but leaving it in the water.

        We just purchased this 2016 PWC with only 32 hours and it is in mint condition. Any suggestions? We want to take good care of it but at the same time use it for a week and having docked and salt water.

        Reply
        • A week should be fine if it’s lake water, saltwater is a little iffy. The biggest issue is a slow leak, not every watercraft is perfectly sealed up. You’ll need to monitor it for a few hours to see if the hull is taking on water. I would spray the rear where the reverse gate is located with WD-40 before putting it in water to give it a little protection. When you take it out of the water pressure wash the bottom to get the buildup off. If you’re riding the jet ski every day that helps, it’s keeping it in the water non-stop and not moving it that it becomes a problem.

          Reply

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