Does Your Jet Ski Have A Bilge Pump? [Explained]

Keeping your jet ski afloat is important, that is why many boats have a bilge pump. But does a jet ski have a bilge pump too? Or does it have something different?

I’ve done a good bit of research on the topic and installed a few myself, and I come to find that bilge pumps are not that common for jet skis. If that is the case, what do jet skis use to keep water out of the hull?

That is what I want to talk about in this post. It’s an interesting process, and I’ll cover it all below!

What is a Bilge Pump?

A bilge pump is a tool that takes any extra water that is inside your hull and pumps it out. The bilge pump is electric and runs off the boat’s battery to force any water out of the hull.

It’s normal for any boat or jet ski to take on water when operating, so a system is needed to remove this extra water or the boat will sink. For some boats, it’s automatic, or you may need to push a button to operate the bilge pump.

A jet ski is a little different from other boats, let’s find out if they include bilge pumps, too.

Do Jet Skis Use A Bilge Pump?

Most jet skis do NOT come with bilge pumps from the factory and instead use “bailer tubes“.

I say most, as a “few models” do come with bilge pumps.

Bailer tubes work the same way as a bilge pump, it sucks extra water out of your bilge, but the difference is that bailer tubes only work when the engine is on.

Bilge pumps are powered by the battery and work as long as it’s good.

Jet skis use bailer tubes, relying on the jet pump’s vacuum, so the engine must be running for them to work.

How Bailer Tubes Work

Bailer tubes are simpler than a bilge pump, it’s literally only tubes.

The jet pump has one or two tubes sticking out that run into the hull. The tubes go up and then back down, so no water comes in, but they do have a one-way check valve too.

Creates A Vacuum

Since jet skis are direct drive systems, when the engine is on the impeller is moving, and that impeller drives water out the nozzle.

Above the nozzle is the “bailer tube(s)”, and water that rushes by creates a vacuum and sucks out any water in the hull through the bailer tubes.

Don’t Work if engine is off

But, turn the engine off, and the bailer tubes stop working.

If you see your craft is taking on water, the best thing you can do is to start moving and get to land, as the jet pump sucking out the water is the only thing keeping you afloat. (Though, it’s not perfect, so don’t expect it to work magic!)

Want To Add A Bilge Pump?

You can add a bilge pump, and many manufacturers even offer kits to make it simple.

But there’s more to it – you’re not limited to just those kits. You can also shop around and find other bilge pumps if you prefer.

Now, here’s the catch: some of these bilge pump kits will ask you to drill a hole in your fiberglass. That might seem a bit daunting. In cases like that, it’s probably a safer bet to let the dealership handle the installation to avoid any mishaps.

Here’s a handy feature – many manufacturer kits come with a float switch. What’s that, you ask? It’s a nice little thing that automatically starts the pump when there’s enough water in the hull. So, you can keep your hull dry without manually pressing a button.

But Do You Really Need One?

Having a bilge pump will depend on your riding style and where you ride.

If you ride hard or in rough water, a bilge pump is a smart idea. If you never take out your drain plug while on a lift, it’s a also good idea to get a bilge pump and keep the battery charged too.

It’s not perfect

A bilge pump is not foolproof and not meant to be a solution that allows you to keep your machine in the water all the time.

The batteries are small and a bilge pump running all the time will drain it, getting a solar charger can help.

Why Don’t Jet Skis Come With Bilge Pumps?

You might be wondering why most jet skis don’t come equipped with bilge pumps, and it’s a good question. The main reason is that they have a different design compared to boats.

You see, boats are like giant tubs floating on the water, and their decks are designed to drain water into a specific area called the bilge. So, when a boat encounters a big wave or a rainstorm, all that water ends up on the deck and then flows into the bilge. That’s why boats need bilge pumps – to handle all that water.

Now, jet skis are a bit of a different beast. They have a more closed system. While they’re not completely sealed, they’re still not as open as boats. So, they don’t have the same need for bilge pumps because they’re less likely to take on water in the same way.

Open Boat (“Floating Tub”)

You’re not supposed to keep them in water

Also, manufacturers don’t expect you to keep your PWC in the water for weeks or months like you would with a boat.

They expect you to keep it on a trailer or drive-up lift, this is what they say to do in your owner’s manual.

Why add a bilge pump if they don’t want you to keep them in water for long periods of time?

They Can Stop Sinking, To An Extent

A bilge pump can handle small leaks, but it won’t save you from large leaks.

Contrary to what some folks might think, having a bilge pump doesn’t guarantee against complete sinkage, especially if you’re dealing with some serious damage that’s letting a ton of water in.

That said, don’t get me wrong, having a bilge pump is definitely a good idea. It’s like a safety net, but it’s not some kind of magic cure that can work miracles.

And here’s a cool tidbit for those curious minds: a jet ski won’t completely sink, even without a bilge pump. If you take a peek inside the hull, you’ll spot a bunch of foam. That foam’s job is to keep your craft from hitting rock bottom if it takes on water. It’s strategically placed at the nose and midsection, so even if things go south, the nose will stay afloat.



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 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.


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