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Bilge Pumps Are Not Standard On Jet Skis, They Use This Instead…

A lot of the new riders I speak with previously owned boats and often ask numerous boat-related questions about jet skis.

While these questions are reasonable and valid, the answers I give often surprise them.

One common inquiry pertains to bilge pumps inside of jet skis. In a jet ski, how does bilge pumps work, are there bailers instead, and will they need one?

These are fair questions, and the answers aren’t always straightforward or ideal for many jet ski owners.

Hence, I’m writing this post to provide some reference points for my readers. There’s much to discuss, so let’s get right into it!

Removing Water From The Hull

When you need to remove water from the inside your boat hull, you use what is called a bilge pump that is powered by the boat’s battery.

It’s common for boats to take on water during operation, necessitating a system to prevent sinking, jet skis also can take on water, but jet skis cannot take on as much.

Some boats contain automatic an bilge pump, while others require manual operation.

For new riders to the sport, they learn quickly that a PWC differs a bit from other boats.

Do Jet Skis Have Bilge Pumps?

Some new riders to the sport, and even veterans, may find this shocking, but most jet skis don’t use bilge pumps. While certain watercraft come with automatic bilge pumps, most jet skis are still manufactured without them.

Instead, a bailer tube is used to suck out the extra water from the inside of your jet ski’s hull.

I say most, as a “few” will contain a manufactured installed electric bilge pumps, but it often only works when the engine is on.

What is interesting is that the bailer tube pumps work the same way as bilge pumps, it sucks extra water out of the inside the jet ski’s hull, but the difference is that bailer tubes work by suction created by the pump.

Jet Ski Bailer Tubes

What really blows people away when I show them the bailer tubes is how simple they are; it’s literally only tubes.

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

Creates A Vacuum

Due to the nature of a jet drive, it means if the engine is on, the craft is always doing something, even in neutral.

When you look at the jet pump, above the nozzle, you’ll see the “bailer tube(s)”, and water that rushes by these tubes 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 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!)

Adding A Electric Bilge Pump Kit

With many PWC manufacturers, you can always add a bilge pump to your jet ski’s bilge, as many of the manufacturers got them along with 3rd party ski options.

However, here’s the catch: some bilge pumps have kits requiring you to drill a hole into the fiberglass of your jet ski, and that puts off many people to bilge pumps!

In such cases, it’s safer to let the dealership handle the installation to avoid mishaps.

Some manufacturers kits include a float switch.

What’s that, you ask?

It’s a handy device that automatically activates the bilge pumps when there’s enough water in the hull, keeping your machine dry without the need to flip a switch for the bilge pump.

Required?

It seems like a no-brainer, right, getting a bilge pump for your jet ski? Sure, but it depends on your riding style and where you keep your craft.

If you ride hard or in rough water, it’s smart to put one in your jet ski, or you run the risk of taking on too much water and sinking.

Similarly, if you never remove the drain plug while on a lift, it’s also a good idea to get an electric bilge pump and keep the battery charged on your jet ski.

It’s not perfect

When it comes to bilge pumps, It’s important to note that a powered bilge pump is not foolproof and not meant to be a solution that allows you to keep your jet ski in the water all the time.

Jet ski batteries are small and having a pump running all the time will drain the ski, getting a solar charger can help.

Not Standard

Why are bilge pumps not standard on jet skis you get these days?

The main reason is that jet skis are designed different from other boats.

Boats are like giant tubs floating on the water, and got decks designed to drain water into a specific area called the bilge.

So, when a boat encounters a big wave or a rainstorm, water ends up on the deck and then flows into the bilge, necessitating a pump to make it go away.

You’ll come to find out that most jet ski are a bit different, they operate more as a closed system.

While PWCs are not completely sealed, they’re less open than boats, so they don’t require the same need for any water pump because they’re less likely to take on water in the same way.

You’re not supposed to keep them in water

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

The skis manufacturers expect you to keep the jet ski on a trailer or drive-up lift, this is what’s in the owner’s manual.

It makes you think, why add a powered bilge pump if the manufacturer doesn’t want you keeping your skis in the water for long periods of time?

Stops Sinking, To An Extent

Please keep in mind that a bilge pump can handle small leaks, but it won’t prevent complete sinking of your jet ski.

However, to get one is advisable; it acts as a safety net, though it’s not a miraculous solution.

A fascinating fact for those interested in bilge pumps: even without bilge pumps, your jet ski won’t completely sink due to one unique feature.

Inside the jet ski hull, you’ll find foam strategically placed at the nose and midsection. This foam prevents the jet ski from hitting rock bottom if it takes on water, ensuring the nose remains afloat even in dire situations.

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.

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