Having a watercraft full of water is a big problem to have, even worse if it’s full of saltwater.
In this post, I want to go over how water gets in and how to get water out of your jet ski. Sometimes it’s not a huge deal, a little water is fine, but if your jet ski is sinking you need to fix it right away!
How Jet Skis Take On Water
A jet ski can take on water in many ways, here are the most common:
- Normal riding. Jet skis are not perfectly sealed, so a few cups of water in the bilge is normal.
- A bad storm can force water into the hull of your jet ski, especially if you don’t keep a cover on it.
- Not putting in the drain plugs is a huge one and the most common reason for a jet ski to be taking on water.
- A flipped jet ski will take on water, and not flipped back over right can cause more issues.
- Damaged or loose hoses. Your jet ski engine or exhaust takes in water to cool itself and if a hose is loose then the water can dump in your jet ski hull.
- Damaged parts can cause a jet ski to take on water. For example, a damage or broken seal around the jet pump can cause water to come in.
Normal Riding = Some Water
I need to make it clear that jet skis are not perfectly sealed up and some water getting in your bilge is very normal.
What is not normal is gallons of water or water touching your engine. You can also tell you have too much water in your hull when the jet ski rolls over too easily while sitting in the water.
It’s normal to see a little bit of water come out of your drain plugs after a ride, especially if you were going hard. It’s also very normal for rainwater to find its way in after a bad storm.
Not every jet ski has a bilge pump, but they all do have bailer tubes that work off the jet pump suction. Every manufacturer offers a bilge pump kits, but it’s up to you if you need one for your situation.
Jet Ski Full Of Water – Steps
Here is what you need to do if your jet ski is full of water.
- Don’t start the engine.
- Get the jet ski to land.
- While you wait to be towed in, remove water the best you can. Avoid touching the engine, it might be hot.
- Once on land, remove drain plugs to get water out of the hull. Don’t start the engine. Don’t even put the key on it.
- Get to a dealership or watercraft mechanic immediately.
- If you have insurance, call the insurance company to see what they can do.
- Wait to hear back from the shop to see the damage.
A lot of the time it’s not a huge deal, but if the engine takes in water, then it’s hydrolocked. A hydrolocked jet ski engine needs all the water removed, which means many oil changes.
Don’t Start The Engine!
I can’t stress this enough, if your jet ski was sunk or water was above the engine, you do not want to start the engine.
Jet skis don’t completely sink, so if your jet ski is taking on water, the nose will float a little bit. If you look inside of them you’ll see foam and that’s place there to keep the watercraft from going to the bottom. The bad news is that the nose of the watercraft will be the only part that will float, the other 98% of the craft will be underwater.
Hook to the bow hook in the front and tow the watercraft to land or a trailer. Be careful when doing this, no need to panic and get hurt – the damage has been done.
Don’t risk trying to start the engine if the engine is covered in water. Trying to start the engine when it’s hydro-locked can result in bending a tie-rod or doing more damage that could cause the engine to be useless and destroyed. It’s best to get it to a dealership or someone who knows how to get water out of the engine.
While you wait to get to land or for a tow, try to get the water out of the PWC. I recommend buying storage containers or safety kits* since they also double as a bailing cup. If you have something fancy like a water pump*, then use that. If not, then just use a regular cup. Avoid touching the engine if it’s been running, it could be hot!
Once On Land
When you get the jet ski back to land and on a trailer, you’ll want to take the drain plugs out. You want to drain as much water out of it as it is waterlogged.
Once again do not start the engine. I’ve had someone pull their drain plugs out on land and try to start their engine thinking that would get the water out faster – it doesn’t – it just makes it worse.
At this point, it’s best to get it to a dealership or someone who knows how to get water out of a jet ski engine.
Not Much Water
What if the watercraft didn’t take on much water?
I still recommend letting a pro look at it, but to see if the engine has water in it, remove the dipstick.
If the oil has water in it, then it will look like a caramel color smoothie. This mix will be a lot more liquid than oil and may even drip all over the place when you remove the dipstick. If you see this caramel or light brown/tan-looking stuff coming from your dipstick, then that’s bad and get it to a dealership quick.
If the oil looks like oil, then you might be fine, but still, consult your local dealer to see what to do.
If your watercraft took on saltwater, then you need to rush that bad boy to the dealership or mechanics as quick as possible. Saltwater corrodes metals and every hour you have that stuff in your engine the worse it becomes.
Many boat engines don’t come back after they have taken on saltwater.
It’s actually quite interesting that many boat engine manufactures even use saltwater to cool an engine, since it is very corrosive. Some PWCs like Sea-Doo uses a closed-loop cooling system that doesn’t take in any water to cool the engine. I go into more detail about closed vs open loop cooling here.
Taking on saltwater = Get the water out as soon as possible!
Also, don’t start the engine if you have water in the engine. I’m really hammering that point in.
Taking On Water Due To The Engine
If you’re taking on water from the engine running and not due to sinking from a hole or drain plugs, then shut the engine off. Call to get towed in.
The reason why you’re sinking from the engine running is due to a leak in a water hose, and running the engine will make you sink faster if that’s the case.
In times like these, it’s best to have a folding paddle*.
How Do You Get It Back To Land?
You need to tow the watercraft back to land. If you don’t have another jet ski or boat, then you’ll need something like SeaTow.
If you don’t have a SeaTow membership, then you need to get one. If SeaTow is not offered around, then there are others like them that can help you, visit your local marine shop and they can help you.
Usually, the membership fee is less than paying them whatever they charge to get towed in, so get the membership. If not, then just write their phone number down in case you need them to tow you in. Sometimes they even offer help to their members who do have a sunken vessel and make it less painful.
What To Expect?
You got your jet ski to land and now have it at a good dealership or repair place, what can you expect to happen?
If you take my advice and never started the engine, and it’s not saltwater, then everything should be fine.
If you did start the engine, then hope nothing got damaged.
If you did take on saltwater and got it to the repair place, and they got the water out in a day or two, then don’t worry too much. Just wait for them to give you a better idea of the condition.
Now it’s up to the repair place to go to work, and I’m sure they have seen this happen before, so relax now.
Water and oil don’t mix, you got to get the water out of the engine; this is not easy. There is no special device that can separate the oil from the water. So what they do is remove the spark plugs and the air intake manifold and many other parts that might hold water and get that out. Then they do an oil change to get the oil and water mix out.
The bad news is that it can be costly. There are plenty of places for water to hide in the engine, and it needs to get out. They’ll probably do quite a bit of oil changes to make sure the engine is clear of the water in the oil.
They’ll also need to check the electrical system to make sure it’s fine and did not get affected by water. It’s also best to get the battery replaced, even if it seems fine.
If you have insurance, which you should, then it would be best to give them a call to see what they can do in your current situation.
This is sometimes covered by insurance, but not all the time. It really depends on your situation and what insurance you have.
Will It Ride The Same?
If you take in lake water and don’t do any damage, then the watercraft will be fine.
If my watercraft took on freshwater, I would still ride it and not worry about it. If you take it to the right people who have seen this before, then you really don’t have much to worry about.
These things happen.
Try to get past it and ride the watercraft when you get it back.
Does Sinking A Jet Ski Affect Resale?
A sunken jet ski when fixed right won’t always affect the resale value.
There will be signs it was sunk due to the seat being waterlogged and maybe even some corrosion showing up more than usual. Overall, it’s not a huge dealbreaker if the jet ski was fixed properly.