Jet Ski Full of Water: Steps to Take When Sinking

A PWC can take on water in many ways, here are the most common:

  1. Normal riding. They’re not perfectly sealed, so a few cups of water in the bilge is normal.
  2. A bad storm can force it into the hull, especially if you don’t keep a cover on it.
  3. Not putting in the drain plugs is a huge one and the most common reason to be taking on water.
  4. A flipped PWC will take on water, and not flipped back over right can cause more issues.
  5. Damaged or loose hoses. Your engine or exhaust takes in water to cool itself and if a hose is loose, then it can dump it into your hull.
  6. Damaged parts can cause them to take on water. For example, a damage or broken seal around the jet pump can cause it 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 it’s touching your engine. You can also tell you have too much in your hull when it 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 waverunner 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.

Full Of Water – How to Fix

Here is what you need to do if your watercraft is full of water.

  1. Don’t start the engine.
  2. Get the thing to land.
  3. While you wait to be towed in, remove water the best you can. Avoid touching the engine, it might be hot.
  4. 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.
  5. Get to a dealership or watercraft mechanic immediately.
  6. If you have insurance, call the insurance company to see what they can do.
  7. 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 engine needs all the water removed, which means many oil changes.

How To Fix Video

Don’t Start The Engine!

I can’t stress this enough, if your PWC was sunk or water was above the engine, you do NOT want to start the engine.

Jet skis don’t completely sink, so if yours 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 attempt to start the engine if it’s submerged in water. Starting the engine while it’s hydro-locked may lead to bending a connecting rod or inflicting further damage, rendering the engine inoperable and ruined. It’s advisable to take it to a dealership or a professional who knows how to remove water from 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 (Amazon Link Ad) since they also double as a bailing cup. If you have something fancy like a water pump (Amazon Link Ad), 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 You’re On Land, Do This!

When you get the unit 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 the engine.

You Don’t see 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.

Taking On Saltwater Is VERY Bad

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 (Amazon Link Ad).

Try To Get 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.

Get Your Insurance Involved

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.

It Will Be Fine, If Done Right!

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.

Will It Affect Resale Value?

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.



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.


  1. I have 2019 Yamaha FX-SVHO. One day it started taking water I notice one of the drain plugs was cracked I assumed water was coming in thru there. Took it to have drain replace, I notice the new Drain plug did not look straight. I took Jet ski put it in the water without taking off the trailer not even turning it on, when I saw water inside again. My question is how will the mechanic test if the water is coming in from the drain plug in the back? Or if the problem is somewhere else?

    • What I do to test for leaking is put the plugs in, tilt the jet ski back and slowly fill it with water and stop filling it before it gets too high. Then I wait and watch to see where the water is dripping from to figure out where the leak is at.

  2. So we put our ski back in the water without checking the drain plugs. When I came back the ski was low and i immediately pumped out the water and closed the plugs. The engine was about 1/4 submerged. What should I do?

  3. hello steven
    i recently bought a seadoo rxtx 300
    it has 4 ports in the back i know the lowest 2 are drain ports but the other from searching appears to be flushing ports. when i bought the unit it had some homemade plugs in the flushing ports so all ports were capped off.
    tye dealer in town tells me to cap all ports. I’m getting different answers from other sources, can you tell me if both of the upper ports are supposed to be plugged. from looking on inside of craft they both have hoses that go to engine
    any help would be excellent

      • Thank you so much you are the only one out of 10 dealers and bunch of time online trying to find answer. Now I just hope nothing is wrong with it. I bought with all ports plugged by previous owner and he probably put 20 hrs on it.

        • I once had a lady complain her Sea-Doo would always show a check engine light after a while and no one could figure it out. She lived far away and did not have a local dealer and no one could figure it out on the phone. I went out and picked it up out of the water and saw she had plugged the flushing port and that was why it was throwing the check engine. With such low hours on the one you bought, I bet the guy was selling it because he could not figure out why it was having a check engine light too and was trying to get rid of a “problem jet ski”; I’m just guessing on that part.

  4. Hi,
    I’m looking to buy a seadoo rxt 300 from an auction. The ski was totaled from the insurance due to water damage. I believe it took salt water.
    What would be worst damage that could have happened? Do you think i need to pull the engine out?


  5. Just bought a used 2012 Sea Doo GTI 155 Limited with 58 hours….been running great. My first time owning one of these crafts. It’s been in water for almost a week. Today it’s raining hard and I look out and it’s low in the water, went out and engine compartment 1/2 full of brackish water. It occasionally beeps at me. I don’t know if it’s coincidence from my ride last night … maybe a drain plug dislodged? Anyway, we bailed it out and pulled it over to the lift. Made the mistake of turning it on…which it did turn on once but would not move forward. Won’t start now. I was hoping a pump from the engine would help us bail out the water. I think I’m screwed. I don’t know what to do. Get a tow to the dock so I can get it out of the water and back to dealer?

  6. Dennis 2011 GTX 265 Limited Bad weather sank it at the dock, pulled it to shore and drained all the water out and disconnected battery.No water in engine should I bring it to dealer to be checked out.

  7. Hi Steven, enjoy reading your posts and your great knowledge.
    Last year I purchased a 2007 Seadoo Wake 215 Supercharged. It had 123hrs on it and was serviced at 123hrs by previous owner who was a friend of a friend. Supercharger rebuilt. Over summer I did 11hrs so it’s got 134hrs on the clock. I’ve put stabiliser in the fuel and lightly fogged it as well as trickle charging the battery. Always start it up every so often over winter.

    My question is do I need to change the oil and plugs as it’s only been 11hrs since it’s last service? Oil looks fine on the dipstick and it always starts 1st go.

    Thank you

    • I would change the oil. You could get away with it if you wanted to but I do an oil change every year because the oil does break down over time and jet ski engines are high performance. The spark plugs should be fine, just a simple oil change is all you need.

  8. Hey Steven!
    I recently bought a 2009 GTX 255 Limited, and on the test run everything seemed to be fine. Took it to the lake this week and after riding it for the first day I parked it on the bank for the night I’m 100% sure the drain plugs were in. The next morning I noticed that almost the entire rear end of the ski was below the water. I got it back on the trailer and drained the water (which took about an hour). Couldn’t noticeably find any leaks but the ride played bolts were loose. Any ideas on where to check for loose connections or why it took on water so quick?

    • The easiest way to test for a water leak is to back the rear up in the water and look to see where water enters. Don’t take it off the trailer, you only need the rear touch the water. Then when you pull it out of the water you can see on the outside where the water is coming out to pinpoint the problem. The ride plate bolts being loose is not a good sign, that can cause leaking depending on which bolt or the rideplate itself.

  9. Hey Steven. My sister took out our 2014 GTI SE 130 and forgot to put the drain plugs in (oops). Realized it about 20 min into the ride when the tail started to get heavy and flew back to the boat ramp. When we took it out on the trailer hardly any water came out of the drains. The engine compartment showed a bit of water in the bottom but honestly not much at all….. Is it possible it was draining while she was riding it hard? Only concern now is that I noticed a low oil pressure alarm when starting it up out of the water. Any thoughts/help is appreciated.

    • Jet skis have bailer tubes that suck water out of the hull when the engine is on, they’re not perfect but it’s better than nothing. If not a lot of water came out that could be a good sign and the oil pressure light going off could be unrelated. I would still take the ski into the dealership to make sure it’s fine just to be safe. Also, check the oil itself to make sure it’s not low and to make sure it’s not runny and look like a melted chocolate shake. You want black or amber and the level to be between the two notches. If the oil is runny and chocolate color looking then the engine has water in it and don’t turn it on, get it to the repair shop right away.

  10. Hi Steven, I just bought my first ski ever, Sea Doo Fish Pro. I take it offshore fishing, usually 5-10 miles. I keep seeing people talking about Sea Doo being suseptible to sinking. It worries me alot because I go so far off shore. Is there any type of preventive MX I can, or seals to check before I got out to gain some peace of mind? Thank you.

    • Those people are just fanboys of another manufacturer bashing other models. The Sea-Doo guys do it to the Yamaha guys too.

      This past summer I kept my Sea-Doo Spark in the water for 4 months and it never took on water, if any Sea-Doo was going to sink it would be the cheapest model they make but it did perfect.

      If you’re worried about sinking then getting a bilge pump installed is the best thing you can do. Contact your local dealer about getting a bilge pump kit, there will be drilling of the hull so if you don’t feel comfortable it’s best to let your dealer do it for you.

  11. I bought a 2019 GTR-X230, road it 5 hours with one drain plug missing. It’s brand new so I didn’t question the mechanic that went over the ski with me. He showed me the one drain plug and the flush port. However he didn’t say anything about the left side. It was missing but I didn’t know what the hole was for. The water was hot that came out however it wasn’t a ton. Could I have possibly damaged the engine. I

    • Make sure you’re not confusing the flush ports with the drain plugs. The drain plugs are black and at the lowest point of the watercraft while the flush ports are higher and often grey. If you’re missing the drain plug you should get it replaced. Since only a little bit of water came out you “should” be fine. The water being hot means it was inside the hull so that is not good but the modern Sea-Doo’s do have a safety device that slows down incoming water if the drain plugs come out. The devices are simple and not perfect. Plus, with you riding it the bailer tubes should have kept water from building up. You should take the watercraft in and have a tech look at it to confirm it’s fine, it’s hard for me to give a for sure answer because I’m not there. But if you take the dip stick out and the oil doesn’t look like a milkshake you should be fine.

  12. Sorry if it this a stupid question. However, we bought a jetski from a friend. We were to load it and bring it home. She said to just unhook it and take it down the lake and put onto our trailer. So we unhooked and than it start to sink????? We kind freaked out. We had someone hang on the back to make sure that it didn’t sink and got it to the trailer thankfully. Is that normal?

    • Make sure your drain plugs are in. The jet ski won’t sink but will settle under its own weight and bouncy. If you take the seat off and see a lot of water in the hull that is not good.

        • Don’t start the jet ski. Get it to a trailer and take it to the nearest repair shop. Take the drain plugs out when safely on land to drain the water out of the hull. If the water is above the engine then it’s probably hydro locked and starting the jet ski will be very bad.

  13. I have a SeaDoo GTX. Started to put it in the water and of course the battery was dead. I bought the battery last year and unhooked it for the winter. Charged it over night, it beeps when key is put on but the gauges or lights dont come on and it doesnt even turn over or click. Nothing. Got any ideas? Beep is strong when key connects

    • This is a tough one since I’m not there but I would take the battery out and go to an auto parts store and have them load test it. Sounds like the battery has enough power to power the buzzer but nothing else. Even if the battery charger says it charged, it could be a surface charge which is a fake charge.

    • There is no good way to get all the water out of the seats. The best thing you can do is take the seats off and stand them up so it can drain. Just be careful to put the seats back on if it starts to rain to keep water out of the hull.


Leave a Comment