Doing the proper and regular jet ski maintenance is one of the most critical things you can do as a jet ski owner.
How often to service your jet ski and what you should service can be tricky and confusing to many.
In this post, I want to answer what maintenance you need to do for your jet ski and what times you need to do it. I also want to answer some of the common questions jet ski owners have about maintaining their jet skis. The whole post will be broken down into time frames, with the questions answered at the bottom.
Before Every Ride
- Lift the seats off for a few minutes to vent any fuel vapors before starting the engine. You should also lift the seats off to vent after refueling.
- With the seats off, make sure the hull doesn’t have excess water in it; a few cups of water is normal; it’s when the water level reaches the engine that it’s a problem.
- Check for any damages to the hull.
- Check oil and coolant levels.
- Check drain plugs and o-rings for any damage. Make sure the drain plugs are in before putting jet ski in the water.
- Start and run the jet ski for 10 seconds out of the water to make sure it will start before putting it in the water.
- Check jet ski trailer lights to make sure they work.
- Check for fire extinguisher, safety kit, and whistle are in the jet ski.
After Every Ride
- If you rode in salt water or dirty water (swamp), flush the jet ski engine on the garden hose.
- After every ride, it’s best to rinse the engine compartment out with clean water from the garden hose especially if you rode in salt water. The misting setting on the sprayer is preferred, and make sure your drain plugs are out. The jet ski engine should be off when doing this.
- After every ride, it’s best to wash and clean the jet ski before storing it, especially if you rode in saltwater. You can use car soap to clean your jet ski; you don’t need to use boat soap.
- Allow the jet ski to fully dry before you put on the cover.
The First 5 Hours ONLY
The first 5 hours of a BRAND NEW jet ski are the most important, especially if it’s supercharged.
From hours 0 to 5 you want to go easy on your jet ski. This means you don’t keep the engine at one speed, but every few minutes change up the RPMs.
You can go full throttle and play around, but just don’t keep it at one speed for too long. You’re breaking in the engine, you can learn more here.
Some models do have a forced break-in period where you get more RPMs over time. So if your brand-new jet ski doesn’t seem fast, it’s more than likely in a forced break-in mode that is designed to protect the engine.
Your first service is anywhere from 10 to 50 hours depending on your manufacturer. I like doing the first service around 10 to 25 hours as I find 50 hours too long to wait.
- Spray anti-corrosion (silicone spray lube)* on anything shiny or electrical in the engine compartment. This is for sure a must if you ride in salt water.
- Spray anti-corrosion (silicone spray lube) on anything metal or moves at the jet pump and reverse bucket. You can’t overdo it, but you must use silicone spray lube as it’s less likely to damage rubber and plastics.
- Spray the seats with vinyl protectant*.
- Spray the fiberglass of your jet ski with a spray wax to protect it from the sun. The boat spray wax works the best, but car spray wax will work too.
Every Year or 50 Hours, Whichever Comes First
- Change the oil and oil filter.
- Change the spark plugs.
- Inspect engine mounts for any damage or cracks.
- Inspect coolant tank level, leaks, or damage if you have a Sea-Doo.
- Inspect air intake and hoses for any damages.
- Check battery and terminals for damage or corrosion. Replace the battery every 3 to 5 years.
- Check drain plugs and their o-rings for any damage.
- Check the impeller and wear ring for any damage. Deep grooves and pieces missing from either is not a good sign. You’ll also know the wear ring is bad when the jet ski “feels like it’s not catching” when you give it gas.
- Check driveshaft and carbon ring (Sea-Doo) for any damage.
- Inspect reverse bucket for any damage.
- Inspect fuses.
- Check sacrificial anode.
Sea-Doo Supercharger Maintenance
Please refer to our post on supercharger maintenance here.
Jet Ski Trailer Maintenance
- Grease jet ski trailer bearings. Make sure to use marine grease.
- Inspect tires for damage or dry rot.
- Inspect trailer straps for damage or fading. The slightest tear in a strap means you need to replace them.
At The Start Of Winter
The winter maintenance for a jet ski is called winterizing, and we have a post on that here.
The pre-season maintenance is the de-winterization process that we cover here.
Every 3 to 5 Years
- Get a new battery for your jet ski, even if it seems good. Many of the jet ski problems stem from a battery lying to you, so it’s best to replace them every 3 to 5 years.
- Buy a new cover for your jet ski. Here’s a tip, buy a good cover from the manufacturer and buy a cheap cover online to put over the good cover. You can extend the life of your good cover, and when the cheap cover wears out, it’s easier on the wallet.
- Buy new straps for your jet ski trailer; this is the front bow strap and rear straps*. The sun dries them out, which causes them to crack, and then they break due to the weight of your jet ski pulling on them.
- Buy new tires for your jet ski trailer. Jet ski trailers are not used much, so the tires don’t wear out due to tread-life, but they do dry rot, especially if you don’t move them often. A tire that is dry rotted is very bad and dangerous to take on the road.
- Inspect or replace engine coolant if you have a Sea-Doo.
- Inspect or rebuild pump if needed.
If you’re not getting 3 to 5 years out of your jet ski battery, you need to get a smart battery charger. To learn more, check out this post here.
Do you need to add fuel stabilizer?
You should only add fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank if you’re not going to ride your jet ski for more than a month. This is often during the winter and something we go over in our winterization post.
Gas goes bad when it’s not used for months, and fuel stabilizer keeps it from going bad too quickly.
What fuel should you use?
It’s okay to run ethanol gas (up to 10%, basically the stuff you get at the pump) in your jet ski, but you do get slightly better performance if you don’t.
For supercharged jet ski engines, you need to run premium gas (91 or 93).
Non-supercharged jet skis can run on regular gas just fine, but they do run better on premium.
Do jet skis have an air filter?
A Sea-Doo won’t have an air filter, but some models of Yamaha waverunners do have them. The Sea-Doo will have an airbox, but you won’t find a filter. Sea-Doo jet boats and other boat manufacturers that use the Rotax engine may have an air filter, but the PWCs don’t always have one.
The Sea-Doo will have a flame arrestor, but that is not a filter and not something to clean or mess with.
You don’t see air filters on jet skis because dust is not much of an issue while on water.
Maintenance light came on; do I need to take it to the dealer?
Jet skis have a maintenance light that comes on at specific intervals to remind you to service your jet ski.
Not every jet ski has these maintenance lights, but most are coming with them now.
You will need to take the jet ski to the dealership for them to remove this warning light.
Is it safe to get the engine compartment wet?
Yes, it’s safe to spray your jet ski engine compartment with clean water from the garden hose.
It’s best to use the mist setting of your sprayer when cleaning your jet ski engine compartment.
The battery and the other electrical components will be fine because everything that needs it is sealed up and protected.
It’s a jet ski; they’re made to get wet.
So long as you’re not pouring water directly into the airbox or the engine itself, you’ll be fine.
The goal is to get any salt or other dirt out of the engine compartment so it doesn’t corrode the engine and electrical components. After rinsing the engine compartment let it dry out completely, then spray everything shiny or electrical down with the silicone spray lube.
Should you use Salt-Away?
Using Salt-Away is always good but not always needed.
Salt-Away is like flossing.
Everyone knows you should be doing it, but most don’t. It’s not the end of the world that you don’t, but it gives you better results in the long run.
If you flush your jet ski after a saltwater ride with only the garden hose, then you’re honestly doing better than most.