12 Reasons Why Your Jet Ski Won’t Start

It’s a scary thought when your jet ski won’t start and you’re worried about the expensive repair bill at the dealership, or the thought of being stranded.

Through this guide, I’ll be helping you diagnose the core problems with jet skis which don’t turn on when you hit the start button. Essentially, most of the problems you’ll encounter are actually quick fixes.

Editor’s Note: Avoid messing around with your starting system and battery unit unless you have electrical knowledge. These carry high volts and may cause injury or death for the individual who lacks knowledge and expertise. If in doubt, always use a licence personal watercraft dealership for repairs, servicing and diagnostics.

Reasons Why Jet Ski Won’t Start

In most instances, it’s the battery that is causing the problems with your jet ski not starting up.

PWC Diagnostics: Reasons Why Your Jet Ski Won't Start
Go through this diagnostic list to see the common reasons why your jet ski won’t start.

Let’s unpack all the common faults here:

1. Weak or bad battery

Batteries on jet skis are designed to last 2 to 3 years in normal conditions. If you use your jet ski more frequently (say every weekend) then their lifecycle reduces especially as they have mild exposure to salt water despite being tucked away in the engine bay.

You can now buy batteries online and they ship really fast. Check out these batteries for instance. I actually recommend ordering one as a spare so you can quickly change it out even if your current battery is good.

2. Jet Ski Has Sucked Up Something

Check the rear end of your jet ski to see if it has sucked up something like a rope, stick, rocks, plastic bags or even a sea creature. True! I’ve found several jet skiers who have sucked up little fish into their intakes.

To prevent your jet ski from sucking up debris, don’t run it so close to shore. Essentially you’ll want momentum and turn off the engine when you’re in less than 1 meter of water before reaching the sand.

3. Bad starter relay

Your starter relay could be shot through. Unfortunately, the easiest way to handle this is to take it into the dealership. If you’re under warranty, then your warranty could be voided if you choose to take on the work yourself even if it’s a quick part replacement.

4. Broken button

The button used to start your jet ski could actually be faulty. This isn’t common but I’ve seen it before. If you’ve got a new battery installed and the relay looks fine, then the culprit could be the $3 button that the manufacturer installs in the factory which isn’t engaging.

5. Bad alternator

Your alternator may not be charging the battery when you’re riding. It’s a total disaster when you reach a beach and go for a ride, only to try and start up later and there’s no life left. That’s going to be an embarrassing call to the coast guard and my recommendation is to pack a spare solar battery charger just in case. These are very affordable and pack easily into the front storage locker.

6. Blown fuses

Have you checked your fuses? This often can be a fault of multiple other issues too. One quick check of that fuse panel and you may find other issues. Also, check the starter motor solenoid.

In some models, there is more than one fuse box so don’t assume you’re seeing every single fuse there. Consult your owners manual for the full low-down and you can find these online.

7. You copied the key

When getting a new set of jet ski keys, you actually can’t have the key copied by a locksmith. It has to be done by an authorised dealership and many beginners make this mistake.

Go and get your original key and throw the ‘copy key’ in the trash as it’s useless. Modern-day jet ski keys have special codes designed to prevent theft which is matched up to the jet ski and only dealerships can assign new ones.

8. Faulty fuel injectors

Another less obvious problem is the fuel injectors. If your jet ski has sat idle for years then this is a common issue. It’s not that expensive actually to replace the fuel injectors.

If you’re using an older jet ski which hasn’t been started for several years, then consider some fuel treatment concentrate. This can cure ethanol problems within the engine bay.

9. Fuel pump issues

How old is the fuel you’re running? Is the fuel pump in good working order? You can’t start a jet ski without a solid fuel pump as well as hoses which are primed properly.

With this you’ll want to check the pump, its hoses and the fuse. And…I’m sorry to mention this one…but is there fuel in the tank? Have you physically looked inside the fuel tank?

10. Bad spark plugs

Bad spark plugs are common in cars just as they are in jet skis. These are super cheap to replace and you can find brand new spark plugs available right on Amazon. These take a few days to ship so I recommend dropping into your local automotive store who typically has spark plugs capable for jet skis.

11. The jet ski is hydrolocked

Have you already tried flushing out your jet ski the wrong way? This is a common mistake. I’ve written a guide here on how to properly flush it out. A hydro-lock in a jet ski means that water can’t escape internally and you’re stuck (as is the engine) and you really need a dealership to rectify this. This applies to Sea-Doo, Yamaha and Kawasaki.

12. Technical PWC faults

Jet skis today have multiple computer systems on board. As a result, there are technical issues that are beyond the scope of the average rider to be diagnosed. Again – another reason why the dealership is the best idea as they have the experience and the systems to hook it up and check out your jet ski error codes.

More assistance

If you need more assistance, you can leave your question below and I’ll do my best to help you out. Firstly however, use this list and tick off each one as you go.

If you call the dealership, then their #1 advice will be to bring it in for diagnostics. How much will this cost? Anywhere from $150 to $700+.

For that reason, see how you go tinkering along yourself but remember the risks associated with batteries. Leave that for the experts!

Lost Jet Ski Key: Where Do I Get A New One?

The moment when you’ve lost your jet ski key can really spoil the rest of your day. Who has the key? Are they going to steal your jet ski?

It’s actually quite common for people to lose the keys to their jet ski, whether that’s a Yamaha, Sea-Doo or Kawasaki. So they – how do you get a new key?

How to get a new jet ski key

It really depends on the make of your jet ski and its age as to how easily you’ll get a new key. In the following table, we’re showing you the keys, the level of difficulty and the price you can expect for a key replacement:

How to get a new jet ski key
MakeDifficultyNew key cost
Sea-Doo Pre-2015Medium$100 to $200
Sea-Doo Post-2015Easy$70 to $150
YamahaEasy$70 to $150
KawasakiMedium$85 to $170
Tiger SharkHard$150+
PolarisHard$150+

Note: The Tiger Shark and Polaris jet ski keys are hard to get the manufacturer keys duplicated, but you can actually use a locksmith and in most cases, you’ll get an identical key. As these are older models, they don’t have the tech the newer jet ski manufacturers have to prevent theft.

Lost jet ski keys while at the beach
I have lost jet ski keys before while at anchor. It was quite distressing!

The easiest way to get a new jet ski key is to take your jet ski into a dealership. You CANNOT simply bring them the spare key and ask them to duplicate it. They will need your actual jet ski in the workshop so they can assess your particular model.

The technology of jet ski keys

Unlike a car, jet ski keys are programmed differently. This is because there is a high theft rate of jet skis as they are considered to be a hot item that can be resold quickly. Imagine your jet ski being stolen and while you have the keys, someone else is already riding it out there tomorrow with new plates!

It’s often a case of losing your jet ski keys for a moment or temporarily.

Personal watercraft keys have these two components:

  1. The magnet. This allows the jet ski to be turned out as it recognizes its presence.
  2. The ROM Chip. This is the tech which has a combination of digits embedded and it’s the reason why you simply can’t take in your spare key. Each key simply has a different string of numbers embedded or hard-coded into each key hence why duplication is essentially impossible.

Older jet ski models don’t have this technology such as the Tiger Shark and Polaris, as they ceased production years ago.

Bypassing a Sea-Doo DESS Key

It’s almost impossible to by-pass a Sea-Doo DESS Key. We say almost impossible as there are documented cases of people being successful doing this, but these are rare and often does more harm than good for the industry.

The key data is what will catch people out who try to bypass this technology. Sea-Doo in particular have done this as they want to protect their loyal and honest customers.

Two jet skis with the same keys

You can have two jet skis and have the same key able to start both. How? Ask your dealer provided they are the same manufacturer. They can program the key before pick-up.

The real advantage here is that if you lose one of your keys, you still have the other available at home. Even if it’s just a starter key, it’s enough to get you going.

Are you losing keys?

If you’re losing keys or are fearful of losing keys, then I recommend that you have a jet ski lanyard that is fluorescent and floats. Personally, mine is huge so I can’t miss it and it’s on my checklist of things to take with me to the boat ramp, including the plug and extra fuel cans.

Turning Your Jet Ski On When It’s NOT In The Water

Can run your jet ski when it isn’t in the water and is sitting on the trailer? There is a fear with some beginners that this can cause damage.

In this guide, I hope to shine some light on this issue.

Can You Run Your Jet Ski Out Of Water?

Yes, you can run your jet ski when it’s out of the water and already on the trailer. Warning: You can only run your jet ski for 10 seconds maximum on land.

Guide created about running a jet ski out of the water.

Jet skis are designed to run in the water, not on land. The water intake cools the engine and if you leave it running for too long, you risk overheating the engine.

The exception is Sea-Doo. They are unique in the market and our favorite brand of jet ski here at JetSkiAdvice.com though we love Yamaha as well!

Running Seao-Doo Jet Skis out of the water

Yamaha and Kawasaki use sea or lake water to cool the engine while Sea-Doo uses a closed-circuit system. It’s similar to how a car or truck works.

The exhaust system in a way still uses sea-water to cool down the engine so a Sea-Doo jet ski cannot be run out of the water for more than 10 seconds.

Sea-Doo jet skis also come with flush adapters so you can run the engine with a garden hose. To do this:

  1. Get your water hose ready and in position.
  2. Connect the water hose to your flush adapter but don’t turn it on yet.
  3. Start the engine of your jet ski
  4. Quickly (within 5 seconds) turn on the water hose
  5. Run the ski for just a little while to flush salt away
  6. Turn off your water hose
  7. Turn off your jet ski

Note: You should only be using mains or rain water. Bore water can damage your jet ski.

The guide I’ve outlined also applies to Yamaha and Kawasaki but as always, I recommend you consult your operators manual. You can also call your local dealership who can advise on how to do this properly.

Risks of dry running

Overheating a jet ski is a very real risk if you start your jet ski and run it dry. Even 1 minute of running is enough to cause significant damage where your engine will need to be rebuilt and this could cost you thousands of dollars.

Hydro-locking your engine is also quite a reasonable risk and if you don’t do the flushing sequence as I’ve outlined above, then you may also cause some damage that can only be addressed at your local PWC dealer.

For some models, they actually don’t come with flush adapters strangely so you’ll need to buy one.

The loud jet ski sound

Does your jet ski sound crazy loud and running dry when you start it out of the water? Well, that’s actually quite normal. The pump requires water to float and because it’s on land, it is simply jumping around.

Secondly, your exhaust sound is muffled when submerged in water. When it’s on the trailer, well it sounds very dry.

Cleaning properly

Most people start their jet skis on land to clean it properly. I’ve written an extensive guide on how to clean jet skis so your personal watercraft stays in tip-top condition.

7 Best Jet Ski Life Jackets [2020 Guide]

Jet Ski Life Jackets vary in the market, with some being very comfortable and represent good value. I’ll show you the best PFD options in this buying guide.

I personally love riding out there in the ocean at any chance I can! But….I put safety on my PWC first and foremost. It’s so easy for something to go wrong and you’ll be in trouble very quickly if you’re not wearing the most important piece of protection when out there riding.

Best Jet Ski Life Jackets

In writing this guide, I look at what’s best on the market and what current jet ski riders are using right now while riding. Whether that’s ocean swell, river canals or calm lakes, there’s certainly a life jacket for you.

Here we go:

1. O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Life Vest

I really do believe the O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Life Jacket offers excellent value for money. It’s designed exclusively for high speed water sports such as jet skis and tubes.

O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest

It’s approved by use through the United States Coast Guard as a personal flotation device while also not being restrictive for the wearer. Essentially, this gives you freedom on the handlebars to move around.

There are two buckles plus a strong zipper which lasts for a long time. You can also buy this in a range of colors so it appears to both Yamaha and Sea-Doo owners.

2. Airhead Adult SWOOSH Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest

The close runner-up on this list is the Airhead jet ski life jacket Swoosh model. It’s a Type III jet ski life jacket that is closed sided. This is really great for children and adults alike.

Kids jet ski life jacket.

As it’s made with neolite quick-drying materials, you’ll know that it isn’t going to take hours to dry off before throwing into the back of the car once you’re done riding. That’s something I really like about this one.

Also, it’s available in a few different colors and is ideal for adults, but they also make a kids version.

3. Body Glove Men’s Phantom PFD Life Vest

This is definitely more of a racer-style life jacket. If you’re looking for something ergonomic but also looks great when you’re riding, then I’d take the Body Glove Phantom.

Jet ski PFD

This life jacket is idea for jet ski riding as well as other watersports. Let’s say you’re into water sking, wake boarding or simply tubing, then you’ll love this one.

The foam is super soft on this model which means it’s quite flexible for the rider who doesn’t want to feel like they’re being hugged too much. It’s also less likely to ride up and touch your neck the moment you fall into the water.

4. Stearns Men’s V1 Series Hydroprene Life Jacket

This one is quite unique and something I’m so excited to add to my roundup of the best jet ski life jackets of this year. As USCG approved, the Stearns Men’s V1 Series Hydroprene Life Jacket is seriously a great choice for new riders with strong reviews based on rider feedback.

Guide on buying a personal watercraft life vest

I personally have seen a few riders wearing these life vests out there. It seems the V-Flex sculpted back design and ride up tabs really does help to make this a life jacket that you can feel comfortable wearing.

My recommendation is to pick the green color as it’s less likely to get hot in summer. The other option is the black color which really heats up after 30 minutes of riding around.

5. O’Brien Men’s Flex V-Back Neoprene

While popular with surfers, you can still use the O’Brien line of life jackets for jet skiing and other high-octane water sports. This isn’t a flexible life jacket but if you want wind protection and something that really hugs you tight, then you’ve found the right option.

This is a Type III Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and comes with a PWC lanyard attachment ring. Essentially – they have really thought of the riders in mind when they created this.

The reviews of O’Brien life jackets for jet ski riding are very strong. Just remember that they are designed for a snug fit, not a loose fit so avoid going up in size where possible.

6. BRP Sea-Doo Men’s Neoprene Freedom PFD Life Jacket Vest

Did you know that Sea-Doo makes their own life jackets for their jet ski riders? Neither did I because I was too blind-sided by all the mainstream brands on the market.

Sea-Doo life jackets

I’ll admit – I don’t like their designs here. They could be so much better which I guess why these models aren’t so popular. BRP should just stick to what they’re good at – making fast machines!

I like this one as the zipper is off to the side. It just feels more secure though the straps could be stronger.

7. JetPilot Sullen Hybrid Jet Ski Life Jacket

Maybe you’re looking for something aggressive? That’s where the JetPilot Sullen is the ultimate life jacket for you. It’s got the signature looks and affordable pricing to match!

The best jet ski life jacket on the market.

It’s very lightweight and low bulk. The only thing we wonder is why didn’t JetPilot make this as a summer life vest with lighter colors, but it seems they are clearly going after the total speeding rider.

It’s made from a neoprene and nylon combination with good comfort and great styling.

Buying Guide: What To Look For

Now not every life jacket you come across for any watersports activity is made the same. This is why you need a specific one when riding your personal watercraft.

Top tips:

  • Look for US-Coast Guard approved as boat life jackets aren’t suitable.
  • Ensure there is a spot to connect your safety languard to the life jacket
  • If you ride in cooler areas, look for black to keep you warm out there.
  • If you ride in warmer areas, look for other colors that help deflect the heat
  • Be mindful of the use-by date and you risk a big fine if you ride past this date.

What are jet ski life jackets made from?

Jet ski life jackets are essentially made from two materials: Neoprene and Nylon. Neoprene is much more popular as they are incredibly comfortable to wear and keep warm with, though they do get heavy once wet. Unfortunately, they do cost more. Nylon is a great choice if you value simplicity and value.

Is there a difference between mens and womens life jackets?

Yes, manufacturers do make different jet ski life jackets for men and women. Men’s life jackets can be worn by women, but women’s life jackets can really be worn by women (the colors give you a hint). The main difference with female life jackets is the armholes and chest area is built differently as you would imagine.

What size should I get?

It’s often easier to go to a jet ski dealership to try on some life jackets but this isn’t always possible. Instead, I can recommend you measure yourself properly. The vest should always feel snug but not restrictive since you’ll be wearing this for hours on each ride. All of the life jackets I featured on this buying guide here actually have reasonably accurate sizing guides for the smallest of riders (including children) right up to large adult riders.

Is there anything else I need?

Yes! I can recommend a safety whistle, a neoprene vest underneath to prevent chaffing and a nightlight if you’re riding after dark. Also consider buying a few different life jackets so if you have friends and family come riding, then you’ve got some great options to keep everyone entertained!

In summary

Clearly there are some great options for personal watercraft enthusiasts that I’ve listed here. This isn’t all that’s on the market but if you ride a Yamaha, Sea-Doo or Kawasaki, you’ll be more than happy with these whether you’re just towing tubes or riding big waves.

Most people do buy their life jackets online nowadays and I can feel safe with that recommendation. If there’s anything I can do to help, then let me know!

How Much Does a Jet Ski Cost? [2020 Price Guide]

We’ve done the research to find the price of jet skis in 2020 across the United States and Australia. Yamaha, Sea-Doo and Kawasaki jet skis are listed here.

In real-world terms, jet skis do vary in price and will cost between $6,000 for a cheap one with very little power, up to $25,000 for a luxury top of the range jet ski. It really depends on your needs and budget.

The costs also depend on whether you’re buying a new or used PWC. If you buy a used jet ski, then you can expect to save between $2,000 and $7,000 off the new price.

Jet Ski Pricing 2020 Guide

Jet Ski Pricing 2020 Guide

Here is a completely updated pricing guide for the 2020 jet ski season for the main 3 manufacturers. We have created this guide so that you know how much a jet ski will cost in North America and Australia if you were to buy a new one from the dealership:

MakeModelUSD PricingAUD Pricing
Sea-DooSpark 2up 60HP$5,499$7,990
Sea-DooSpark 2up 90HP$6,199$8,590
Sea-DooSpark 3up 90HP$6,599$10,699
Sea-DooSpark 2up 90HP iBR$7,199$10,899
Sea-DooSpark 3up 90HP iBR$7,599$10,999
Sea-DooSpark TRIXX 2up$7,799$11,299
Sea-DooSpark TRIXX 3up$8,299$11,799
Sea-DooGTI 90$8,999$12,999
Sea-DooGTI 130$9,999$13,999
Sea-DooGTI SE 130$10,899$14,799
Sea-DooGTI SE 170$11,499$15,299
Sea-DooWake 170$12,199$15,999
Sea-DooGTR 230$12,499$16,499
Sea-DooGTX 170$12,999$17,299
Sea-DooGTX 230$13,999$19,199
Sea-DooWake Pro 230$14,999$22,499
Sea-DooFish Pro 170$14,999$22,499
Sea-DooRXP-X 300$15,399$20,199
Sea-DooGTX Limited 230$16,399$21,299
Sea-DooRXT-X 300$16,399$21,299
Sea-DooGTX Limited 300$17,199$23,299
YamahaEX$6,899$8,499
YamahaEX Sport$7,899$9,799
YamahaSuperjet$8,799Unavailable
YamahaEX Deluxe$8,899$11,199
YamahaVX-C$8,999Unavailable
YamahaEXR$9,399$13,099
YamahaVX$9,899$13,999
YamahaVX Deluxe$10,699$16,199
YamahaVX Cruiser$10,999$16,599
YamahaVX Limited$11,499$17,899
YamahaVX Cruiser HO$11,799$18,399
YamahaGP1800-R HO$12,499$22,999
YamahaFX HO$13,699$20,999
YamahaFX Cruiser HO$14,199$21,999
YamahaGP1800-R SVHO$14,399$18,899
YamahaFX SVHO$15,699$25,299
YamahaFX Cruiser SVHO$16,399$26,299
YamahaFX Limited SVHO$17,599$26,499
KawasakiSTX 160X$9,599$16,258
KawasakiSX-R$9,999$15,898
KawasakiSTX 160X$9,999$18,058
KawasakiULTRA LX$11,199$15,799
KawasakiSTX 160LX$11,699$14,999
KawasakiULTRA 310X$15,299$25,658
KawasakiULTRA 310R$16,299$23,558
KawasakiULTRA 310LX$17,999$23,270
Editor’s Note: These prices are reflective of jet skis only and do not include trailer, registration, insurance and any state sales taxes if applicable. Please call your local dealership for the most accurate pricing.
The cost of buying a new jet ski from Yamaha, Sea-Doo and Kawasaki

Additional purchase expenses

In addition to the cost of purchasing a jet ski, you’ll also need to set aside an additional 20% of your budget for the following:

  • A quality new trailer from the same dealership. Don’t take the risk of buying a used jet ski trailer as we detail in that reader’s guide.
  • Your safety gear. Budget between $300 and $700 for safety gear including life jacket, wetsuit, helmet and gloves at a minimum.
  • Additional accessories. These include a quality GPS device, tow tubes and fishing rod holders.

Most people are surprised to see the true upfront cost of a new jet ski.

How much do jet skis cost to maintain?

This depends on how often you use your jet ski. If it’s used every weekend, you can expect to have to understand several scheduled logbook servicing internals annually which will cost $250 for labor, not including parts.

In addition to the servicing cost and parts, you’ll need to pay registration each year for your jet ski, as well as registration for your trailer. Depending on your state, you may also need to pay insurance on both the jet ski and trailer too.

The main reason that people sell jet skis is that they can be expensive to maintain. Clearly, it’s not just the upfront cost that we’ve defined here that should be taken into account.

How much fuel will a jet ski use?

On average, it takes 2 to 3 hours of continuous use on a jet ski to completely empty the gas tank. Consider that the more fuel-efficient jet skis such as the Sea-Doo GTI 90 and GTI 130 will often allow riders to ride longer and further where they may clock 4 hours of use.

You won’t be riding continuously though with many riders choosing to stop for a rest 2 to 3 times when out riding. There are fuel stations in most places, but if there aren’t, you can always bring additional fuel.

Which jet ski brand should I buy?

There are only 3 main jet ski brands in the PWC market today. These are Sea-Doo, Yamaha and Kawasaki. The most popular jet skis are Sea-Doo but they do have a mild reputation for unreliability, with Yamaha proving to be very reliable though lacking in features and style.

Kawasaki, as the poor runner-up with less than a dozen jet skis in their line up, still pack a good punch. If you want a stand up jet ski instead of a sit-down jet ski, then you’ll need to buy a Kawasaki. Their top-of-the-line sitdown jet skis have won many races around the world for their incredible speed and handling abilities.

How long do jet skis last?

Between 200 and 400 hours. In contract, for the more reliable jet skis which aren’t built for performance, you’ll find used jet skis on the market which are at the 300-hour mark. These jet skis will get an additional 100 hours before needing a full engine rebuild. The performance jet skis often are retired after 200 hours (approximately 70 rides) as their engines cannot handle the strain in such harsh conditions.

Can I ride my new jet ski at night?

Jet skis can be ridden at night within certain states and countries, though night riding isn’t normal and you’ll need to ride slower. For this reason, almost none of the manufacturers by default are not installing navigation lights on jet skis so you’ll need to get some aftermarket lights installed from your dealer.

Is it worth me buying one?

With all of that in mind, is it worth buying a jet ski to go riding with? It seems some people are worried about everything and they shouldn’t be.

You see, these days jet skis are more reliable, cheaper and are more fuel-efficient than 10 years ago. Buying a jet ski is worth it if you’re riding at least twice per month, otherwise, just hire one and let others deal with the expenses.