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+

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.

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 Sport$7,899$9,799
YamahaEX Deluxe$8,899$11,199
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
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.

Sunshine Coast Jet Ski Hire: Under $100 and you can Ride Today!

Did you know that you can now hire a jet ski on the Sunshine Coast for under $100?! It’s crazy but there are some real bargains around now.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best places to hire a jet ski in Australia. From year-round great weather to white sandy beaches and a distinct lack of crowds since everything is so spread out.

You’re probably looking for some fun and excitement, but without spending a fortune. Perhaps a tour or self-hire option. If that’s you, then I’ve got you covered here.

Best hire shops on the Sunshine Coast

If you’re looking for a good mob to look after you, then I’ve done the searching around. I live right here in Queensland so I have tabs on who’s the best.

Let’s have a look at what we’ve got available:

  1. Caloundra Jet Ski Hire
  2. Maroochy River Jetski Hire
  3. Ocean Jetski at Mooloolaba
  4. Noosa Jet Ski Hire
  5. Noosa River Jet Ski Hire
  6. TBoat Hire in Noosa

Truth be told, all of these are great options! I haven’t listed these in any particular order either.

I searched for reviews on each of these and none of them really came out all that negative. This I believe is a sign of the genuine nature of Queensland business owners.

Price of jet ski hire

I’ve noticed that the cost of jet ski hire on the Sunny Coast is almost identical between operators. I guess competition keeps everyone on their feet.

Fact: You can hire a jet ski for under $100 on the Sunshine Coast today. It’s actually $90 total, but it’s only a 30-minute ride.

Sunshine Coast Jet Ski Tours

Just as you’re starting to have fun on your jet ski, you’ll have to finish up on the tour. Trust me…that isn’t that fun!

Save up some extra pennies and go for a longer tour. I recommend 2 hours actually so you can explore much of what the Sunshine Coast has to offer.

Pricing for hires is generally as follows:

PWC Hire LengthOrganized TourSelf-Drive Option
1/2 hour$90$80
1 hour$170$150
1.5 hours$250$220
2 hours$310$250

Price includes fuel. With the self-drive option, you will need to have a jet ski licence issued in Australia for insurance purposes. A bond will also be required for self-hires but tour organizers generally don’t ask for a rental bond. You won’t need to launch/retrieve the jet ski at the boat ramp as the hire company will do that for you.

With 30 minutes of riding you’ll only do like 10km, but with 2 hours of riding you can expect to cover almost 100km. If you’re looking for fun, freedom and thrills, then trust me…go for a hire of 2 hours MINIMUM!

You’re out there to have fun, not look at your clock. You already watch the clock at work all week long. 🙂

Choosing a tour operator

Not everyone is created equal, but on the Sunshine Coast you’ll be well looked after by all the options I’ve listed.

But if you wanted to research and dig deeper, I’ve written the following guide for you. Others have found it quite helpful when deciding which Sunshine Coast Jet Ski Hire and Tours company to go with.

Let’s think about some things first:

  1. How long you actually want to ride for.
  2. If you expect to be a fast rider or slow rider.
  3. Your current budget for hiring a jet ski.

Then we would want to ask the following:

  1. Just how long the particular tour shop has been in business.
  2. The additional cost (if any) should your friend want to hop on the back.
  3. If they will provide a 100% refund if the weather turns bad on the day.
  4. The make/models of the jet skis in their fleet (Generally Yamaha/SeaDoo)
  5. Where exactly you will travel to and if it’s actually scenic to visit.
  6. Any stops you will do on the tour to stretch your legs and see some sights.
  7. Any inclusions such as lunch, soft drinks or even a marriage proposal!

What you can and can’t do

Many people now get excited at the notion of hiring a jet ski. After all, the Sunshine Coast is a haven for watersports, in addition to the Gold Coast. I personally find it much less crowded.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Reach the top speeds that the tour leader permits (Usually 60km/h but on a jet ski this feels more like 100km/h!)
  2. Do a range of S turns and carve hard into the corners.
  3. Ride over the wake of other marine users such as large boats.
  4. Accelerate as fast as you can.
  5. Ride while standing so you can avoid a sore backside tomorrow.
Jet ski hire Sunshine Coast Australia
You can certainly have fun!

But then, you won’t be allowed to do these things:

  1. Jet ski wave jumping. No one will allow this for liability reasons.
  2. Playing jet ski races. There is a set minimum distance that Maritime Safety Queensland has permitted, so you can’t do a race between you and a mate.
  3. Tow sports. These same companies won’t allow you to tow your family behind either with a tour or self-hire option. Again, it’s due to liability reasons.
  4. Doughnuts. Spinning around sounds like fun, until you fall off and your jet ski weighing over 300kg runs you over. This is a quick way to get banned from a tour.
Jumping waves won’t be permitted with a jet ski hire or tour.

Have fun on the Sunshine Coast!

The most important thing to do out there on a tour is to have fun.

Take your water bottle, hat and sunscreen. Bringing your own wetsuit will give you more comfort than what they might have on offer.

Go for a longer tour because you’re not there for quick thrills. The additional spend is much more worth it!