The sheer joy of slicing through waves on your jet ski — is there anything better?
But when the summer fun winds down, there is some serious business to attend to. It’s time to nail the winterization process and figure out your jet ski storage situation. Both are absolutely vital to ensure your ride is raring to go when the new season rolls around.
So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of jet ski winterization and figuring out the most secure storage options for your personal watercraft (PWC). A bit of effort now means a whole lot of trouble saved later on. We are talking about a hassle-free start to the new season with a jet ski that’s primed and ready for action!
How to Winterize a Jet Ski
The cold months are sneaking up on us and it’s time to get our jet ski ready for them. One part of the prep is sorting out the right storage, and we will get into that later. But first, we have a whole checklist to get through to make sure every bit of your jet ski is ready for its winter nap.
A lot of it may resemble winterizing a boat or preparing a snowmobile for storage, but jet skis do have their specifics.
1. Clean the Jet Ski and Trailer
Wash with fresh water to get rid of any dirt, algae and especially salt if you’ve been out in the ocean. Salt is a big no-no as it causes your jet ski to corrode and get damaged. If you opt for jet ski trailer storage, ensure the trailer is also cleaned and free of salt and dirt, paying special attention to the wheels and areas where water can accumulate.
Gently wash your watercraft by hand or use a soft brush, rather than using a pressure sprayer, you’ll be less likely to cause damage. And don’t forget about the inside of the jet ski. Open up all the storage compartments, including the storage for jet ski essentials, and wash them out too. After you’ve finished cleaning, leave the storage compartments open a bit for ventilation, as your toy should be completely dry before you put it away. This will help stop mold and mildew from forming while it’s in storage.
2. Prep the Exhaust
Next on the agenda is giving your jet ski’s exhaust system some love and care before its hibernation. This is especially important if you are in a place where the temperature drops like crazy. Here’s how:
- Flush the system with water to kick out any sand or debris.
- Run the engine at idle for about two minutes, stop the water and turn off the engine.
- Mix a concoction of water and RV antifreeze — half and half. Flush the antifreeze outlet with water and then, using a bilge or water pump, send that 50/50 solution into the exhaust and repeat the flushing process.
- To finish off, give the throttle a quick rev to make sure the exhaust system is fully drained.
Note: Always a good idea to check your owner’s manual and follow the winterizing instructions regarding antifreeze because each model might have its own specific recommendations.
3. Stabilize the Fuel
Next on the agenda is stabilizing the fuel. Michael Olson from Ride Motorsports in Woodinville, WA recommends filling the gas tank with fuel and a stabilizer to avert condensation.
“Using a fuel-stabilizing treatment greatly reduces the deterioration process, which can happen in as little as two weeks,” he said.
Once you’ve added the stabilizer, make it a point to run the engine in short bursts. This is key to making sure the mix gets all around the fuel system. It is a simple step, but it will save you from a world of trouble when it’s time to get your jet ski back in action next season.
4. Change the Oil
Changing the oil is not just a regular maintenance task, but a crucial one before putting your jet ski into storage. Why? Well, leaving old oil sitting in the engine can cause it to thicken over time, leading to potential engine troubles. A jet ski’s engine is its heart, and just like our hearts need good, clean blood to function, the engine needs clean oil.
Make it a rule of thumb to change the oil annually or every 50 hours of jet ski operation — whichever comes first. And don’t just stop at the oil; swap out the old oil filter for a new one too. This dynamic duo of fresh oil and a new filter will ensure no gummy or thickening oil will hinder your watercraft from performing at its best next season.
Additionally, while you’re at it, show some love to other areas like the brakes and steering equipment. A good spray lubricant will work wonders in preventing corrosion in these areas.
5. Drain the Engine
Draining all water from the engine is non-negotiable, especially in colder climates.
“You have to flush that out. Otherwise, it can freeze the [engine] block and cause cracks,” Olson emphasized.
There’s a risk of corrosion damage to mechanical parts if you’ve been jet skiing in salt water and fail to drain the engine. Here are the simplified steps:
- Tilt the jet ski up and turn the handles to each side. It helps to have a friend hold the jet ski to ensure better control.
- Run the engine in 20-second intervals to pump out excess water.
- Once all water is removed, take off the air filter and spray fogging oil into the carburetor while running the engine for about 20 seconds to lubricate it.
- Replace the air filter.
- Remove the spark plugs, assess their condition and dispose of them if they are too worn or dirty.
- Spray fogging oil on the spark plug cylinders, cover them with a towel, then run the engine for about 10 seconds.
- Install new or cleaned spark plugs.
It’s essential to drain the water from the engine before bringing the jet ski into storage. On the loading dock, position the jet ski so the back is lower than the front, start the engine for 20-30-second intervals and rev the throttle a few times to force out any remaining water. Avoid running the engine for more than 30 seconds to prevent overheating.
6. Remove the Battery
Last but not least, the battery is a key component that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Disconnecting the battery before storage is crucial, not just a ‘good to do’. If left connected, the battery will gradually lose its charge, as it continues to draw minimal power from the jet ski.
To prevent this, remove the battery and place it on a towel or mat in a climate-controlled environment. This ensures it doesn’t lose its charge or get damaged by extreme temperatures. Plus, for the best maintenance, it’s smart to charge up the battery and hook it to a trickle charger all through the off-season. Just remember, ask the storage facility if they allow this beforehand and always keep the battery far from anything that might ignite.
Pro tip: If your battery has been faithfully serving you for several years, it might be time to show some gratitude and consider a replacement.
Where To Store Your Jet Ski
So, your watercraft is all prepped and ready for its winter nap. Now, where do you tuck it in? The right storage for jet ski is crucial as it impacts its condition when it’s time to hit the waves again.
There are several ways to store your jet ski and they all have potential benefits.
- Indoor Storage: The crème de la crème of storage options. This way, your jet ski is safe from all kinds of weather — whether it’s rain, snow or those damaging UVs. However, this luxury comes at a premium cost.
- Outdoor Storage: A budget-friendly choice but leaves your jet ski exposed to the weather, which may lead to wear and tear over time. A top-notch cover can help mitigate this risk.
- Covered Storage: A happy medium. It provides some protection from the elements and is better than just leaving it out in the open. Plus, it’s easier on the wallet than indoor storage.
Recommended Jet Ski Storage Unit Sizes
The size of the storage unit you’ll need depends not only on the length of your jet ski but also on the trailer’s length. Most jet skis are just over 10 feet long, so a 10×15 drive-up storage unit could suffice. However, it’s crucial to account for the trailer’s length as well.
Many jet ski trailers are under 20 feet, making a 10×20 unit ideal for storing both your jet ski and trailer, with some extra space for gear. Although a 10×10 unit may seem tempting, it will likely be too snug a fit for jet ski trailer storage. To ensure you choose the right size, it’s advisable to measure your trailer and jet ski beforehand.
Note: Also take a quick look at our tips for storing boats. Most of them can apply to ski jets as well.
PWC Storage at Its Finest
So, you now have the full scoop on getting your jet ski ready for its winter break. From a thorough clean to exhaust prep, fuel stabilization, oil change, engine draining and battery removal — you know it all. Plus, you’ve got the ins and outs of choosing the best storage spot and the right unit size.
It’s all in your hands now to make sure your jet ski is well-protected during its winter slumber and all set to roar back to life when the sun shines bright again. Never underestimate this routine; it’s key to keeping your jet ski at its best!