Are Sea-Doo Sparks Reliable?

Reliability is an essential component when deciding to purchase one brand over another. How reliable a vehicle is, whether you will be driving it on land or in the water, is paramount.

You do not want to break down, especially if you are somewhere that is somewhat isolated and have no means of communicating to receive assistance. 

Are Sea-Doo Sparks reliable?  Yes, the Sea-Doo Spark is a reliable personal watercraft (PWC) at a competitive price. Their engines are lightweight and fuel-efficient, and their cooling system is very low-maintenance. They can rival any other brand for reliability.

For a more thorough comparison of Sea-Doos with Yamahas, read our article Yamaha Waverunner vs. Sea-Doo For Reliability.

In this article, we will be focusing more on the reliability of the Sea-Doo Spark alone.

Rec-Lite PWCs

As far as personal watercraft are concerned, reliability needs to be one of the first things you consider. There are two top brands of rec-lite PWCs: Sea-Doo and Yamaha. Sea-Doo has been around for many years, as far back as the 1960s.

That says something about the popularity of the brand, and it does imply proven reliability. 

The Sea-Doo Spark and the Yamaha EX WaveRunner are in the rec-lite category of PWCs. However, Yamaha is consistently rated number one in terms of engine design and overall performance.

What is a Sea-Doo Spark?

If you’ve found this article, you’re probably at least familiar with the Spark model of PWC. Even so, before purchasing one, it’s best to learn everything you can. 

The Sea-Doo Spark was first released in 2014, and Sea-Doo considers this line their “game-changer” since they intended to make a big splash with this new PWC In fact, internally, the Spark was codenamed CAFE. This stood for “clean, affordable, fun, and easy-to-own” (source).

Here’s a quick rundown of what makes the Sea-Do Spark a stand-out:

  • Low price point
  • Able to be towed by most common cars
  • Available in 2-up and 3-up configurations
  • Intelligent brake and reverse (iBR) system
  • Quick-attach rear cargo LinQ system
  • Low-maintenance cooling system

All of this sounds nice on paper, but let’s get down to brass tacks. Are Sea-Doo Sparks reliable in practice?

What Makes a Reliable PWC?

Reliability is a hard trait to quantify. In order to determine a subjective subject, we’re going to examine what makes a PWC run well and live a long life. 

Features that factor into the reliability of a PWC includes the engine, the cooling system, and the hours of operation. 

Engine

Sea-Doo manufactures two engine types: a 2-stroke and a 4-stroke engine. Many models no longer sport a 2-stroke engine due to the pollution it emits and the negative effect on the environment.

The 2-stroke engine, generally used in the stand-up models, has been outlawed by most recreational areas. The Sea-Doo Spark uses a Rotax 900 Ace™ engine with a horsepower of 60, and the Spark Trixx uses the Rotax 900 HO Ace™ with a horsepower of 90.

The Rotax™ engine is a 4-stroke engine, which is manufactured by Bombardier Recreational Products, the makers of the Sea-Doo PWCs. Both the Rotax 900 Ace™ engine and the Rotax 900 HO Ace™ engine are considered the most fuel-efficient engines on the market today. The Rotax is an internal combustion engine and uses regular unleaded gasoline. 

The Rotax with 60 horsepower burns, on average, 1.94 gallons of gas per hour. The Rotax with 90 horsepower burns, on average, 2.4 gallons per hour (source). However, do not go by gallons per hour on the water. Gallon use can vary due to driving style and the conditions, such as calm water versus rough water.

Remember, fuel efficiency isn’t just good for our planet earth. It’s great on your wallet. 

The Rotax Ace ™ engine was developed for use in both PWCs and snowmobiles. Its size is compact and has a dual overhead camshaft. The smaller size of the engine and the lighter-weight hull gives this engine power equal to a much larger engine. A bilge pump is not standard but can be added as an accessory.

The company recommendation for service on the Spark is every twelve months or 100 hours (source). However, one of the significant drawbacks to the Rotax Ace engine is accessibility. The top deck must be removed before doing any of the recommended routine servicing. After removing the deck, most simple repairs, such as oil changes, can be performed by the consumer.

Still, the tradeoff is worth it. The Rotax engines are powerful and lightweight, which translates to a better ride. They are the most fuel-efficient models are the market, which means you save some serious money in the long run.

Cooling System

There are two types of cooling systems: open-loop and closed-loop. A cooling system keeps the engine from overheating.

All PWCs have a way to cool the engine, or it would overheat, especially since it is in a small, enclosed space.

Open Loop

An open-loop cooling system uses the surrounding water to cool the engine by sucking the water into the engine as you are riding (source). The open-loop system is a simple yet efficient system and requires very little maintenance.  The open-loop system used by Yamaha and Kawasaki may require a small amount of maintenance. However, this system does require more care.

Saltwater is highly corrosive and must be flushed out every time you take your PWC out on the ocean. If you ride your PWC in freshwater, there are still corrosive minerals in the water. As a result, the system must be flushed after each use.

You must also winterize the engine each year, so any water left inside does not freeze, causing damage to the engine. Another consideration of the open-loop system is that your PWC will not only suck up the surrounding water but also everything in the water. Taking in debris can cause the system to become clogged and inefficient.

Closed Loop

Similar to open-loop, closed-loop cooling uses surrounding water to cool off the engine. The main difference is that the water never enters the watercraft. Antifreeze circles around the ride plate, and the ride plate is cooled by the water that touches it. As the antifreeze circles around the ride plate, it is cooled. 

The ride plate disperses the heat into the surrounding water. As most waterways are cooler than the engine, the ride plate can transfer heat out of the engine and into the water. Using antifreeze also means the engine is kept at a constant temperature.

You will not have to be as concerned with flushing the system since corrosive materials do not enter the engine block. At the end of the season, you will need to give the exhaust system and intercooler a thorough flushing. 

One drawback of the closed-loop system is winterizing. The exhaust and intercooler add an extra step to the process. Also, you should check the level of antifreeze, just like the gas, before riding.

If you run out, the engine will overheat, which will not be pleasant if you are out in the ocean. 

Due to using water to cool the engine, you have no way to keep the engine at a constant temperature. Fluctuating temperatures could be a problem on a scorching day as the water warms up from the air around it.

Closed-loop systems, utilized by Sea-Doo, require less care. You will not need to flush the entire system after each ride. The engine will more than likely last longer as corrosive saltwater or minerals in freshwater never touch it.

So far, the Sea-Doo Sparks PWC promises a lightweight engine, fuel efficiency, and a low-maintenance cooling system. So far, it has checked all the reliability boxes. But what about its hours of operation?

Hours of Operation

Hours of operation is like miles on a car. It refers to the overall total of hours the PWC has used. Much like mileage on a car, hours of operation are an indicator of the relative age of the engine. Approximately 20 to 30 hours per year is considered average.

If you own a car with high mileage, you will most likely look into buying a new one. High mileage engines tend to break down more often. It is the same with hours of operation for a PWC.

Each brand has a basic amount of hours the engine can run before mechanical issues begin to crop up. Sea-Doo PWCs will run about 300 to 350 hours. However, some can last anywhere from 100 to 500 miles.

Instead, you need to take into consideration your riding style and whether or not you keep up the maintenance as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. With any PWC, if you do not maintain the engine, the engine will not last for long. Regular maintenance and cleaning, inside and out, is imperative.

To summarize, Sea-Doo crafts average the same amount of hours of operations as most PWC on the market.

Final Thoughts

The Sea-Doo Spark is made for fun on the water. Plus, the price point can’t be beaten. Beyond that, though, it offers reliability you can’t find elsewhere.

With all PWC, reliability depends on the engine, the cooling system, and the hours of operation. All three of these factors determine how often your Sea-Doo will be in the shop instead of on the water.

First, Sea-Doo Sparks boast a 4-stroke Rotax engine that is lightweight and incredibly fuel-efficient. Second, the closed-loop cooling system is a low-maintenance marvel. Third, these PWC can last as long on the water as any competitor. 

If you value reliability in your PWC, the Sea-Doo Sparks is your perfect match. 

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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