As with most aquatic equipment, a personal watercraft (PWC) runs the risk of taking on water every time it is used. Although made for the water, it is important to know how to get water out of unwanted areas such as the hull in order to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Why does water get into the hull of a PWC?
As with any aquatic craft, water will sometimes enter the hull of a PWC due to improper care or accidents such as flipping the craft in water or having it momentarily submerged. Heavy storms can also have an affect. It is important to know how to properly remove this water from your PWC.
You do not need to be a professional in order to drain your PWC and, with proper care and maintenance, you can easily and quickly ensure a dry vessel with a long lifespan.
How to Get Water Out of the Hull of a PWC
The easiest way to get unwanted water out of your PWC hull is to drain it through the use of the craft’s existing drain plugs, tilting the nose to allow gravity to assist the process, and then manually drying excess water with a vacuum and sponge.
Using A Bilge Pump
The bilge of a PWC is the part that would rest on the ground if the craft was not submerged in water (source). Should water accumulate in the bilge of a watercraft, a bilge pump can then be utilized to remove this water.
There are two types of bilge pumps available that are suitable for draining water from the hull of a PWC. The first is a very basic manual bilge pump, and the second is an electric pump.
A manual bilge pump is a lightweight plastic tube that works in a similar way to a syringe in order to draw water from a specific place and deposit it elsewhere (source).
A manual bilge pump will connect to a tube so that you can easily maneuver it inside the craft. Using a manual bilge pump is easy, and you might find one in a maritime store.
You insert the hose where the water has accumulated, then pull the plug upwards to fill the tube with water. Next, remove the pump and hose, and deposit the water outside of the craft.
An electric bilge pump will require less effort to operate in the long run but will take knowledge, skill, and time to install.
Because the bilge tends to be close to the engine, fuel can be present in the bilge, and that is why the electric bilge pumps are specifically designed not to spark.
If you are familiar with the mechanics of aquatic crafts, and are adept at working on motorized equipment yourself, the best way to ensure easy drainage for the lifetime of your PWC is to install an electric bilge pump.
Most PWCs do not come standard with a bilge pump already installed (source).
As the method of installing a bilge pump involves drilling holes in the craft, manual electric wiring, and soldering, it is critical to ensure you have the necessary tools and skills before attempting this method.
A bilge pump for a PWC should be fitted with a float switch so that it can automatically switch on when water reaches a certain level. This can help your PWC drain itself through the use of the bilge pump even when you are on the water.
It is not uncommon for bilge pumps to fail or get clogged, and therefore it might be a good idea to install a backup plan if you are already installing a bilge pump as a drainage solution.
It is possible to install two electric bilge pumps, a primary and secondary one, with the secondary one set at a higher level than the first one. The purpose of this is to allow the secondary pump to take over should the first pump fail (source).
How to Install a Bilge Pump
First, remove the seats and access panels so that you have a clear view of the PWC hull. Next, select a point high above the water level for the outlet (source).
Mark and drill a hole at this point, and finish it off with a bilge pump outlet fitting. Prepare your wiring for the fuse with a three-position selector switch (auto, on, off).
Use heat shrink tubing for your wiring and flux for your soldering to make it watertight. Solder and then heat shrink all battery connections to your wiring.
Use an L-bracket for your switch inside the craft, or the highest level surface. Connect the battery wires to the pump wires, making sure to use heat shrink tubing.
Connect your wires to the switch, and mount it inside the craft. Disconnect the negative lead of your battery, and connect your battery with the positive lead first.
Perform a check to ensure your pump is working. Connect your outlet hose and place your pump in the lowest possible point of the hull.
Cut the hose to size, and connect to the bilge outlet fitting at the highest point possible. Secure your pump and hose with ties, ensuring there are no sags in the tubing.
As an extra measure, cover the pump and switch fittings with a watertight material and secure.
If your PWC is not taking on too much water when used, or you have a once-off situation where the hull accumulated water by accident, or you would rather not attempt the installation of a bilge pump yourself, you can manually drain the water following a step-by-step process.
Although not difficult, it is imperative that you follow the correct steps and utilize proper equipment in order not to damage your personal watercraft.
Proper storage and care of a PWC is key in ensuring a longer life for the vessel.
You should transport a PWC by means of a specialized trailer, which will not only lessen the likelihood of scrapes and accidents but also aid you in the manual drainage process.
First of all, any PWC will come standard with existing drain plugs located at the lowest point in the hull. There are two, and they should be closed when the craft is on water.
If you see water in the hull of your PWC, the first step would be to open the existing drain plugs to allow the water to drain.
It is useful to tilt the nose of the PWC upwards so that it is at a higher point than the tail to allow easier draining by making use of simple gravity to assist the process.
The easiest way to tilt the nose is to crank the trailer it rests on. Place blocks under the tongue jack if you need to go higher. Do not suspend the craft by its handlebars.
Once the water has drained through the plugs, there might still be some moisture left in the hull.
You would then use a high-powered wet vacuum to suck up the last water, and then use a sponge to relieve the hull of the last of the excess water.
You can also blow dry the area with a leaf blower or my favorite toy, the Master Blaster (seriously, it’s the most useful power tool I’ve ever bought from Amazon on recommendation from a car collector.)
Finally, allow your craft to stand in hot and dry conditions for several hours with the seats and access panel removed before storing it. If you’ve used the blow dry method, you can skip this step.
Store the craft in a dry area and under a protective dust- and waterproof cover once properly dried and not in use.
Common Reasons Water Gets into the Hull of your PWC
Although water might get into the hull of a PWC from time to time, it is often no reason for concern and can be merely the result of an accident.
However, improper care might cause your craft to take on water and therefore damage, so knowledge on craft maintenance is key.
You might suspect your PWC has taken on water due to heaviness in the seat or the craft sinking when left in water.
It is imperative to perform some troubleshooting to know where and how water entered your craft so that you can avoid it happening again.
Should you run the engine of your PWC out of water for more than 30 seconds, this could cause the driveshaft to overheat and the watertight protection surrounding it to become damaged.
When next you use the craft, water might then seep through into the hull (source).
It is imperative not to run your PWC out of water for more than a few seconds to avoid serious damage.
The engine should only be switched on out of water in order to flush the exhaust. This is done by attaching an ordinary garden hose to the connector next to the exhaust and flushing it with fresh water.
If a PWC is left in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, it can be detrimental to the body and age it at a rapid rate.
In addition to this, if a PWC is stored outside unprotected, the drastically fluctuating temperatures of night and day will cause damage to the body of the craft due to minuscule but constant expansions and contractions.
The best way to avoid sun and temperature fluctuation damage is to store the PWC under a protective cover in a dry, enclosed space, such as a garage.
In areas where drastically low temperatures are an occasional or regular occurrence, it is also important to practice proper winterization care on your PWC.
- Drain and dry the hull of your PWC, as explained earlier in this article.
- Mix 3.8 liters (1 US gallon) each of water and RV antifreeze.
- Connect a hose to the exhaust, and flush the exhaust with the mixture.
- Wash the exterior of the craft with car-safe soap and lukewarm water.
- Use a chamois cloth as well.
- Watch for algae and debris on the bottom of your craft.
- Rinse and dry the exterior of your craft.
- Use a high-shine protectant car wax to buff and shine your PWC.
- Pour a bottle of fuel stabilizer into your gas tank.
- Fill the PWC with gas.
- Spray lubricant onto the moving parts of your PWC.
- Remove the battery and charge it.
- Store the PWC under a protective cover in a dry enclosed space.
The reason for winterization where it concerns watercraft is that any residual water in pipes will expand when frozen and can cause cracks or leaks.
Should this happen, it can mean serious damage as this might allow water into the actual engine of the PWC.
Leaving a PWC in Water
A PWC should never be left in or on water unattended for extended periods of time or overnight, as it is highly likely that water will then leak into the hull or engine cavity. You might even return to your craft to find it sunk!
Leaving your PWC on salt water even for a short period of time can be absolutely detrimental due to the corrosiveness of salt water.
A PWC that was used in salt water should always be properly rinsed with fresh water and dried after every ride.
Salt water is exceptionally bad for any metal or engine, and most engines will not run again should they be exposed to salt water for an extended period of time (source).
Flipping the PWC
Accidentally flipping a PWC is inevitable. There are a number of reasons why your PWC might get turned upside down in the water.
Although this is not a problem in and of itself, how you correct the flip might mean the difference between a functional or non-functional PWC.
Should a PWC be flipped in water, the rider should immediately switch off the engine if it is still running to avoid water getting sucked into the air intake.
Most PWCs come with a kill switch lanyard that connects the rider to the craft. Should you be thrown or fall from the vessel, this lanyard will then automatically cause the engine to switch off (source).
Remember to reattach the lanyard once re-mounted, otherwise, your PWC will not start.
If you’re not careful, these keys are easy to lose. Sea-Doos have DESS keys that will have to be programmed for the PWC.
Then, a PWC should have a sticker on the back of the hull to indicate in which direction you should roll it in order to get it the right side up again.
If your PWC does not have this sticker on the hull, it will be mentioned in the owner’s manual and should be checked prior to use.
Not righting the craft correctly could mean water gets into the crankcase or hull.
Although the water in the hull can be dried later, water in the crankcase might mean that the craft will not be able to start again, and the rider might find themselves stranded far from dry land.
Leaks, Cracks, and Breaches
Prior to every use, it is important to check for leaks, cracks, or breaches in the body of your PWC.
Any user should check the craft over carefully, and problem areas should be patched by a professional before allowing the craft into the water. Serious breaches in the hull and a sunken PWC can be difficult, if not impossible, to repair.
Minor leaks or cracks in the body of the craft, especially those above the waterline, can be fixed with epoxy or resin.
However, if this is not done in a professional manner, it might result in an aesthetic flaw that could make the vessel difficult to resell should there come a time when this is warranted.
There are some instances where a craft might take on water due to a serious leak or hull breach below the waterline. In this case, it is important to take the craft to a professional repair shop in order to avoid further damage.
Once it has been established that there are no cracks or leaks in a personal watercraft that could constitute possible points of entry for water, it is important to check that both drain plugs are securely closed.
When to Do it Yourself and When to Call the Shop
If you discover water in the hull cavity of your personal watercraft, it is useful to know what you can do yourself and when you need to call on the help of professionals.
Any person that owns a watercraft needs to equip themselves with the necessary care and maintenance knowledge.
It is easy to check the craft for leaks or cracks yourself, but make sure to have any problem areas patched by a professional in order to save you trouble in the long run.
If you suspect that water is not in the body of the craft but in the oil or engine, then it is time to call the professionals.
Water in the oil is a big problem as water and oil don’t mix. Any oil that is more liquid than gelatinous, as well as opaque and caramel in color, means it has mixed with water (source).
If you get salt water on the engine parts or if the vessel has been corroded due to exposure to salt water, it’s best to get a professional opinion on how to prevent the corrosive spread and repair the damage done.
For water in the hull, if you are adequately skilled and possess the necessary tools, you can install an electric bilge pump in your PWC.
If you would rather not do it yourself, you can use a manual bilge pump to drain water if you find it has accumulated.
Any person that owns a personal watercraft is capable of performing the basic care and maintenance required to extend the lifetime of your PWC, and using the drain plugs properly and manually drying the hull cavity should pose no problems.
It is important to remember that it’s always better to ensure that water does not get into the hull at all because, in this case as many others, even though it’s not necessarily a problem to get the water out, prevention is better than a cure.
Getting water into the hull of your PWC is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. For the most part, you can manually drain and dry any water that might get into the craft using basic tools such as a sponge and vacuum.
However, taking the necessary steps to ensure a watertight craft and knowing how to properly care for, drain, and dry your craft can add many years onto the lifetime of your vessel.