Is Your Jet Ski Bogging Down? Here’s What to Do

If you’ve ridden jet skis, you know that they are incredibly fun watersport toys that can provide hours of fun in the sun. Chances are that if you’ve spent more than a day or two out on the water, you also know that they have a habit of seizing up. While this is usually a simple fix, it is important to know what to watch for so you can catch it early. 

So is your jet ski is bogging down?

Bogging is caused when too much fuel is delivered from the carburetor to the motor. When this happens, less air gets pushed through, and the engine struggles to come to full power. It may feel like you are plowing water, or like the jet ski is failing to get enough speed to come up above water’s surface.

When this happens, don’t panic. There are a few tried and true options that should help resolve the situation quickly, getting you back up and running in no time. 

Check All Fuel Lines and Filters

Since a jet ski bogging down is primarily caused by too much fuel getting through the carburetor and into the engine, the best place to start is by examining every piece of machinery that is involved in the fuel relay process.

That includes the fuel system in general, the fuel lines, the air filter, the fuel valves, and the carburetor filters. Depending on the make and model of your jet ski, the components may vary. If you are not mechanically inclined or trained, you may want to have a professional do the heavy lifting and check out your jet ski from tip to tail.

Sometimes it is simply a matter of a worn out part. If you have an older craft, regular maintenance is key to keep it running smoothly and to prevent buildup and debris from wearing away at the delicate engine and fuel system components. Natural aging and decay from constant exposure to moisture is to be expected the older the jet ski is.

However, if you have a brand new machine and are still experiencing bogging, it could point to a faulty part versus one that has been worn down over time. Early detection in this case is key, as you want to eliminate the risk of an improperly installed or defective part causing issues with other parts nearby.

Remember – a jet ski is a precision instrument that has to be in tip-top shape in order to work correctly. There are really no “one-size-fits-all” parts, so you have to know exactly what parts are needed to make repairs. If the repair is simple like replacing a fuel line or an old dirty filter, you can expect to be back on the water in no time, and for minimal cost.

Replace or Rebuild the Jet Pump

Sometimes the problem is more than just a faulty fuel line or clogged filter – in these cases, the next place you or your jet ski mechanic should look is the jet pump. These key propulsion components are responsible for accelerating water pressure before it finds its way to the back of the jet ski and is ejected. 

This process provides engine control and power.When it is working in top shape, your jet ski will likely run beautifully, If it is damaged, clogged, or otherwise not working correctly, it can severely impede the engine’s ability to process power and can bog down your acceleration efforts.

Many conscientious jet ski owners will actually plan to have their jet pumps repaired or replaced every few years. They are components that do a majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to the inner workings of the machine, so it stands to reason that they are often among the first parts to break down.

Because the jet pump works by harnessing water pressure, it is often the first point of contact for minerals and debris that are in the water. These things can build up over time and cause major problems. If the debris is large enough, it can also cause an immediate system corruption that – if not dealt with immediately – can impair the entire propulsion system.

It never hurts to have a full repair manual on hand when working on an older ski. eManualOnline will give our readers 15% off on any watercraft manual using the link below.

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What to Do When Your Jet Ski Starts Up Fine But Lurches

If your issue is not so much getting your jet ski to come to speed and get to the top surface of the water, but rather having it lurch or hesitate while already in motion, then it is likely your jet ski is not bogging down at all. Instead of getting too much fuel and not enough air, it is probably not getting enough fuel, which then causes the craft to hesitate or move forward in spurts.

To further compare the two issues: bogging down will feel like a slow, agonizing climb out of the water that never really comes to full fruition; hesitation or lurching, on the other hand, will feel like you are randomly picking up speed then losing power, often in a repetitive, rhythmic manner. It could also feel like the engine is misfiring once you are up and running. 

If this lurching, hesitating, unsteady feel is what you are experiencing, then the fix may be as simple as evening out your fuel to air intake ratio. This can usually be mitigated by playing around with the throttle levels until you begin evening out, and your ride becomes smooth. However, since all jet ski makes and models are built differently, if you are unable to quickly correct the problem by adjusting your throttle you may need to take your jet ski in to have it serviced. 

How To Prevent Fuel Line and Jet Pump Problems in the Future

Depending on where you live, it is likely that you will need to winterize your jet ski to properly prep it for off-season storage. Jet skis are not like cars or trucks – they are not made to sit for weeks or months at a time without running, only to easily start back up at the drop of a hat. They need to be carefully cared for to make sure they work well when the weather turns warm again. 

Begin by draining water from the machine. This is easily done when it is on its tow trailer – simply elevate the front of the craft until water begins to trickle out of the back. Carefully turn the jet ski on and rev the throttle a few times; this will force air through the propulsion system to flush out any remaining water. 

Look to see what the manufacturer recommends next; if you live somewhere that dips below freezing regularly in the winter, you may need to take additional protective steps such as adding antifreeze or lubricants to the fuel system. By caring for your jet ski in the off season, you will extend the run life of its parts and reduce the risk of it bogging down the next time you take it out on the water.

How To Purchase a Quality Jet Ski That Won’t Break Down Quickly

If you are purchasing a brand new jet ski, you have very little to worry about in terms of potential repairs or breakdowns. Most new machines come with a warranty; if anything of concern comes up, all you need is to have the craft checked out (at no cost to you) to make sure all is well. Check out my full PWC Buyer’s Guide post.

If you decide to purchase a used jet ski, you can still find a great deal while making sure that the machine you are investing in is soundly built. Read my 10 things to look for post. Without a warranty to get you through the first few years of ownership, you need to take a few things into account before handing over your money:

  • Avoid older, 2-stroke engines. 
  • Don’t shy away from watercraft with a lot of man-hours on them.
  • When possible, ask for a water test.

No matter if you go with a new or used model, make sure to provide regular maintenance checks and always have it looked at by a professional if you suspect debris damage. If you take good care of your jet ski, you should be able to enjoy it for a very long time.

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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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