Getting your jet ski ready for winter is an essential job if you plan on using it for years to come. Get your jet ski prepared for the harsh winter months with our 5 top tips.
It’s hard to stress how important it is to keep up with the maintenance of a PWC, and winterizing your watercraft every year is a big part of that. Properly prepping and storing a jet ski for winter can really save you time and money in the spring.
Just like your parents used to tell you as a kid, you should always clean up your toys when you’re done playing with them.
The whole jet ski winterizing process can be done in 30 minutes to an hour, but the time it will save you in the spring makes it well worth it. If you were to pay someone else to winterize jet skis for you it would cost around $200 per jet ski.
Whether you’re learning how to winterize a Sea Doo Spark or how to winterize a Yamaha Waverunner, the same general steps apply. Sometimes there are a few variations depending on make and model, but for the most part, the steps are universal.
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Step 1 – Drain the Water
The very first step in jet ski winterization is to drain it completely.
Jet skis make use of the water from the ocean or lake as a cooling system to regulate the temperature of engine parts which can get extremely hot.
Besides the water which can be corrosive if left for large periods of time, there can also be substances such as algae, dirt, and sand trapped inside which can interfere with the jet ski.
Thankfully, draining it is really simple. The instructions will be detailed in the manual for your ski but the process is generally the same.
Here’s how it’s done.
1. Make sure the jet ski is on an incline with the front end higher than the back. This can be done either on a boat ramp or by using a jet ski lift.
2. Turn on the jet ski and let it run for approximately 30 seconds while periodically pressing the throttle in bursts. After the 30 seconds turn the engine off and give it a break for a minute or two. You can learn more in my article on how to run a jet ski out of water.
3. Do this three times. After three times, all the water should be drained out.
Draining all the water out is one of the most important parts of preparing a jet ski for winter. Do not skip this step.
Step 2 – Protect the Internals
After draining the watercraft completely it’s time to work on the fuel tank and engine.
Buy some fuel stabilizer and enough fuel to fill the tank. Fuel Ox Marine Winter Shock makes some really good fuel stabilizer for marine vehicles. It can be found on Amazon for a reasonable price. You can check it out here.
Once you use the fuel stabilizer, fill the tank all the way. Keeping a full tank isn’t something many beginners think of when winterizing a jet ski but it’s the best way to prevent condensation build up. Remember to put in the fuel stabilizer before filling the tank.
Now that the fuel and the stabilizer are in the tank, start up the jet ski and let it run for about 30 seconds. When the 30 seconds is up, turn it off and let it sit for a minute or so.
Turn the jet ski back on one more time for another 30 seconds and then turn it off again. After turning it off for the second time, the fuel stabilizer should have made its way through the engine. The purpose of this is to make sure there is no build up inside of the engine while it is stored.
When you winterize a waverunner for example, it’s good to replace the oil and oil filter as well. Just like with the gas tank, a full oil reservoir prevents condensation. To change the oil, simply drain the old oil, replace the old filter, and refill it with new oil. Make sure you dispose of the old oil correctly. A lot of Walmart Auto shops will recycle old oil if you bring it to them.
If your jet ski is going to be stored in an area that reaches freezing temperatures, it’s recommended to run antifreeze through the system as well.
Step 3 – Internal Maintenance
Now it’s time to “fog” the engine. This is when you spray fogging oil into the engine to help lubricate everything. Fogging oil can be bought on Amazon for under $10 or at any store that sells auto supplies.
We like the Star Brite fogging oil which you can see here.
To learn more about fogging spray, you can look at my article on the best anti corrosion spray for jet skis.
Not all engines are the same so this step may vary a bit. Read through the owner’s manual to be sure you know what you’re doing. This step may seem like it takes a long time but it really doesn’t. Don’t let the length of this step scare you away. It’s still an important part of winterizing jet skis and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Locate the carburetors on top of the engine. Once you find them, take the covers off of the carburetors so you can see inside. Sometimes it’s best to wipe everything down before spraying. Any loose dust or debris can accidentally get blown into the engine. A quick wipe down with a microfiber rag usually works well.
Start up the engine, and spray the fogging spray into each cylinder until it stalls out. This helps lube up all the moving parts and keep your jet ski running smoothly.
Don’t forget the spark plugs!
Now it’s time to close all of that backup and locate and remove the spark plugs.
Everyone should know what a spark plug looks like but in case if you don’t here is a picture.
Spray the fogging oil into each of the chambers the spark plugs were in. It doesn’t take a lot of spray to lubricate the cylinder walls so don’t overdo it.
After spraying into each of the cylinders place a cloth over them, such as a small towel. The engine needs to be turned over briefly and you don’t want all the oil to fly out the holes where the spark plugs were. Simply laying the towel over the holes should work fine.
You won’t be able to start the engine, so just turn it over momentarily so the oil gets moved around and coats everything.
Always put the spark plugs back in when you’re finished. Leaving them out allows dirt and dust to get into the engine. If you plan on replacing the spark plugs, do it in the spring. It’s better to leave the old ones in so the new ones will be fresh when it comes time to ride again.
Step 4 – Battery Checks
Once the engine is all lubed up, it’s time to do some battery maintenance.
A more detailed guide on jet ski batteries can be found in a separate post, but this is a short summary. All you need to do is remove the battery, store it in a proper place, and trickle charge it throughout the offseason.
First, locate your jet ski’s battery, it’s probably in the back somewhere.
Disconnect the negative terminal, then the positive terminal.
Remove the battery and keep it stored in a dry place that doesn’t get very cold. Some people can get away with leaving it in the garage but that greatly depends on how cold it gets during winter. If you do leave it in the garage, don’t let it sit on the concrete. This can slowly drain the battery and drastically reduce how long it lasts. Simply placing the battery on top of a rubber mat can keep it from draining.
After you decide on a location to store the battery, attach it to a trickle charger. Trickle chargers slowly charge batteries and help them hold a charge for longer. Investing in a good trickle charger is good practice and they really aren’t that expensive. They really come in handy for jet ski owners and even made it on our list of must have jet ski accessories.
The Battery Tender Jr. my favorite trickle charger. It’s really easy to use and gets the job done. I think it’s fairly priced compared to some of the other options out there. There are a ton of different trickle chargers available, this is just the one I prefer. It’s available on Amazon here.
Step 5 – The Beauty Treatment
After all the hard work is done, it’s time to get to the cosmetic maintenance. After all, you don’t want a faded jet ski.
This means taking the time to hose it down and use soap and a sponge to really get it looking nice. It’s good to hose off your jet ski after every use but it’s even more important to do before storing. Any leftover salt, dirt, or sediment can cause scratches or rust when you throw a cover over it.
Some people like to wax their watercraft after cleaning it. Since it’s going to be sitting for a few months this isn’t really necessary but it’s ultimately up to you. We also have a more lengthy guide on how to clean a jet ski.
Once the outside is clean, start cleaning out the inside. Go ahead and get all of your trash out of the glove box and empty out any old towels or toys from the storage. Use this as an opportunity to get ahead on your spring cleaning so when it comes time to go back out on the water you have a fresh start. At the start of the next summer, I suggest you polish your jet ski.
It isn’t too uncommon for squirrels and mice to climb into the exhaust of a jet ski, so putting some steel wool in there wouldn’t hurt. Just be sure to remember to take it out next season.
The last step to winterize a jet ski is to place it on a stand and throw a cover over it. Stellex makes a nice jet ski cover with a 4 year warranty. This is the best jet ski cover that can fit on more than one PWC. A full review on it can be found in a separate post.
Depending on where you’re storing your jet ski, you may want to invest in a good jet ski lock as well. There are plenty of different jet ski locks out there, but the Master Lock adjustable cable lock seems to work best.
Just about any cable lock will work fine, but Master Lock is one of the most trusted lock brands for a reason. It’s worth the investment if you don’t already have a jet ski lock sitting around your house.
When it comes down to it, anything is better than nothing. Sometimes all it takes is a $20 lock to prevent your jet ski from being stolen.
The final thing you need to worry about when winterizing a PWC is jet ski storage. Before forgetting about your jet ski for the winter, it’s good to know where you’re going to keep it.
Generally, there are 2 routes you can take when storing a jet ski.
You can either:
A) Pay to store it somewhere
B) Find a place to store it for free
Either way, you should do a little bit of homework on the location.
Option A)- Paying to store a jet ski
Jet ski’s usually don’t take up too much space, but if for some reason you can’t keep it at home you may have to pay to store it somewhere else.
This means either paying a boatyard to keep your jet ski dry docked, or renting a storage container.
If you choose to go through a boatyard, you can expect to pay $75-$250 a month per jet ski.
If you choose to go with a storage container, you can expect to $40-$200 a month.
It’s hard to say which one is a better route because jet ski storage prices vary. Although boatyards tend to cost more, they’re going to be right next to the water which is definitely a plus. Whether or not the close proximity is worth the premium price is up to you to decide.
Option B)- Storing a jet ski for free
Free jet ski storage is usually the preferred route for most people.
If you don’t have anywhere to store your jet ski, typically you can find a friend who will let you keep it at their house. Make sure you offer them a lake day or two in the summer and that’ll probably win them over.
When picking the location on where to store a jet ski, try to keep it in an enclosed environment. It’s very easy for tree branches to fall on a jet ski during a storm, or for animals to make the impeller their new home.
If indoor jet ski storage isn’t an option for you, make sure you at least have it covered. Even a small shack is better than nothing. All you need is a few 2×4’s, some tin, and a couple hours.
Keep in mind that learning how to winterize a jet ski doesn’t do any good if it gets damaged before you can ride it again.
As the seasons go by, winterizing a jet ski will become easier and easier. As you build a routine it’ll become second nature to properly store it and maintain it. Follow these steps, and you will get many more years of fun out of your personal watercraft.
If you have any questions be sure to let us know in the comment section below!