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How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Jet Ski Engine?

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Jet Ski Engine?

Jet skis are fun and often annoyingly fragile. A jet ski engine is only designed to be used for about 30 hours a year. How much does it cost to replace a jet ski engine? 

The average cost to replace a jet ski engine is $4,250. It costs between $1,000 and $7,500 to replace one including a new engine, other parts, and labor. The price will vary depending on the type of jet ski and local markets. Mechanics will charge less if you provide the engine yourself. It’s possible to replace a jet ski engine yourself.

This article will explore the cost of replacing the engine of personal watercraft like jet skis. But first, what is a personal watercraft? 

What Is a Personal Watercraft?

A personal watercraft (PWC) is a small water vehicle that the user and passengers sit on rather than in, riding like a motorcycle. PWCs are often colloquially referred to as “jet skis.” However, “Jet Ski” is a registered brand produced by Kawasaki. 

Also called “water scooters,” a personal watercraft is a small floating vehicle that the rider and passengers sit on top of, rather than sitting inside of in the manner of a boat. Most modern PWCs use a gasoline-powered inboard pump-jet engine with screw-shaped impellers. 

However, electric models are becoming increasingly available. Some decades-old kit-built PWCs used to use boat-style outboard motors (source).

There are two types of PWC: 

  • Standup models 
  • Sit down models 

The most common standup PWC model is the Kawasaki Jet Ski; other manufacturers have produced standup PWCs with less success. Standup PWCs are typically smaller, less powerful, and more agile than sitdown models (source).

Sitdown PWCs include the: 

  • Yamaha WaveRunner 
  • Bombardier Sea-Doo 
  • Honda AquaTrax 

These vehicles are much more common than standup PWCs, and what most people think of when they hear the term “jet ski.” Because of their large hull and passenger capacity, sitdown “jet skis” typically have more powerful engines. 

For the remainder of this article, we will refer to personal watercraft as “jet skis.” 

How Much is a Replacement Jet Ski Engine?

A replacement jet ski engine costs between $1,000 and $7,500, depending on the brand and model and the mechanic you take it to. That includes the cost of the new engine, other replacement parts, and the mechanic’s labor. 

The smallest contributor to a jet ski engine replacement cost is the replacement engine. Refurbished engines for less powerful standup jet skis start at around $600, while brand new engines cost at least $1,000. 

Engines for more powerful Yamaha or Sea-Doo models can cost between $1,500 and $4,000. If you like to live dangerously, less expensive refurbished engines are available from eBay (source). 

The largest contributor to the cost of a replacement jet ski engine is the mechanic’s labor. Discussions with mechanics and related forum posts suggest an average labor cost of around $100 per hour, and an engine swap takes at least 10 man-hours of labor (source). 

The cost of an engine swap can be reduced considerably by purchasing the engine and other parts yourself. Mechanics usually charge a large surcharge when purchasing replacement parts. 

What Kind of Engines Do Jet Skis Use?

Most current production jet skis use either two or four-stroke, three or four-cylinder engines. The most common engine brands are Rotax and Yamaha. Most jet ski engines have 300 to 500 hours of expected service life.

Two-stroke engines are the simplest internal combustion engines and have largely been phased out of most applications. The operation of these engines has two phases or strokes per rotation.

  1. Intake and Compression: While the piston retracts, air and fuel are injected into the cylinder. Next, the piston rises, placing the fuel-air mixture under higher pressure. 
  1. Power and Exhaust: The spark plug fires, igniting the fuel-air mixture and propelling the cylinder downward. Exhaust exits the engine. 

Two-stroke engines have higher power-to-weight ratios but are less fuel-efficient. They also burn lubrication oil, making their emissions worse than four-stroke engines (source).

Four-stroke engines separate their power cycle into four distinct strokes:

  1. Intake: The piston drops, creating suction in the cylinder which sucks in air and fuel. 
  2. Compression: The piston rises, compressing the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder. 
  3. Combustion: The spark plug fires, igniting the fuel-air mixture. The expanding combustion products (exhaust) propel the piston downward. 
  4. Exhaust: The exhaust exits the engine. 

Four-stroke engines have lower power-to-weight ratios than two-stroke engines but are much more efficient. Lubricants are kept out of the cylinders so they do not burn oil. Therefore, the emissions of four-stroke engines are much less environmentally damaging.

Most contemporary jet skis, including all sitdown models, use four-stroke engines as they are less environmentally damaging, quieter, more fuel-efficient, more durable and more reliable. Two-stroke engines are used by only a few models of standup jet skis, including those made by Krash Industries (source).

Yamaha and Kawasaki, two industry leaders, produce their engines in-house. Most of their engines are naturally-aspirated four-stroke engines, although supercharged models are available (source). 

Sea-Doo jet skis use Rotax engines, as do several smaller third-party jet ski manufacturers. Both Rotax and Sea-Doo are subsidiaries of the Australian-owned Bombardier industrial conglomerate. Bombardier is more famous for producing commuter jets.

Regardless of the manufacturer and style, jet ski engines typically have an expected service life between 300 and 500 hours. As they are a purely recreational product, manufacturers expect jet skis to see no more than 30 per year and spend most of the time in storage. Under these conditions, a jet ski engine should last at least 10 years with routine maintenance (source).

Can You Replace a Jet Ski Engine Yourself?

You can replace a jet ski engine yourself, but doing so is risky and potentially much more expensive than employing a trained watercraft mechanic. Replacing a jet ski engine requires special, often proprietary, tools which the average DIYer likely does not already own. 

The exact instructions and tools required for swapping a jet ski engine depend on the brand. Some brands use proprietary attachments and tools, which must be purchased from the company. The weight of the engines also requires a hoist of some kind to lift (source).

It is important to note that jet skis are not like cars. Their engines are designed to work at considerably higher stress levels and are built to much tighter tolerances. Working on a jet ski requires special training the average consumer has likely not had. 

Conclusion

While it may seem an expensive endeavor to replace a jet ski engine, doing so via a trained mechanic is necessary to extend the life of your jet ski. If you can purchase the engine at a discounted price, your mechanic will charge you less for the replacement.

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