How a Jet Ski Works

In the state of Florida, Personal Watercrafts (PWCs) are a popular pastime, especially during the hot summer months. Each year, thousands of people operate PWCs such as Jet Skis as a form of recreation. For reasons of safety and accident avoidance, it is generally a good idea to understand how a Jet Ski works before operating one. There are differences between land vehicles and PWCs in terms of operability that should be recognized in order to properly enjoy a Jet Ski.

How the Engine Works

A Jet Ski is powered by a jet propulsion engine. The engine has an impeller which sucks water into the engine and then forcefully ejects it which propels the Jet Ski forward. The impeller has fan blades that rotate quickly to suck in the water but the blades are safely contained within the craft and away from the access of riders.

While there are no brakes on a Jet Ski, most of them are equipped with a feature to reverse the direction of the impeller in order to generate backwards movement. The throttle, or gas, is typically located on the handle bars of the craft, much like on a motorcycle. Applying more pressure to the throttle causes the craft to accelerate more quickly.

How the Steering Works

Steering a Jet Ski is almost exactly the same as steering a bicycle or motorcycle. In order to turn in a direction, simply turn the steering handle bars in the desired direction. The main difference between steering a motorcycle and a Jet Ski is the ability to stop and to steer without applying propulsion. PWCs typically do not allow for what is called “off-throttle” steering. This means that in order to make a turn on a Jet Ski, there must be some forward propulsion. Simply turning the steering column without propulsion will not result in a change of course.

Jet Ski Safety

The most important thing to consider before operating a Jet Ski is safety. Safety includes understanding how PWCs operate, understanding the responsibilities of operating a PWC, and understanding how to react to emergency. Inexperienced drivers may not have cultivated the intuition to make emergency evasive maneuvers. Drivers should also understand the responsibility to avoid intoxication and reckless driving for the safety of everyone involved.

The high speeds of PWCs also create the potential for serious accidents and injuries. There is a higher risk for skeletal and neurological damage in a Jet Ski accident. It is imperative to know how to act in such an event and how to handle any possible injuries without causing more harm.



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Jacksonville, Fla. Summary Guide to the Duval County Manatee Protection Plan: A Guide for Boating, Swimming & Personal Watercraft Operation in Duval County 2000. Jacksonville: Jackonville City Council, 1999. Print.

Kawasaki Jet Ski, 1976-1991. 2nd ed. Overland Park: Penton Media, Incorporated, 1992. Print.