Sucking up tow rope and dock line is far more common than most people think.
Not realizing it, people pulling tubes will either back up or circle back around to the tow rope and suck it up. Since a jet ski is a giant vacuum, the rope gets sucked right up and wraps around the drive shaft.
The steps you take to remove rope from a jet ski will also apply to jet boats.
Steps To Remove Tow Rope From Jet Ski
1. Don’t Flip The Jet Ski!!!
The worst thing you can do when you suck up a rope or anything is to flip it over while in the water.
While this was less of an issue for older 2-stroke jet skis, it has become a significant issue for 4-strokes today. If your jet ski was manufactured in the past 10 years, it’s more than likely a 4-stroke.
When flipped over, the engine compartment starts to fill with water, and the jet ski starts to sink.
When too much water gets in the engine compartment, it can find its way into the engine’s intake and hydro lock the engine. Trying to start a hydro locked engine could bend connecting rods and destroy your engine. A hydro locked engine can be a costly repair.
If you do flip the jet ski over make sure to look for a sticker in the rear which tells the direction to flip the jet ski back over. Going in the wrong direction can be bad.
2. Get the Jet Ski To Land
You need to get the jet ski to land. My preferred method is to put it on a trailer so you can easily work under the jet ski. Make sure the wheels of the trailer are locked.
If you don’t have a local boat towing membership, it would be wise to pick up a collapsable paddle (Amazon Link Ad) to keep in your jet ski in case this happens again.
3. Do NOT Remove The Intake Grate!!!
The intake grate is the metal bars in front of the pump. You can often see 3 to 6 bolts holding it on. While it looks easy to take off, it’s not as simple as it seems.
Many manufacturers will have one bolt as a through-hole bolt; this means you’ll need someone inside the engine compartment holding the bolt as you unscrew. To make it worse, this screw is often located under the engine, making it hard to find.
The manufacturer will also apply sealant in this hole to keep the watercraft from taking on water. So if you remove the bolt and don’t clean the hole and reapply sealant, the jet ski will sink.
Your best option is to keep the grate on and work around it. Most long knives will reach the rope, and yes, you’ll often have to cut the rope free.
The engines on jet skis are very powerful, and to stop one will require a lot of tension that is now stored in the rope. Simply unwinding the rope is not possible when tightly wrapped around the driveshaft of jet skis.
Note: You don’t want to remove the intake grate on Sea-Doo watercraft as they do the through-hole bolt. Yamaha is smarter about this and doesn’t through-hole the bolt on many of their models. The advice to not remove the grate is still sound as I’ve seen many people strip the bolts or break the bolts. The bolts have Loctite on them and you must break the Loctite correctly when removing the bolt or you’ll strip it. Try cutting the rope free first before thinking about removing the grate. I talk more about this in the next section.
4. Video How-To
Here is a video showing you how to remove rope in your jet ski.
Note: At 4:36 in the video above he was not able to get the Sea-Doo intake grate off because that front bolt is a through-hole bolt. This is why I tell people to not remove the intake grate, especially on Sea-Doo jet skis as it’s a pain. You also need to be careful with the other bolts as they use Loctite and not removing them correctly could strip the bolt. You’ll also need a new bolt with fresh Loctite to replace the old bolts. It’s just better to not remove those bolts.
FAQ About Removing Rope From Jet Skis
Can I Get To The Pump From Inside The Engine Compartment?
No, you can not get to the pump from inside the engine compartment of the jet ski. Everything you need will be on the outside.
Can I Remove The Pump Housing To Remove The tow line?
Yes, if you’re not afraid to take the pump off and know how to put it back on correctly, this is easier than fighting with a knife to cut the rope free at the intake.
Once the pump is off, you can get to the driveshaft and slide off the rope, but most often, you still need to cut the rope to break it free.
This an advanced step, and every jet ski is a little different.
Will Putting The Jet Ski In Reverse Help?
No, reverse on a jet ski is not the same as other boats. I go over jet drives and how there reverse works here.
Putting a jet ski or jet boat in reverse will not help and will make things worse.
Does This Apply To Jet Boats That Sucked Up Rope?
Yes, the steps you follow for removing the rope from a jet ski also apply to a jet boat.
How Do I Keep From Sucking Up Rope Again?
You’ll want to avoid going in reverse while towing and knowing where your tow line is located at all times.
A great option is to use an impeller protector (Amazon Link Ad). This helps to keep the rope away from the impeller of the jet ski.
Another great option is to use a hollow pool noodle. You can get pool noodles for cheap, and you can cut a slit down the middle to slide the rope through. You’ll want to tie knots at either end of the rope to keep it from sliding.