How to Tow a Jet Ski

Knowing how to tow a jet ski safely is an essential part of being a jet ski owner. It’s important you know how to tow your craft from behind another boat, but also how to tow it behind your car as well.

Towing behind your car is unique for each owner of the vehicle, so here are a few essential points you’ll need to consider…

Calculating the towing weight

The first is to calculate the weight of your PWC and trailer. Now, this may seem straightforward at first, as you’ll be able to easily find out this information from manuals or online for your particular models, however, you need to remember to factor in any fuel that may be in the tank, as well as any accessories housed on your jet ski.

For most vehicles, you’ll be able to find out the maximum weight they can tow from a specification sheet or handbook. This figure may also be listed as the vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car (usually found either inside of the driver’s door or under the car’s bonnet). If you can’t see this figure listed on your vehicle then you must not use your car for towing.

The gross train weight tells you the weight of your car when it's fully loaded with the addition of a fully-loaded trailer and this figure must not be exceeded. 

According to UK government guidelines, 2.55 meters is the maximum width a trailer can be when being towed by a vehicle. 

When considering the length of your trailer, the maximum a trailer can be, when being towed by a car weighing up to 3,500kg, is 7 meters (not including the A-frame).

The angle of launch ramp

When it comes to deciding whether you need a bar that drops down below the rear hitch receiver or one that steps up higher, this will come down to the type of vehicle you have. You’ll find that the tongue weight of a double-sized jet ski trailer (not including any accessories) is actually quite light. It’s important to be aware that attaching a heavy trailer to a vehicle will mean that the tongue weight will lower the car’s rear suspension. How much the suspension will be affected will depend on the car, along with the type of tow package and the tongue weight of your trailer. 

It’s essential that you factor this in when choosing the correct hitch height; always go a little higher so that you’re factoring in the sag. 

Knowing your terrain

Understanding the terrain in your area and that of the area you’re travelling to will help you better control your vehicle and what you’re towing. There are a few varying terrains to consider on your journey; here are a few examples, along with tips on how best to traverse tricky terrain:

Rocky road: If the journey has quite a rocky terrain then your best bet is to have plenty of traction and a good pace. 

Soft sand: This is a difficult terrain to drive on at any time, let alone when you start factoring in towing a jet ski. The best way to navigate this is through momentum. The sand’s resistance is what’s putting your engine to work. Sticking in third gear with plenty of speed should help in this situation. Be sure to keep gear changes to a minimum and always kept smooth and quick to help you maintain your speed. 

Steep Inclines: Sticking to low range gears are best for steep hills. This will help increase your engine’s torque and, in turn, help you control the speed on the way back down - which brings us to…

Steep declines: Control is king in this situation. Lower gears will help control your speeds and will mean you can also take advantage of your engine’s braking. Try to avoid engaging the clutch when driving down a steep hill as this only cancels out the engine’s braking and will actually cause free-roll which will end up increasing your speed.   

Adapting the receiver on your vehicle for towing

In the majority of cases, cars will come from the factory with a specific receiver for a specific type of mount and this will, generally, be enough for most towing jobs you’ll require. 

If you do find that you need another type of hitch, you’ll no doubt find that you’ll require an aftermarket installer to help you mount one to your car’s frame. It’s worth noting that aftermarket hitches tend to be lower than a factory mounted one, so you’ll notice there’s less distance to stop dragging, so it’s important that this is factored into your calculations.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination with your jet ski, you can start to enjoy why you travelled there - to feel the wind in your hair whilst you’re riding the waves and appreciating the feeling of freedom that comes with watersports. However, your towing trials and tribulations may not be over. Can you tow a jet ski behind a boat? This is a very real possibility and towing a jet ski in the water also comes with its own set of rules…

Safety rules when towing a jet ski in the water

Towing a jet ski behind another can be dangerous, with its own hazards that can occur if you aren’t aware of the following safety rules:

  • With every PWC being different, it’s important that you read the manual to understand the speed limits and any information you need to know before you start towing a jet ski
  • Having a shut-off valve installed is a great precaution to take but always remember to shut it off before you start to tow a jet ski to avoid having water forced back through the engine. A good tip is to tie your safety lanyard to the valve so that it reminds you to reopen it again prior to starting the engine 
  • If you’ve decided to use a clamp instead of the shut-off valve, then it’s worth putting a brightly coloured piece of tape on the water intake pipe so that you can identify it quickly
  • It’s essential you make other boat users aware that you are towing a jet ski. If you have signal devices on your boat, make sure they are activated, if not, you can wave a brightly coloured flag or have a flotation device in the air that will attract their attention
  • It is necessary to have a 20 ft rope when you are towing slowly. Having a floating tow rope will mean that the risk of getting the line sucked up into the tow boat or PWC will be lower
  • When towing slowly, it’s a good idea to have someone sitting on the jet ski as this will help balance it out. Without anyone sitting on it, the PWC will likely be nose heavy, causing it to pitch-pole in the wake.
  • When towing faster, your tow rope will need to be much longer, perhaps even double the standard length (40 ft). This will allow the jet ski to ride behind the boat's rough wake in a much smoother part. Just be mindful not to use a rope that’s too long as this could result in too much distance between the tow boat and the PWC, causing you to have less control and increasing the risk of the jet ski flipping over.
  • In the event of towing at a faster speed, it’s probably best not to have someone sitting on the jet ski, as the rider would have very limited control as they would be unable to steer or stop it.

In the event of anything going wrong when towing, it’s a good idea to have jet ski insurance in place and to help keep your personal watercraft in tip-top condition, download our guide full of help and advice on maintaining your jet ski.

Header image source

Tips on Maintaining your Jet Ski - Asset 1

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