If you happen to be riding your waverunner or jet ski, and find that it is unable to turn one direction, or that one direction steers better, you probably have a problem. I have personally had this happen, and there are several items that it can be. Not to worry, most items are small fixes.
What to do is your jetski won’t turn right?
If your jetski won’t turn one direction if you can take it out of the water. The first items to look at are the nozzle and see if it is physically turning when you turn the bars. Next, put some pressure on the nozzle and try to turn. By visually inspecting the area, you can probably find the problem.
Let’s dive in and figure out why your ski is not steering. The basics of steering on your jetski are simple. The handlebar has a cable that connects it to the steering nozzle. There is a connection point at the nozzle, and at the handlebar. The areas you would look for issues are at the handlebars, nozzle, and under the seat.
Here are the typical problems and how to fix them:
Nozzle Binding Issue
To determine if you have a nozzle binding issue, check to see if there is free movement when you turn the handlebar. This may require an additional person depending on how large your waverunner is. If you feel it catching on something, look to see what it is catching on.
If you are able to determine that it is in fact catching on something, take the necessary steps to remove, shorten, or move the object the nozzle is binding on.
There may also be a broken washer or bent bolt which doesn’t allow free movement that needs to be replaced. This visual check should give you a lot of information about what is wrong, and give you a good idea on what needs replacing.
Trim Goes too High or Low
On one of my old jet skis, a 1996 Seadoo XP, this issue is what caused mine not to turn. The trim system allowed the ski to trim too far up which in turn made the nozzle hit the back of the hull.
Going straight was fine while trimmed up all the way, but if you needed to turn, the nozzle would interfere with the hull and you would not be able to turn. A quick blip down on the trim and you were good to go again.
To fix this, depending on your jetski, there may be a manual trim adjustment bolt that you can limit your trim, or there may be electric setpoints where you need to adjust a screw to turn the motor off earlier to limit your trim.
This is typically easy to spot and an easy fix. To diagnose if your trim binds your nozzle, it typically will only go straight and limit both directions of turning. You should be able to quickly visually see if the trim nozzle is binding on your hull in either direction.
Broken Retainer Clip
One of the popular culprits is a broken retainer clip. The retainer clip holds the steering cable at the end of the hull. This clip keeps the steering cable in one place.
The steering cable works in a push-pull fashion, meaning if you turn left it may pull the cable and right may push the cable. Depending on your ski and brand, it may be reversed.
If your ski turns great one way but not the other, chances are that it will be the retainer clip. You will be able to turn in the pull direction as the cable pulls the clip to the hull, but in the push direction, the clip travels outwards with the hull and effectively does little to nothing.
To find out if you have a broken retainer clip, perform a visual inspection to the rear of the hull while turning the handlebars. If you see your cable housing moving freely at the rear of the hull, then you need to replace the clip. If you have a broken retainer clip, you also may have a hull leak due to the damaged clip allowing water in.
Broken Steering Cable
A broken steering cable is another problem that can be tough to find, but typically what will be happening to your jet ski will be the opposite as a broken retainer clip.
While turning in one direction, the cable is broken and does nothing. But while turning in the opposite direction, the cable will push the other side of the cable and will still give you some sloppy steering.
While going straight, the jet ski may feel sloppy, or it may veer off to one side as there is really nothing holding the nozzle straight.
This can be diagnosed by holding the nozzle in one direction and turning the handlebars. If nothing happens when you move the handlebars and the cable doesn’t move, then it is likely broken and needs to be replaced.
The steering cable is tough to see as it is typically in a housing. You may be able to feel the housing to see if there is a part of the cable not moving, or where the broken part is.
What components could go wrong?
There are several components that could have gone wrong to make you lose your steering on your waverunner. These are detailed below:
Steering Cable: The steering cable connects your handlebars to the steering nozzle. If this severs, you will typically lose steering in one direction.
Retainer Clip: The retainer clip holds the steering cable in place at the rear of the hull. If you have a damaged retainer clip, you typically will lose steering in one direction as well as possibly have a water leak.
Ball Joints: The ball joints can fail and shear off disconnecting your steering cable from either your handlebar or nozzle. These are simple to fix.
Ball Joint Retainer: The ball joint retainer is a clip from the steering cable to the ball joint. If these fail your cable will become disconnected and you will have no steering.
Lost Washers or Nuts: You can lose fasteners on any item in the steering components and you will be left with loose, stiff, or no steering.
How much will it typically cost to fix the steering on a jet ski?
If you can diagnose your own steering problem, chances are that this will cost less than $100 dollars depending on what is broken. Steering cables cost around $100, and retainer clips and other broken parts range from $6 to $50 depending on what else needs to be replaced.
Where to go from here?
If you have found one of these items to be the culprit, then find and replace your parts. If you cannot find what is going wrong, it may help to look over the parts diagram for your ski by simply doing a google search for your ski model and year + parts diagram.