What Does the Choke do on a Jet Ski? When to Use It

If you’ve ever had to start your jet ski on a cold morning or after a long period of not using it, you likely have your choke to thank. The choke on your jet ski is one of the most important and smallest components on the machine. It’s often the only way to cold-start your jet ski or to get it running for the first time each year. 

The choke on a jet ski limits the amount of air that can enter the carburetor on the engine causing less air to get into the carburetor and the engine pulls extra fuel out of the gas tank. This extra fuel supply and limited air means that your jet ski’s engine has a better chance of firing up. 

Chokes are on all tools, vehicles, and watercraft that incorporate a small engine. Without them, you would have a much harder time starting your jet ski after it’s sat unused for a period of time. If you’re wondering how exactly the choke works and why your jet ski is so dependent on it, you’ve come to the right place. 

A primer kit like this one can take the place of a choke. This will save your battery due to less cranking by directly injecting fuel to your carburators.

How Does the Choke Work on a Jet Ski? 

The choke on a jet ski works the same way that it does on all other small engines and motors. Its job is to regulate the air flow in your engine’s carburetor versus the amount of fuel that enters the carburetor. Here’s how it works. 

  1. You go to your jet ski to start your engine. 
  2. When you turn the key, you notice that the engine sputters and putters but refuses to start. 
  3. This is happening because there’s too much air and not enough fuel getting through the carburetor. An engine that hasn’t started in awhile is no longer primed, which means there’s no fuel residue in the piston or carburetor of the engine. 
  4. When you hear the engine puttering, that’s your cue to close the choke and shut off the flow of air through the carburetor. 
  5. Your jet ski engine is designed to pull air into the carburetor, which means that it will start sucking in whatever is available to it. 
  6. With the choke closed and airflow cut off, your engine forms a vacuum and starts sucking air out of the gas tank and into the carburetor. 
  7. The more fuel that gets sucked into the carburetor, the better your chances are of the pistons firing and the engine starting. 
  8. You can open or close the choke according to how much air versus fuel you want to enter the carburetor. 
  9. Half-choke means that airflow is cut in half and more gas will get sucked into the carburetor, but not as much as when the choke is completely closed. 

The concept of a choke is a surprisingly simply one, and it’s a fairly easy tool to use on a jet ski. However, there are a few tips and tricks that you should know about. 

Do You Want the Choke on or Off? 

There are times when you want the choke to be on, but there are more times when you want it to be off. When the choke is on, it means that air is getting choked off from entering the carburetor of your jet skis engine. When the choke is off, it means that you have opened the choke up and air can once again flow to the carburetor. 

Essentially, you only want the choke to be on during the initial startup and until you feel like the engine will keep running after the choke is turned off. If you turn the choke off prematurely before the engine is running at full capacity, it will start to sputter and struggle to run. You can usually turn the choke back on and get more fuel than air flowing to the engine and keep it running. 

You might even have to work the choke slowly to the off position to keep your engine running. Most jet skis have a choke lever or knob that they can adjust easily rather than having to choose between a strict ON or OFF. You can work the choke slowly from ON to OFF until you’re satisfied that the engine will keep running. 

If you have a hard time starting your jet ski every time, here is our guide on starting fluid and fixes for hard to start jet skis.

What Happens When the Engine Choke is On All the Time on a Jet Ski? 

Leaving the choke on in your jet ski permanently is a recipe for disaster. The choke is designed to fulfill the purpose of getting the engine running, but that’s it. If you leave the choke on peramantly, you’ll burn through fuel like never before, your engine won’t operate at full capacity, and you might even ruin your engine by running too rich.

What Does It Mean If My Engine Only Runs on Choke on my Jet Ski?

If your jet ski shuts down the second you turn off the choke, no matter how long it’s been running, you likely have a big problem. It could mean that your fuel is contaminated and that only a large dose of it will keep the engine running. It could also mean that you have an air leak in your carburetor and air and fuel are escaping somewhere they shouldn’t be. Either way, you should see a jet ski mechanic immediately to have the problem remedied. 

How to Properly Use the Choke on a Jet Ski 

The best way to use the choke on your jet ski is as follows. 

  1. Always try to start the engine without using the choke to see if it can. 
  2. If the engine doesn’t start relatively quickly, turn on the choke. You want to give your engine a chance to work without the choke, but you also don’t want to flood it. 
  3. Leave the choke on until you’re sure that the jet ski is running at full capacity. 
  4. Slowly start to close the choke, moving from FULL to HALF. 
  5. If the engine continues to run and doesn’t show signs of stopping, you can completely close the choke by turning it off.