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Serious accidents also can occur when fueling a personal watercraft (PWC). Spilled or leaked fuel can ignite and explode, especially in an enclosed space. PWC operators should pay particular attention to these fueling guidelines.

PWC fueling sniff test
  • Check the entire fuel system for leaks and inspect fuel system connections frequently. Engine vibrations and the pounding from operating on rough water can loosen connections.
  • Avoid fuel spills when fueling in or near the water.
  • Do not tip the PWC in order to fill it all the way up. The tank is designed to leave space for the fuel to expand. If the tank is overfilled, the fuel may expand and spill into the water.
  • After fueling, open the door of the engine compartment and sniff to check for any evidence of gas fumes. Do this before starting the engine. If you do smell gas fumes, determine the source and make repairs immediately.
The Fuel Selector Switch on a PWC

This switch can help you avoid becoming stranded without fuel. In order to work effectively, the switch must be set in the correct position:

  • The "Off" position should be used when the PWC's engine is turned off.
  • The "On" position should be used while you are underway.
  • The "Reserve" position should be used if you run out of fuel while underway. This will allow you to return to shore. Don't forget to switch back to the "On" position after refueling.
Allocating Fuel Reserves

Make sure you have enough fuel before casting off. Operating at two-thirds throttle instead of full throttle will conserve fuel. The following rule will help prevent running out of fuel:

  • One-third to get out
  • One-third to get back
  • One-third in reserve for emergencies