While the steering on a personal watercraft like a jet ski or a Sea-Doo is located at the front of the vessel, the nozzle that directs the steering in the water is located at the rear or stern of the vessel below the waterline. The handlebar steering at the front of the craft is connected inside the unit itself to the nozzle which allows your steering to control the nozzle and make it move the way you want it to move. 

Finding Your Steering Nozzle

The steering nozzle on a PWC is a cone-shaped or funnel shaped piece of metal or plastic. It will be attached to the rear of the pump and located at the bottom rear of the craft. When it’s in the water this is hard to see. When it’s out it often looks something like the exhaust pipe from a car and will be located dead center at the lower rear of the PWC. 

The nozzle is always located centrally at the rear to make best use of the physics that allow the PWC to move. This includes something called the Venturi effect which observes that as water is forced through a constricting pipe at speed, it will be forced to accelerate as it does so, which in turn increases the speed of the jet as it comes out of the nozzle beyond even what the jet drive and impeller were doing before the water hit the nozzle. That’s why it’s important that the nozzle be located dead center at the rear of the craft so that it can direct the water out and propel the PWC forward in a balanced way.

If the PWC’s steering nozzle wasn’t located right at the center rear of the vessel, it would cause numerous problems including making the PWC much harder to maintain control, throwing off the balance, and preventing it from traveling in a straight line. 

There is a hinged connector that attaches the nozzle to the pump at the rear of the PWC. The hinges allow the nozzle to move as you adjust the steering when the craft is being operated. 

How Steering Control Works on Your PWC

Because a jet ski and other PWC don’t use a propeller like most boats, the steering has to work a little differently. On a normal boat, you use the steering wheel or even just adjust the tiller which moves a rudder at the rear of the vessel in front of the propeller. This adjusts the flow of the water passing through the prop itself and allows you to change direction as you move the rudder left or right.

In a PWC there is no rudder and the steering nozzle itself is what allows you to steer and also provides propulsion at the same time. The jet pump intake located under the PWC sucks water in will pump forcefully injected water to the impeller. The impeller pushes it back out through the steering nozzle at the rear of the vessel which in turn moves the vessel forward.

You control the steering system of the PWC with the handlebar steering. The steering controls moves the drive shaft and the steering cables when the steering control is turned in the desired direction. This alters the direction the nozzle is facing and allows you to steer to the left or right as you’ve indicated. 

Does the Nozzle Always Face the Same Direction?

Man on Kawasaki Jet Ski

Aside from left and right motion, the nozzle is always fixed in the same relative direction. It can move back and forth but it doesn’t go up and down and it cannot face the opposite direction to allow for reverse motion. For that reason, when you need to operate a PWC in reverse, most models make use of a kind of scoop or cup device.

When the PWC is placed in reverse, this plastic scoop lowers in front of the steering nozzle. The water jet comes out as normal but it hits the scoop which then redirects the jet of water down and under the PWC, allowing you to move backwards. Because the jet is hitting something and going backwards, reverse is not as powerful as forward motion.

The Bottom Line

The steering jet nozzle on a PWC and really any other jet drive vessels which include jet boats and some pontoons as well is hard to see when the craft is in the water but you can find it at the center of the stern below the water line, at the back of your boat. It looks similar to a car’s exhaust pipe and is usually made of metal though sometimes they may be made of plastic on some lower end models.