Low-cost changes can make a big difference

For many of us, the PWC riding season is rapidly winding down. But while your actual riding time is running short, you can still spend quality time with your PWC, and in the process make it a better boat when it comes time to ride again next season. How? By undertaking a simple makeover project, something that will keep costs and expertise to a minimum, but still pay big dividends in the long run by making your craft look — and feel — new again.

I polled a few aftermarket shops for their top suggestions. Here’s what they suggest…

Replacement Traction Mats

An obvious way to freshen up both your craft’s looks and its function, traction mats are almost a no-brainer. They instantly improve the style of your craft, allow you to customize beyond the stock look, and most importantly, will keep you planted when you’re aggressively carving that hairpin turn or rocketing off the line with a handful of throttle. Hydro-Turf has long been the industry standard. I also like the Blacktip line from Watercraft Superstore; they come with adhesive backing eliminating the need for glue.

I’ll be honest…taking up the old mats can be a pain. Glued on mats are best tackled — carefully — with a putty knife or plastic scraper and some adhesive remover. Clean up the residue as best as possible, then lightly scuff the surface with 80-grit sandpaper; it will help the new mats adhere better. For application, use your mat manufacturer’s recommendation, or try 3M Spray 90 Adhesive. I think it’s a little easier to work with than traditional contact cement.

Seat Covers

Replacing your seat cover is another way to freshen up the look of your craft, add a new splash of color, and improve the seat’s function. You can opt for colorful vinyls, or even materials that offer enhanced traction to keep you in place on the saddle.

HydroTurf, JetTrim, and Blacktip are all popular seat cover replacements. All let you design your color combo by individual panels. Once designed, your cover is stitched up and sent on its way. Your job is to then pull all the staples from your old cover, remove it carefully while keeping the stock foam support, and staple the new cover in place.

Use a hair dryer to warm up the material before installation. It will make it easier to conform the vinyl to the contours of your seat. Once in place, use stainless steel staples only. Not only will they last, but they’ll prevent unsightly rust stains. An electric staple gun will also make the job much easier.

Billet Aluminum Accessories

Billet has become almost synonymous with custom in the motorsports industry. Able to be anodized in a variety of colors, billet adds a touch of style to your boat, and won’t crack or fade due to an overdose of UV exposure like its plastic counterpart.

A variety of companies make billet accessories; some of my favorites are Riva or Blowsion.

Quick-and-easy billet upgrades include gas caps, exhaust covers, and throttle levers.

Vinyl Graphics

If your stock decals are damaged, or you just don’t care for the look of your ski anymore, vinyl graphics can prevent a pricey paint job. For the stock look, give a call to Watercraft Superstore. They’re cheaper than buying the OEM replacement at the dealer. Aftermarket graphic kits are also available. Check out Exotic Signs for a sampling of what can be done.

A word of advice? Don’t try to just stick vinyl graphics on and hope for the best. Pros use a special fluid when doing graphics that allows them to slide the graphic over the surface until they get it positioned properly. It’s basically water with a couple drops of dishwashing liquid. Mix it up in a spray bottle and squirt on your hull, then lay the graphic in place. Once you get the decal positioned where you want it, use a plastic blade (many vinyl graphic places will supply them) to squeegee out the water and permanently adhere the graphic.