Old style Sea Doo solenoid next to the upgraded version

HowTo: Sea Doo Ticking Noise when you Press the Start Button? Replace the Solenoid! 32

How To Replace a Sea Doo Starter SolenoidIt’s 90-something degrees outside. You walk out to the dock, straddle your 2006 Sea Doo RXP, attach the key, and press the start button. But instead of “vroooom” you get “tick tick tick tick.” Chances are high that you’ve got a starter solenoid problem. You may be able to press the start button a few more times to get it going, but that won’t always be the case. Best to replace it now instead of being stranded out on the water. That’s what happened to me last weekened (the “tick tick tick” part — not getting stranded :)). The fix is easy and relatively inexpensive at just under $40, and since both my ‘Doos are the same year and model (and because BRP has upgraded the design of their starter solenoid), I decided to replace both of them at the same time. It’s a very easy repair, so even if you’ve never worked on your own Sea Doo before, you can do this.

BRP uses the same starter solenoid on a lot of their boats. I know from first-hand experience that they are in all of the modern 4-tec engines, but they’re also in a good number of their older PWCs since 1995, including the following models: 3D, GS, GSI, GTX, GTX, HX, LRV, RX, RXP, RXP-X, RXT, SP, SPX, SUV, and XP. It’s also the same starter solenoid used in Sea Doo jet boats like the Wake, Challenger, Explorer, Islandia, Speedster, Sportster, and Utopia. Basically, if your solenoid looks like the ones shown in this post, then this procedure will work for you. I also happen to know that they sell a conversion kit (#295500900) for upgrading older boats to the newer solenoid style, so check online or with your dealer to see if this will apply to yours.

What Is the Starter Solenoid?

The starter solenoid (sometimes also called a “starter relay”) is wired between your start button, the starter, and your battery. When you press the start button, the solenoid “closes” the connection between the battery and the starter, which provides power from the battery to the starter, which starts the engine. When the solenoid goes bad (and the original design seems to go bad pretty often), the “tick tick tick” noise is the solenoid trying to connect the battery power to the starter… unsuccessfully. In newer boats, the solenoid is located up front near the battery and electrical panel (by the fuses) and is attached to a metal bracket. In this photo, it’s the brown piece connected to the black wires with the red rubber boots. Check your owner’s manual for the location of yours.

Sea Doo Starter Solenoid

Sea Doo Starter Solenoid

 How to Test for a Bad Solenoid

If you’re getting the “tick tick tick” sound when trying to start the engine, there are a few ways to verifying that the problem lies with the solenoid. There’s the “easy” (but dangerous if you’re near the fuel tank) method that uses only a screwdriver, and then there’s the “right” (much safer) way that involves a voltage meter. The screwdriver method produces a spark, so if you’re up front near the fuel tank, that’s very dangerous. Have I done it on my 4-tec engines? Uh… probably… but only when very well ventilated, I don’t recommend it, and you accept all risk of blowing yourself up if you do it this way. But if your solenoid is in a safe location (meaning not next to the fuel tank), then here’s how to do it:

“Easy” screwdriver test method: You don’t need the key on the ignition post for this test. Pop off the covers on the red boot shown above, which will expose the two posts and nuts that attach the two wires to the solenoid (one wire comes from the battery, the other goes to the starter). Take a long screwdriver (preferably with a plastic or rubber-coated handle) and briefly touch both exposed posts at the same time. Don’t be alarmed if you see a brief spark (and for that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure the area is well ventilated so there are no gas fumes). The spark is the result of your screwdriver basically performing the job of the solenoid: connecting 12V of power from the battery directly to the starter. If doing this screwdriver trick causes the engine to turn over, then you can be certain that the solenoid is indeed the problem. If it were a bad starter button instead, it wouldn’t try to actuate the solenoid, and so you wouldn’t have heard the “tick tick tick” sound when you press the button.

“Safe” voltage meter test method: You do need the key on the ignition post for this test. Expose the solenoid’s posts as described above. Put your voltage meter in the appropriate mode to test for 12 VDC (including one decimal place) and touch a test lead to each post. Put the engine in “drown mode” by holding down the throttle all the way (you can put a rubber band around it to hold it open), then press the start button. The voltage across the solenoid should be no more than 0.2 V. If you show more than 0.2 V going across that connection, then your solenoid is confirmed bad.

Tools & Supplies You’ll Need

  • A replacement solenoid (more details below)
  • A ratchet and 10mm socket
  • A 10mm open end wrench (or “spanner,” depending on where you grew up)
  • Some dielectric grease or compound ($8 for a tube that will last you a long time)
  • A bath towel

When sourcing a replacement solenoid, BRP has a few different part numbers, depending on which vintage you’re talking about. You can find some aftermarket replacement ones on eBay and Amazon, and they might work just fine. The original design is a brown plastic top that is riveted to a metal base plate. I suspect that water probably gets in between the plastic and the metal, which leads to the early failures. The newer design is completely molded in black plastic, which eliminates that potential problem. Part numbers for some of the older style solenoids that can be replaced with this procedure include:

  • 278000077
  • 278001802
  • 278001376
  • 278000513
  • 278001766
  • 278001641
  • 278002347

As of the date of this post, all of those are superseded by the most current version of the solenoid (the black fully molded one) which is part number 278003012. Here’s what one of the older vs. newer solenoids look like (this is a shot of the one I removed and the one I installed):

Old style Sea Doo solenoid next to the upgraded version

Old style Sea Doo solenoid next to the upgraded version

The MSRP for solenoid 278003012 is $43. However, you can save a little money by buying upgrade kit 295500900 for $39 instead. That OEM upgrade kit is designed for some of the 2-stroke boats built between 1998-2003 that use the old-style solenoid 278000077 (the old one has two small wires with end terminals on the small leads) and upgrades the older boats to support the new solenoid design. The kit includes the newest solenoid, as well as some extra connectors, wiring, and lock nuts. So if you have an older 2-stroke boat, use the additional connectors in the kit to upgrade your solenoid wiring setup. But if you have a newer boat (like a 4-tec) you can throw away the additional connectors and just use the included solenoid (which is what I did), or save the extra bits for use on some other project. If you buy the kit from your dealer, you’ll pay the same price as online, you won’t pay for shipping, and they’re used on so many models that I’d be shocked if your dealer didn’t have them in stock.  Instructions for upgrading the wiring on older boats is included in the kit. Here’s what OEM upgrade kit 295500900 looks like:

Sea Doo Starter Solenoid Upgrade Kit 295500900

Sea Doo Starter Solenoid Upgrade Kit 295500900

As I discussed in my earlier post on changing Sea Doo spark plugs, dielectric grease is a Sea Doo owner’s best friend. You can find some at pretty much any hardware or auto parts store, or you can buy some on Amazon for cheap. I prefer Permatex brand or Dow Molykote (also called “Compound 111”), but any 100% silicone based grease will work. Dielectric grease is great on watercraft, and it prevents corrosion on electrical connections… which is exactly what you want with a solenoid.

Getting Started

Depending on where your solenoid is located, you’ll need to either open the front cover and pull out the cargo bin, or remove your seat. Once that’s done, disconnect your battery by using a 10mm wrench to loosen and remove the screw on the negative (black) side first, then remove the positive (red) side last. You’ll reconnect them in the opposite order when you’re done.

Also, before going further, place the bath towel down on the bottom of the area in which you’re working. If you drop a screw or nut (and there’s a very good chance you will with this procedure), it will land on the bath towel instead of falling down into a crevice. Trust me on this one; you want that towel there.

Unmount the Old Solenoid

I find that the hardest part about any Sea Doo maintenance project is finding a comfortable position to work in. This one is no exception. You’ll have to move your hands into some awkward positions to get this done, but it’s doable. Also, I recommend doing this in the comfort of your garage or shaded driveway… and not with your boat sitting in an EZ-Port on your dock in 95F+ weather. Chrome plated tools get really hot in that kind of direct sunlight (that’s the voice of experience, kids).

I used a combination of both a 10mm open wrench and a 10mm socket to remove the two mounting screws that attach the solenoid to the metal bracket (you can see the threads painted yellow in the photo above in the “What is the Starter Solenoid?” section). One of the screws was accessible with the socket, but the other one was too hard to access with my socket, so I loosened it with the wrench until I could unscrew it with my fingers. Put both screws aside in a safe place (I like to use the small storage compartment near the handle bars).

Disconnect the Old Solenoid

With the solenoid unmounted, pop open the two rubber caps that protect the terminals. If the previously installed solenoid was installed correctly, it should be gooey with dielectric grease inside. The rubber boot surrounding the nut makes it a bit hard to get a socket down in there, so I found it easiest to use an open-ended wrench to reach down inside to unscrew and remove the nut on each side, as shown here:

Using an open-ended 10mm wrench to disconnect the Sea Doo starter solenoid

Using an open-ended 10mm wrench to disconnect the Sea Doo starter solenoid

Put both lock nuts aside somewhere clean. The upgrade kit comes with new nuts, but there’s no problem re-using these ones if you like, especially since they’re probably already coated with some dielectric grease (but we’ll add even more on re-assembly).

You can now discard the old starter solenoid.

Prepare the New Solenoid

There’s not much to do to prepare the new solenoid, apart from removing it from the package and putting a generous coat of dielectric grease on both terminals (emphasis in the generous).

Connect the New Solenoid

It doesn’t matter which wire (battery or starter) goes to which side of the solenoid, but I prefer to put the starter wire on “top” and the battery wire on “bottom” since that’s how it was originally, and I think it looks a bit cleaner. But if the opposite way is easier in your application, that’s fine.

Place the rubber-booted connector for one of the wires on one of the threaded solenoid posts, then start threading the lock nut. It might be a bit tricky with the grease, but you’ll get it. It’s easier to use the socket when putting the nut on vs. taking it off, but use whatever combination of wrench and socket you need to make sure it’s on tight. Do the same with the other wire, and make sure they’re angled properly to ensure you’ll have room to remount it. Before closing the rubber caps, work a generous amount of dielectric grease into the holes. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Dielectric grease is your friend. Here’s what the new solenoid looks like all wired up:

New starter solenoid connected

New starter solenoid connected

Mount the New Solenoid

This is actually the trickiest part of the entire procedure, because access is so difficult (at least it is on the 4-tec boats). Contort your hands into whatever position you need to line up the bottom mounting screw location first, insert and tighten the bottom mounting screw, then rotate the solenoid until the top mounting hole lines up. Re-attach the top mounting screw, and you’re good to go! It should look something like this:

New Sea Doo starter solenoid replacement complete

New Sea Doo starter solenoid replacement complete

Finishing Up and Testing

Now all that’s left is to reconnect your battery (red first, black second), replace the seat or close the front hood, and test out your handiwork! Connect the key to the ignition, and hit your start button. It should turn over the engine on the first try. Now, if you were stupid enough to perform this procedure out on your dock under the blazing hot sun, your only reward will be the ability to take the boat for a quick test ride to congratulate yourself for your efforts… then come back and perform the upgrade procedure on your other Sea Doo. 🙂

So for under $80, I now have two reliably starting 2006 Sea Doo RXPs — and that’s cheap insurance against getting stranded out in the water. If you’re still rocking an original solenoid (just check to see if it’s brown), I recommend at least purchasing the upgraded one to have in your tool kit, so you’re not down for more than a few minutes when (not “if”) your solenoid starts acting up.

If It Still Doesn’t Work

If replacing your solenoid doesn’t do the trick, then your first suspicion should be the battery. If you’ve bypassed the solenoid with the tests I recommend above, and are still getting a single “tick” or even multiple “ticks,” 9 times out of 10 it’s the battery.

I’ve heard people say that they just replaced the battery, but that’s no guarantee that the battery is good. The stock Yuasa batteries that come with Sea Doos are terrible (often lasting only one season), and I recommend switching to an AGM battery like a Deka instead. Make sure your battery is fully charged when testing.

If all else fails, you can hook standard jumper cables from your car/truck to your Sea Doo’s battery to rule out a battery problem.

I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below. And I invite you to check out my other Sea Doo related posts while you’re here!

Happy ‘Doo-ing!

  • Steve

    Great write-up and the pictures are helpful,

  • Chad

    Hi I have done this and now getting strange tones which seems to be coming from the solarnoid. Ski still won’t kick over, any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • judge

    i replaced my solinoid and it still only starts when i jump the sylinod.. any ideas would be greatly appreciated thanks

    • That sounds like it could be your start button that’s corroded or dead.

  • Tom

    I have the clicking noise in mine an it’s coming from the silonoid also, I changed it out with a new one an it still does it, could my battery be the problem? It shows 12.44 volts when I checked it, I took the starter out an held it against the engine for a ground an then pushed the starter button, an the starter turned , but not every time I pushed the button. So maybe the battery is not strong enough? Help with any ideas thanks.

    • Hey, Tom. Glad you were able to swap the solenoid, but bummer that didn’t solve it for you.

      The volts are a general indicator of how your battery is doing, but what really counts is how many amps it’s putting out when under load. If you’ve had your battery for a while, and it’s one of the stock Yuasa ones, then I’ll bet it’s dying. Check my parts cross reference thread (http://stevejenkins.com/blog/2013/11/sea-doo-brp-oem-parts-cross-reference/) and do yourself a favor by replacing it with an AGM battery — and then keep it on an AGM-friendly battery tender over the winter (my favorite charger brand is CTEK).

  • Tom

    Thank you Steve, I do appreciate the imformation , I will do that an let you know, this boat only has 46 hours on it so I wouldn’t think the starter would be bad.

  • New battery and solenoid but still no start just clicking….should I look into a new starter?

  • Thanks for this post. it was very helpful in planning and doing the repair myself.

    The towel tip was a very good one and saved a tool and a nut from being lost. I’ll use that one again!

    Seadoo starting perfectly now. My son will be very happy.

  • Sam A. Messina

    Great article Steve. You have an excellent grasp of the English language and its application toward directions.
    Sam A. Messina
    Houston, TX

  • khalid

    i replaced my solinoid and new battery but it still not working, could it be a fuese or somthing .. any ideas would be greatly appreciated thanks. i have 230 challenger, 2009

  • kevin

    I have the same issue. Both battery and solenoid have been replaced. Still just a single click each time the start button is pressed. Also with test light it does not light up on starter side of the solenoid! Any help would be appreciated.

  • steve

    I am having the same solenoid problem. Replaced mine last year all was well until I tried to start yesterday. It started once. The second time the tick noise. Tried to jump solenoid and no luck. 2012 Sea Doo Wake 155. The battery is good. Could the solenoid be bad and not jump start the starter?

    • Hi “other” Steve. 🙂 Do you have a volt meter to try that test to confirm the solenoid? There’s not a lot else it could be. The “tick” means the button is working. If your CERTAIN the battery is good (initial battery voltage isn’t a good indicator, it needs to maintain voltage with a power draw) then there’s not much else except the solenoid!

  • Great write up, The towel on the bottom is probably the BEST tip in the entire article.

  • Rasmus

    I Steve, i have a Seadoo RXP from 2004 and when i its starts it feels heavy. I need to hold The start Button. Can it be The selinoid or do you think its The starter?

    Best regards

    • Hi, Bill. The solenoid is an “all or nothing” deal, so if you hear anything more than just a “click” then the solenoid is fine. Most likely, it’s the batter. Make sure it’s fully charged. Last thing would be the starter. Possible, but those don’t go bad that often.

      • Charles Bradley

        I flooded the engine compartment on my 1996 gtx, got it running after cranking a Lot. Now just click when start button is pushed. Swapped solenoid and same click. Just purchased a new agm battery and installed same day it flooded. Do you think it could be the starter? I wasn’t sure if being submerged could damage the starter. Thanks.

        • Yikes… yes, if the battery and solenoid are fresh, and you’re hearing a click (meaning the starter button is working), then it’s beginning to sound like the starter. 🙁

        • Pete

          did the starter work? i flooded my 2007 Speedster.

          i did all the fluid changes, etc. When i jumped the starter relay, it would turn over, but only click with the start button. Then i replaced the started relay, and same issues. Now it just does a CHUG.

          im thinking battery, so im charging it now, but it also would not jump when attached to my truck….im thinking maybe the start pooched on me…..but it also shouldnt chug period?

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  • Thanks, QueBall. I’ve updated the post with the new info!

  • Arnie

    Outstanding post, excellent photos and dialog, one of the best sites out there. Could use some more help though. 97 GSX, been sitting for 3-4 weeks, went to winterize and got a single click each time I pushed the start button. Charged the battery, no change, replaced the battery with the one from my 92 XP that I know cranks, still get a single click. Tried shorting the solenoid posts with a screwdriver and got nothing, not any sound at all. Tested the voltage across the solenoid and it dropped from 12.40 to 0.00 when the starter button was engaged. Tested the voltage on the battery when the starter button was depressed and it went from 12.40 to 11.90 but still nothing besides a click with each push of the button.

    Bad cable from the solenoid to the starter perhaps? Haven’t gotten a good look at those connections given their location. I’ve looked into the jet pump area from down below and don’t see anything jammed in the shaft or impeller area.


    • HI, Arnie. If you’re confident the solenoid itself is good, then yes – I’d check the wiring from the solenoid to the starter. I’d clean terminals/connections first, and hope it’s that simple (especially if you’re in a salt water environment). 🙂

  • Antonio Santana

    Just wanted to start of by saying thank you for all the detailed help/description, was very helpful, gladly appreciated! So I purchased a used 2004 seadoo rxp w/ about 80hours here about 3 months ago, yesterday I tried to go out riding, unfortunately I put the key in & pushed the button & all I got was the “click click click click etc” every time. It was Sunday so all seadoo distributors were closed, 1st thing I did was go to autozone to check my battery, apparently they said it was bad, so I purchased a battery they said it was ready to go no charging needed, went outside. Installed it & same clicking problem, so wanting to go to the lake next thing I did was replace the spark plugs, & still same problem, I ended up giving up, came home got on the internet & researched my problem &’came across this thread. Monday morning I went to the nearby seadoo distributor & purchased the starter solenoid, came home replaced it, by the way the towel idea is awesome! After replacing the starter solenoid I crossed my fingers & hit the start button but still the constant clicking! I was soooo disappointed, called a local jetski repair shop & told them what I had done, (replaced the battery & starter solenoid) he said its your starter & that I’d be looking at around $600. Went back to this thread & read the entire post, went outside opened the hood to the car & hooked up the jumper cables, waited a bit, put the key in & pushed the start button & VROOM! it started! So please even tho it shows 12 volts try this before spending additional money on a starter!

    Steve, quick question…
    Back to being a beginner jetski owner, the jetski was running for about 2 minutes I believe & it started beeping & dash said hi-temp immediately I turned it off, do i just need to have it in water so it doesn’t overheat? I saw Coolant tank inside which was halfway full, is this not supposed to keep it cool?

    • First, congrats on fixing the solenoid yourself! And you’ve also learned to always charge store-bought batteries before using them. I recommend CTEK chargers.

      And yes, you need to have a garden hose attached to the intake (at the rear of a 2004 RXP) if you plan to run it for more than a few seconds, or it WILL overheat.

  • Hi, Shane. Obviously, replace the battery. 😉 Then I’d do an oil change, flush, and replace the spark plugs like I describe in my winterization instructions here: http://www.stevejenkins.com/blog/2013/08/howto-parts-for-sea-doo-winterizing-oil-change-and-annual-service/. Bascially, my “winterization” instructions are actually “tune-up” instructions, after which it’s safe to leave it for the off-season.

  • Hi, Cheryl. That’s GREAT news! Congrats on the fix. See you on the water! 🙂

  • Forest

    Great post and discussion. I have a 98 GTI, Died in middle of lake, got the clicking sound. Local SeaDoo dealer won’t even look at anything older than 10 years *Grrrrr* But agreed likely solenoid. Bought one on Amazon, changed it out, still just the click. Bought and charged new battery. Still just the click. Got a different battery from another running jet ski. Still just the click. Sucked it up and bought OEM solenoid from local SeaDoo store. And still the exact same single click per button press. This SeaDoo has run like a champ all summer and it stopped midlake after multiple starts/stops that day.

    I have no where else to go to, no dealer for miles. What would be you’re next step?
    Thank you very much!

  • Yikes. If it’s a click, then it sounds like the switch is working. I’d put a tester on the starter contacts and see if you’re getting voltage to the starter (which is “downstream” of the solenoid) when you press the button. If so, then you might need a new starter. 🙁