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Troubleshoot the Yamaha XL700 Starting System

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2000 Yamaha Waverunner

2000 Yamaha Waverunner

So you've discovered that your jet ski won't start. All is not lost; we can fix this. If you have a bit of mechanical know-how and some tools, we'll have you back on the water in no time!

I have two older jet skis, a 1992 and a 2000. The 2000 has issues more often than the 1992 one does (probably because I ride it harder). But they're jet skis; they spend their time directly submerged in water! There are bound to be regular repair issues when your toys spend this much time in the water.


Electrical and mechanical devices do not mix well with water. The results: rust, sediment, corrosion. It's all part of the world of jet skis.

If you take your time and go through the steps you'll be able to narrow down the problem fairly quickly. The starting system can be daunting, but certain components go bad pretty regularly. Those are the ones I'll go over here today, with you.

We'll go through troubleshooting starting with the most common problems and ending with the least common. In this way, hopefully, we'll have you back on the lake a.s.a.p.!

This Is Where We Start: The Battery

Before we can do anything it is imperative you have a good battery. Last season's battery will not do. Every year I have to replace the battery on both skis. Sure, last season's battery may have one, maybe two, starts left in it, but I don't want to find out how many it has left when I'm out on the lake. Have you ever had your ski use its last start when you were way out in the lake? It is not a good time in the least.

(It may be useful to know, if you are caught by surprise this way, that if your jet ski battery is dead, you can jump it with your car battery. Scroll down to the "Bonus" at the end of this article to see how.)

And once you start working on your jet ski, trying to identify the problem, there's almost nothing worse than going through the whole system, trying to pinpoint the issue, only to find out the battery was old!! Batteries run about $80 as of this writing in 2016. Get a new one this season. Take it home, read the label, add the acid and charge it up. That is where we start.

Try starting the ski with the new battery. Anything? Yes, right on, you're on your way. No? No problem, let's look at the wiring.

Next Most Common Problem: The Solenoid

After the battery, one of the more common problems with the starting system lies in the starting solenoid.

If you're hearing a "click, click, click" from under the seat when you push the start button, it is your starting solenoid trying to pass electric current to the starter motor. The clicking sound is coming from inside the solenoid, and it's a good thing. It means the contacts are making contact when you push the button. If the solenoid is working well enough to send that current, that means the electrical wiring is just fine.

But if there is no click, then there's a problem. Let's look through the wiring.

If you have installed the battery, disconnect the cables while we check the wiring system. Removing the negative battery cable will work, but personally, I remove both positive and negative, I don't want to take a chance of being zapped! The components that we'll be checking have a high probability of zapping if the battery is not disconnected.

Use a Multimeter to Check Continuity

We'll need a multimeter for checking the wiring. They can be purchased at hardware stores and automotive parts stores for usually less than $20, or your neighbor probably has one if you don't already.

Continuity is defined as being unbroken and consistent. Due to the plastic sheath encasing the wire, we cannot see where there may be a broken wire inside the casing. When we check for continuity we are setting the multimeter so that it will indicate whether a wire is unbroken and consistent inside the casing.

1.  Major components of the starting system

1. Major components of the starting system

Check the Wiring

The major components of the starter system are pictured above (photo 1). This will give you an overview of what we'll be checking.

If you have no click, then we know the problem is:

  • somewhere between the starting solenoid, which is inside the electric box, and the starter button, or
  • the solenoid itself.

Removing and opening the electric box will take more than a minute with all the screws it has, so let's do a quick check of the wiring at the handlebar.

As you work keep an eye out for electrical wiring that is exposed, or wire touching metal, any bent, crimped or pinched wire and broken or disconnected wire. Any of these can cause the system to not start.

2.  Start and stop switch wire running down handlebar

2. Start and stop switch wire running down handlebar

Start/Stop Switch Continuity

At the left handlebar, you'll find the engine start and stop buttons (photo 2 above).

3. Follow the wires down to the black coupler (stop switch) and the white coupler (start switch).

3. Follow the wires down to the black coupler (stop switch) and the white coupler (start switch).

Follow the wires along the handle bars, through the cover, and into the engine compartment. You will need to open the front cover and remove the storage container under the hood to access the couplers. You'll find two couplers along the line (photo #3). The white coupler goes to the Start switch and the black coupler belongs to the Stop switch.

4. The start and stop switch and wires, located on the left side handlebar.

4. The start and stop switch and wires, located on the left side handlebar.

5. Probe the start switch.

5. Probe the start switch.

Let's start with the white starter coupler. Testing the side that goes up to the switch (photo 5):

  1. Set the multi-meter to "continuity."
  2. Place each probe into a slot (one in the red and one in the brown wire slot).
  3. Is there continuity? No? Good. Yes? That's a problem.
  4. Keep the probes in the same position, insert the lanyard key into the lock plate, and press the start button. Is there continuity? No? That's a problem. Yes? Good.
6. Insert the lanyard key. Probe the stop switch.

6. Insert the lanyard key. Probe the stop switch.

Repeat the steps for the stop switch coupler (photo 6, black coupler with white and black wires). The results should be the same. With the lanyard key out there should be no continuity on either one. When the lanyard is in, and the button pushed, it should have continuity. If you have continuity when the buttons are open, or no continuity when pressed (make sure the lanyard key is in!), then there's a problem with the button or with the wire between the button and the coupler. Replace—or open and clean—the appropriate button.

Ground Wire

A good ground is imperative to an electrical system working. I can't stress this enough. All the connections in the world won't fix the system if the ground is poor or non-existent. Everything that has a positive connection must also have a negative (ground) to complete the circuit. As you're checking wires, check the ground as well. If you see the slightest hint of corrosion (it's a jet ski, it happens), pull the ground off and clean it up, as well as the bolt, any washers, and the mounting surface ,with sandpaper or a wire brush. Make it shine! When you put the ground back together make sure it's snug! A loose ground bolt is like no ground at all.

7. Starter motor located at the bottom of the engine. The metal piece sticking out of the top center of the motor is the positive attachment.

7. Starter motor located at the bottom of the engine. The metal piece sticking out of the top center of the motor is the positive attachment.

If you have gotten to this point, it means the switches and wiring between the handlebar and their coupler are fine.

With the battery still disconnected, reach down to the starter positive terminal (photo 7 above). It's not easy to see, but it is easy to feel. Is the connection good? How about the ground? The ground on the Yamaha 2000 is on top of the motor, very easy to check. Are the connections secure with no corrosion?

8. Electric Box under the seat, against back firewall.

8. Electric Box under the seat, against back firewall.

The Electrical Box

If that's all good, it's time to pull the electric box (photo 8 above). The electrical box is located in the engine compartment, under the front seat, on the back firewall. It is held up by two bolts, one on each side.

After removing it from the firewall, pull it up and out without breaking the wires coming out of it. They are still attached to their components. Just lift the box up high enough to set it on the seat ledge.

There are 14 screws around the perimeter of the electrical box. It's important that this box remains water tight, so be careful with the screws you remove. Put them somewhere safe.

Check all the wires inside the box. Make sure the wires did not get pinched when the electric box was closed by the last person, and make sure the ground wires are firmly attached. Make sure the couplers are secure, everyone of them, in the electric box. I've had all three of these issues at one time or another! Once the ground was crushed in the lip of the box, and another time the ground screw had eroded and needed to be re-tapped. The last one was a random no-start situation that turned out to be a connection that had become loose.

9.  The starter solenoid with four wire connections.

9. The starter solenoid with four wire connections.

The Solenoid and the Starter

The starter solenoid is pictured above; that's what you're looking for. The two large screws are for the large (red) positive battery lead and the large (red) positive lead going to the starter. The small wires are ground (black) and the other one runs to the start switch. The large positive lead has a fuse that comes off of it. This runs up to the rectifier/regulator. These components can go bad, but not often.

If you think it's the solenoid, at this point let's test it:

  1. Hook up the battery cables.
  2. Using an insulated screw driver, cross the two red wires (one coming from the battery and the other going out to the starter).

If the starter turns over and tries to start, then the solenoid needs to be replaced. If it clicks then it's the starter that is bad.

Here's another way to check the solenoid:

  1. Un-hook the battery!
  2. Remove the four wires attached to the start solenoid.
  3. Attach a wire to each one of the large screws on top of the solenoid.
  4. Take the other ends and place one on the positive battery terminal and the other on the negative terminal.
  5. Did the solenoid click? If it clicks, it's fine. If it doesn't click then it's no good.

If the solenoid is clicking, and your battery is strong, then the problem lies with the starter most likely. The starter is not difficult to replace, but accessing the starter can be a pain. Just remove the exhaust to replace the starter. It can be replaced without removing the exhaust but it really isn't worth the headache.

Further Testing

If by this point, the ski still won't start, I'd be surprised. But if it still won't start, then you'll need to test the CDI unit, rectifier/regulator, and coil.

The coil is responsible for the spark. Remove the spark plugs. Put one into its boot. Set it near the engine. Push the start button and you should see a small, blue, spark jump from the spark plug to the engine. Do the same for the other spark plug(s). No spark? Make sure the wires to the coil are good, and if they are replace the coil.

Here's a good in-depth article on the ignition components, like the cdi and coil, and how to test them.

Like I said, jet skis are water toys. If you ride yours like I ride mine, everything in it is going to get wet! When I'm jetting, I head for every boat wake, ripple and curl. My ski takes a beating and it gets soaked doing it. Besides getting wet, components and screws come loose, and there's going to be corrosion. Be meticulous about checking the wires and connections; many times the problem is something simple.

Bonus: Can My Car-Jump Start My Jet Ski?

The answer is yes; you can jump-start your jet ski from your car. It's the same principal as jump-starting car to car. Attach the positive (red) cable to the positive terminal on the good battery, and the negative to the negative (black) terminal.

Go to the jet ski and connect the positive (red) cable to the positive battery terminal. Connect the negative to a good ground somewhere on the engine.


The battery in your car has plenty of juice to fire up the ski without it running. If you start the car you may very well destroy your electrical system.

Insert the lanyard key under the lock plate. Push the start button on the ski. When it starts, remove the cables from the engine ground and the positive battery terminal of the jet ski, and then from the car, and you're done.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a 1996 WaveRaider. I was able to start it before, but now I just have an initial spark when cranking then it loses the spark. It's not the starter or battery, right?

Answer: Have you checked the starter solenoid? Also, make sure the fuse is still good in the electrical box.

Question: Where can I find a positive power wire that runs to the battery? Mine has broken off the connector due to corrosion?

Answer: The positive wire that leads to the battery is red in color and large. It feeds to the starter motor.

Question: I have a 2001 Waverunner. I took it out on the water and it ran fine at first, then started to bog a little, then would not start. I drained the gas, replaced the plugs because they were very wet with oil. It will turn over and fire once, almost starting but nothing. Any ideas??

Answer: It sounds like the rings may be bad allowing the oil to slip past them. Have you done a leak down test? Check the compression on the cylinders.

Question: Why won't my jet ski start? I push the button but it doesn't start. The engine just barely turns over.

Answer: The battery is low. Either change the battery or charge the one you have. To be sure of a low battery. Jump start the jet ski with your car. I have an article on how to do that here on hubpages. Jump Start Your Jet Ski. If it turns over just fine jump starting it from your car then it is definitely your battery.

Question: I have a 2015 V1 Waverunner. While riding last it idled rough, then the speedometer fluctuated wildly from high amps to low before, after which it wouldn't start at all. Could this problem with my Waverunner be the alternator?

Answer: That's a tough one. The alternator sounds like a good place to start. As your checking the alternator watch for grounded or broken wires. They can present in the same way and then not allow the engine to start.

© 2016 Joanna


Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on September 13, 2020:

I apologize for the delay in responding. My notifications aren't coming through. I'd clean out the carbs if I was you. Try the rebuild tutorial at for rebuilding it.

Joshua Blair on July 30, 2020:

Hey Joanna I have a 2003 Yamaha XL700 it does not take of fast at all. I have to give it 1/4 throttle until it finally decides to pick up and go. Also I was on it today and ran fine then all of a sudden it will not reach top speed even with full throttle. Any ideas on both issues.

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on July 19, 2020:

Hey rubix8, A whining noise? Can you determine where it might be coming from? IE: jet drive, mid shaft, engine area? Is the intake and jet clear of debris? Is there adequate clearance between the impeller and the wear ring? Does the mid shaft appear to try and spin? Look for hang ups like these. A hang up can cause a squeal as the engine tries to turn a jammed part.

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on July 19, 2020:

Hey Lulujoanjet, I've been out, sorry for the delay. I'd check the spark plugs. Spark plugs are cheap enough to pick up a new set if the current ones fried/fouled. When you pull the spark plugs check if they have fuel on them or if you can smell fuel on them,

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on July 19, 2020:

Hey Kolin, Please excuse my absence. If you aren't getting a click or start when the button is pushed 1st check that the battery is fully charged, 2nd make sure the lanyard is fully inserted and the wires look good leading to the wire box, 3rd pull the starter solenoid, replace it.

rubix8 on July 08, 2020:

Hi Joanna, i have a 2001 Yamaha GP1200R, the ski was sitting in my garage for 4 years. I tried starting it and nothing. I replaced the battery and it seemed like it wanted to turn over. So i replaced the the 3 plugs, fuel filter and added new gas and oil. Tried it again and same problem. Removed the plugs and added carb cleaner and it almost turned over. I let it rest over night and tried it again in the morning and now all i get is a whining noise. Replaced the starter (a couple of the gear teeth were missing) and the solenoid and nothing, same whining noise. i am lost at this point. Can you please shed some light on what it would be?

lulujoanjett on June 29, 2020:

Hi, we were out in churned up waters on the weekend booting around and we stopped to just drift for a bit. When we went to start the jet ski back up it started and immediately clunked and shut off as soon as we hit the throttle. It won't start now (had to get a tow back to shore). It only clicks when you try to start it. Tried using a different battery to start it and it still doesn't start. Any ideas?

Kolin Thee on June 23, 2020:

I have a 1998 Yamaha waverunner XL1200. It died on me the other day and then wouldn’t start. It won’t even make a clicking sound when pressing the start button. Could it be the start/stop box? Something to do with the starter?

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on April 07, 2020:

Have you pulled the carbs and cleaned them up?

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on April 07, 2020:

Sounds like there's a short in the ignition. Check the push button to make sure it is not arched.

Shawnforrest1977 on April 05, 2020:

Hello i read some of the other comments and I'm guessing my carbs are stuck from sitting. I can get it to run briefly when primping then starts for a couple seconds then dies every time. I thought as after a while it would just keep running but nope.

Its an 01yamaha 800xl waverunner. Its sat for months on end every other time and id just crank it over for a few and pump the crap out of the throttle a bunch and she'd eventually start.

Eddie Holcomb on March 27, 2020:

My Yamaha wave runner turns over when I hook the battery up, as soon as I tough the cable to the battery it turns over and will start if I let it

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on September 15, 2019:

Hi Ted, Try shooting some quick start into the carbs then see if it will fire up. Sometimes a prime like that will encourage the fuel to flow. If it fires up with quick start prime, but gas still won't flow to the carbs then you have a problem with the diaphrams in the carbs. Time for a carb rebuild.

Ted Duarte on September 13, 2019:

I have a 1997 Yamaha Waverunner that cranks over but won't start. It ran fine at the lake when I got home to flush the water out it would not fire up. Now the display won't show up either. I reset the code and still only cranks over. I don't think its getting fuel. I changed the fuel filter and still no fuel is getting up to the filter. I blew air in the fuel line back into the tank to clear any gunk it may have picked up but no fuel. don't know what else to do.

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on September 11, 2019:

Excellent! That is going to be your main avenue for starting problems right there, those three components; battery, solenoid, fuse.

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on September 11, 2019:

Hi Sankiro79, Thanks for stopping by. Ouch! That's a bummer crossing the wires. I think just about everyone has crossed the wires once in their life. Those little solenoids are fickle to say the least. A cross would definitely destroy it and possibly other components, like the battery. Please beware when you purchase a new solenoid. The prices vary hugely! It is a very simple component. It doesn't need to be bought special. A simple search for the solenoid will bring up the best prices.

Good Luck!

Sankiro79 on September 08, 2019:

After I bridged the two cables on the solenoid it turned over! but then I decided to check the 10A fuse and sure enough, it was fried. I ordered a few fuses and will replace that before replacing the solenoid.

Thank you for your detailed post, helped me greatly!

Sankiro79 on September 08, 2019:

Thank you!

I accidentally hooked up the battery in reverse, quickly realized what I did and corrected it however it wouldn't turn over anymore.

I followed your steps and used a screwdriver to bridge the large terminals on the solenoid and the starter turned over. I'm ordering a new solenoid now and seems like I'll be set once I get it installed.

Joanna (author) from Wilseyville on September 07, 2018:

Check the starter solenoid!! I went through several one summer. They can be fickle little buggers! Need more info for anything deeper.

susieqmiller73 on August 26, 2018:

The battery is good the starter is good why won't the motor turn over. And it doesn't click it turns just not all the way HELP