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  1. #1

    '97 ZXi 900 lack of power

    Hey guys,

    Last year I bought two skis, one was a Kawasaki ZXi 900. Long story short, I didn't have time to solve it's problem last year, but now I do. The ski starts reliably, will idle forever, and doesn't hesitate. However, at the same time it doesn't seem to have any power. You sit on the ski and give it gas and it just feels like the ski is very heavy. Also, on the top end the ski won't get past something like ~5,700-6,100 RPM (by built-in tach) depending on who is riding it.

    Last year I replaced the reeds because the flame arrester was coated in oil. They definitely needed it.
    This year, I trimmed the plug wires back by 1/2", it didn't appear to help.
    While it will idle forever, the idle does sound rough to me. I've read that these skis don't idle evenly even when running correctly, so I don't know how much stock to give this.

    Knowing the above, where would you all suggest I look next? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    I ride freshwater, on the Mississippi river in Illinois/Iowa in case that helps at all. To my knowledge, the ski has always been freshwater.


  2. #2
    steve45's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard, JheregJAB!

    Start by doing a compression test. Ground the spark plug wires so you don't fry the ignition box.

    Inspect your impeller for damaged blades.

    It may be time to overhaul the carbs, but try changing the fuel filter first. Try pulling the choke out halfway and see if that helps or hurts.

  3. #3
    The ski has run this way since I bought it last year, and I did a compression test before purchasing. I don't remember the numbers, so I'll have to find a tester and I'll run it again. I borrowed a friend's last time. I do remember the numbers were fairly even across all 3 cylinders though.

    I'll see if I can have a look at the impeller.

    I had the carbs apart last year, I didn't want to mention it until I saw where your first thought went. I'm by no means an expert, but the carbs looked like they were in decent shape. No ripped gaskets and everything still felt soft and rubbery. I did change the fuel filter last year, it didn't make much difference. Also, pulling the choke makes it perform even worse.

    Last year, I ran a test where I pulled the plug wires off one cylinder at a time and drove it around. I noticed very little difference between having the plug connected to cylinder 2 and not. I noticed a degradation when #3 was disconnected, I couldn't get on plane at that point. With cylinder 1 disconnected I couldn't even get off the beach.

    Edited to note performance on choke.
    Last edited by JheregJAB; 06-02-2014 at 09:21 PM.

  4. #4
    steve45's Avatar
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    You have to pull the choke out a little bit, not all the way. If it runs better, it's too lean. If it runs worse, the mixture may be OK, or too rich. What do the plugs look like? Have you put new plugs in it?

    Did you overhaul the carbs or just take them apart and put them back together?

  5. #5
    I did not pull the choke all the way during the test, but all the same I plan to retrace my steps this year and try all the diagnostic testing again. I want to make sure I don't misremember something and end up chasing ghosts.

    I did not overhaul the carbs, just took them apart to look for issues. They looked good so I put them back together. I realize this doesn't rule them out completely.

  6. #6
    gary's Avatar
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    Try starting the ski with one cyl at a time (ground the two other plug leads),the ski should start on each cylinder.it will run badly but should start.after reading the last paragraph in your post #3,sounds like you may have a spark issue.

    let us know what you get.

  7. #7
    I finally just got back to this.

    I started the ski (out of the water) on one cylinder at a time. The results were as follows:

    1st Cylinder: Ski starts on button press, good throttle response, will idle and rev.
    2nd cylinder: ski starts on button press, ski will idle. Adding throttle, the ski begins to rev and then dies.
    3rd Cylinder: ski starts on button press, ski will idle. Adding throttle, the ski begins to rev and then dies.

    Both cylinder 2 and 3 made some form of popping noise when they would die. I can only describe it as a "cough", it was a pretty sharp popping sound. It didn't sound like what I would expect a backfire to sound like, but I can only imagine it was a backfire. I guess I have read about there being such a thing as a "lean pop"? Could that be what I am hearing? Would that stop the engine under these circumstances? If it was a backfire, that would indicate a timing problem. But if it was a timing problem then why would the first cylinder run just fine? Is there some other issue which could cause backfires I am unaware of?

    At the moment, I'm thinking I may need to take another look at the carbs. I am not a mechanic by trade, so it is definitely possible that I misdiagnosed those as fine the first time around when they need work.

    I would appreciate any guidance that can be offered here.

  8. #8
    gary's Avatar
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    I would do a full fuel system clean/rebuild.Start at the tank pull the pick ups out clean/replace,replace all the fuel lines,Take the fuel switch out and blow compressed air thru it at both on and res settings,also make sure no air pass'es when in the off setting,Take off and clean the arresstor screens and finally rebuild the carbs.Dont forget to to replace the pulse lines and rebuild the fuel pumps.

    Sounds like your spark is fine if it starts using only 1 cyl at a time.If you dont feel comfortable rebuilding the carbs have someone do it for you,though its not really hard to do and if you take your time even a first timer can do it.

  9. #9
    Myself's Avatar
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    You need to unscrew the plug wire boots and ohm through them. Also while they are off ohms test the primary and secondary on each coil. I have replaced several plugwires and boots on those.

  10. #10
    The carbs are off and I'm waiting on rebuild kits to show up. I've taken them apart again, and everything still looks good and clean. I'll rebuild them anyway for peace of mind, but I don't think that is the problem.

    The plug wire boots are easy to test, what should I expect to get for ohm readings?

    How can you replace the plug wires on this ski? From the looks of it the coils are integrated into the plug wire, so replacing the wire would require replacing the whole coil?

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