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30 Questions about Generator Maintenance & Operation

Victor Hayes - The ExpertBy
Power Equipment Expert
Ultimate Washer Inc.
Last Updated: 2013-01-11

Generator Operation
1. What grade of gasoline should I use?
2. Do I need to check the oil for a new generator before starting it?
3. Can I have my generator installed in my house?
4. What type of extension cord should I use with my portable generator?
5. Is it safe to operate my generator indoors?
6. Can you supply generators larger than 12,000 watts?
7. Can my generator handle a load as soon as it is turned on?
8. How long will my generator run on a full tank of gas?

Generator Troubleshooting
9. Why is my generator having a hard time starting?
10. What do I do about an engine that falters?
11. What do I do if my engine keeps shutting off?
12. Why is no power available if my motor is running?

Generator Maintnenace
13. How do I check my oil level?
14. What kind of oil should I add to the engine?
15. Should I turn on my generator if I have not used it for a while?
16. Do I need to remove the gasoline before storing my generator?



Generator Operation

1. What grade of gasoline should I use?

Check with your manual to be sure, but most gas models should use unleaded gasoline (at least 87 octane). Turn the engine off and let it cool before refueling. Never refuel while the engine is running.

2. Do I need to check the oil for a new generator before starting it?

It is always a good idea to check the engine oil before starting your generator. Some generators may be shipped dry, some may have a small amount of oil that was used to perform a bench test on the unit, and some may have a full oil tank. Running any engine on a dry oil tank will cause it to seize up and you will end up with a 50 pound brick instead of an engine and it won’t be good for much besides a paperweight for the world’s largest desk. Checking and changing your oil should become a regular facet of your generator maintenance.

3. Can I have my generator installed in my house?

Yes. You can have generators installed with generator transfer switches if you plan on using it as a back-up power source in the case of a power outage. A licensed electrician should do the installation to make sure that the generator is installed properly and up-to-code.

Back feeding electricity is extremely hazardous. Always trip your service disconnect at your outside meter box to prevent back feeding. If you do not have a service disconnect, you should contact an electrician to add one and the proper receptacle for hooking up a portable generator. Do not plug your generator into your home through a dryer outlet.

4. What type of extension cord should I use with my portable generator?

For Emergency power to appliances it is recommended to use a 12 ga. outdoor extension cord and a multi-outlet power strip with a minimum of 100 joules rating.

5. Is it safe to operate my generator indoors?

No. Engines using fuels such as gas and diesel produce a deadly gas called carbon monoxide. This gas is odorless and colorless, as well as deadly, so it is highly dangerous.1

6. Can you supply generators larger than 12,000 watts?

Yes. We have all types of generators from 8,000w portable gas models for use on the jobsite to diesel generator sets that can supply a continuous output of 461kw for use in large commercial settings, such as hospitals. A licensed electrician should perform the generator maintenance on these units.

7. Can my generator handle a load as soon as it is turned on?

No. You should have the generator running before a load is applied. Similarly, you should not shut the generator down while it is still pulling a load. The RPM (Rotations Per Minute) are set in the factory, so you should not change the engine speed.

8. How long will my generator run on a full tank of gas?

This will vary greatly depending on your generator, its capacity, the size of its fuel tank, and the size of the load you are placing on it. Check with the manufacturer to learn more about your generator.

Generator Troubleshooting

9. Why is my generator having a hard time starting?

When your generator has not been used for a long period of time, it may be hard to start. Begin your generator troubleshooting by looking all around your generator to see if it sustained any trauma or has any broken parts that need replacement. If it does not, and you have already opened the fuel valve, skip down to the generator maintenance section, and make fix any problems that need to be fixed. This is usually because there is old gas in the tank or fuel filter (17 & 18), the battery (22), the spark plug (23) or the carburetor (24). If it still will not start, you will need to take it to a mechanic.

10. What do I do about an engine that falters?

Generator troubleshooting for an engine that falters will often come back to the fuel filter (17). If replacing the fuel filter does not fix the problem, it may be the carburetor (24).

11. What do I do if my engine keeps shutting off?

Generator troubleshooting for an engine that shuts off while running will usually start with checking the air filter (21). If this is not the culprit, it may be a clogged fuel filter (17), insufficient gas, or your load may simply be too much for your generator to handle.

12. Why is no power available if my motor is running?

First check the device you are trying to power. Plug it into a different source that you know to be running to check if the fault is there. This could also be caused by a tripped circuit breaker, in which case, you can simply close the circuit. If neither of these things is the culprit, you will need to have you generator looked at by a mechanic.

*Note: If you close a circuit breaker and it continues to open as soon as you reapply the load, this is a sign of a load that is too heavy. You need to check the limits of your machine. If you are within limits and the breaker is constantly tripped, then you need to have your generator serviced by a professional.

Generator Maintenance

13. How do I check my oil level?

Locate the dipstick and remove it. Identify the full mark on the dipstick and the oil line indicating the how full the oil tank is. If more oil is needed, fill to the indicated mark on the dipstick, but take care not to overfill. Change the oil per the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid further generator maintenance.

14. What kind of oil should I add to the engine?

This question depends on the engine manufacturer's specifications. Generally, high quality 30-weight detergent is acceptable for summer conditions; high quality 10W-30 is acceptable for winter conditions, but please refer to your engine manual for oil recommendations.

15. Should I turn on my generator if I have not used it for a while?

Yes, this is one of the simplest preventive maintenance services you can do for your generator. Running a generator with a load occasionally is a good idea. Running it once a month will prevent gas from producing a gum on the carburetor.

16. Do I need to remove the gasoline before storing my generator?

Removing the gasoline is always a good idea when storing your generator for a prolonged period of time, especially if you plan on storing it inside. It is never advisable to store combustible materials inside your home.

17. Do I need to use a fuel stabilizer?

As mentioned above, it is not a good idea to store gas in a generator. If you are storing gas in a can for your generator, however, a fuel stabilizer is a good idea. Remember; do not store gas in a confined space such as a car or your house.

18. How do I change a fuel filter?

This can vary by manufacturer, but for most inline fuel filters, you will simply close the fuel valve, remove the clamps on either side of the filter and pull the old one off. Look through the filter to ensure you can see light shining through. If you cannot, it is time to replace it. To replace your fuel filter, just do the reverse process, but make sure to keep the inside of the filter clean. If your filter has an arrow on it, point it in the direction of the fuel flow.

 

 


Download Generator Maintenance Checklist

PDF Download Generator Maintenance Checklist (67 kb)

17. Do I need to use a fuel stabilizer?
18. How do I change a fuel filter?
19. How do I change old gasoline?
20. How and when do I need to change the oil filter?
21. How do I change the oil?
22. How do I change the air filter?
23. How do I change the battery?
24. When should I change my spark plugs?
25. How do I clean my carburetor?
26. How do I add engine oil through the spark plug hole?
27. When do I need to put oil in the spark plug hole?
28. Where is the best place to store my generator when I do not need it?
29. Where can I get generator maintenance parts?
30. Can you provide a Generator Maintenance Checklist?


Generator Maintenance
19. How do I change old gasoline?

Check your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some units can simply be drained and primed with new fuel, while other manufacturers call for a more complete generator service including replacement of old lines and filters along with a cleaning of the carburetor and tank.

20. How and when do I need to change the oil filter?

Generator maintenance tips from most manufacturers recommend changing this when you change your oil so you will not have the new oil being filtered through old impurities and gunk. Replacing an oil filter is often as easy as unscrewing the old one, applying some oil to the gasket of the new filter (for lubrication) and screwing on the new one, but it is always a good idea to check the manual for your specific machine.

21. How do I change the oil?

Regular generator service involves changing the oil. A good tip is to run your generator for a few minutes first to get the engine warm as this will help the oil and contaminants to drain easier. You will next place an oil catcher under the oil pan and remove the cap. Replace the cap and change the oil filter. Now you can fill the engine with the manufacturer’s recommended oil and start the generator again. After running for a few minutes, turn the generator off and check the oil level once more. This is one of the most important service you can perform on your generator.

22. How do I change the air filter?

Checking the air filter should be a regular part of your generator maintenance checklist. Air filters vary greatly by engine, but the basic idea is the same: when one gets dirty and cannot draw the needed amount of clean air (or the engine must work too hard to do so), it is time to replace it. Some air filters are rings with no center, some have centers and some are flat pieces. Check the generators manual to see how to replace your generator’s air filter.

23. How do I change the battery?

If your generator troubleshooting process has lead you to the battery, you may be able to fix the problem with a simple cleaning. If you have corrosion on the connections of your battery, shut the engine off and use a solution of baking soda and water, along with a brush, to clean the contacts. It is not a bad idea to clean your contacts periodically as a part of your regular preventive maintenance. If they are clean and you generator still will not start, you might need to replace the battery.

You can use a battery tester to troubleshoot your battery and see if it needs to be replaced. If you are in need of a new battery, be sure to select the right one per the manufacturer’s recommendation. To replace your battery:

  1. Turn off the engine
  2. If you have not cleaned the contacts already, do that now
  3. After loosening the nut on the negative (black) cable, remove it from the battery
  4. Detach the positive (red) cable in the same manner
  5. Remove the bar or clamp holding the battery in place
  6. Remove the battery and clean the tray in the same manner you cleaned the contacts (you can also clean the cable connections again in this step since they are off now and you can clean down inside of them)
  7. Place the new battery in the tray and replace the bar or clamp to hold the battery in place
  8. Spray the battery terminals with a special spray to prevent corrosion
  9. Attach the positive (red) cable and then the negative (black) cable
  10. Ensure that everything is properly tightened 3

24. When should I change my spark plugs?

Again, different manufacturers will have different generator maintenance tips, but most will say something like “every 100 hours or once a year.” You may also need to replace a sparkplug if it is worn and cracked. To check this:

  1. Disconnect the wire
  2. Clean around the old sparkplug to prevent debris from falling in once you remove it
  3. Use a spark plug socket to remove the old spark plug

Clean the spark plug with a spark plug cleaner and a wire brush. If there are any persistent deposits or cracks in the porcelain, replace it.

When replacing a sparkplug, it is important to adjust the gap between the electrodes to the manufacturer’s specs with a spark plug gauge. When the gap is properly set, you may replace the spark plug and re-attach the wire.

25. How do I clean my carburetor?

Cleaning of a carburetor is a more complex procedure and should really be done by a mechanic. You will have to unhook the fuel line (and maybe even remove the fuel tank) to get it off, and a proper cleaning requires you to take apart the carburetor and use carburetor cleaner to clean the inside of it.

26. How do I add engine oil through the spark plug hole?

Take out the spark plug and pour about a teaspoon of oil down the hole. Replace the plug after pulling the recoil a few times to properly distribute the oil.2

27. When do I need to put oil in the spark plug hole?

Again, this is a good idea if you will not be using your generator for a prolonged period of time. Adding a little oil in the sparkplug hole will inhibit the formulation of rust, and save you from further generator maintenance.

28. Where is the best place to store my generator when I do not need it?

The ideal place to store your generator is a place that is sheltered, dry, clean, and not near any sparks or flames. Remember to remove the fuel and oil the spark plug holes before storage.

29. Where can I get generator maintenance parts?

Parts can be sourced from Ultimate Washer. We have many Honda engine parts on our website, but if you cannot find what you need there, contact us for further assistance. Warranty for your engine is available exclusively through the Engine Manufacturer. You can check the Yellow Pages (small gas engines or similar) for engine shops servicing your product. In many cases warranty work can be performed by that location as well. If you are unable to locate a warranty repair location call on us and we will gladly provide an engine warranty contact.

30. Can you provide a Generator Maintenance Checklist?

While service intervals will vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next, here is a basic generator maintenance checklist to work off of:

Clean Generator Clean with Towels and a Degreaser Every 1 Year and Check for Leaks
Change Oil 25 Hours or 1 Year (Should Also be Changed after the First 5 Hours)
Change Oil Filter At Every Oil Change
Change Air Filter 25 Hours or 1 Year (Should be Cleaned Regularly)
Change Spark Plugs 100 Hours or 1 Year
Check Fuel Filter 100 Hours or 1 Year
Check Battery 100 Hours or 1 Year
Add Fuel Stabilizer When the Generator will be Stored for More than 1 Month
Run Generator with a Load Every 1 Month

PDF Download Generator Maintenance Checklist (67 kb)

 

The publisher of these pages is in no way responsible for any damage caused to you, your pressure washer, anyone else, your property, or anyone else's property by trying to implement or by successfully implementing the above-mentioned performance and services.

 

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