If you’re having a difficult time starting your generator or if it’s just not running right, there are a few things you should probably check. Keep in mind that in order for the engine to run, it needs three things. These things are fuel, spark, and oxygen.
Don’t panic. There are a number of quick steps you can run through before you dig out the receipt and call the professionals.
Check the Fuel - We know; it’s like being told to check that the kettle is plugged in. But one of the most common reasons for portable generator failure is simply that it might not have sufficient fuel. Especially if the last time you used it was last year. As well as checking the quantity of fuel, be sure to check the fuel quality as fuel can degrade while in storage. If this has happened and it has clogged up the engine, you might need to call a mechanic for help.
Check the Oil - Many portable generators feature automatic oil checks and will shut down automatically if the oil level becomes too low. Check the oil level with the dipstick and if necessary, add oil to meet the full level. Also check to see if you generator needs an oil change. Within the product manual of your generator, the manufacturer will recommend the frequency of an oil change. Below is a good demonstration of a customer changing the oil on his inverter generator.
“Field Flash” a Portable Generator with a Battery - Sound complicated? It simply means jump starting the portable generator (Note: only attempt this with condenser style generators not inverter generators). While in storage for a long period, the magnetism in the generator’s rotor can diminish, reducing its ability to produce electricity. A small current from a battery can quickly resolve this problem. Field flash is a simple jump starting technique used in case a portable generator fails to start normally. Use a battery and connect the wires from the generator to the battery correctly (negative to negative, positive to positive, wires are usually colour coded). Remove the spark plug from the generator, and pull the starter cord to get it working.
Check the load - One common problem is that a generator is overloaded and simply cannot produce enough power. Each portable generator is designed to handle a specific electrical load, which should not be exceeded. What many people don’t realise is that certain appliances draw more power when they’re starting up than when they are in operation. The generator might be able to power the operating load, but not the start-up load which could be anywhere up to five times higher. Solve the problem by removing some of the items temporarily. Add them gradually, waiting for one to settle into operating mode before adding another.
Replace Fuses and Circuit Breakers - If your portable generator is running but not generating power, it may have blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker. Resetting the breaker and replacing blown fuses will easily solve this. However, to prevent this from happening again, try and work out what caused them to trip or blow before restarting the generator.
Generator Is Running But There Is No Power - If the generator is running, but you are not getting any power, chances are some internal setting or the motor might have been damaged. To check on this, keep a voltmeter and ampmeter handy. Find out what the correct readings ought to be from your generator user guide and check if the meters are giving a congruent reading. If not, then it is most certainly an internal issue, which needs the expertise of a professional to fix. So, call in the experts! The best way is to prevent any issues from happening in the first place is to take necessary precautions and maintain your portable generator. Ensure that you do proper and timely servicing of the generator, even if you don’t use it all that regularly. Also replace any parts that might be used above and beyond their usual running life. And finally, remember to use good quality oil and fuel as they circulate through the entire engine coming in contact with many different components.
If you are still having problems with the generator or don’t feel confident going through the steps above, it’s best to seek professional help. This will stop you from further damaging the generator or voiding the warranty.