WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR GENERATOR WON’T START

Nothing can take me from calm to furious as quickly as my generator not starting. Yanking on that starter cord and being met with the mocking sound of silence just drives me up the wall. While your first instinct may be to throw something at it, kick a wall or throw the thing away. But if you can stay calm and follow these steps you might be able to get it started before you have to call a professional.

CHECK THE FUEL AND OIL

It sounds basic, but the most common issue with portable generators is insufficient petrol and oil. If it has been a long time since you last used it, the quality of fuel can degrade over time. If it has been several years even if there is fuel in the generator, it may need changing. If you try and start it with badly degraded fuel you it may ruin the engine. If it has been some years since you used the generator you should really change the fuel before you try and get it going.

Check the oil level with a dipstick and take a look at the manual to see how often the oil needs changing. Make sure your oil has been replaced if the generator has been stagnant for a while.

FIELD FLASH (JUMP START) THE BATTERY

You can jump start a condenser style generator with another battery. Hook the battery wires up to the generator so negative is connected to negative and positive to positive. You can pull the spark plug out and pull the starter cord. If your generator has been in storage a while, it’s common for the rotor to lose its ability to produce enough electricity to get the motor going.

CHECK YOUR GENERATOR’S CAPABILITIES

Make sure your generator can handle the load you are trying to give it. The power necessary to start an appliance is not the same which is required when running it. If you are trying to start a heap of appliances at the same time, the generator may not be able to handle it. Unplug them and plug them back in one at a time. That way the generator can start each appliance one at a time and get them to a steady operational level before another one is plugged in and an extra power surge is required.

ITS RUNNING BUT ISN’T GENERATING POWER

This could be a circuit breaker or fuse problem. Just like you have to do in your house, unplug everything. Reset the circuit breaker and try and work out what caused it to trip.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, it could be something internal. You can check this with a voltmeter or ammeter. Get a reading from the generator, if it’s not producing the voltage it is supposed to be this will require professional attention.

KEEP IT WELL MAINTAINED

Of course, there is no substitute for good maintenance. Start the generator every few months and check your manual for how often you should be changing the oil. It is worth using high quality fuel and oil, especially if you don’t use it that often. Poor quality oil and fuel, left in a generator for a long period of time will only deteriorate and could ruin the whole thing. If you stay on top of it, you minimise the chances of it not starting and avoid the headache of having to diagnose the problem.

 


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Mike G
mgilles@dinga.com.au

Mike loves to travel on the open road, he's really into vehicles of any kind, especially those with 2 wheels.