How to Troubleshoot a Portable Generator

January 27, 2012

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With extreme weather on the rise, owning a portable generator can provide a homeowner comfort and peace of mind. With a portable generator, even when the power is out, a household can run their refrigerator and other essential appliances and stay safe and comfortable.

A portable generator is an essential piece of emergency equipment and needs to be cared for and properly maintained so it is always ready and in pristine condition when the need to use it arises.

Every generator owner should understand how to troubleshoot their equipment when it seems to work badly or refuses to start. Here are a few tips.

If your portable generator refuses to start – old, degraded fuel is the likeliest reason. Since generators are used rarely and only in emergency situations, they sit filled with fuel for long periods of time. Over time, the quality of fuel will degrade to the point where the equipment will not be able to start. If you think ahead and add fuel stabilizer to your fuel, it will stay fresh longer.
Tune Up Kits for most types and brands of generators

Tune Up Kits for most types and brands of generators

Another good idea is that when you expect bad weather, buy a new container of fresh fuel. You will have a safety net in case the old fuel has gone bad, and the extra container will keep your generator running longer in case of need.
When changing fuel, make sure to drain the generator fuel tank completely of old fuel before refilling with fresh fuel, then try restarting your machine.
If your generator won’t start even after you’ve replaced the fuel, the air filter might be dirty or clogged and need to be replaced.
Air filters for most types and brands of generators

Air filters for most types and brands of generators

If you are unsure of the location of the air filter, check your generator owner’s manual for instructions. Remove the old filter from its housing, which is usually designed to easily snap open, although in some older models you may need a screwdriver to remove it.
Check the air filter to ensure that dust, dirt and debris are not blocking the airflow. You can clean the filter if there is only slight residue, but f the air filter is worn or acutely blocked – it is best to replace it.
To be well prepared, purchase a number of extra filters so that one is always available if the old filter gets clogged, dirty or damaged.
Don’t forget the spark plug. If you know that the fuel in your machine is fresh and the air filter clean, and your generator still won’t start, remember that an old, worn-out, dirty spark plug might be the culprit.
Spark plugs for most generator types and brands

Spark plugs for most generator types and brands

Remove the spark plug, check for signs of dirt and damage, and replace with a new one if you have any doubts. Just like with air filters, always keep a few extra spark plugs ready on hand so that you will be ready for any emergency.
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