Portable Generator Maintenance (5 Things To Check)

Portable generators are a lifesaver when it comes to blackouts or traveling to locations where there is not readily available energy.

This means that you will want to ensure that your generator works well at all times.

To ensure that your generator starts when you need it the most, there are a few maintenance tips you should know to keep yours running for years.

Today, we are going to look at a few different portable maintenance tips to keep your generators in the best working conditions possible.

Always Check Your Oil, Spark Plugs & Filters

Just like any gasoline engine, a gas generator is going to need the normal preventative maintenance. Much like a car, you are going to need to change the oil, spark plugs, and filters if equipped.

This will ensure that your engine is running as efficiently and as clean as possible. Depending on your generator, your maintenance schedule may differ, but I will review the basics of each.

Changing Your Generator's Oil

The oil in your generator is made to lubricate all of the internal workings of your motor.

Without oil, your motor would wear very quickly as metal on metal contact with no lubricant would cause friction and heat.

The oil is there to make sure that the friction is lubricated and cooled to provide years of service. Changing your oil in regular intervals make sure that your engine stays running as efficiently as it can.

Spark Plugs

park plugs are what allows your motor to produce combustion.

The spark plug ignites each time it is fired to create the combustion that drives the piston down and your engine to turn over.

With multiple uses, spark plugs can become dirty and fouled causing them not to function as well as they used to.

By changing your spark plugs a the scheduled times, you can keep your engine firing right up and running smoothly.

It never hurts to check your spark plug and clean them every chance you get.

Filters

A gasoline engine needs three essential things to run, fuel, spark, and air.

While I have covered spark and fuel, air is the last on the list.

Air being brought into your motor has to be clean just like any gasoline motor requires.

This means that a filter has to be present to ensure dust and debris does not make it into your motor.

Generator air filters should be changed according to the service plan and more often if you are in dusty conditions such as a construction zone

Cycle Your Generator Once Every Three Months

man filling a portable generator with gasoline

​Portable generators are usually used for two different things – everyday use on a construction site or for a home backup emergency.

When using them everyday, you will not have to worry about this step as you will be starting your generator often.

However, if your generator only gets used a few times a year, you will want to make sure that you start it and let it cycle at least once every three months.

Gasoline engines need to be run every now and then to make sure that oil is spread throughout the engine to keep everything lubricated and nothing starts to seize.

What you will want to do is add a step in your portable generator maintenance schedule to start your generator every three months.

You will want to let it run to allow it to reach normal operating temperature to make sure that the engine is cleaned out periodically. This will also allow you to check for anything that needs to be replaced or repaired.

By starting your engine every three months, you will be more inclined to finding out problems before you need your generator in an emergency situation.

This will allow you to access the problem and make the repair before you need your generator the most.

Keep Your Tank Filled When In Use

When using a gas generator, you are going to want to ensure that your fuel tank is always filled when using the generator.

While this does not require a fill up each time you use it, you will want to make sure that your generator never runs to the point of running out of fuel.

When a gasoline generator runs out of fuel when in use, the items that you are supplying electricity to drain any remaining magnetism from the generator’s coils.

This can cause irreversible damage to your generator and shorten the overall life of the generator.

There are a few ways to make sure that this never happens with your generator.

The first being to fill up your generator each time you use it. I know that this may not be ideal for all situations, so there are a few other suggestions.

You can purchase a generator that has a fuel level indicator or gauge that will keep you informed of your fuel levels at all times.

This is going to be the easiest way to monitor your fuel, but not all generators come with fuel gauges.

For those that don’t you can have a portable generator fuel gauge installed for easy monitoring.

Keep Your Generator Clean

7500w generator in a garage

​As with any type of tool or piece of machinery, one of the easiest maintenance tips you can follow is to keep your generator clean.

A generator can quickly become dirty in a construction zone or stored away in a shed.

Making sure that you keep it clean can go a long way when it comes to maintenance.

A common problem that I see is people trying to do maintenance jobs such as change spark plugs or oil on a dirty generator and end up having dirt or debris fall into vital engine components.

This can cause some serious damage that can easily be avoided by keeping your generator clean.

Built up dirt and debris can also hide problems and escalate smaller problems.

Dirt can easily cover up problem spots your generator may have making them harder to find. Dirt can also be a catalyst for destroying fragile plastic pieces.

Chemicals can get trapped in the dirt along with moisture which can wreak havoc on all types of surfaces.

The best suggestion is to make sure that your generator is cleaned each time it is planned to be stored.

If you are going to be storing it for a long time, look at putting it in a place where it won’t get dirty. Clean if off every three months

when you are cycling your generator to help save some time and energy.

Charge Your Batteries

If your generator runs off of batteries or uses batteries for an electric start, make sure to keep them charged.

Nothing is worse than taking your generator out of storage to use in an emergency situation than to have a dead battery keep your from starting it up.

In these situations, you usually will not have another means of charging the batteries up, so it pays to plan ahead.

Gasoline engines typically use batteries for electric starts which make starting your generator much easier.

This allows pull start generators to easily be started by those who have problems with a pull rope.

These batteries are usually smaller but will need to be maintained to stay charged and ready to be used when needed the most.

For solar generators, batteries are used as a storage bank for electricity.

Taking proper care of these batteries is essential in keeping your generator running for years to come.

The maintenance will depend on the type of battery that you are using with your solar generator.

Whichever generator you are using, check your manual for the best practices when it comes to charging your generator’s batteries.

This can save a lot of headaches later down the road.

Use The Right Type Of Cords

When it comes to plugging things up to your generator, you are going to want to make sure you are using all of the correct equipment.

This means that you will need to research the correct type of extension cords to use when plugging up each appliance or piece of machinery.

Heavy duty construction cords (click to see my favorite brand on Amazon)  are usually recommended as a general rule of thumb as they are built to handle high loads of current without overheating or shorting out.

With high levels of current going from your generator to your appliance, you are going to want something that is not only going to keep your appliances safe, but yourself as well.

A fault or low quality extension cord can cause serious injury and damage expensive equipment.

I suggest taking a good look at your manual for your generator and your appliance to find out which extension cords are suggested for each item.

When it doubt, contact the generator manufacturer to ask about any uncertainties you may have.

Avoid Overloading Your Generator

Electrical overload is another big killer of generators.

Generators are rated in watts and are made to handle a specific number of watts demanded by the appliances that you have plugged into them.

By overloading your generator, you are demanding more electricity than your generator can produce which overloads the system.

Most generators are going to have a built in overload safety switch that will cut the generator off before any damage is done, but this can still put your generator at risk of unnecessary wear and tear.

To avoid this, it is best to do some research on what size generator is going to be best for your application.

My suggestion would be to figure out what appliances you want to run on your generator, calculate the wattage demands of each, and then research a generator that can handle this amount of wattage plus a little extra.

This extra wattage will be a buffer zone to allow you to not overload your system and keep your generator from operating at 100% capacity.

While a 4000 watt generator can produce up to 4000 watts of electricity, it is not a good idea to run it at 4000 watts at all times.

This is simply the maximum amount it can sustain. Running your generator at maximum capacity at all times will shorten the life of your generator and can cause quicker wear and tear.

If you have already purchased a generator and are fearing that you may overload it, check to see if the generator is a generator that can be ran in parallel with an addition generator.

This will allow you to hook up another generator to your original generator to get more power.

This is a great option for those with generators that may be too small for their current application.

Avoid Using Old Fuel

Generac Generator with the fuel cap open

If your generator is not used everyday or has been stored for awhile, it is always a good idea to replace the old fuel that has been sitting in your generator.

Gasoline can go bad if left sitting for long periods of time.

This is usually noticed by a rough running or no start condition.

Old fuel can also be identified by an odd smell that does not smell like normal gasoline.

While you can add Stabil to your generator’s fuel to help preserve it in the off season, the most common cause of a rough running generator that has sat for awhile is going to be old fuel.

To remove old fuel from a generator, you can use a fuel siphon to safely remove any old fuel from the generator.

Once removed, simply add in the new fuel, clean off your spark plug if necessary, and start your generator.

Keeping clean fuel in your generator will prevent old fuel from fouling out spark plugs and causing more damage to your generator. 

If you are unsure of when the last time your fuel was changed or when you last used your generator, it may be worth the extra time and effort to go ahead and change out the fuel.

You can save yourself a lot of money in the future by completing this quick maintenance tip.

Invest In A Good Warranty

One of the best ways that you can maintain your portable generator is to invest in a good warranty.

A portable generator warranty will ensure that you are covered in the event of a defect in craftsmanship or faulty parts within the warranty period.

A portable generator can be comprised of many different moving parts and if yours uses a gasoline engine, these parts can be susceptible to everyday wear and tear.

If there is a problem with your generator that was caused by a manufacturer defect, you will want to make sure that you have a warranty in place to cover the costs of the maintenance, repair or replacement.

Most portable generators are offered with factory warranties straight out of the box.

However, you can sometimes purchase extended warranties that will help protect your generator for years to come. This is great to have if you plan on maintaining and using your generator often and for a longer period of time.

The last thing you want to happen when you go to start your generator is to have it not start due to a manufacturing problem.

Save yourself a lot of time and money and invest in a quality portable generator with a warranty that is going to protect it for years.

Conclusion

With all of these great maintenance tips, I hope that you feel more confident in keeping your generator well maintained.

Do you have any additional tips that you use to take care of your generator? What practices do you use when storing your generator? How long has your generator lasted you with property maintenance?

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