How to Maintain Your Generator
If you’re ever in a situation where there isn’t power for more than a few hours, you’re going to want a portable generator. The problem is that using your generator for emergency use means that it sits around most of the time and leads to a different set of problems than we see on the jobsite. Pro contractors, on the other hand, use their generators much more frequently, so the maintenance is a little more routine. But whether you’re relying on your unit for everyday work or emergency power, you need to know how to maintain your generator.
And we’re here to help.
How to Maintain Your Generator
As with any tool that requires maintenance, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on how to maintain your generator. The guidelines we’re offering generally work for all gas models, but you’ll want to double check so you don’t run into any issues if there’s a warranty claim.
Battery (Electric Start Only)
If your generator has an electric start, be sure to charge it before its first use. If your generator is destined for frequent jobsite use, it’ll maintain its charge level during use. But if you’re a storm prepper, you’ll want to be sure and top it off at the beginning of the season and once a month after that.
If you’re a boat owner, you’re already well aware that ethanol hasn’t been good to boat engines. But it’s not doing any favors for most engines and generators are particularly susceptible. Now if you’re a Pro using your generator at least several times a month, you can skip down. But if you’re using it less than that, consider several things. First of all, modern generators are designed to handle up to e10 gas, so you don’t have to go with the expense of ethanol-free. But you can choose to.
One of the ethanol’s problems is that it generates condensation when it sits. Water is more dense than gas, so it sinks to the bottom. And when you’re trying to start your generator for the first time in 6 months, it sucks the water right up into the fuel lines.
Then there’s the issue of sitting gas anyway. You can use a stabilizer like Sta-bil (boat owners swear by it), but your best bet is to run the generator completely dry if you know you aren’t going to use it for a while. Even then, you’ll do yourself a big favor by adding a little fresh fuel and cranking the unit up to run for 15 minutes or so every month. If there’s a lot of fuel left in the tank, start by adding a stabilizer, remove the fuel from the tank (they make kits for that, but let the engine cool down first), and then run the unit dry.
One of the number one issues when it comes to generator problems is proper oil levels and changes. When Hurricane Irma ripped through town, people bought generators as fast as they could from store shelves everywhere. Many who never lost power simply returned them later (which is a conversation for another day), and there were plenty of newbies who didn’t read the instructions and burned up the motor pretty quick. There were also some that ran their generator inside (also a conversation for another day).
Whether you’re a Pro on the jobsite or prepping for storm season, always check the oil level before you start it.
Once your generator reaches its first 30 hours of use, you’ll want to change the oil. But if you’re a seasonal or occasional user, make sure you change it once a year even if you don’t have 30 hours on it yet. After the first oil change, you can go 100 hours between changes.
It goes without saying that you need gas for your generator, and Pros and preppers alike need to have enough on hand for how long they need to run. But you also need to make sure you have extra oil on hand.
Plugs and Filters
Spark plugs and air filters can go longer than oil – roughly 200 hours between changes. Even if you’re not logging that many hours, go ahead and change them out once a year along with the oil. You’ll avoid plenty of issues by making this is a standard part of your maintenance rather than waiting for the generator to start running poorly. Plus, a new spark plug and air filter are relatively inexpensive, especially next to the cost of a trip to your small engine mechanic.
Whether you’re a Pro or prepping for storm season, these are the basics of how to maintain your generator. It’ll allow to handle the bulk of the routine maintenance and avoid unnecessary trips to the small engine mechanic. There are certainly other steps you can take, like cleaning out the carburetor, but you’ll need a little more mechanical know-how.