If you're going without power for more than a few hours, you'll need a portable generator. The problem is, using the generator for emergencies means it sits idle most of the time. This can lead to a different set of problems than we see on the job site. On the other hand, professional contractors use their generators more frequently, so maintenance is more routine. Whether you rely on your equipment for everyday work or only for emergency power, you need to know how to maintain your generator.
We're here to help.
For any tools that require maintenance, refer to the manufacturer's instructions on how to maintain your generator. These guidelines generally apply to all gas models. However, you'll want to check carefully so you don't run into any issues should you need to make a warranty claim.
How to Maintain a Generator Battery (Electric Start Only)
If your generator has electric start, be sure to charge it before first use. If your generator is destined for heavy use on the job site, it will maintain its charge level during use. For storm preparation, you need to be sure and have it done at the start of the season. After that, once a month is enough.
Gas Maintenance Questions
If you're a boat owner, you already know well that ethanol is not good for marine engines. But that doesn't do most engines any good, generators are especially susceptible. Now, if you're a professional and use your generator at least a few times a month, you can skip it. However, if you're using less than that, there are a few things to consider.
First, modern generators are designed to handle gases up to e10. This saves you from having to spend on ethanol-free. However, you can choose to use ethanol-free gas if desired.
One of the problems with ethanol is that it condenses on standing. Water is denser than gas, so it sinks to the bottom. When you try to start the alternator for the first time in 6 months, it sucks water into the fuel lines.
In any case, there is still the problem of sitting down. You can use a stabilizer like Sta-bil (which boat owners swear by). However, if you know you won't be using the generator for a while, your best bet is to run the generator completely dry . Even so, you'll be doing yourself a huge favor once a month by adding a little fresh fuel and running the unit for 15 minutes or so .
For fuel, the best way to maintain your generator long-term is to empty the fuel tank. If there is a lot of fuel left, add stabilizer first. Next, remove the fuel from the tank. They make kits for this, but let the engine cool down first. Finally, let the device run dry until it stops due to lack of fuel.
Observe the oil level
When it comes to generator issues, one of the first concerns is proper oil levels and changes. Back in 2017 when Hurricane Irma ravaged town, people were the quickest to get a generator from the store. Many who never lost power simply regained it later (that's a conversation for another day). Many novices don't read the manual and burn out the motor soon. And some people run their generators inside (also a talk for another day).
Whether you're a pro on the job site or preparing for storm season, be sure to check the oil level before you start.
One of the most important steps in how to maintain a generator has to do with the oil. Once your generator has reached its first 30 hours of use, you will need an oil change. However, if you are a seasonal user or an occasional user, make sure to replace it every year , even if you haven't used it for 30 hours. You can go 100 hours after the first oil change.
It goes without saying that your generator needs gasoline, and professionals and preppers alike need to have enough fuel on hand for the hours they need to run. But you also need to make sure you have extra oil on hand.
Maintaining Generator Spark Plugs and Filters
The spark plugs and air filter may last longer than the oil – about 200 hours between changes . Even if you don't log much time, change them out once a year along with the oil . By making this a standard part of maintenance rather than waiting for the generator to start running poorly, you will avoid a lot of problems. Also, new spark plugs and air filters are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of a trip to the small engine mechanic.
Whether you're a pro or you're preparing for storm season, these are the basics of how to maintain your generator. It lets you handle most of your routine maintenance and avoid unnecessary trips to the small engine mechanic. You can of course take other steps, such as cleaning the carburetor, but you'll need more mechanical knowledge.
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