If you find yourself in a situation where you’re without power for an extended period, having a portable generator is essential. However, using the generator only during emergencies means it sits idle for most of its life. This can lead to a different set of problems compared to regular usage on job sites. Whether you rely on your generator for everyday work or only for backup power, it’s crucial to know how to maintain it properly. Fortunately, we’re here to guide you through the process.
Follow Manufacturer Guidelines
To ensure the best care for any tool that requires maintenance, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on how to maintain your generator. These guidelines typically apply to all gas models. However, it’s essential to double-check and avoid any issues that may arise when making warranty claims.
Maintaining a Generator Battery (Electric Start Only)
If your generator has an electric start, remember to charge the battery before initial use. For those planning to use the generator extensively on job sites, it will maintain its charge level during operation. However, for storm preparation, it’s crucial to charge the battery at the beginning of the season and once a month thereafter.
Addressing Gas Maintenance Concerns
Generators are particularly sensitive to the presence of ethanol in gas. Although professional contractors who use generators frequently can skip this concern, occasional users should be cautious. Modern generators can handle up to e10 ethanol content, saving you from having to spend on ethanol-free gas. However, if you desire, you can opt for ethanol-free fuel.
One problem with ethanol is that it tends to condense when left unused. Since water is denser than gas, it sinks to the bottom and can be drawn into the fuel lines when starting the generator after a long period of inactivity. To avoid this, you can use a stabilizer like Sta-bil, which many boat owners swear by. Alternatively, if you know you won’t be using the generator for an extended period, it’s best to run it completely dry. However, it’s advisable to add a little fresh fuel and run the unit for around 15 minutes once a month.
For long-term generator maintenance, it is recommended to empty the fuel tank. If there is a significant amount of fuel left, add stabilizer before removing the fuel. Although there are kits available for this purpose, make sure the engine has cooled down before proceeding. Finally, allow the generator to run until it stops due to a lack of fuel.
Observe the Oil Levels
One of the primary concerns when maintaining a generator is ensuring proper oil levels and changes. During Hurricane Irma in 2017, many people quickly purchased generators without fully understanding their operation. Numerous novices neglected to read the manual and ended up damaging the motor. Additionally, some individuals made the dangerous mistake of running generators indoors. To avoid such issues, whether you’re a professional or preparing for storm season, always check the oil level before starting your generator.
After your generator reaches its first 30 hours of use, it’s essential to change the oil. However, if you’re a seasonal or occasional user, it’s advisable to replace the oil every year, even if the generator hasn’t been used for 30 hours. Following the first oil change, you can go up to 100 hours before the next oil change. Remember that in addition to gasoline, always ensure you have extra oil on hand.
Maintaining Generator Spark Plugs and Filters
The spark plugs and air filter in your generator may last longer than the oil, typically requiring replacement every 200 hours. However, even if you don’t log many hours on your generator, it’s recommended to change them once a year along with the oil. By making this a standard part of your maintenance routine, you can avoid various problems. Moreover, new spark plugs and air filters are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of a trip to the small engine mechanic.
Whether you’re a professional or preparing for storm season, these maintenance tips will help you keep your generator in good working condition. Following these practices allows you to handle most routine maintenance tasks on your own and avoid unnecessary trips to the small engine mechanic. While there are additional steps you can take, such as carburetor cleaning, they may require more advanced mechanical knowledge.
If you’re interested in the Ryobi generator featured in this article, you can find it at Home Depot.