How to Troubleshoot Your Portable Generator


If your generator is not working or if you are having trouble starting it there are a few things you need a check. You can make a list of three things that need to be investigated. Those are oxygen, spark, and fuel. There is also compression as a fourth one but those three aforementioned will be sufficient on your checklist if your generator is not working properly.

Problems with delivery

First, you need to check the carburetor on the engine of your generator. Its function is to produce combustion by mixing gasoline and air at an appropriate rate. If the generator has trouble starting or starts but operates irregularly you probably have a problem with the delivery of fuel.

There is a way you can check this yourself. Some mechanics might try and start the engine by directly spraying the starting fluid into the carburetor after taking off the air filter. If the engine starts but quickly suspends it is very likely that you have a fuel delivery problem. It is worth mentioning that this method is potentially dangerous if you spray too much you might cause a fire. It might be a better idea to leave this to experienced mechanics. Otherwise, you are doing this at your own risk. You also should not try this test on Diesel engines.

Jammed gas vent hole

If you look at the gas cap you will probably find a small hole or a valve which provides a flow of fuel from the tank to the carburetor. If this space is filled with dirt or if it is jammed, it is very likely that the engine will have problems starting or maybe not start at all. Fortunately, you can clean this yourself by using a wire or you can use compressed air sprays for even greater effect.

Fuel Lines and Filters

If your engine is not receiving fuel properly your fuel lines or filters are probably clogged. These are not expensive and you should not bother cleaning them, it is best to just buy new ones and replace them instead.

Checking if carburetor is clean

Old fuel left in the tank and especially engines that haven’t been started in a while might cause your carburetor to get dirty and therefore lead to poor engine performance or a complete shutdown. The first thing you can do is try to suck out that old fuel from the tank. If that doesn’t help then the carburetor needs to be removed from the engine and cleaned manually.

Sometimes you can just spray a cleaner into orifices and jets to avoid taking the engine apart. You should pay heed when cleaning carburetors as they are very sensitive and delicate and need to be handled with great care. No wires or other metallic devices should be used. Make sure you don’t mess up the adjustment screws, if you unscrew them and do not return them to the exact previous position, your generator probably will not work.

Look for Spark

When checking your carburetor you should also make sure that your spark plug is in shape. The best indicator is the appearance of the spark plug: if the spark plug is oily and sludgy, your generator might have been receiving too much oil, and vice versa. The plug will look kind of pale if too much air has been let through and not enough fuel.

As mentioned above, the best approach here is just to replace the spark plug instead of cleaning it since they are not expensive.

Is your engine getting enough oxygen?

The main role of the carburetor is to mix fuel and oxygen and deliver it straight to the engine. Lack of either will cause the engine to misbehave. Any air that goes into carburetor has to pass through an air filter which is there to block any dirt or debris from entering carburetor or engine’s combustion chamber. If the filter is clogged, less air will go into carburetor which will cause fuel overflow and the engine will then not work properly.

As with everything mentioned already, you can remove the filter and just buy a new one, or you can try to clean it yourself by beating them against a firm surface, which will remove some of the dirt. Use of compressed air is not recommended here as it may enlarge tiny openings in the filter and cause it to never run properly again.

Run test on electric starting systems

Generator you own might have an electric starting system. If nothing happens after you turn the key and press the button, your battery might be dead. Simply replacing it will often fix the problem. So you’ve checked the battery and it’s working and charged, but still, the starter is not turning over. In this case, your fuse is probably blown.

You can get this fixed by just replacing them with new ones. If the battery is charged and fuses are all good, the next suspicious thing you can check is corrosion on the battery terminals.

What you should do is to remove the battery terminals and use a wire brush to clean them. If all of this is not working for you, you can try to gently pound starter’s housing with a plastic handle of a screwdriver which might cause corrosion to drop and get the starter to work again.

Low on oil

Some engines have a system that disables the engine if the oil level is too low. So if your engine won’t start or it runs poorly you should definitely check the oil levels.

If you are looking for a reliable technician, contact Patriot Electric & Generator Service at 400 NY-17M suite #4, Monroe, NY 10950, USA; 845-576-6700

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