Generator Maintenance Guide: Fuel, Usage, Cleaning & Oil Changing

Every generator owner knows the importance of its maintenance. Yet, they skip out some crucial things. Why? Because there is no single guide to highlight all the things that need to be checked to keep your generator in mint condition. Well, your worries are now solved.

This article will walk you through all the maintenance points for your generator. We will also highlight weekly, monthly, semiannual, and annual maintenance tasks. We will cover every task in detail and also highlight its importance for your generator. This guide will also explain how you can do a particular task, so you can keep your maintenance budget as low as possible.

Generator Maintenance Guide

Before we begin, you must know the most important and basic rule of keeping your generator in perfect condition. READ the user guide that comes along with your generator. Always use your generator, as explained in the manuals. Keep the documents and warranty card safe so that they can be available at the time of crisis. Secondly, if your generator is in warranty, the most appropriate thing to do is call the company at the time of the problem. We understand that they may take some time to reach you, and you need a generator up and running during blackouts.

You can check some basic things but don’t do anything that will make the warranty void. For all this information, you would have to refer to the user guide and warranty instructions. Thirdly, never overload your generator. Overloading is the worst enemy of your generator. Either you have a standby or portable generator, overloading is always dangerous.

Let’s begin taking care of our generator.

We will cover the maintenance guide for portable generators and standby generators differently. Let’s begin with portable generators as they are easier to maintain than standby generators.

Portable Generator Maintenance Guide

Generator storage

Store it properly – You would need to store your portable generator with utmost care and caution. Any negligence can lead to damage. Make sure you store it inside your home. A garage and the storage shed seem the best storing place for portable generators. Wipe off all the dust or debris on your generator after using it. Use a generator cover to protect it from dust, insects, water, and harsh weather. You can also use old bedsheets to cover your portable generator. It won’t be equally effective as compared to a specialized generator cover.

Fuel Related Maintenance – Don’t use stale fuel in your generator. Gas generators are highly vulnerable in this regard. A lot of people store gas and then use it after a long time. It damages the engine of your generator. Apart from using fresh gas, you must never store your generator with gas in the tank. Empty all the gas; drain the carburetor before storing it for a long time.

Keep the Backup Ready – All the portable generator owners know the importance of having backup stuff at their homes. It is particularly important to people living in areas with frequent power outages. Keeping spark plugs, engine oil, oil filters, air filters, and generator fuel come in handy during blackouts. These things can start showing trouble anytime, and you need to have your arsenal ready.

Testing – One of the most important steps to keep your portable generator ready during crisis times is to test it regularly. You can do it after 1 or 2 weeks for at least 30 minutes. When you are testing your generator, you don’t need to add load on it. Make sure you check the oil levels and check for any alarms or unusual sounds while it is running. If you know that storms are coming your way, you must also test your generator with some load on it.

Use Heavy Duty Power Cords – If you are using your portable generators with cords (must not be done with your home), make sure you select a powerful. Cheap and low-quality cables can lead to motor burn out or damaging the electric panel of your generator.

Refueling Guide – Never refuel your portable generator when it is running or hot. It can damage your generators because a running generator can suck oil in the carburetor, and it can cause problems. It is true for standby generators as well.

Don’t run on Low Gas – If you are running your generator on fumes, it can damage the generator equipment and the appliances being run on it. We know that it is a matter of seconds before the generator shuts down when it runs out of gas, but these few seconds are very critical. If you hear drops in the usual running sounds, take off the load or turn off the generator urgently.

Run with Care in Bad Weather – Make sure you take proper care of your portable generator when it is running in rain, storms, snow, or a dust storm. Get a high-quality generator tent or a steel enclosure with proper exhaust and ventilation openings. To know more about safety tips for running a generator in bad weather, click here.

Standby Generator Maintenance Guide

Weekly or Biweekly Maintenance Tasks

Running the Generator – You need to run your standby generator for at least 30-40 minutes to confirm everything is in order. Pay attention to the sound of your generator, and make sure that it is running smoothly. Testing your generator will also demonstrate the working of the automatic transfer switch. One of the best ways to check the switch is to turn off the main power line and then notice your generator’s starting and shutting down. While you are running the generator, look at the base of the generator, and check for any leakages. Look for oil leakages or any other out of the way thing which is not supposed to be there.

Cleaning – Another biweekly or weekly maintenance objective is to ensure that your generator is clean from dust, debris, rust, and corrosion. You need to wipe the dust off from the generator, check the control panel, and clean it as well. Do not use a wet cloth for cleaning your generator.

Monthly Maintenance

Oil and Coolant Levels – It is best to check the oil and coolant levels every month. Most of the latest standby generators have gauges that show the level of oil and coolant. Some models won’t start with a low oil level and give warning lights and alarms. Engine oil is needed for a friction-free operation, and the coolant keeps the engine cool. Both of these liquids are very important for the long life of your generator. Ignoring them can lead to serious mechanical damage to your generator.

Battery – Batteries are one of the most critical components of your generator. Without a properly working battery, standby generators won’t start. You need to make sure that it is working properly, has enough water (for fluid batteries). You can check the gravity of the better with the help of a gravity meter. While you are checking the battery, look at the battery charger and ensure that it charges the battery when the generator is running.

You would also need to check the battery connection and wiring as well. A lot of people suggest that you keep the battery maintenance as a semiannual task. It is not right. Just imagine that your battery’s specific gravity is going down, and you ignore it for 6 months. If you catch it timely, you would be able to save a lot of money by getting your old battery sorted out and not buying a new one. A fully charged battery has a specific gravity of 1.26. If the reading is below, you need to recharge your battery.

Semiannual Maintenance Activities

Checking the Wiring – You must check all the wiring of your generator after 6 months. It will make sure that no wires have been damaged and need replacement. Just open the control box, remove the bolts attaching it to the generator, a majority of the wires will be visible to you. Inspect all the wires, making sure you don’t disturb any connections. If you see any fault, note it down and get it repaired by a certified technician. You need to make sure that there are no DC and AC wiring issues in your generator.

Checking Coolant and Oil Lines – While we must check the coolant and oil levels monthly, it is now time to check the coolant and engine oil lines. Check for any possible leaks; inspect the connections, pipes, connectors, and stuff related to coolant and oil.

Check fuel leakage

Fuel System – Make sure you don’t leave the fuel assembly unattended. You need to make sure that there are no fuel leakages, and the connectors and pipes are working perfectly.

Air Filters and Air Cleaner Units – You also need to check the air filters and air cleaning units. Make sure there is no dust accumulated in them and are not clogged. A clogged system will drastically impact the working of your generator. Also, monitor the air induction system at this time.

Exhaust System – If the standby generator has a faulty exhaust system, it will create big problems for you. Therefore, you must ensure that the muffler and exhaust pipe are working properly. Issues in the exhaust system can be noticed by the difference in the running sound. If your machine is making too much noise and has a different sound coming out than the usual, you need to get the exhaust system checked.

Annual Maintenance Tasks

Change Generator's oil

Oil Change – Oil change depends upon the time your generator has worked. Each model has different oil change needs. You need to refer to the user manual of your generator to confirm it. Overall, if you have been running your generator frequently throughout the year, replacing the oil seems a good idea.

Changing the Filters – The oil filter, fuel filter, and air filter also need replacement. Their life is also dependent on the number of working hours. The air filter may need more frequent replacement. It varies from one place to another and how dusty your area is.

Coolant – You must be surprised to know that coolant needs attention every time. The reason is its importance. The coolant is responsible for keeping your generator cool. Any negligence can be detrimental to your valuable standby generators. Therefore you must make sure that the coolant concentration is fine and working properly to keep your car cool. You must only use company approved coolants.

Spark plug in power generator

Change Spark Plugs – Inspect the spark plugs. If they are overworked or near to expiry, install new ones. You should never make any compromise on spark plugs. Make sure you buy recommended spark plugs. Refer to the user manual to find out the type of spark plugs you need for your generator.

Diesel Engine Fuel System Maintenance – If you have a diesel generator, you must discard the old fuel every year. It can corrode and go bad within one year. You must never add old diesel to your standby generators. Diesel generators also need the draining of fuel filters every 3 months to stop the building of water vapors.

Final Words

A generator is a very valuable investment in terms of money and usage. You must never ignore its maintenance needs. If properly maintained, a high-quality unit will last for 20-30 years without any issues.  Spending a little on periodic maintenance will save you from fatal problems and costly repairs.

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