How to Fix a Generator – Quick Tips

You’ve made the decision to purchase a portable generator for those times when direct power just isn’t available.  Let’s talk about how you plan to ensure that your generator will continue to provide backup power for years to come. You can do this by taking care of some very basic portable generator maintenance steps.  These four quick tips on how to fix a generator will protect your investment and prolong the life of your generator.

Keep your oil changed and fresh

Using the proper weight oil in your portable generator is only the beginning.  Topping off the oil during extended use is critical.  Our number one quick tip is to make sure you are changing the oil regularly.

As your generator runs, it heats up the oil and lubricates the internal engine parts.  Over time, the repeated heating will break down the viscosity of the oil rendering it slightly less efficient on subsequent uses.  Modern engine oils are engineered for this inevitable loss, but are not meant to run indefinitely.

portable generator maintenanceYour manufacturer will suggest the first oil change after a shorter number hours of use.  After that, the interval will increase.  Follow these instructions implicitly remembering that changing the oil early is never a problem, changing it late can be.

At the bare minimum, you should change the oil at least once a year, even if you don’t run the engine over the suggested hours.  Never store your generator away for the season with last year’s oil in it.  Keep your engine clean with fresh oil changes and it will reward you with increased reliability.

Internal combustion engines need three things to run; fuel, spark, and air.  The fuel is easy to remember, fill up the gas tank.  Many people forget the air element if this equation.  Without a clean supply of oxygen from the air intake, your generator will not start, or may cough and sputter, eventually causing possible generator failure and loss of power.

How to fix a generator air filter

Depending on your model, most air filters are changed out with a simple squeeze-and-press latch or likely a single screw.  For that quick and simple operation, you can give your portable generator a clean airway to breathe fresh life into your engine.

Your manufacturer will recommend the replacement interval but you must keep in mind the environment in which you run your generator.  If your power needs have you running the generator in excessively dirty locations, your air filter will clog earlier than expected.  Sand is another common air filter obstruction.  Keep your running environment in mind and change that air filter as often as is necessary.

The spark plug supplies the ignition source required to run your portable generator’s engine.  The plug is out of sight and out of mind and many small engine failures are a result of neglected spark plugs.

How to fix a generator spark plugs

Spark plug portable generator maintenance is not difficult and should be done regularly to ensure a smooth running engine.  A basic ratchet and spark plug socket (sized to your plug’s type) is enough to get your plug removed and a small wire brush and gap coin (available at every auto parts store) are the only tools you will need.

After extensive generator use remove the spark plug and inspect it.  If it is particularly dirty, use the wire brush to clean it and use the gap coin to make sure you are getting the correct spark according to your manufacturer’s suggestion.  That’s it, reinstall the plug, connect the lead and you are done!

Just because you don’t consider yourself mechanically inclines, don’t neglect checking your spark plug after lots of use and at the very least, replace it once per season.

Ensure proper storage and off-season protocols when possible

Probably the best maintenance tips involve putting the portable generator away for the season.  Maintenance during use is important. Just as critical is safeguarding your generator’s engine as you put it away for storage. Another option is a portable generator enclosure.

Change that oil, replace the air filter and spark plug.  If you don’t put too many hours on your generator during the season, this annual swap-out may fall on the over-protective side of maintenance, but for the minimal cost of basic maintenance, you get the peace of mind knowing that your back up power solution will work when you pull it out of storage next season.  No need to fumble around for parts when the emergency approaches, you’ll already be ready for it.

It is recommended you start the generator up once a month during the “off” season.  It’s good for the engine’s internal components to get that occasional lubrication to prevent seals from drying out.  If your generator will be inaccessible for an extended period, such as a summer/winter home situation, be sure to empty your fuel tank before storage.  Adding gasoline stabilizer to your final generator run is a good idea before draining or siphoning out the fuel tank.

These four quick tips will keep your portable generator maintenance on point. In turn, it will keep your generator running clean and smooth, and extend the life of your small engine.

4 thoughts on “How to Fix a Generator – Quick Tips”

  1. I thought you brought up a good point when you explained that it is important to change the oil of a generator at least once a year. I would imagine that this would be true for industrial-grade generators that utilize electric motors. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to have mechanics work on these when they need maintenance.


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