A high-quality generator can last almost forever provided that you maintain it correctly. Far too many people neglect to maintain their generator only to notice that their generator isn’t working anymore at the worst possible time when they actually need the generator to run. This is especially important if there are frequent power outages in your area, you will need to keep the generator in top condition and test it out even when you do not need to use it.
You can maintain a generator by using an extended warranty, servicing the generator, using a generator cover, cleaning it, changing the oil, changing the spark plugs, cleaning the air filters, testing the generator, checking the voltages, not fueling a running generator, storing the generator without fuel, not using old fuel, letting the generator cool down before refueling, start the generator regularly, using heavy-duty cords, storing the generator correctly, changing the battery, tighten the bolts, not letting the generator run out of fuel and by using a transfer switch.
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The good news is that there are a couple of steps that you can make to maintain your generator, this way they will last a lot longer and most importantly you won’t have to invest in a new generator in the foreseeable future. No matter what brand of generator you use, all of them have a maintenance schedule in addition to a couple of steps to how to maintain it. I know that reading a user’s manual can be boring but trust me there is some important information when it comes to generator maintenance.
For the most part, all generator brands are the same, although the minor differences between them mean that there will be some additional maintenance tips that you have to use and these are listed in the users manual. If you want to be able to rely on your generator from time to time then you must get a high-quality one. Although high-quality generators tend to be more expensive, but in the long run if you maintain them correctly they will last a lot longer than a cheap generator.
On the other hand, there are plenty of low quality and cheap generators on the market, although these might seem like a good investment at first they will usually break down a lot sooner than high-quality ones, and this tends to happen even if you maintain the generator correctly. With that being said you might get lucky even with a cheap generator, I have a no-brand generator which is working fine after 15 years, although its fuel consumption went up significantly. If you are worried about a prolonged power outage then check out my recent article Power outage grocery list ( Top 38 Items ).
I am not a big fan of extended warranties as you are paying for a repair that has not yet occurred and it isn’t even necessary at the time of purchase. On the other hand, if you are using the generator constantly then it is a good idea to get an extended warranty. For the most part, these extended warranties will cover the repairs of the generator for a couple of years, just keep in mind that even with an extended warranty if the generator is broken and you send it back to be fixed it will take a couple of weeks until you get the generator back. If you want to heat your home with a generator during the winter then check out my recent article ( Top 15 ) Best alternative heat sources during power outage.
Service the generator
Depending on where you have bought the generator you will have the option to service the generator at the store. This service comes in handy for people who do not have time to service the generator and would rather pay somebody to do it. Generally speaking, servicing a generator includes oil change, spark plug change, air filter change, and additional repairs or changes the generator might need.
The best times to service a generator are in the spring and in the fall time, and servicing them takes from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
The first thing that you need to do in order to maintain the generator running correctly for a long time is to get a generator cover. These are fairly cheap and they will protect the generator from water, as even rain can damage the generator if you leave it outside for too long. if you have a fairly large generator then you should get an enclosure for it, but if you only use the generator once in a while a generator cover will do the job. If you want to know how you can cook without fire or electricity then check out my recent article How to cook food without fire and electricity? ( Top 5 Methods ).
Clean the generator
All generators have two main parts rotor and a stator, these two function hand in hand for generating power. The problem with them is that they tend to accumulate a lot of dust after prolonged use, so you should check them once in a while. If the rotor and stator have a build-up of dust then they will perform less efficiently which means that they will use a lot more fuel. If you do not clean the rotor and stator from time to time you might end up burning out the entire generator.
Change the oil
One of the main reasons why so many generators break down is because the oil hasn’t been changed in a while. A generator with old or contaminated oil will struggle to run, some generators will break down completely while others have a fail-safe mechanism and won’t allow the generator to start without an oil change. How frequently you have to change the oil depends on the type of generator and how often you use it, generally speaking, most generator models need an oil change between 40-180 hours of usage, so check the manual.
Change the spark plugs
Spark plugs are necessary to ignite the gas, and once the spark plugs are not functioning correctly you will not be able to start the generator. When you get a brand new generator it is a good idea to invest in a couple of backup spark plugs as well. Generally speaking, spark plugs should last you for a couple of years, although this also depends on how often you use the generator and how reliable the spark plugs are.
Clean the air filters
Generators need a lot of air to function properly, most brands do have air filters installed on them this way the inside of the generator is protected from dust and other particles. Depending on where you use the generator you might have to clean or change the air filters completely. Generators working at a construction site will have a lot of dust in their air filters, and it is a good idea to change or clean them once in a while.
The cleaner the air filter is the more air the generator can have, thus making the generator run efficiently. One of the reasons why older generators tend to use a lot more fuel is due to blocked air filters. If you often use your generator then check the air filter once a couple of weeks, and no matter what you do, do not let the generator run without the air filter.
Test the generator
If you are buying a new generator then it is extremely important to test it out. Generally speaking, generators should be tested out both at their minimum and at their maximum load for around 30 minutes. The National Fire Protection Association has made a simple, step by step guide on how you should test the generator.
Check the volts
You will need a voltmeter in order to do this, although it might sound a bit technical but checking the volts is fairly easy. All generators have a specific number of voltage which they generate, 12V, 24V, and so on. Ideally, the generator should produce the same amount of voltage which is specified by the generator. In case the generator is producing less voltage than the generator is not running efficiently, in the best case scenario you might have to clean the air filters.
On the other hand, if the generator produces more volts than the generator is actually made for then the generator might run too fast and this can be caused by a lot of things like the type of fuel you are using or what kind of devices the generator is powering.
Don’t fuel a running generator
A lot of people tend to fuel their generator while they are running, although this is not a good idea as sooner or later you will damage the generator. Generally speaking, diesel generators are not that prone to break than petrol generators while you are filing them as they are running, this is mostly because diesel generates less heat. There are some models that specify that you can fuel them while they are running, but unless the generator has this function do not fuel the generator while it is running.
Store the generator without fuel
A lot of people will put away their generator with fuel still inside it, and then wonder why the generator is struggling to generate power or why it is using so much fuel. Most generators are fairly easy to drain the fuel out, just make sure that the generator is not running and it had enough time to cool down.
Don’t use old fuel
If you store the generator with old gas for a long time then the generator might not even start when you need it too. Generally speaking, fresh fuel works the best, especially if you are not using the generator too often. In addition to this never mix old fuel with fresh fuel, just drain all of the old fuel and replace it with fresh fuel if you want your generator to last as long as possible.
Let the generator cool down before refueling
Ideally, you should stop the generator for 10-20 minutes and allow it to cool down, and only refuel it after it has cooled down. The longer a generator is running the more heat it will produce, and once you refuel it the generator will struggle for a couple of minutes if you do not allow it to cool off. Just let the generator cool off before you refuel it and this way you will increase the lifespan of the generator.
Start the generator regularly
You have to start up the generator from time to time, especially if you do not often use the generator. Generators are meant to be used from time to time, and if you start your generator once every year then sooner or later the generator will break down. Just start the generator once every month, to see if it is functioning properly, and have some backup air filters, and spark plugs at hand as oftentimes these will need to be changed if you haven’t used the generator for a long time.
Use heavy-duty cords
Heavy-duty cords are used for less voltage and light cords are used for higher voltages. The problem with higher voltages is that generators can burn out after a while. The type of cords you use will depend on what you actually are using the generator for. Some generator user manuals will specify what type of cords you should use, so check out the user manual.
Store the generator correctly
How and where you store your generator will determine how long will it run without any problems. Ideally, you should store the generator in a dry place that doesn’t have a lot of temperature fluctuations. If you store the generator in a humid place then you will have a difficult time starting the generator as even the spark plugs will break down in a humid environment after a while. You should avoid big temperature fluctuations as well, most generators have some rubber parts which due to temperature fluctuations will contract and expand.
While they are contracting and expanding they will start to have small holes in them and after some time they might cause a leak. In addition to this, you should always cover the generator if you store it for longer periods of time, even if you store it in a shed or in your garage.
Change the battery
Some generators do contain batteries, and oftentimes these are the first ones to break if you haven’t used the generator for a long time. Ideally, you should have a backup battery or you should use a trickle charge which will keep the battery fresh and working for a long time.
Tighten the bolts
All generators will have at least a couple of bolts, although after a while some of these bolts will loosen up. If you have an older generator then you will notice that it vibrates a lot and produces a lot of noise, this is because the bolts are loose and some of the components are not attached correctly. Ideally, you should tighten the bolts right before you place the generator in storage, this way even if they rust they will still be tight.
Don’t let the generator run out of fuel
Generators contain magnetic coils that generate the electricity, once there is no more fuel in the generator the coils will be demagnetized. In the worst-case scenario, this means that you have to repair or even replace the generator. The main reason why the magnetic coils demagnetize without fuel is that the devices that are powered by the generator will actually demagnetize the coils. Some generators can work without fuel if they are not powering any device, although this really depends on the type of generator you are using.
Use a transfer switch
Most top of the line generator brands do contain a transfer switch, although you have to check it in the users manual if your generator has one. Most people run their generator and they feed several devices directly from the generator which could end up in backfeeding which will sooner or later damage the generator. If your generator doesn’t have a transfer switch then you can easily get one as they are fairly cheap but they will extend the life of your generator significantly.
As you can see there are a couple of steps which you have to take in order to maintain your generator. Most importantly you should never use old fuel or let your generator run out of fuel as this will simply destroy the generator.