10 Handy Portable Generator Repair Tips to Improve Performance


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portable generator repair tips infographicOne thing that most serious preppers have in common is that we all own at least one portable backup generator. While many preppers actually own generators, if I was a betting woman, I would say that not many people have very much real-life experience in using them.

I’m writing this article from the unique perspective of being a person who’s only form of electricity for over eight years was provided by generators. On a typical day, we ran our generator for about 10 hours which means that over the years we put over 31,000 hours on them!

I would wager that most preppers haven’t even run their generators for a 100 hours. Why is this important, you might ask?

The reason it’s important is because my husband and I have a ton of experience using portable backup generators and with that experience comes a lot of knowledge that I can share with those who might just be getting into prepping as well as those who are already experienced preppers.

Our experience has taught us that there are really only a few things that will typically go wrong with a generator if you take the time to perform routine generator maintenance. Having said that, when you use power equipment a lot, you will experience breakdowns and you will have to make repairs. In this article, I’ll be drawing upon the experience that we have acquired with the intention of helping people who aren’t as familiar with emergency backup generators tackle the most common types of repairs that they might encounter.

In the interest of full disclosure, my husband coached me as I was writing this article since he is the one who actually does the repairs on ours. One other thing that I highly suggest is to arm yourself with the proper service manual for your particular engine before you attempt any of the following repairs.

Before we get started, let me give you my most valuable tip. Take lots of pictures with your digital camera or phone before you disassemble any parts. Having access to these photos has saved our bacon MANY TIMES when it came time to reassemble the parts!

Warning: Some of the procedures outlined in this article involve working with gasoline, carburetor cleaner, and/or starting fluid. All of this items are HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. Never perform any of these procedures around an open flame or any other possible ignition source!

10 Portable Generator Repair Tips That Many People Can Handle

If you’re having a difficult time starting your generator or if it’s just not running right, there are a few things you should probably check. Keep in mind that in order for the engine to run, it needs three things. These things are fuel, spark, and oxygen. There is a fourth and that is “compression” but in most cases, the three things that I’ve referred to will be the culprit to a poor running engine.

  1. Check for Fuel Delivery Problems: The engine on your generator is going to have a carburetor and its sole purpose is to mix the gasoline from your gas tank with air at the proper ratio for combustion to occur in your engine. If you generator is difficult to start or if it runs really rough you may have a fuel delivery problem. You really need to make sure that your carburetor is actually getting fuel before you proceed. Note that on some high end generators, they may be equipped with a fuel pump. Refer to your service manual for the proper way to test your fuel pump if you have one.

    One way that some mechanics test to see if the problem is related to inadequate fuel delivery is to remove the air filter and spray a tiny amount of starting fluid directly into the carburetor. Then they try to start the engine. If it starts but quickly stalls, the problem is likely related to fuel delivery. Note that a little goes a long way when it comes to using starting fluid for this type of a test. The last thing you want to do is spray too much into the carburetor and end up starting a fire. If you choose to use this test, you’re doing so at your own risk. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Also, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t use this test on diesel engines.

  2. Check the Gas Vent Hole: There’s usually a tiny hole or valve somewhere on the gas cap that is designed to allow fuel to flow from the tank and into the carburetor. If this vent hole gets plugged up, no fuel will be able to flow into the carburetor and your engine won’t start. If it’s only partially clogged, the engine may start and either run poorly or stall after a few minutes. The solution to this problem is simply clearing the vent hole with a small piece of wire or a short blast of compressed air.
  3. Check the Fuel Lines: If your fuel lines are plugged up with debris, cracked, or leaking, don’t bother trying to repair them; simply replace them. You can buy the correct size of fuel line at any auto parts store. They sell it by the foot and it’s quite inexpensive.
  4. Inspect the Fuel Filter: Some, but not all, generators have an in-line clear plastic fuel filter. These filters are designed to keep dirt and debris that might be in the gasoline from entering into your carburetor. If yours is clogged, the carburetor will be starved from getting fuel which could prevent the engine from starting. If it does happen to start, it may run rough and/or stall shortly thereafter. The easiest way to check to see if the filter is clogged is to remove the fuel line at the point where it is attached to the carburetor. Make sure that you hold the fuel line over a container to catch any gas that leaks. Pay special attention as you watch to see if any gas is actually passing through the filter. If gas doesn’t drain out of the fuel line and into your container, my recommendation would be to replace the fuel filter.

    This is a very easy job and the fuel filters are only a few dollars each. There will be a tiny hose clamp on each end of the filter. All you have to do is remove the clamps, pull the fuel lines off of the old filter, put the fuel lines on the new filter, and reattach the hose clamps. Make sure that you don’t put the filter in backwards either. They are designed for fuel to flow in one direction only and that is from the gas tank to the carburetor.

  5. Cleaning the Carburetor: If your carburetor is actually getting fuel but the engine is running rough, this is usually caused by people leaving old untreated gasoline in their tanks and not starting the engine for quite some time. The first thing that you might try doing is draining all of the old gas and replacing it with fresh gas. You’ll also have to drain the old gas from the float bowl on the bottom of the carburetor. If this doesn’t work, you’re going to need to clean the carburetor. In some very rare cases, you can spray carburetor cleaner into the orifices and jets without removing it from the engine but in most cases you’ll need to remove the carburetor to clean it properly. Sometimes an engine that has a dirty carburetor will start and run if you leave it in the “full choke” position but as soon as you move the choke lever to the off position, the engine will sputter or shut off.

    The basic thing to remember about this is that if a carburetor is the cause of an engine not running properly, it’s usually not an adjustment problem but rather a matter of the carburetor being dirty. When gasoline that hasn’t been treated with a fuel stabilizer sits in a carburetor for a long period of time, it’s going to do two things. It will accumulate water and the gas will go stale and turn into a thick varnish like substance that will clog the tiny orifices in the carburetor. Our experience has been that when a carburetor is the cause of a rough running generator engine, it’s almost always because it is dirty and the orifices in it are clogged. Performing a thorough cleaning has usually solved this problem for us.

    4-3-15 Update: I just received a comment on this article from someone who was a generator repair tech for 15 years and he stated that most of the generator problems that he dealt with were the result of people leaving old, untreated gas in the carburetor for an extended period of time. After you read this article, be sure to scroll down and read his comment.

    One very important thing that I should point out about cleaning carburetors is to resist the urge to clean the tiny orifices by inserting wires or anything that is metal into them. Carburetors are very delicate instruments and if you scratch or deform the shape of the orifice it will never run properly again.

    Since carburetors are such sensitive devices. Be extremely careful when it comes to turning any of the adjustment screws. If you do turn them and you don’t get them returned to the exact same spot, your generator is not going to run right, if at all.

    The video below provides some basic instructions on how to clean a carburetor. My husband has done this procedure many times and he’s learned some hard lessons along the way. The main one being that carburetor parts are very small and easy to lose so always work on a surface that will catch any small parts should you happen to drop them. I can’t tell you how many times he has dropped the tiny parts from a carburetor and lost them in our gravel driveway.

  6. Make Sure You Have a Spark: If your generator is difficult to start or if it’s running rough, the first thing you should probably check is to make sure the spark plug looks good. The appearance of the spark plug can give you a good indication about how your generator is actually running. If the electrode is caked with an oily thick sludge, your generator has probably been running very “rich” meaning that it’s been getting too much fuel and not enough oxygen. On the other end of the spectrum, a carburetor that’s not delivering enough gasoline but it’s providing too much air will result in a spark plug that is light tan or even white. This is referred to as running too “lean”.

    I usually don’t recommend that anyone make adjustments on their carburetor to remedy this type of a problem as this is usually a task reserved for more experienced mechanics but there are some things that you can do if you inspect your spark plug and discover that it doesn’t look right.

    Spark Plug Parts DiagramThe first bit of advice I have for you is to replace your spark plug with a new plug instead of trying to clean the old one. Spark plugs are very inexpensive and there may be hairline cracks in the insulator that you can’t see with the naked eye that are causing them to malfunction. The basic take away here is that if your spark plug looks bad, just throw it away and replace it. One important thing to remember is that when you replace your spark plug, you’ll need to make sure that you use a spark plug gapping tool to adjust the gap between the ground electrode and the center electrode to the manufacturer’s recommended settings.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that if your plug isn’t actually producing a spark, your engine won’t start no matter how hard you pull on the cord. If you don’t know how to check to see if your engine has spark, there are plenty of YouTube videos that you can watch to learn how.

  7. Make Sure Your Engine is Getting Oxygen: As I mentioned above, the sole purpose of the carburetor is to mix the gasoline with air and deliver it into the engine in the form of a fine flammable mist. Any air that enters into the carburetor has to pass through an air filter first. The purpose of the air filter is to prevent dust and debris from getting into the carburetor or the combustion chamber of the engine. When the air filter is clean, it will function properly and do exactly what it is intended to do. If the air filter is old or you’ve been running your generator in a very dusty environment, the filter will clog and restrict the amount of air that is able to pass through it and enter into the carburetor. This will result in your carburetor spraying too much gasoline into the combustion chamber and not enough air. Some symptoms of this are a rough running engine or an engine that will run for a while and then stall because it gets flooded with too much gasoline.

    Some people try to extend the life of their air filters by removing them and tapping them against a hard surface to knock any dust and debris out of them. Whatever you do, resist the urge to use compressed air to blow the dirt out of an air filter. This will usually result in the tiny openings of the air filter becoming enlarged which will prevent it from doing its job of actually blocking dirt and dust from passing through it.

    Our experience has been that if our air filter looks fairly clean, tapping it firmly against a workbench or other solid surface will remove some of the dust. In other cases, the best option is to simply replace it with a new filter.

    I should also point out that there are a couple of different types of air filters that you might have on your generator. Our large 5,500 watt Generac uses a paper air filter but our smaller Honda EU2000i uses a foam air filter that is serviceable by the owner. You can actually clean this type of an air filter when it gets dirty and it will work as good as new once you reinstall it. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely about how to properly clean your particular generator’s air filter.

  8. Replace a Broken Pull Cord: In all the years that we’ve been using generators, we’ve broken the pull cords about four times. It’s not incredibly difficult to replace the cord if you happen to break it. The tricky part is to make sure that you wind the spring up all the way before you wrap the new cord around the starter mechanism. If you don’t, the spring won’t be able to pull the cord back inside the housing and you won’t be able to start your generator at all.
  9. Test the Electric Starting System: Your generator may be equipped with an electric starter. If you turn the key or press the button and nothing happens, there are a few things that you can check. The first is to make sure that your battery isn’t dead. You can use a simple multimeter that you can buy for around $20 at most auto part stores to find out what the voltage of your battery is. A brand new 12 volt battery should read somewhere in the neighborhood of 12.6 to 12.7 volts when it’s fully charged. If you test the battery with a multimeter and it reads lower than 12 volts, connect it to a charger to see if you can recharge it. If you’ve made the mistake of neglecting your battery and leaving it in a state of discharge for many months, you probably won’t be able to charge the battery and your only option will be to replace it.

    If your multimeter shows that the battery is charged but the starter still doesn’t turn over, the first thing I would do is check for any fuses that might be blown. If you have a fuse that has blown, simply replacing it will usually fix your problem. Make sure you replace it with the exact same type of fuse that has the same amp rating. If the fuse in your generator was rated at 20 amps, don’t try sticking a 30 amp fuse in it because that’s the only one that you might have on hand. There is a reason that it was equipped with a fuse of a particular size and that reason is so that the fuse will blow before any sensitive electronic components will be damaged. If you put an over sized fuse in it, instead of the fuse blowing, you’ll fry the electrical components which will be a more costly repair.

    If you don’t find a blown fuse, the next thing I would check is to make sure there’s no corrosion on the battery terminals and that the connections are actually tight on the battery. Believe it or not, it’s possible for corrosion to accumulate between the cables and the battery even though they may “appear” to be clean and corrosion free. Whenever we’ve had a problem with a fully charged battery not starting the engine, we remove the battery terminals and clean them with a wire brush so that the surfaces are nice and shiny. In many cases after cleaning and reattaching them, the engine started right up.

    If you’ve tried all these things and the starter still won’t work, there’s an old mechanics trick that you might try. Gently tap on the starter housing with the plastic handle of a screwdriver several times. If corrosion has built up inside the starter that is preventing it from turning, this will sometimes break it free and get it working again.

    There is one more component to an electric starting system that could go bad and that is a part called a “solenoid”. Refer to your service manual about how to test this device. Unfortunately it’s not one of those things that you can repair so if it’s bad, you’ll simply have to replace it.

  10. Replace the Breakers: If your engine starts and runs properly but it doesn’t put out any electricity, you can sometimes fix this problem by replacing the breakers. We’ve never had this problem with our Honda generators but we’ve had it happen twice with our Generac. It’s an easy fix. The main thing to know about doing this is to only replace the breakers with the manufacturer’s approved replacement part. Also, take pictures and mark the wires with masking tape so you’ll be sure to put them back in exactly the same place on the new part as they were when they were removed from the old part.
  11. Bonus Tip!

    Many engines are equipped with a low oil shut off feature. This feature is designed to disable the engine when the oil level is too low to adequately lubricate the moving parts. If your engine won’t start or it starts and then stalls, check the oil level to make sure it is at the recommended level.

    Share Your Thoughts!

    I’d love to hear from you if you found this article helpful in any way. Please take a brief minute and leave me a comment in the box below!

61 Responses to “10 Handy Portable Generator Repair Tips to Improve Performance”

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  1. wannabemountainman says:

    I serviced generators for Sears for 15 years, and my busiest time was early to mid 2000. With the Y2K scare, everyone with more cash than sense went out and bought one in mid 1999, filled it with gas and forgot about it. Then, as they attempted to start the gennies, the service calls poured in. I can safely say, all of the repairs involved old gas. I advised the customers, when shutting down turn off the gas supply petcock, let it run until it uses all the gas in the bowl. Then, if one is negligent in adding stabilizer, there will be a very minimal amount of gas in the carb, about a couple drops.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi wannabemountainman,

      Thanks for your comment! It think it will be helpful to my readers to see that someone who has as much experience with repairing generators confirmed what I wrote about in this article in regards to old gas causing carburetor problems.

      • Delcena says:

        Hi, my friend has a Husky HU3650 generator that was stored with gas for 5 years. No stabilizer. The car was removed and cleaned put back in and put a little gas in spark plug hole it will start but immediately dies. I noticed that there is no gas getting into the combustion chamber. It only starts when I put gas in the chamber. How do I fix it?

        • Patty Hahne says:

          Hi Delcena,

          The first thing I would do is verify that fuel is actually getting to the carburetor. The float level could be incorrect and not allowing fuel to enter the carburetor float bowl. My husband and I have had experiences where we “thought” we had the carburetor clean only to find out that it wasn’t as clean as it needed to be.

          You might also want to check to see if the generator has a low oil shut off switch and that the engine has the proper amount of oil. If it doesn’t have enough oil and it has a low oil shut off switch, it would run for a second and then die.

    • John Cimmino says:

      Where can I find a service man for mypower Max XP8500E and what should I expect to pay?

    • Dami says:

      sir..with all due respect I really gained from what you have said…actually I am also a generator engineer ..when I started has an apprentice I learned that engine should be treated like a baby regural check nd observation should be done always to avoid damage.. thanks sir

  2. Barry says:

    I’m not an electrician but one told me to run a gen. periodically to keep (I believe he said) the capacitors charged up. If they loose their charge, you may have the greatest running engine but it won’t put out any juice?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Barry,

      I don’t know about keeping the capacitors charged but I do highly recommend that people start and run their generators at least once a month. If your read my article called “Never Forget These Crucial Things About Emergency Generators” that I provided a link to in this article, you’ll see that I also advise testing your generators to make sure that they are outputting power at least monthly.

  3. Alan says:

    Trust me, there are no capacitors in a modern generator that you have to keep charged. There was a time when older four stroke engines had ‘points and condenser (capacitor, actually) but they have long been supplanted with electronic ignitions. The capacitor was used to filter out noise from your radio!!

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Thanks for clarifying that Alan. I had never heard of capacitors in generators “loosing their charge” before so I wasn’t quite sure. I appreciate your input!

  4. Rick Blowers says:

    Here’s another thought. Add a LPG conversion. I was worried about having a long supply of gas and since I have a large propane tank at home I picked up a kit for between $200-300 dollars. I installed it with little trouble and now my genny can run for months with out the need for gasoline. Plus propane runs cleaner than gas does.

  5. Dick says:

    Tried to start my Power Max XP400 today after it’s been sitting for six months. I had drained the gas tank after I used it the last time. I thought by doing this it would start right up. Of course the battery was dead so I had to hand crank it. What happen is when I turn the gas value on gasoline started leaking by the carburetor. I tried starting the unit, but it never did start.

    Is this a float problem or the choke? Is it something I can repair myself?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Keep in mind that I’m not a small engine mechanic but I’ve watched my husband do a lot of repairs on our equipment.

      Even if you drained the gas out of the tank, it’s very possible that there was still some residual gas in the fuel line and carburetor that could have gone stale and gummed things up.

      My husband said that if the gasoline leaks out of the carburetor when you turn the gas valve on, he would think that it’s most likely a problem with the float mechanism. If the float is working properly, when the float bowl fills with gas the float should float in the gas. This is supposed to force a stopper called “needle” into the “needle seat” which stops the flow of gasoline into the float bowl. We had a similar problem with our snow blower a couple of years ago and my husband had to order a new needle seat. After he replaced the seat, the problem went away.

      As far as the choke goes, the way my husband explained it was when you choke the carburetor, you’re basically restricting the amount of air that the carburetor gets so the ratio of gas to air is higher.

      As to whether it’s a repair that you can make yourself, that would depend on your level of experience. We like to use YouTube for instructional videos when we don’t know how to do a particular repair.

      Best of luck to you!

  6. Lindsay Roberts says:

    Bet this is one you have never seen before!! 5000 watt Homelite has been sitting for quite a while, in the crate, never opened and put together. I opened and put feet and wheels on, filled with 10W30 oil, put about 3 gal. of gas in. GAS WILL NOT COME OUT OF THE TANK. Cleaned all fuel lines, filter and ran a cleaner wire up into the fuel outlet so it could be seen inside the tank, still no gas coming out, not showing up in the clear plastic fuel filter. Gas cap hole is clear and even took the cap off so be sure it got air, still no gas coming out of the tank.
    This one has got me stumped. Any ideas????

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Lidnsay,

      Here’s what my husband has to say about your question.

      “I imagine you’ve already done this but the first thing I would look for is a fuel shutoff valve somewhere between the bottom of the tank and the carburetor. If I found one, I would make sure it’s open and functioning properly. If I didn’t find one, I would remove the fuel line where it attaches to the carburetor and see if gas flows out of the line. If it flows when it’s not connected to the carburetor but it doesn’t when it is connected to the carburetor, I would suspect that the float inside the float bowl might be stuck in the up position which would prevent gas from flowing out of the tank and into the carburetor float bowl. Make sure you do this outdoors and not near any open flame or other ignition source. You don’t want to accidentally start a fire. Also, make sure that you have something handy to catch any gas that might flow out of the fuel line.”

  7. bartholomew says:

    Grate jod! Well done there!!

  8. Djm says:

    Your information is so valuable! Thank you. Our choke is broken. Can we repair it? If so, how

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Djm,

      I depends on how your choke is set up. All a choke does is close a butterfly valve so your engine gets less air and more fuel. If the lever isn’t closing or opening that butterfly valve, you can check to see if the lever is broken and replace it. The point is, you need to find out if the lever is actually opening and closing the choke.

      If it is but opening and closing the choke has no effect on how the engine runs, you probably need to have the inner jets and orifices of the carburetor thoroughly cleaned.

      Good luck to you!

  9. Shah Rukh says:

    2 Months ago I have Purchased an Electric Start (Self Start) Generator. Since 2 days My Generator is Starting By Pulling The Cord But Won’t Start When I Use Self Start. The Battery and the Starter are in Good Condition. What Should I Do????

    • Patty Hahne says:

      I’d call the manufacturer since its only 2 months old and explain the problem you’re having. They should be able to help you out.

  10. Shah Rukh says:

    I also have Overfilled the Engine Oil, Approximately 0.8 Liters whether the limit is 0.34. Is this harmful For my Generator???

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Skah,

      I wouldn’t recommend running a generator that you have overfilled with oil. My advice would be to drain out the excess and make sure it’s at the correct level before you start it.

  11. Michaeline says:

    I did a dumb-a$$ thing and plugged my DC charging cables that were connected to solar batteries into the AC outlet. 1200 W. 2-stroke gas. Is there any hope or is it junk.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Michaeline,

      Will you please provide me with a bit more information. What exactly isn’t working now?

  12. Najabat says:

    Hi, my generator’s pull cord was gone hard cant pull it easily. After when I was pulling it, it becomes smooth. But now generator is not starting. What are the possible problems? How can I solve this myself?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Najabat,

      I’m a little confused by your question. Are you saying that when you first try to start your generator’s engine by pulling on the pull cord, it’s difficult to pull but if you continue pulling on it, it becomes easier to pull?

  13. Lee says:

    My Coleman 1850 runs great but I hear a burp every so often. How do I override that. It is powering a refrigerator and not under strain.
    thanks

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Lee,

      In my experience, most generators will have brief periods where they seem to run rough for a second or two. If it happens often, then you may want to have it serviced. You might also want to consult with the manufacturer of your generator about adding and inline fuel filter to keep contaminants out of the gas. Also, old gas or gas that has a little water in it can cause a generator to stumble when running.

      One thing to keep in mind is that refrigerators have a compressor in them that cycles on and off as needed. When it cycles on, it will consume more electricity than when it is not on. Your generator could be running fine and the sound you are hearing could be the generator engine lugging when the compressor cycles on. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that this is the case. I’m just throwing out ideas.

      I’ve seen generator engines stumble or seem to strain a bit when we’ve plugged in devices that push the generator near it’s maximum surge capacity before.

  14. Andre Jordaan says:

    Good day Patty,

    Thank you for the useful info.
    My 5.5KVA portable home generator was operating under normal load for a couple of hours.
    It suddenly died for no apparent reason.
    It had ample fresh fuel and there was fuel flow to the carburettor.
    The spark plug looked OK and there was a healthy spark.
    Oil level is correct.
    The self starter works but now it won’t start, just turns over.
    I removed the air cleaner and sprayed fuel into the carb, still no start.

    There is a small cylindrical device with two wires attached to the bottom of the carb. Would this be an electrical fuel cut off and can I test it?
    Any ideas?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Andre,

      I just chatted with my husband about this and remembered that when we’ve had something happen to us like this, we first check to make sure that there is spark which you’ve already done. Then we take the air filter off and make sure that the choke isn’t in the closed position. Then we shoot a tiny blast of starting fluid directly into the carburetor and try to start the engine. If it tries to start or it starts and runs for a second and then dies, we know that the engine is ok but something is preventing fuel from making it’s way from the tank through the carburetor.

      I suppose the device with the wires could be a fuel shutoff solenoid. If your engine tries to start with a short shot of starting fluid sprayed directly into the carburetor, I would assume that you have a fuel flow problem.

      Here’s a link to a YouTube video that describes the process of testing the solenoid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr6UayxyVwU

  15. Andre Jordaan says:

    Thank you Patty,

    I appreciate your help.
    The video is most informative, I will check the solenoid in the morning, it is 9:45pm here now (South Africa).

  16. Andre Jordaan says:

    Good day Patty,

    The solenoid works, it is normally open and requires 12V to close and shut off the fuel supply.
    I traced the wiring and it looks like the solenoid is energised to close when the oil level sensor is activated by low oil level.
    I removed the carb, stripped it down, cleaned all the internal parts and reassembled with new gaskets.
    I replaced the spark plug and again checked for a spark.
    It still does not start, even when I spray fuel into the carb.
    Mmm… this is a strange one.

  17. Ann says:

    Hi, we have a husky 5000 generator, it keeps burning up the reset button, so that we cannot use the plugins. What could be causing this?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      My only thought would be that you’re overloading it somehow. Possibly the equipment you have plugged into it is drawing more than 5,000 watts.

      We had this problem once when my husband was running his welder on our big generator a lot. It kept tripping the breaker on the generator and we kept resetting it but eventually it wouldn’t reset anymore and we had to replace the breaker.

  18. greg says:

    I started my generator using choke as instructed..I forgot to switch the choke back to run for about 3-4 mins before its stopped. It will not restart..
    What would be my problem? flooding the carb with gas? How do I fix. THanks

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Greg,

      Yeah, you probably just flooded it. Usually waiting a while will cause the excess gas to evaporate but if that doesn’t work, just do an internet search for “how to unflood a small engine” and you’ll find lots of helpful information.

  19. Phugee O. says:

    Hello Patty,

    I bought a parsun 3200 series generator about a year now. I only just changed the oil for the first time last month, though I have put it to moderate use for lighting and ironing. recently I tried to put it on, it ran for barely 5 secondss and shut down and refused to start. I thought it was the plug, and so i bought a new plug but it will still not come on. Please help, I do not know what could be the problem. Thanks you so much for the effort.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Phugee,

      If it was my generator, the first thing I would do is double check to make sure the correct amount of oil is in it. If it’s cold where you live right now, you might want to read my article titled, Why Your Emergency Generator Won’t Start in the Winter.

      If you’re sure that you have a good spark and it’s not a problem with the low oil shutoff sensor, I would look at the fuel system.

      Some other things to check:

      • Your gas could be old and stale.
      • You could have a fuel filter or strainer clogged.
      • There might be a fuel shutoff solenoid that isn’t allowing gas to enter the carburetor.
      • Lastly, you might need to have the carburetor cleaned if this isn’t something you’re comfortable doing yourself.

      Hope you get it working!

  20. Jeffrey Brickzin says:

    Hello,
    I have a Champion 3100 watt 2015 generator with about 800 hours on it , I changed oil and it ran for 24hrs or so ..now runs for 10-15 minutes and stalls out. I did have a little too much oil, just slightly. Any ideas before I send to shop for repair? Thanks Much!

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      I asked my husband about your problem and he said that he would check your spark plug to see if it’s wet after the engine stalls. If it is wet, the carburetor might be delivering too much fuel and flooding the engine. This might happen if you choke the engine to get it started and then forget to move the choke to the “run” position.

      If the air filter is dirty, it could restrict the flow of air and make the engine get too much gas so it would be running “rich”. If this is the case and it’s not getting enough air but it’s getting fuel, the spark plug might be wet when you check it.

      If your plug looks good and it’s dry he would suspect a fuel problem. If there’s an inline fuel filter, you might want to change it. It may not have a fuel filter but it might have a little strainer screen inside the tank that is restricting fuel to the carburetor.

      My husband suspects that it could be a restriction in the fuel system. Since it runs for 10-15 minutes, it seems logical that some gas is getting into the float bowl on the carburetor but possibly the flow of gas isn’t sufficient to keep up with the consumption of the engine so it uses all the fuel in the bowl and then stalls and shuts off.

      Another thing you might check is to try running it with the gas cap loosened slightly. Not enough to let any gas spill but just enough to let some air pass by the threads of the cap as the engine is running. If it doesn’t stall after 10 or 15 minutes, then the vent hole in the gas cap that allows gas to flow from the tank to the carburetor could be blocked or restricted.

      As the engine consumes the gas that is stored in the carburetor float bowl, gas needs to continue to flow into the carburetor float bowl to keep feeding the engine’s need for an air/fuel mixture. If the tank doesn’t allow any air (or enough air) to enter through the vent hole in the gas cap, the gas in your tank won’t be able to flow into the carburetor and the engine will shut off.

      Best of luck to you and thanks for reading Preppers Illustrated!

  21. Josiah says:

    I read ur article and i found it very helpful….thanks alot. I have a small tiger generator but I noticed it consume a lot of fuel. How can I reduced the fuel consumption. Pls note the load on the generator is below 40%.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Josiah,

      I’m not familiar with that brand but if the engine always runs at the same RPM regardless of how much of a load you put on it, there’s really no way to reduce fuel consumption. A generator that automatically lowers the RPM’s on the engine when a light load is applied to it will reduce fuel consumption. When you put a more demanding load on it, the RPM’s will increase and so will fuel consumption.

  22. Julie says:

    I have a 7 year old UST 5500W (model # GG5500 series) that I bought on sale after Hurricane Katrina hit our area… I’ve never started it, put gas or oil in it because I haven’t had a need to… until today HA! We’re experiencing record cold here in TX and to ice the cake, so to speak we have had power outages all day (I just moved my 79 year old mom in with me and she can’t handle the cold at all) and all the places near here are sold out of propane, PERFECT!! Any way I was going to get the old gal running today (the generator, not Mom) but as I started pouring in gas it was leaking out of SOMEWHERE as fast as I poured!! WHY? What do I do now? Keep in mind I am not as mechanically inclined as one should hope to be!!

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Julie. Sometimes when you leave gas or gas with a little water in the float bowl of the carburetor, the bowl can rust and hole can develop. The bowl would need to be replaced if that’s the case. It could also be that the float is stuck in the down position. When gas flows into the float bowl, a thing called a “float” floats in the gas when the bowl is full and shuts off the flow of gas. If that is stuck in the down position, gas will just keep filling the carburetor and it will often spill out. The last thing I can think of is that mice may have chewed a hole in your fuel line. They like to chew on rubber hoses for some reason.

  23. graham lane says:

    hello i have a 6.5 geny that drops to 110 volts then back to 240 volts for a short time then back to 119 volts and so on. any idea on the problem ??

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Graham, I haven’t ever experienced that issue before. Sorry I can’t offer any advice.

  24. Don W says:

    I have a 2 yr old All Power 6k watt that was used heavily during this past fall up until the beginning of December. I took it out to start it last weekend and the rope won’t pull. Took that part off to ensure it wasn’t a stuck rope, but motor wouldn’t turn at all. Oil level is fine, and it ran flawlessly when it was last used. Could the generator head be locked up, or is it the motor?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Don,

      I would be more inclined to believe that it’s the motor. My husband suggested removing the spark plug out and then trying to pull on the cord. If water or oil is on top of the cylinder head, it could be hydro-locked. If this is the case, pulling on the cord with the spark plug removed will cause whatever liquid might be causing the hydro-lock to squirt out of the spark plug hole and get the piston moving again. Make sure to use safety glasses so it doesn’t squirt in your eyes.

      This happened to a lawnmower of ours once when we left it out in the rain. Water got in through the exhaust. I believe my husband put a tiny bit of oil in the spark plug hole after he got the water out to aid in lubrication since water had been sitting on top of the cylinder.

  25. Don W says:

    Thanks for the reply. I forgot to mention that I did pull the plug out and had no luck, as I was thinking the same thing. It looks like I’ll be tearing it down…

    • Patty Hahne says:

      If you’re planning on tearing it down, you might try this first. A good friend of ours recently bought a chainsaw that was seized up. He said he took the spark plug out and poured something called Marvel Mystery Oil down the spark plug hole. Then he just barely threaded the spark plug back into the head to keep stuff from falling in the hole. He waited about 4 days and then removed the spark plug. He held a rag over the spark plug hole and pulled on the starter cord and the piston wasn’t seized any more.

      We’ve never done this but my husband was there when he pulled the cord for the first time and saw that he was actually able to pull the cord and the piston moved freely.

      Might be worth a try if you were planning on rebuilding it anyway.

  26. Don W says:

    Good news! I got it running again. I ended up spraying about 4 oz of WD-40 on/around the piston and let it soak for 15 minutes. I then slowly pulled the started cord and it broke loose. Afterwards, I blew the WD-40 out, then changed the oil and poured in a little MMO down the spark plug hole to lube the piston. I tilted the generator to ensure an even coating around the piston. It then it started on the first pull! It smoked for 10 minutes, but runs like a champ! The WD-40 also cleaned the carbon off of the piston.

    Thanks for taking the time to offer advise. Maybe your followers can use this information if they run into this problem. Sure saved me a time consuming tear-down!

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Awesome news Don! So glad that this worked for you and thanks for reading Preppers Illustrated!

  27. Uma says:

    Hi, Pls My Gen Is Passing Smoke From The Caburator And It Releases Hard Air Constantly Like A Spark From The Caburator,

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Uma,

      Can you please explain what you mean by “releases hard air constantly like a spark from the carburetor”? I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re trying to say.

  28. KIM says:

    HELLO,

    I HAVE A BRIGGS & STRATTON 5500 GENERATOR. TODAY I WENT TO PUT GAS IN IT AND AFTER DOING THAT THE GENERATOR WOULDN’T START. I THEN TOOK IT TO THE MECHANIC AND HE SAID THAT IT WASN’T ANY OIL IN IT AND THAT IT HAD POSSIBLY LOCKED THE ENGINE. AT THIS POINT SHOULD I OR CAN I APPLY OIL TO SEE IF IT WILL WORK AGAIN? OR IS THE GENERATOR LOCKED FOR GOOD.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Kim, if it was running when it ran out of oil, it might have seized up and ruined the engine. At this point you might try what a friend of ours recently tried. By the way, another reader of Preppers Illustrated had a generator that he couldn’t pull the starting cord on so he tried this and it worked for him too. Instead of typing my reply to him, I’ll just paste it below:

      “…A good friend of ours recently bought a chainsaw that was seized up. He said he took the spark plug out and poured something called Marvel Mystery Oil down the spark plug hole. Then he just barely threaded the spark plug back into the head to keep stuff from falling in the hole. He waited about 4 days and then removed the spark plug. He held a rag over the spark plug hole and pulled on the starter cord and the piston wasn’t seized any more.

      We’ve never done this but my husband was there when he pulled the cord for the first time and saw that he was actually able to pull the cord and the piston moved freely.

      Might be worth a try if you were planning on rebuilding it anyway.”

  29. Chad says:

    Hello, I have a Powermate 3250 that is having issues. This unit only has 3.5 hours of run time on it. It first started and ran for ten minutes. It then stalled and ever since, all it does is sputter and pop and if I pull the air filter, with the choke off it will backfire thru the carb. Any suggestions? I’ve tried spraying carb cleaner in the carb to no avail. Also drained the fuel and tried with newer gas, same issue.

  30. Eric Murphy says:

    I have a champion portable generator 4000 starting Watts/3000 rated watts model 100105 and notice today that there is oil leaking from somewhere. Any suggestions as to what might be wrong. Thks

  31. Danny Savage says:

    To whom it may concern.

    I have a 15 year old 5000 watt generator. That I had running the day before. Which I turn off the valve under the gas tank. Which was full and when I turn it back on. The line broke and spilled most of the gas on the engine. Can the engine be repaired or should I junk it for a new one?

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Danny,

      If all that happened was the fuel line broke and gas leaked onto the engine, I can’t imagine why you would need to replace the generator. What I would do is wait until all the gas that spilled on the engine has evaporated. Clean up all the spilled gas to help prevent the possibility of a fire starting before trying to do any repairs.

      I would then replace the fuel line. They can be picked up at any auto parts store very inexpensively. Probably only a couple of dollars. After you replace the fuel line the engine should run if it was running before you turned off the valve under the tank.

      Best of luck to you!

      Patty

  32. JAMES NORRIS says:

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

    I HAVE A DUROMAX XP8500e GENERATOR WITH APX. 200 HRS. ON IT.
    THE PROBLEM I HAVE IS A 50% POWER REDUCTION/LOSS WITH THE
    120 VAC AND 240 VAC POWER OUTLETS. THE CIRCUIT BREAKERS DID-NOT
    TRIP, OR AT LEAST THE RESET BUTTONS WERE INTACT (ON-POSITION).
    I SPOKE WITH THE TECHS. WHERE I PURCHASED THIS GENERATOR~
    THEY WERE NO-HELP, AND HAD NEVER-HEARD OF THIS PROBLEM !

    PLEASE, ADVISE ME HERE AS TO WHAT YOU BELIEVE HAS CAUSED
    THIS VERY-UNUSUAL PROBLEM, OR POSSIBLY FORWARD ME A WEB-SITE ADDRESS THAT MAY HELP. ….

    THANK-YOU, FOR YOUR TIME AND TROUBLE !
    SINCERELY, JIM NORRIS..

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