If you’re a prepper, chances are that you have an emergency generator or two sitting out in your garage or storage shed. We all know how important it is to have this essential piece of equipment but it tends to be one of those “out of sight, out of mind” types of things.
It’s easy to forget about your generator until the day comes when you actually need it. I wanted to take a minute and write a quick article to remind you that generators that don’t get regular attention, may fail when you need them most.
Some preppers choose to store their generators without any fuel in them and they take great precautions to make sure that the carburetor float bowl and fuel lines are completely free from fuel before they store them away.
Others, like myself, choose to store our emergency generators with fuel in them that has been treated with a fuel preservative to prevent it from spoiling.
The reason for taking these precautions is simple. Old gasoline will go stale and it will actually form deposits of a gummy like material in the tiny pathways of your carburetor, in your fuel lines, and in your fuel filters. If you leave gasoline in your generator and store it away for an extended period of time, you might just find that it won’t start when you eventually need it to.
A Simple Trick to Help Ensure That Your Generator Will Start
Always keep in mind that it’s important to start your generator occasionally to make sure that it will be ready to serve you when you need it most. We actually have three backup generators and we start them all up once a month and run them for a while. We do this for a couple of reasons. The first is that doing this provides us peace of mind. By doing this, we are able to rest soundly knowing that if we should happen to lose power, our generators are actually going to start when we need them to.
The other reason we do this is to flush gasoline through all of the tiny orifices in the carburetors. We always treat the gasoline that is stored in our generator engines with a fuel preservative but we still feel better when we start the engines and let them run for a while. Our reasoning for doing this is that “hopefully” if any gummy deposits happened to be forming in the carburetors, running the engines for a while will help flush them out. Does this actually work? Well, I’m not a small engine mechanic so I really can’t say for sure but what I can say for certain is that when we pull on the cord to start our generator engines, we’re always able to get them started.
I can’t say for sure how often you should actually start your generators but for me and my family, we have chosen to do this once a month and it seems to be working for us.
Important Parts To Keep On Hand
In addition to taking the time to run your engines from time to time, it’s a good idea to keep some spare parts on hand. I’ve made a list of the parts we like to keep on hand for you below.
- Service Manuals – You never know when you might need to fix something on your generator and having a service manual handy could really save your bacon. Keep in mind that there are often separate service manuals for the engine that is installed on your generator and the generator itself so make sure you have a copy of both to refer to.
- Spare Spark Plugs: Make sure you have a spare spark plug or two for every backup generator that you have.
- Spark Plug Gapping Tool: This little device only costs about two bucks and they are essential for making sure that your generator runs correctly.
- Carburetor Rebuild Kit: These kits come with all the essential items you would need to replace parts in your engine’s carburetor should it ever fail on you.
- Carburetor Cleaner: We like to keep a couple of cans on hand just in case we ever end up with a gummed up carburetor that needs a thorough cleaning.
- Oil: Some generators start easier on lighter weight oil during the winter so you might want to keep a couple of kinds of oil on hand to accommodate for differences in outside temperatures. Refer to your engine manual in regards to this.
- Spare Pull Cord: We lived for eight years where the only electricity that we had was supplied by our generator. I can tell you from first hand experience that the pull cords on generators can and DO break from time to time. Keep some spare cord on hand so that you can replace yours if it happens to break when you give it a yank. You’ll be a little ticked off at first but after you realize that you have some spare pull cord rope on hand to fix it, you’ll be really glad that you thought ahead to store this item. I guess in a pinch, you could probably use 550 paracord to replace a broken pull starter rope. Many preppers keep plenty of this on hand.
Take Care of Your Emergency Generator and It Will Take Care of You!
It really doesn’t take much effort or time to start your generator occasionally so there really shouldn’t be any excuse for not doing this. Besides, if you happen to try and start it up and it doesn’t start, wouldn’t you rather know that there is a problem before you actually need it for an emergency? If you discover that there is a problem, you can get it fixed before you actually need to rely on it to provide the precious electricity that we’ve all become so accustomed to having.
Before you go, why not take a minute and read an article on my website about the gas stabilizer product that we sometimes use in our generators. You can read it by clicking here: Fuel Stabilizer For Storing Gasoline For Emergencies Called PRI-G.
2-18-2014 Update: I’ve received a couple of comments on this article that reminded me of the importance of testing your generator to make sure that it’s actually outputting power when you start the engine to test it. You can read these comments below.
These guys make a really good point because when we were living solely off the the power that our generator provided, we had a couple of times when the breakers on one of our generators failed. This resulted in the engine running but no electricity was being put out. In addition to the things I’ve mentioned above, I’ll now be testing the power output of my generators when they are put under various loads every month when I check them to make sure they start up.
2-18-2015 Update: Someone left a good comment in my article called A Big Mistake That You Should Not Make with Your Emergency Generators where he points out the importance of regular maintenance because a generator that is left unused could possible accumulate water in the crankcase. We actually had this happen to us when we didn’t use our snowblower for a couple of years because of lack of snow. My husband decided to do some pre-season maintenance and when he drained the oil, sure enough, there was some water in the crankcase. So, don’t forget to change your oil periodically, even if you’re just storing your generator in a shed or garage.
Thanks for the tip guys!
4-2-2015 Update: I just finished writing a new article about generators called 10 Handy Portable Generator Repair Tips to Improve Performance and while I was writing it, I thought of another thing to add to this article. If your generator is equipped with an electric starter, make sure that you either charge the battery from time to time or keep it on a trickle charger. If you choose to use a trickle charger, make sure that it’s the type that will automatically sense the state of the charge in the battery and stop charging when it is fully charged.