Regardless as to whether or not you’re a fan of Winter, it can be downright unpleasant to deal with a generator when it’s cold outside. A good rule of thumb is to never wait until the temperature dips around zero to find out that your generator won’t start. This will not only be terrible weather to repair your generator in, but your home and family will also be without power and heat while you are making those repairs.
Just like any good piece of equipment, generators require a sufficient bit of maintenance and now is the time to get that done before we are smack dab in the middle of cold temperatures. Performing maintenance and repairs now will ensure that you’re totally prepared for what mother nature decides to give you this season. Furthermore, maintenance will only help with the longevity of your generator and won’t leave you forking over hundreds of dollars to replace it for things that could have been prevented.
We have collected some of our best tips from professionals and consumers to help you with your generator maintenance. Here are our top tips for getting your generator ready for the Winter season.
Let’s Talk Fluids
After last season you might have been so ready for Winter to end, you just put the cover over your generator and haven’t thought about it since. The first check you’ll want to perform will be on your fluids. These are the essential fluids to ensure that your equipment runs properly. We suggest that you drain your generator of fuel annually. While you might hate to think of losing that fuel, after a year of sitting in waiting, the fuel can get gum-like which will create massive issues in your carburetor and or fuel lines. When a generator is under-utilized, like most mechanical things, it can collect all kinds of material deposits. If you skip this step, you might be setting yourself up for irreplaceable damage which will lead you straight to the hardware store to purchase a replacement.
Here is a quick “how to” on draining the fuel in your generator. Check your user manual for specifics on your generator.
- You will need a proper container for the old fuel and maybe a siphon.
- Open the fuel cap for air flow.
- Locate the fuel valve switch and switch it over.
- Locate the fuel lines. (you may need to remove the cover)
- Make sure the gas valve is off.
- Disconnect the side of the line that is “not” connected to the gas tank.
- Put the valve into the collection container.
- Turn the valve on and let the fuel drain.
- Reconnect the fuel line.
- Locate the carburetor and locate the fitting used to drain this part.
- Place the container under the carburetor and drain the fuel. (won’t be much fuel)
- Reconnect the fitting to the carburetor.
After you’ve drained the fuel you will want to also drain the oil. Changing the oil on your generator, in general, should be done after every 3-to-4 uses. If you skip this step you will likely damage your unit and prevent it from working in the future. Here is a quick step by step guide in draining the oil from your generator, again, check your user manual for specifics.
- Place the generator on a flat surface.
- Place a container under the oil compartment of your unit.
- Before draining the oil, turn the generator on and let is stall from the lack of fuel.
- While the unit is still warm, drain the oil from the compartment into the container.
- Refill the fluids in your generator.
- Replace all caps and fittings.
- Turn the generator on to get oil into the carburetor again.
Now that the fluids are changed and refilled, this is the moment you may want to consider a fuel stabilizer. What does fuel stabilizer actually do? This fluid, when added to your fuel, helps prevent oxidation and chemical breakdown. Consult your users manual to ensure the best fluid types for your unit. Also, read all the instructions for the stabilizer you decide to go with. After you add the stabilizer, run the unit for a few minutes to ensure the solution is mixed properly with your fuel.
Parts and Moving Pieces
There are a lot of moving pieces to your generator, and making sure all of them are working together will put your mind at ease when it comes time to turn it on. In general, generator repairs are fairly straightforward and simple to perform. You don’t need to be an expert or mechanic to do it, but a little research will go a long way to get the job done. You can always consult with a professional if you are unsure of what you’re doing. Here is a checklist of the parts that you will need to check regularly throughout the Winter to ensure your generator won’t fail in the time of need.
Spark Plugs – This small part is crucial in creating “spark” to ignite your engine. To care for it, remove the spark plug and pour engine oil (just under 0.5 ounces) into the cylinders. You are doing this to lubricate the pistons. Replace the spark plug.
The Carburetor – This part is notorious for getting gummed up with debris and bad fuel. Another great reason to drain the fuel and use a stabilizer. You’ll want to inspect and clean the part to ensure it is working properly.
The Fuel Filter – Another problematic part keeping you from a cozy home, can be your fuel filter. Refer to your specific owner’s manual on how to change this filter and how often you should perform that maintenance.
Air Filter – You will also want to do a check on your air filter. This small part can help the lifespan of your generator. Your owners manual will have specifics on this, but it’s typically a simple replacement procedure.
These small checks and repairs will contribute the overall performance of your generator and also keep it in working order for years to come. Even more, part checks like these make your generator safe, and that should be a top priority in using and operating these pieces of equipment.
Backup your Backup
There are some additional ways to ensure your generator is going to be ready to use if you take a couple extra steps. This might be a welcome decision if you live in a climate that is unpredictable or sees incredibly cold temperatures. Some of these steps will ensure better safety when running your generator. Others will be optional but might be the difference between relaxing by the fire with a good book or huddled by the fire in the complete darkness.
- A Transfer Switch – A transfer switch is used to make operating your generator easier and in the time of an emergency. This fairly basic switch allows you to hook up various household systems to your generator. With this part, you can connect your major appliances and your furnace. This switch is installed at the electrical panel of your home and makes operating your generator far safer than running extension cords all over the house. This will also protect your home’s electrical wiring.
- Strategic Placement of Flashlights – It never fails, the power seems to always go out at night leaving you to feel your way around the house bumping into walls and furniture. Strategically placing flashlights around the house and next to your generator will help the process of getting up and running, faster.
- Turn it on once a week – Machines work best when they are used. Generators work best if they are occasionally turned on so fluids can run through the system keeping it lubricated and protected.
- Build a Maintenance Kit – You know how the saying goes; if you’re prepared for the worst it likely won’t happen. These kits contain things like oil, spare parts, filters and more. You can purchase these kits or you can build your own.
- On Call Expert – Make it a point to connect with a generator guru that you can call if all your efforts fail for whatever reasons. Establish contact with this person and keep their information close by for emergency purposes.
We know it might seem like a good bit of work to keep your generator up and running, but most of these maintenance procedures shouldn’t take you too long to perform. If you can create a checklist for yourself, and gather all the things you need ahead of time, you will be in even better shape to get this done quickly. With generators costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars, it is worth the effort now to ensure your investment is safe and doesn’t fail before its time. Generators will give you confidence during a long period of time when you don’t know how long you’ll be without power.