Most of us are used to regular maintenance schedules to keep our cars in tip-top condition. We know that the oil has to be changed along with oil filters and air filters. Periodic tune ups replace items like spark plugs, wires and other parts that wear out over time.
The engines that operate generators also require maintenance on regular basis, but the maintenance schedule covers a much shorter period of time. On time maintenance on a standby generator or portable generator is necessary to keep your generator ready for the next power emergency or weekend camping trip.
Check your generator owners manual and you might be surprised by how frequently it requires maintenance. Most generator engines are air cooled, which means they run hotter, burn oil faster, and the spark plug electrodes erode quicker.
A car engine might require an oil change after 3000 miles under severe driving conditions which could be as little as 400 hours of highway driving. On a generator engine, that time period is half or even one fourth for some models. During an extended period of operation such as during a power outage, that means changing the oil and filter about once a week or sooner, and performing other required maintenance.
Generator maintenance is usually required after a specific length of operation, or after a specific period of time. For example, if an oil change is required every 200 hours or 2 years and operation time reaches 200 hours before the 2 years is up, change the oil.
Read your owners manual for specifics on performing maintenance on your generator.
Safety First: Always disconnect electrical loads (anything currently using power) from the generator and turn it off before doing any maintenance. Ensure the generator cannot start and will not attempt to start while you perform maintenance.
Check the oil level on standby generators every 24 hours of use, or once a month when not using the generator. On portables, check whenever you add fuel to the unit. If the oil level is below the full mark on the dipstick, add just enough oil bring the level up to the full mark, but don’t overfill.
To change the oil, remove the drain plug and allow the oil to drain into a container. After the oil reservoir is empty, remove the oil filter and replace it with a new one. Replace the drain plug and fill the engine with the required amount of oil to reach the full mark on the dip stick. Be sure to use the correct oil viscosity for your region, based on local temperatures.
Access the air filter by removing it’s housing or cover. Take the time to clean the area around the air filter and replace it with a new one. Check the air intakes in the generator case and clear away any debris such as leaves or grass.
Top off unsealed battery fluid levels with distilled water and check the condition with a hydrometer. Clean and tighten the battery connections as necessary.
Remove old spark plugs with a spark-plug wrench. Check the gap on the new plugs with a spark-plug gauge and adjust if necessary before installing the new plugs.
If changing fluids, filters and plugs is not for you, find a local service representative to perform the maintenance for you.
Be Ready for Maintenance
You never know when the need to run your generator for an extended period of time will happen. Keep a supply of oil on hand to replenish the reservoir as required.
Maintenance kits from Norwall make buying parts easier than sourcing them separately, and you won’t worry about finding the correct parts when you need them. It is a good idea to keep several kits on hand for use during extended power outages.
Whether through regular exercise cycles or the occasional short-term outage, the hours can stack up quickly. If you’re getting close to time when maintenance is needed, don’t wait. Service your generator and be ready when the next outage leaves your neighborhood without power.