Small generators are essential tools for various situations, from powering your caravan during a camping trip to providing backup electricity in case of a power outage. These compact power sources are known for their reliability and convenience, but like any mechanical device, they can encounter issues from time to time.
In this guide, we’ll explore some common problems you might face with small generators and provide quick fixes to get your generator back up and running.
Understanding Small Generators
Before we delve into the solutions, let’s briefly understand how small generators work. Small generators, often referred to as portable or backup generators, are typically powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel fuel however have been known to be powered by electricity in recent years, despite many people being unsure of how long these generators last.
They consist of an engine that drives an alternator to produce electricity. The electricity generated is then delivered through outlets for various applications, such as powering appliances, tools, or electronic devices.
Engine Won’t Start
One of the most frustrating problems is when your generator’s engine refuses to start. This can be caused by various factors, including old fuel, a clogged carburettor, or a faulty ignition system.
Ensure that you have fresh fuel in the generator’s tank. Old or stale fuel can prevent the engine from starting. If the fuel has been sitting for an extended period, it’s a good idea to drain the old fuel and replace it with a fresh supply.
A clogged carburettor can also prevent the engine from starting. Remove the air filter and use a carburettor cleaner to clear any obstructions. Check the spark plug for signs of wear or fouling. If it’s damaged or dirty, replace it with a new one.
Low or No Output Voltage
If you start your generator but it doesn’t provide the expected voltage or any electricity at all, then there are a number of things that you can try in order to fix this issue yourself. Small generators often have built-in circuit breakers. If they trip, they will interrupt the power output. Reset any tripped circuit breakers.
The voltage regulator ensures that the generator produces a stable output voltage. If it’s malfunctioning, it can result in low voltage. Consult your generator’s manual for guidance on checking and replacing the voltage regulator. A damaged or worn-out alternator can lead to low or no output voltage. This may require professional servicing or replacement.
Overheating and Shutdown
Another fairly common issue that many people tend to come across is that the generator starts but runs for a short time before overheating and shutting down unexpectedly. Low oil levels can cause the generator’s engine to overheat and shut down automatically as a safety measure. Ensure the oil level is within the recommended range and top it up if necessary.
Overheating can also occur if the generator’s air intake or cooling system is clogged with debris. Regularly clean these components to maintain proper airflow. Overloading the generator with too many appliances or devices can cause it to overheat and shut down. Make sure you’re not exceeding the generator’s rated capacity.
Generators are not known for being quiet, but if your small generator suddenly starts making excessive noise, it could be due to a loose part or an issue with the exhaust system. Check for loose screws, bolts, or other components that might be causing vibrations and noise. Tighten them as needed. A damaged or loose exhaust system can produce loud noises. Make sure all exhaust components are securely attached and not damaged.
If you notice fuel leaking from your generator, it’s essential to address it immediately, as it poses a safety hazard. Locate the source of the fuel leak. It could be a loose fuel line, a damaged fuel tank, or a faulty fuel valve.
Depending on the source of the leak, either tighten the affected connections or replace damaged components. Ensure that all connections are secure and free from leaks before operating the generator again.
Stalling Under Load
Your generator starts and runs fine with no load, but as soon as you connect appliances or devices, it stalls or sputters. The carburettor may need to be adjusted to accommodate the increased load. Refer to your generator’s manual for instructions on carburettor adjustments. Ensure that you’re not overloading the generator by connecting too many high-wattage appliances simultaneously.
Foul Odour or Smoke
If you detect unusual odours or see smoke coming from your generator, it’s a sign of a potential problem. A clogged or dirty air filter can restrict airflow, leading to incomplete combustion and the production of smoke or odours. Clean or replace the air filter as needed.
Excessive smoke can also be caused by an issue with the exhaust system. Make sure the exhaust components are in good condition and properly connected. If the generator is burning oil, it can produce smoke and foul odours. Check the oil level and quality regularly and change it if necessary.
Electric Start Not Working
If your generator has an electric start feature and fails to work, you may be left wondering how to get it going. Electric start generators rely on a battery to power the starter motor. Ensure the battery is charged and in good condition. Replace it if it’s old or not holding a charge.
If the battery is fine but the electric start still doesn’t work, the starter motor might be faulty which may lead to more repairs from a team of professionals.
Vibration and Unstable Operation
Excessive vibration and instability can affect the performance and durability of your generator. Ensure that the load is evenly distributed among the generator’s outlets. Imbalanced loads can lead to vibration.
Loose or damaged engine mounts can increase vibration. Tighten or replace them as needed. If vibration persists, there may be underlying engine problems. Consult a professional for a more in-depth inspection.
Routine Maintenance Neglect
Perhaps one of the most common issues with small generators is neglecting routine maintenance, which can lead to various problems over time. Regularly perform maintenance tasks as outlined in your generator’s manual. This includes changing the oil, cleaning the air filter, inspecting spark plugs, and tightening loose parts.
If you do not wish to complete these maintenance checks alone, the team at Pleavin Power are always here to help you with our expert maintenance services provided to all clients who require it. We also have a selection of excellent generators for hire to make sure that you are never without power if your current generator begins to fail.
Jack is the owner of Pleavin Power which was founded in 2017. He has worked in the power industry for over a decade and has an extreme focus on providing a quality service to clients across the UK. This has led Pleavin Power to becoming the market leader in the Critical, Prime & Standby Power markets.