One of the most basic preparedness items is a generator. They do a great job for short-term power outage situations and many people have them.
What many people ignore however is generator maintenance – which is crucial in order to be assured that during the next power outage, it will be ready to run. Imagine firing up your generator in the middle a winter snow storm only to discover it doesn’t start?!
Here are the important maintenance considerations for your generator:
Run The Fuel Dry
Gasoline is formulated to be optimum for only 1 – 3 months. After that, gasoline molecules react with each other and will eventually become sticky varnishes that can clog fuel filters, fuel lines, and carburetor jets. So consider this… If you have a tank of gasoline that has not been used in a reasonable length of time (e.g. months), the gasoline will cause problems with the fuel delivery system and prevent proper operation of the engine. This is particularly true in generators because they often sit unused for quite some time.
One solution to this problem is to remember to shut off the fuel valve while the generator is still running, and let the generator run itself out from fuel starvation (which will probably take a minute). Since the valve isolates the gas tank from the carburetor, once the generator uses up that remaining fuel you will know that the delivery system and carburetor is cleared of all fuel and that there is nothing left to gum up the works over time.
Fuel Additive (Stabilizer)
Another solution (to fuel shelf life) is to add a gasoline fuel stabilizer additive that extends the fuel life up to a year or more. This will also inhibit the fuel from gumming up when it’s sitting idle in your generator. There are two commonly used fuel stabilizers, both of which work well.
A major problem with long term storage of a generator, besides the fuel deterioration, is corrosion of the engine and generator bearings when the lubricating oil becomes stagnant around the bearings. A fix for this problem is to run the generator every 90 days to cause the lubricating oil to get mixed up and the bearing surfaces coated with oil.
It is also a good idea to operate the generator engine until is reaches normal operating temperature. Water is created during the combustion process and if a generator is started and then shut down while the engine is still cold, the moisture remains in the cylinder and valve areas, promoting corrosion. If the engine is warm when it is shut down, most of the moisture evaporates before the engine cools down.
Additionally, if you have a generator with a battery (electric start), by running it once in awhile you will keep the battery charged up.
Check The Oil Level
While some generators are designed to automatically shut off if the oil level runs low, there are many generators that will not. If the oil runs out, you will destroy your generator engine.
This is easily prevented by habitually checking the oil level! Simple – but many people don’t think of it…