While diesel generators makes up the majority of generators sold today, homes and small/medium-sized businesses will buy gas-powered generators as insurance that if there is an interruption in the utility-supplied power, electricity continues to flow, at least to essential places, supplied by the generator.
Your generator needs certain things to occur so its protective value remains in force. Performing certain tasks throughout the year will keep the juice flowing when you need it most.
The Cause of Generator Fuel System and Engine Problems
Folks who buy generators generally are not experts on gasoline-fired motors. Often the generator acquisition occurs after a severe weather event of other power supply problem that left the purchaser without electricity for a long period of time.
Here are some causes related to fuel and engine problems that may sideline your gas-powered generator:
Delay in First Startup
Unfortunately, some people think that leaving the generator in its original shipping container, usually unopened, is a good idea. It is a terrible idea!
Improper Break-In Period
Generators, like older car models need a break-in period to deliver top performance. But, if you run your generator for the first time and the power fails to supply power to the house, the break-in period might be too short. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual for the correct way to break your generator in. In general, the correct procedure is to run your generator at half capacity for two hours, then at 75 percent capacity for two hours. Following the first four hours of up time, allow the generator to cool down.
Stale Gas and Ethanol Problems
Stale gas is the single greatest cause of generator failure. Gasoline generators with large gas tanks are especially problematic. Owners fill the tanks, run for the time of an emergency and then, two hours later, turns the generator off with half a tank of gas. If they’ve filled the tank with E10 or another ethanol-gas blend, this leaves them with the potential for fuel problems that may sideline their generator when they need it most in the future.
When you need to run the generator a year later, it may not start due to bad gas.
Measures to Insure Reliable Generator Operation
- Without question, unpack, inspect, and break-in your new generator when you first buy it. If there is no immediate need for it after break-in, only fill it with enough fuel to run for the break-in period.
- Should your inspection or break-in run show any problems, contact the manufacturer for warranty service immediately.
- Run your generator monthly to test and exercise it.
- Clearly, generator engine manufacturers, commercial building owners, and those knowledgeable about gasoline engines know that using the proper generator fuel treatment in your generator’s fuel tank will help keep it in prime operating condition.
What Generator Fuel Treatments Should Do
Unlike in the past, after a time span of only three months, fresh gasoline can turn stale, even under the best storage conditions. Because of modern refining processes, gasoline today does not have the storage quality it used to. Add in some ethanol and you’ve got a much shorter shelf life than before.
A short fuel shelf life of 90 days or less is calamitous when you need to run your backup generator when the power is out due to a storm or power grid failure. Fortunately, shelf life extends by a factor of two, though some manufacturers claim their products keep gas fresh for up to one year, with a fuel additive.
When ethanol gas is left in storage, it can develop water contamination through condensation. There is also the danger of microbial contamination that can quickly clog fuel filters and begin the corrosive process in all parts of a fuel system.
A high quality ethanol fuel treatment will prevent fuel phase separation and water contamination caused by ethanol.
In addition, the fuel treatment should:
- Protects elastomers, seals and fuel system parts from ethanol solvency damage
- Clean the entire fuel system
- Provide complete corrosion protection
- Extend the shelf life of gas – keep it fresh longer
- Read the owner’s manual for your generator and unpack, inspect and break in the generator when you first get it.
- Report any problems to the manufacturer for warranty service
- Test generator periodically
- Use a quality fuel additive to protect your engine and fuel system.
This post was published on January 10, 2014 and was updated on April 15, 2021.