How It Works: Portable Generator

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Generator won't start, runs unevenly, or won't stay running? This video provides information on how a portable generator works and offers troubleshooting tips to assist you in diagnosing and repair.

Here is a list of the most commonly replaced parts associated with each generator symptom:

Battery keeps draining: voltage regulator, alternator
Engine leaks gas: carburetor gasket, float bowl gasket, fuel tank, fuel line, carburetor, fuel shut-off
Engine won't start: spark plug, carburetor, ignition coil, recoil starter, start switch, safety switch, on-of switch, flywheel key
Generator stops after a few seconds: Fuel cap, carburetor
Engine runs poorly: Carburetor, carburetor repair kit, spark plug, fuel filter


All of the information provided in this generator troubleshooting video is applicable to the following brands: Briggs & Stratton, Carrier, Craftsman, Generac, Homelite, Honda, Ryobi
1Maintenance tips for your generator
Maintenance tips for your generator
Portable generators use gasoline to conveniently provide electrical power during sudden outages or for outdoor purposes such as running job-site tools or camping equipment. There are a few important maintenance and safety tips that will keep your generator operating optimally.
2Read the owner’s manual.
Read the owner’s manual.
For safety reasons, only operate the generator outdoors – far away from your home’s doors, windows and vents. Garages are not suitable. Generators produce carbon monoxide, a deadly, odorless, transparent gas, so there is great risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if there is not enough ventilation in the operating area.
3Make sure the air filter is clean.
Make sure the air filter is clean.
The air filter should be cleaned every 25 hours of use and replaced every 100 hours or every three months, if the generator is used frequently.
4Check oil.
Check oil.
Check the oil level every 8 hours of use and change the oil every 50 hours or once per season.
5Clean or replace the spark arrestor
Clean or replace the spark arrestor
Clean or replace the spark arrestor (located inside the muffler) every 25 hours or once per season.
6Add fuel only when the generator is turned off and has cooled.
Add fuel only when the generator is turned off and has cooled.
If fuel is splashed on a hot engine part, such as the muffler, it may ignite and start a fire.
7Drain fuel for storage
Drain fuel for storage
Drain the fuel if stored for extended periods (i.e. if your generator is only used in emergency situations) or add fuel stabilizer to fresh fuel if used more frequently. Fuel stabilizer will prevent buildup in the carburetor.
8Repair broken parts.
RepairClinic has replacement parts for portable generators including spark plugs, air filters, gaskets and many others. Enter your generator’s model number to find replacement parts.
9Generator Safety Tips
Portable generators should always be used properly to reduce the risk of starting a fire, damaging electrical equipment, or causing personal injury. Follow these helpful tips to ensure safe generator use: • Keep the generator clean and dry. In wet weather, cover the generator with a canopy. • Only operate a generator outdoors, far away from home windows, doors and vents. • Turn off the generator and let it cool before adding fuel. • Use a heavy-duty, outdoor extension cord to plug in appliances. • Do not overload the generator. Consult the owner’s manual for specifications. • Never touch any electrical wire, switch or plug on or near a generator when it is raining or snowing outside. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity; you can be injured or killed by an electrical shock if you touch one of these items when you are wet.

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