If your standby generator is not operating as it should, something may be wrong. Just as we would check our cars when we sense a problem, it is best to inspect your generator when you spot a sign of malfunction. Small problems easily grow into bigger and more expensive cases if you do not take care of them on time.
Signs That Your Generator Needs Attention
Here are signs to know when your unit needs attention:
1. You Can See a Visible Damage
This may be obvious, but some people usually ignore the sign, thinking it would go away. What they do not know is that neglecting visible damage on the generator will not make the problem vanish overnight. The first thing to check for is any wire that is frayed, loose, or worn.
Another common problem is a ripped pull cord. In this case, you can either replace the cord by yourself or call a professional to assist you. You can watch this video to learn how to repair a broken cord.
Visible damage may also occur on the exterior of an automatic generator due to hurricane damage or mischievous outdoor pests. You can inspect your unit for chewed wires, dents, corrosion, or any other visible imperfection every 6 months, or very often.
2. You Have Not Used the Unit in the Last 6 Months
If you have a portable generator, running it frequently helps to keep the battery of the electric starter charged and fresh. This also applies to automatic units. It ensures that everything is intact when you really need to use the unit.
Businesses and homeowners usually discover that their units are faulty after leaving them idle for a long time. Sometimes, it takes quick maintenance to resolve the problem. Other times, there may be extensive and costly damage, especially if sludge accumulates in the lines or there is corrosion due to the inactivity.
3. It Gives Off a Strange Noise or Smell
If your unit emits a strange smell, then something is wrong. There may be a gas leak, which is a sign of a fire hazard. It is also a concern for the health safety of the homeowner or business owner.
In the same vein, bizarre sounds such as rattling, squeaking, and humming are unusual noises that a generator may make. This may be due to some factors like low fuel and an overworked unit. It may be difficult to diagnose except you seek help from a professional.
4. There is Inconsistent Power
In this case, the unit is supplying power, but it is not consistent. It turns on and turns off at will. This problem is due to internal damage. Also, flickering lights show that you do not have the correct wattage generator to meet your electric needs. You can check https://www.consumerreports.org/generators/how-to-choose-the-right-size-generator/ to know the wattage your business or home requires.
5. There is Delay During Start-Up
If your unit does not start immediately or hesitates when you fire it up, there may be internal problems. It could mean that the unit is using old or bad fuel, the fuel filter is due for replacement, or there is sludge in the lines or tank.
The unit may eventually start after the third try, but such issues should not be ignored. The next time you try to start it, it may not turn on at all.
6. The Unit is Running, But It Is Not Supplying Power
This is quite tricky because the problem may be with your unit or your breakers. Here, you should get a trusted electrician to test the electric panel. They will determine if the problem is from there or from your generator.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
This advice may not help an already failing generator, but it is still correct. Carrying out routine maintenance helps to identify potential issues before they are severe. In addition to that, scheduling regular maintenance helps to extend the useful life of your unit, thereby, improving its efficiency and saving you some money over time.
Find a Licensed Generator Repair Service and Maintenance Professional
If you are a handy person, you may attempt servicing your unit by yourself. But just like other electrical repairs, this is dangerous. You may get hurt in the process, void the warranty, and cause more problems that will require a licensed generator repair service to resolve.
This also applies to hiring an uncertified and unlicensed technician or general handyman. You are at risk of more damage to the generator due to improper repairs, which may affect both of you immediately, and just you, later, when the repair fails.
Maintenance Checklist for Your Generator
The checklist below will guide you when working to maintain a generator. Ensure you remember the recommended frequency for the maintenance activities.
- Run your unit without load.
- Verify that it ran and did not display any alarm or warning.
- Ensure the fuel level is at maximum.
- If your unit is an automatic one, ensure that it is in the “Auto” mode.
- Make sure you close your circuit breaker.
- Check to be sure that there is no fluid leak.
- Check the coolant level of the engine.
- Check the level of the engine oil.
- Ensure that the battery’s charger is still functioning.
- Examine the enclosure.
- Check the specific gravity and electrolyte level of the battery.
- Check the battery connections and cables.
- Inspect the drive belts.
- Examine the coolant lines, heater, and connections.
- Check the lubrication system connectors and hoses to see if there is oil leak.
- Check the fuel system connectors and hoses to see if there is any fuel leak.
- Examine the exhaust pipe, exhaust system, and muffler.
- Inspect and clean the air cleaner unit.
- Inspect the air induction connections and piping.
- Check the DC system, accessories, and control panel.
- Check the AC accessories and wiring.
- Change the oil, oil filter, and air filter.
- Clean the breather in the crankcase.
- Change the spark plugs.
- Check the concentration of the coolant.
- If necessary, flush the cooling unit.
- Test the load bank.
- Test the fuel and recondition it (for diesel units).
- Extract water from the fuel tank (for diesel units).
Note that only certified technicians should perform the bi-annual and annual maintenance. You can also check this website to get maintenance tips for diesel generators.
Generator repair and maintenance are best left to certified and licensed professionals. If you notice any of the signs we discussed, ensure you seek professional help immediately.