Portable Generator Problems and Troubleshooting Tips

Updated On: August 12, 2020

To begin with, people become stressed as soon as blackouts occur, and on top of that, when your generator, the only equipment which helps you get back some of the sanity stops working, the mental stress that accumulates can be too much to handle. Keep your sanity in check by regularly taking care of your generator. However, even if you are careful and take care of your generator relatively well, generator problems will happen inevitably. Generators are machines not used daily and are required to be in working conditions as soon as we need them. Most disasters come without any notice, and in the circumstance that your generator starts acting up, you need to have the proper preparation. This is why you should educate yourself with the knowledge of basic generator troubleshooting.

We will soon start discussing the methods as well as the process that you will utilize when you go about fixing your generator in times it starts acting upon you. Note that we will cover Basic to Semi-Advanced troubleshooting procedures only. The rest of the advanced procedures will be left for the professionals because things can get dangerous very quickly when you are an amateur trying to do the job of a veteran with years of experience.

You should start with the manual that comes with the generator as it holds crucial information that you might not know. Create a checklist if you tend to forget pressing matters during stressful situations. Many times, the defect seems to be a minor one concerning things like insufficient gas, unengaged choke, or other generator basics like fuel valve being on/off. Just ensure you do not forget the essentials and elementary issues before getting concerned about the more advanced problems.

The Initial Checklist

Checking the Fuel and the Spark Plug

Sometimes, a false indication can set you off, like the fuel level’s false indication on your generator. The fuel tank might very well be empty while indicating that you have a full tank of gas. Sometimes, this happens when your generator’s fuel gauge gets stuck, and some generators will refuse to even start with an empty stomach. This is why it’s essential to check the fuel tank’s level functionality from time to time. You can put fuel in the tank to check for the functionality of the level indicator. Be aware that water in the tank is never a good idea, and this is why you don’t want to open the container when the environment is too humid. Water can accumulate inside the tank and ruin the fuel quality, clogging the fuel’s filters that limit engine fuel flow. It also helps to know that water tends to damage engines, so always look for the usual signs like discoloration of the fuel and unusual odor. That said, the problem can also be with spark plugs, and this is why you need to check for tears or any wear in the socket. Also, check if there is any buildup of carbon on the electrode or crack on the porcelain insulator, you should quickly change the plug. A sparkle plug analyzer is exceptionally valuable in assisting with demonstrating if the attachment is faulty or not. When the motor wrenches, a reliable flash normally comes up between the terminals of the analyzer. The absence of such a sparkle naturally indicates that you have to supplant the imperfect fitting with a newer one.

The Battery

You should know that when a battery is drained, it gathers lead sulfate on the plates, particularly when it’s not fully charged. If it’s a case that you recharge and open the battery very frequently, it can encourage the issue. You will undoubtedly find that the battery doesn’t last long even after it’s fully charged. When a crisis occurs, your generator might not even have the power to start. It may likewise be important to supplant the battery if it is over three years of age or has been left unused for quite a while. It’s conceivable to startup a battery through fixing or tightening some of the connections. The generator might start working just by fixing some connections, along with doing some careful cleaning. Commonly, a generator will lose power because of messy loosed-up links. This heavily obstructs electric flow. See if you can act ahead of schedule by supplanting the battery before the due date. You may find that the generator isn’t giving adequate force if the force isn’t as high as its propulsive force. Forward force alludes to the motor limit. Battery failure is typically an indication of an electrical wiring issue that requires being fixed by a professional.

Abstain from attempting to do this without an expert’s help as you can harm the machine or worse, expose yourself to serious danger. Check the oil Level If you have a gas generator. You have to regularly screen the oil levels. Obviously, to work well, your generator needs a specific measure of oil. Guarantee your machine consistently has the necessary amount of oil. Remember to include new oil frequently while, simultaneously, disposing of utilized oil. Be aware of your fuel level indicator. Is it working fine? For any generator to perform at an optimum level, a specific level of fuel has to be present. The quality of the fuel also determines how efficiently your generator will perform its tasks along with that, clean, high-quality oil ensures that your generator lasts long, void of easy clogging and other issues caused by cheaper fuel.

The Air Filter

It’s imperative to know how your generator really works. The machine consistently expects wind stream to run. You have to realize that a stopped-up air channel meddles with the whole procedure. Along these lines, guarantee the air channel is never clogged. In the event that it needs some cleaning, feel free to clean it. On the off chance you find that the channel is exhausted, it’s an ideal opportunity to change it. Normally, it’s prudent to have an extra channel around.

Generator Not Starting At All

In this case, first perform the to-do-list. You have to start by using the manual.

Proceed by checking the level of the gas, see if the indicator is faulty, and determine if the choke is or isn’t engaged while also having the valve on.

Fuel Filter and Fuel line

If everything mentioned above does not fix the persisting issue, start with checking-up on the fuel line and make sure no cracks, leaks, clogs, or pinches are present. Sometimes, you will have to change the line, and there will be no other sensible alternatives. You may find a temporary solution but rarely, if ever you will be able to repair the damage of the line. It’s therefore good to keep a spare line and keep in aside whenever you might need it in the difficult times when the push comes to shove. If your generator has trouble passing the fuel through the line, then the best way to figure it out would be to remove the fuel line from the carburetor or where it is attached to and check if fuel can go through the line or not. If the problem is fuel transportation through the line, you probably need a new one. Often problems like these are caused by cheap oil clogging the carburetor and solving this is pretty simple. Clean it using carb cleaners. 

 It’s like a spray that you have to spray into the orifices, and it will jet out even though carburetors are sensitive components of the engine; in rare circumstances, a replacement is necessary. In any case, as you are cleaning it, don’t scratch it and note where each screw goes. Not losing the screws is rudimental as usual.

The Start Switch

Start with an inspection of the spark plug. Make sure it’s fine and places, where the carbon buildup is heavy, can easily be damaged and changing it spark plug becomes compulsory in such case. While you are inspecting the start switch, also check the porcelain insulator. If it’s cracked, then changing it is the best route. Using spark testers can be helpful in determining if a defect is present or not.

Ignition Coil

If there is anything wrong with the ignition coil, then your generator won’t run. It ensures that the voltage is sent to the spark plug when your generator is running. Before thinking of replacing the ignition coil, you need to address the spark plug. Make sure the spark plug is in mind condition before you think about the ignition coil. Once you are done with the spark plug, move to the coil and use a tester to assess the coil. Given there’s an issue with the coil, replace it.


The flywheel is a little segment in the motor that attempts to reestablish force from combustion. It helps turn the crankshaft between the power strokes of the engine. It likewise cools the engine by affecting air conveyance. In checking the flywheel, see if splits exist in the driving rod or broken FINS. On the off chance that they’re harmed, supplant them. Guarantee the keyway is also not damaged.

Generator Has Low Output

Everything running perfectly, but the generator itself producing low output?

Such troubles are usually results of long idle periods. If your generator was collecting dust for months, then chances are it will produce low output and less to no voltage. If your generator was connected to an active power outlet, then it can lose its residual magnetism. The smaller ones have coil-sets instead of magnets. One stays still while the other spins, and when the generator is powered on, it might not produce power due to the absence of the magnetic field. Typically, a subtle area of magnetic energy remains from the last time the generator was running. It helps a bit by powering the magnetic field beforehand. It results in higher power yield, and the cycle goes on. After a while, the generator is able to produce the power it is rated for. 

Blown fuse can also be a culprit, so can a voltage regulator, coil-break, or bad brushes. Commonly however, the culprit seems to be the absence of residual magnetism. 

Without broadly expounding, how might you fix this? One technique is looking at the place where your generator’s voltage controller is situated. Disconnect the twin wires associating with the brushes. Then connect the cable to your generator’s ground battery terminal. Plug-in light at that point turn your generator’s breaker or switch. At last, turn over the engine. Associate the battery’s red link to the red wire for only three seconds. Expel the wires and afterward supplant the plug. In normal circumstances, see that your generator is outputting power.

Generator Runs But Fails After a Short Period

To clarify why the generator may begin yet decline to continue running, we have to look at different culprits. For one, the carburetor might be jammed. There might be old fuel sneaking in the foal bowl, and if old fuel was left in the motor for long, you might have a situation where volatile elements simply vanish, leaving behind some clingy substance. The clingy fuel, for the most part, jams the little ports and streams situated in the carburetor. The outcome is the failure of the motor to keep running its course. To settle this, rain out the fuel from the drift bowl. Afterward, clean the carburetor carefully and be thorough. On the off chance that this solution fails you. Replace the carburetor.

Another factor that may prevent the motor from running is a low degree of fuel in the tank. Furthermore, the fuel cap may be blocked, keeping air from entering the tank. In the end, a fume lock or vacuum may occur. At the point, the fuel stream to the carburetor stops, making the motor slow down. To solve this, once more, attempt to loosen up the fuel cap. Restart the motor. If you see the engine start, then the problem is the clogged fuel cap and needs a replacement.  

Battery Keeps Dying

You may face circumstances where the battery of your generator keeps dying after a couple of days. You change the battery and buy a new one, and the same cycle repeats itself. The battery doesn’t last its due date and starts to lose power faster. In the event that you face such an issue, have a glance at the voltage regulator. The voltage regulator ensures that a sufficient amount of voltage is transferred to the battery from the alternator. When everything is working as intended, the charging system of the battery functions normally, and if the defect is in the voltage regulator, then a battery failure is inevitable. Changing the regulator is the best course of action. 

Gas Leaks

Probably the issue is the carburetor gasket. In some cases, the carburetor gasket might not even be present, which will cause problems such as gas leaking from the generator. If the carburetor gasket is dried out, you will face similar issues. If the leak is in the bottom part of the generator, then it increases the probability that your carburetor is faulty.


It can be extremely disappointing when your generator neglects to start during a forced blackout. To evade disappointment, you can take ordinary preventive procedures in support of the equipment. In this regard, a manual comes in handy. For best outcomes, guarantee you follow the upkeep plan as presented in the manual. Aside from this, consistently checkup on your generator every now and then. Run it from time to time. This ensures that the generator is appropriately functioning.

Think about this: An abrupt force blackout happens, and you rapidly scramble for your generator. You start the machine and it comes up short. What amount of time do you have now to make sense of why the device has failed? Don’t simply permit your generator to assemble dust, unused for significant stretches can cause generator problems later. Check the oil levels frequently. Notice the sparkle attachments and oil channels. Ensure your generator is solid and steady for crisis-use by consistent consideration of its key functionalities. On the off chance that the generator is not utilized for quite a long time because no need emerges, guarantee that the tank is kept dry or utilize a fuel stabilizer.

About Steven Smith

For the last 20 years, I have been working as a professional contractor in many construction projects. From my childhood, I love to work with different kinds of power tools. In my spare time, I love to do a different kind of DIY project. It gives me a kind of inner satisfaction.

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