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Last Updated on February 7, 2024
Generators are an increasingly popular way to have a back-up fuel source. This is ideal if you live in an area with regular power outages, so you can keep your food fresh, lights on, and appliances charged. They can also be a great alternative power source if you want to go tailgating with your buddies, or if you need to power your tools out in your shed.
But what you don’t need is for the generator to break down just when you need it most. You need your generator to be reliable. You don’t want the storm to hit and for you to go to power the lights, only to find out that it’s not working.
Or for you to be the one who agrees to bring the generator to the tailgating, and then to be the one who lets everyone down. So what do you do if the generator starts and then stops again after a few seconds? Well, there are quite a few things that it could be, but luckily for you, most of them are pretty easy to solve.
In fact, most of them are even easier to prevent with just a little tlc. So take a look through this guide, and not only will you find out how to fix the problems, but you’ll also learn how to make sure that the problem never happens in the first place.
Generator Runs for a Few Minutes Then Stops – Possible Reasons & Solutions
Without a doubt, the most common reason for a generator to start up for a few seconds and then stop is overloading. This happens when you have too many appliances attached to the generator and it is struggling to deal with it. In the past, the generators were a lot simpler than they are now.
That meant that when you used to overload, the generators would continue, but each of your appliances would be underpowered. Now though, things have changed. Instead of supplying less power, the generator switches off entirely.
This is a good safety feature, as it keeps both your generator and your appliances in far better condition. It also means that there is a really simple solution- unplug some appliances. When you restart it, you can be a bit more careful about what the generator can handle.
If you hear the sound of the generator getting heavier, you’ll be able to tell that it is starting to overload, and you should be able to avoid it happening again.
2. The carburetor
The carburetor is the part of the generator that lets the air and fuel into the engine, and mixes them for the correct air to fuel ratio in order to allow the combustion to take place. The problem is that sometimes the carburetor gets clogged. The main cause of the carburetor getting clogged is leaving old fuel in the engine for a long time.
This is particularly common if you were using it one summer and then left it until the following year. When the old fuel is left in there, it tends to turn a lot thicker and stickier, which in turn can clog up the jets and ports in the carburetor. This again has a reasonably simple solution, which is that you have to empty the old fuel and wash out the carburetor.
But be warned, it’s best to deal with this in advance by keeping your carburetor clean and regularly emptying out the oil. Sometimes the damage done by the old oil is too much and it will leave you with having to replace the entire carburetor.
3. Low fuel
We have no doubt that when you’re driving, you keep an eye on the fuel gauge and make sure to regularly re-fill the tank, particularly if you are going on a long drive. And that’s what you need to do with your generator too.
You might have enough fuel to start the engine, but then once it’s going it turns out you don’t have any more fuel left in the tank. A lot of the more modern generators will have some sort of fuel gauge, and often a fuel indicator, so it should be reasonably easy to stay on top of this one, but we understand that sometimes a task can be on a to-do list for a long time without being completed.
4. Fuel pipes
It’s not just a shortage of fuel that can cause issues for your generator. One of the reasons why your generator might start and run for a few seconds but then stop could be to do with the fuel in the pipes or the tank.
The pipes can end up bending, or they can get damaged, including having leaks, which can all cause issues. Leaks are probably one of the easiest to spot, as you will be able to see petrol or diesel marks left behind when you move the generator, or even on the pipes themselves.
It is also pretty common for dust to accumulate in the tank or pipes, which obviously causes quite a lot of problems for the fuel-flow. Or your generator could also be struggling with the pressure getting locked in the fuel tank, which can again cause your generator to stall.
This last problem is fairly easy to fix, as you just need to make sure that you release the pressure. It is something that you should check on periodically, to keep your generator healthy. Equally, for the tank and pipes, you just need to keep them clean, which includes actively cleaning them regularly. Plus, remember to check the pipes for any damage or leaks.
5. Oil level
Again we are going to draw your attention to an issue that generators share with cars; the oil level. It’s something to keep an eye on with a car, and the same goes for generators. You need to make sure that the oil level is neither too high nor too low.
When the oil level is too high, it turns the sensors crazy so they shut down. This is particularly the case with the modern generators. But it is the low levels of oil that is more dangerous. When the oil level is too low, it means that the temperature rises too quickly.
It starts up fine because it isn’t running yet, but once it starts to be working, it gets hotter and the low oil level exacerbates that, making it shut-down. Most generators have an auto shut-down feature built into them, to make sure that the generator doesn’t go up in flames, so you shouldn’t have any major issues. But it’s worth keeping an eye on the oil level all the same.
6. Water level
In a similar vein to the oil level, you also need to make sure that the water level is right. The water is in the radiator and again, if the water level is too low, if it is lacking water, the temperature will rise too much. It’s important that you keep the radiator water filled, and that you check it on a monthly basis.
If you don’t, and if the generator overheats, it can cause problems for various parts of the generator, including the engine, and it can cause the generator to break down. If you want to be extra careful, you could also consider using a bit of coolant in the radiator as well.
7. Engine fault
Okay, so our last suggestion of why your generator might have stopped working, and probably the one that you are dreading, is that there is an internal fault in the engine. If this is the case, you are probably best to speak with a professional who could diagnose what the problem actually is with the engine.
Similarly, if there is an electrical issue with the wiring or the circuits, it is probably best for you to get a professional electrician to check on them, rather than for you to go sticking your fingers around electrical wires, unless you know what you’re doing.
There are a few other reasons for why your generator might run for a few seconds and then turn off. It could be something simple like the battery not being charged, or the choke still being on, or there could be an issue with the spark plug which could cause your generator to shut down.
You could also check that there are no blockages in the exhaust system or air filter. But by now you’ve probably guessed that the main way to deal with any of these problems is to take a proper look, to make sure that there are no obvious blockages or issues.
And the other, and easiest way to make sure that your generator doesn’t encounter issues is to keep your generator clean. Make sure to clean it regularly, empty and change the oil fuel regularly, check on the water and oil levels, and just generally treat your generator with respect.
If you keep it healthy, you should be able to avoid any serious issues, so you can keep using it whenever you need.