Why Won’t My Generator Start?

Why Won't My Generator Start?

So it was time for that favorite soap opera of yours (or was it the ten o’ clock news?) and as usual, the power was out! You had gone through the stress of searching for the generator keys, your slippers and torchlight … and just when you thought your generator will reward all your hardwork, BAM! Your generator set decides to disappoint! We have all been there, and the frustration is just as damning. So why won’t your generator start?

There are a number of possibilities that could combine in myriad of ways to dampen the spirit of your generator set, however, there are some frequent defaulters that deserve a mention. Here are a few common culprits behind why your generator would not start and their respective solutions.

1.) Low Oil Levels

Image result for low oil levels generator

The oil in your generator set is supposed to help lubricate the entire system, in other words, with low oil, the intra-machine movements become a problem. This may eventually lead to permanent engine damage that could send your generator to an early grave. Sad! But there can be a less traumatic end to your generator story, in which case, your engine shuts off after sensing low oil levels, to avoid damage. This is regulated by the ‘Low-Oil Shut off Sensor” but not all modern generators have this. So, tough luck!! You may ask, “How often should I replace the oil? Well, some experts recommend that if your generator is used daily, the oil should be ‘topped’ after every refuel and completely replaced after about 100 hours of use. In other words, if you use it everyday for about four hours, then replacing your oil every month would be ideal.

Quick fix : Taking note of the oil levels and replacing it promptly will always remain a good idea.

2.) Wrongly Placed Choke 

Image result for choke lever

The Choke or Choke lever is a generator component which controls the level of air and fuel passing through the Carburetor. Generally, generators  start with the choke lever in ‘full choke position’ but cannot continue unless the lever is adjusted to the ‘half choke’ and then ‘run’ position. Thus, not being mindful of these changes in position would prevent your generator from coming on and may end up damaging it overtime.

It takes only a few minutes to learn where to appropriately place the choke lever, either during cold start, hot start or what i’d like to call, ‘warm start’. So here it  goes:

During Cold Start (The Engine had completely cooled off or has not been ‘on’ at all):

  • Push the choke to the left (its usually on the left). Half way should be enough, if it doesn’t come on, then you can push all the way.
  • Flick the ‘On’ switch or pull the ‘Starter rope’ to start the generator.
  • Push the choke lever back to the right.

During Hot Start (The Engine is still emitting heat (perhaps you turned it off a few moments ago)

  • Leave the lever in its position (usually on the left)
  • Flick the ‘On’ switch or pull the ‘Starter rope’ to start the generator.
  • It should be on by now….

3.) Faulty Spark Plugs

Image result for faulty spark plug

Just as the name goes, spark plugs provide the ‘spark’ necessary to ignite the combustion that kick-starts a generator set. This often requires a clean/shiny spark plug ‘end’. A spark plug covered in soot (looks blackened) will often not provide the needed spark and thus, removing the layer of soot may just cause your generator set to roar to life. Sometimes, its just best to change the spark plug altogether. However, in few cases, the generator develops an electrical fault that prevents it from supplying the charge required by the spark plug in order to initiate a spark. So be sure its a faulty spark plug you’ve got there before proceeding with a solution.

Quick fix: If its a faulty spark plug, your best bet is to get another one. its often quite cheap to get a replacement.

4.) Dirty Air Filter

Image result for Dirty generator Air Filter

Air filters help to prevent the entry of fine particles as well as regulate the amount of air going into the combustion chamber of the engine. If the filter is clogged out and hence ‘dirty’, it prevents the inflow of adequate air which messes up the air to fuel ratio critical to keeping your generator running. The result? Your generator hands you a red card! And don’t think of taking out the filter because you’re just not into cleaning stuff, take it from me, its just as bad an idea!

Quick preventive fix: Clean your air filters regularly.

5.) Clogged Carburetor

Image result for Clogged Carburetor generator

Carburetors as explained earlier help to combine air and fuel in the right proportions for combustion to take place. Clogged carburetors are just bad news because it takes time to thoroughly clean and can be easily damaged especially when handled by an amateur. Your best bet, is to get a specialist work it up for you, but if you think you are up to the task, then take extra caution to not manhandle it as well as ensure the carburetor is coupled in the exact way it was before probing. Otherwise, your carburetor will be dying by your hands.

Quick fix: No quick fix available. But it is very redeemable.

There you go, a few tricks to help understand why your generator set is ‘misbehaving’. Do you have more quick tips and fixes that could benefit others? Do let us know in the comment section. Cheers!

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AbdulQudus Agbaje is a progressive who takes particular interest in seeing the world be a better place. He takes passion in digital marketing, marketing psychology, biowaste utilization, public speaking and writing.