You’re out in the middle of nowhere looking up at the stars. It’s the best place to be as you have no one and nothing around to get in the way of your view! But being out in the middle of nowhere also means no hookups. You will need to depend on your generator for a lot of the daily functions of your RV. Your generator is a machine just like the engine of your vehicle or motorhome. There’s a lot that goes on inside this little motor that you depend on so you want to keep it in tip-top shape. RV generator maintenance is an integral part of ensuring that your generator is running to the best of its abilities.
The Fuel System
Fuel is what makes the generator run, and if the fuel system isn’t clean and running properly, your generator will suffer. Take care of the following components of the fuel system:
In order for the fuel system to run properly, it needs to mix air with the fuel so the combustion rate is correct. This is where the air filter comes into play. If your filter and the surrounding areas are too dirty, it won’t be able to pull in enough air. This will give a richer combustion rate, which then leaves behind residue, uses too much gas, and can cause permanent damage. Check your air filter every time you use it and make sure that it’s cleaned off. Some can be washed, some can be blown out with an air compressor, and some are disposable and need to be replaced. Check your manual to find out which one you have and keep it as clean as you can.
Your generator has a fuel filter in it to keep any impurities out of the engine that may be in the fuel. Gas can sometimes pick up dirt and rust particles from the tank it’s stored in and these can cause serious problems if they end up in the engine. Regularly changing the fuel filter will ensure that the gas flow to the engine isn’t restricted, and also make sure that nothing is going to dislodge from a full filter and make its way through anyway. Check your generator’s manual to see how often you should change it. Some require changing it every 500 hours of use. If your generator starts to sputter and cough, check the fuel filter as it could be plugged.
The spark plugs ignite the fuel once it has made it through the filter and mixed with the air. The plugs need a few things in order to get the proper spark to ignite the fuel. The first is that they need to have the proper gap between the center electrode and the ground electrode. If the gap is too big the spark will not be able to jump from one to the other. If it’s too small, the spark won’t be big enough to light the fuel. You can get inexpensive tools at any automotive store to check the gap. The size of the gap will change as you use it, so keep an eye on them. Spark plugs also need to be cleaned. Build-up can occur on the end of spark plugs which inhibits the connection (especially if your gap is off), and they are unable to make the spark. If they’re dirty but not old, you can have them sandblasted and then just re-gap them. If they’re worn down, then you want to replace them, otherwise your generator may begin to miss on some cylinders and will not perform properly.
If you’re going to store your RV, then you will want to add some fuel stabilizer to your fuel system. If fuel sits for a while, it can begin to rot. If this happens, you would have to drain it out and clean the system before you can use your RV again. Adding a fuel stabilizer will help keep the fuel in it fresh for up to 24 months (depending on the brand of stabilizer).
The oil in your generator keeps the interior moving parts lubricated and cool. Just as in any engine, it gets old, dirty, and starts to break down after a while. So along with your filter, you'll want to change the oil as well. First, make sure that you have the proper oil. Generally, if it’s going to be operating at above 40°F, you want SAE30. If you’re running it at lower temps (10-40°F), then you want 10W-30. Anything below 10°F, you want 5W-30. This is because heat will thin the oil, so higher temps require thicker oil and lower temps require thinner oil. To get started, you simply drain the old oil from the drain plug into a safe container. Never dump it on the ground or put it in an unapproved container. After you’re done with the oil change, take the old oil to the automotive store so they can dispose of it properly. Once it’s drained, replace the drain plug and change the oil filter. Make sure the plug is on nice and tight. Now you can pour the new oil in. Make sure you know how much oil your generator takes. Too much can cause a lot of pressure and it can blow gaskets, while not enough could cause your engine to not work properly and possibly seize up.
The easiest thing you can do to keep your generator in good shape is clean the outside of it. Dirt and exhaust can build up on the outside and cause it to run hot. Removing that layer of grime allows the heat to escape and the generator to run at a lower temperature, avoiding overheating. Wiping it down every time you use it will help keep the exterior build-up from happening.
Before you start your generator, look at the position of the exhaust. The exhaust is going to expel carbon monoxide, which is poisonous. You want to ensure that the exhaust isn’t going to vent into the RV where you will be breathing it in. If you begin to feel nauseous, weak, have blurred vision, a headache, shortness of breath, are confused, or if anyone loses consciousness while the generator is running, you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning. Turn off the generator immediately and seek medical attention right away.
Once you get your generator started, let it run for a moment and then check for leaks. This includes fuel, oil, and exhaust coming from places it shouldn't be. Do not run the generator if you are experiencing leaks from any of these areas. Check your hour meter each time you turn it off so you know how close you are to your next routine maintenance check. Lastly, if you’re not using your generator often but it’s not in storage, make sure to run it occasionally. This helps to get the fluids and oil moving through it and keep it from seizing up.
Your RV's generator will be your best friend as long as you take care of it with regular generator maintenance. Remember, always check the manufacturer's specifications before you perform any maintenance on it. If you aren't comfortable completing this maintenance on your own, you can take it to a service center that will do it for you.