If you're like most folks, you probably didn't study every detail in your generator owner's manual. We get it; it's more important to get your lights back on than it is to read about proper maintenance intervals during an emergency.
However, when storm-induced power outages last weeks and not days, running your generator around the clock will put a tremendous toll on the machine. That's why it's important to consistently maintain your generator so it starts quickly and works efficiently for as long as you need it to while surviving an emergency.
During extreme weather or temperature conditions, the regular maintenance schedule in your owner's manual will be accelerated from annually to hourly. By taking good care of your generator, you can ensure that it will take care of you when you need it most.
A lot of folks will think they bought a "lemon" when their generator seizes up after a few days of continuous running. Usually, the problem is just the result of low or no oil. To prevent damage to the engine, many generators have a low-oil shutdown feature. At the first sign of a misbehaving generator, check the oil first.
Unlike the liquid-cooled engines used in your car, most generator engines (20kW and less) are air-cooled and will burn through oil much more rapidly in extreme conditions.
If you're running your emergency generator daily over an extended period, we recommend topping off the oil whenever you refuel and doing a full oil change before every 100 hours of use. Just make sure you let the unit cool down before servicing.
Refer to your owner's manual for accurate information on proper oil maintenance for your generator. The manufacturer will list the type of generator oil you need and the proper procedure guidelines to follow.
Viscosity refers to the thickness of an oil at a particular temperature. Generally, running your generator in extremely cold temperatures will require a lower-viscosity oil to make sure it will start. In contrast, you should use higher-viscosity oil in extremely hot temperatures.
Below is an example chart from a manufacturer's owner's manual. Refer to your manual to find the recommended oil to use.
Though it is recommended to replace your air filter, to clean your current air filter, wash in soapy water and dry gently in a clean cloth. Use caution, or else you might tear the filter and render it useless.
Check your spark plug after continued generator use as stated in the owner's manual. In extreme conditions, you may want to check it more often. Inspect the spark plug by taking it out after the engine has cooled. This will also give the engine a break after heavy-duty running.
If it's dirty, clean it by lightly agitating with a wire brush, then check the gap, and replace it using a torque wrench.
Note: overtightening a spark plug can strip the threads, or break the porcelain insulator and cause irreversible damage to the engine.
If your home is equipped with a home standby generator, you know how convenient they can be. However, they have a few additional maintenance steps that will ensure it runs at peak-performance for years to come.
Changing the Oil Filter
These larger generators will have an oil filter that needs to be replaced on a regular maintenance schedule. During emergencies, we recommend changing the oil filter at least once during an extended power outage. Refer to your manual for the manufacturer's recommendations.
Generator Maintenance Kits
As a convenience, pre-assembled maintenance kits can be purchased on our site that includes everything you need to properly maintain your standby generator. Regular maintenance will make emergency conditions much easier to handle.
Did you know that there are cold weather kits made specifically to ensure that your home standby starts like it should during extremely cold weather? They include battery warmers and even oil heaters that give the engine the support it needs to fire up easily.
You can never be overprepared for bad weather, especially when you live in climates with fluctuating or extreme temperatures. They say that "the best offense is a good defense," and that concept holds true with generators too. Reading up on more information will help prepare you for an emergency before it occurs.