Common Generator Problems
An industrial generator is an expensive piece of equipment, and you want to maximize that investment. If you care for it well, your generator can last you for many years. However, like all types of equipment, they can begin to wear down over time. Here are some of the most common generator problems:
A generator may at times experience fuel, coolant, or oil leaks, but the good news is that these can usually be prevented by performing regular maintenance checks. With a periodic inspection of your unit, you’ll be able to notice these issues, and many others, before they have a chance to progress.
Most commonly, fuel leaks occur when the base tank has been overfilled. This can happen when the fuel’s pump system malfunctions, or it could simply just be human error. It’s best to have a qualified maintenance professional refuel your generator to ensure it’s done properly.
Block heater hoses are usually where you can find your coolant leaks. These hoses can become worn out faster than others because they are subject to the high temperatures that are generated by the block heater.
Much of the time, oil leaks aren’t actually leaking oil—they are often the result of “wet stacking,” also commonly known as engine slobber. The exhaust system can accrue unburned fuel, carbon particles, condensed water, lubrication oil, and acids. Often, this buildup is what causes the engine slobber that appears like an oil leak.
Depending on your unit, the generator may give off an alarm or just shut down altogether when the coolant is low and coolant temperatures begin to rise. If you find yourself adding coolant frequently, you should inspect the generator for leaks.
Low coolant may eventually lead to your engine overheating, which can result in the damage of other components that you would need to repair or replace altogether. Overheating can ruin the alternator, rotor, bearings, head gasket, exhaust valves, and more. At that point, you might find it more expensive to repair all those parts than it would be to just purchase a new generator.
One of the most common reasons a generator won’t turn on is when it’s simply run out of fuel. If your unit fails to start, fuel should be the first thing you check for. If you’re finding yourself going through more fuel than usual, you could also have a leak and should have it repaired immediately.
However, if your system unexpectantly runs out of fuel when the level gauges show there’s plenty, it could be that your gauges have malfunctioned. The gauge could be stuck in its position, indicating there’s enough fuel when your generator is actually near empty.
If you have plenty of fuel but your generator still won’t start, it could be due to a number of issues. There could be air in the fuel system, a leak in the line, or an issue with the check valves. It’s a good idea to have a technician perform an inspection to determine the cause of the generator failure.
Fuel Leaking Into the Tank
This is something else that might cause your generator not to start, especially if it is a newer generator that isn’t being used regularly. Today’s strict emissions regulations can make the fuel systems of modern generators more vulnerable to air. Air in the system will cause the generator to fail. If you have an older generator that experiences this issue, the check valves may have malfunctioned, or there could be a leak in a line. You should have a professional inspection performed to be sure.
The standard generator battery will last for several years before needing a replacement. However, routine maintenance can help extend the life of your battery, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Most generators will have a control panel that you can use to adjust its settings. The control panel will display critical generator information, such as oil pressure, coolant temperature, battery voltage, and more. Many of the service calls about control panels turn out to be human error—the operator failed to switch on the automatic controls. However, if it’s another control panel issue, a skilled technician will be able to fix it for you fast.
Block Heater Wear
The block heater is what warms the coolant so that it can easily flow through the engine block. It keeps the engine block heated, which in turn prevents the oil from thickening. Block heaters are useful in minimizing wear and tear on the generator since they allow for more stable temperatures for the cooling system. Since block heaters run constantly, they will eventually fail to perform, and you’ll need to get a replacement part installed.
Maintenance Is Key
The best way to ensure your generator will operate reliably is by keeping it maintained. Maintenance should be done on a regular schedule. Your manufacturer might recommend this to be performed after so many hours of service, but there are some instances when maintenance should be completed more often.
If you notice your unit isn’t performing as well as it should, it could need simple maintenance tasks such as an oil or filter change. Over time, dirt will build up in filters, which also impacts your air quality and makes your system have to work harder than normal to do the same amount of work. Filters should be cleaned at least every month and changed at every maintenance check.
Routine maintenance should also include the testing of your system. You should power the generator on and allow it to run for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure the battery is charged and ready should you experience an outage. The last thing you’ll want to be worried about during a power failure is having a generator that won’t start.
Major generator problems are best left to the professionals. Valley Power Systems can help you with all of your generator needs in California. Contact us today to speak to a member of our team, or read our last blog post for the pros and cons of diesel generators.