It’s usually the coldest, most brutal conditions that will take out your power. When this occurs, your lights, refrigeration and, quite possibly, your source of heat may be gone for days at a time. Harsh weather can be difficult to face without power, but getting a generator can help you keep the power on if a storm halts electrical services in your area.
You may even have a generator already, but when was the last time you checked to see whether it’s actually ready for sudden use? Just like a vehicle that sits for long periods of time, your portable generator requires some basic attention to do its job when the time comes, so let’s talk about generator maintenance.
Of all the generator maintenance tips, this is the most important: if you leave your generator sitting out in the elements, it will likely stop working. Dirt and debris may get into the moving parts, and wires or hoses may become brittle and crack.
In addition, exposure to moisture can cause a generator’s components to rust. Fortunately, a rainproof cover for your idle generator can provide a few ounces of prevention worth a pound of cure. Even if you keep your generator in a garage, shed or basement between uses, there’s still dust, pests and other possible issues that may arise. A good cover can help to protect your generator so you can avoid these issues.
Run It on a Regular Basis
Just as sitting unused can cause problems with a parked car over time, going too long without running isn’t good for a generator either. Every 30 to 90 days, bring your generator out and start it up — but never run a portable generator inside a building, even with the doors open, because of the carbon monoxide poisoning risk. Let it run for half an hour or so to keep the internal parts lubricated and charge the battery for the electric starter.
Put Some Fuel Stabilizer in the Tank
Some folks recommend emptying the fuel from the tank between uses, but if you’re running your generator during regular maintenance as described above, that’s a lot of draining and refilling. A simple alternative solution is to put some good fuel stabilizer in the tank along with the gasoline. It’ll keep the fuel fresh, inhibit gum and varnish, and make for easier starts.
Check and Change the Oil
Clean oil is just as important for your portable generator as it is for your vehicle’s engine. Your generator’s owner manual will have recommended intervals for this as well as instructions on where to find the dipstick.
By giving a few minutes of attention to this critical piece of equipment every few months on a year-round basis, you can ensure that your portable generator is as reliable as possible when you need it most.
Check out all the fluid additives available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on generator maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.