Common Generator Problems and Solutions
Basic knowledge of common generator problems and solutions can take you a long way. Knowing some prominent issues that can occur will ensure you know what to watch for and try to prevent. Having information about solutions will prepare you for troubleshooting and repairing your generators if any problems arise, letting you face as little downtime as possible.
By understanding the connections between common problems and solutions, you can ensure your generators run as efficiently as possible so you can make the most of your purchase or rental.
List of Common Generator Problems and Solutions
While many common issues can arise with any commercial generator, familiarizing yourself with their solutions can help you quickly get it up and running again. It’s crucial to understand your machinery and know how to troubleshoot diesel generator issues to prevent costly damages and downtime.
Battery failure is the most common generator issue. Batteries wear down with age, providing less and less power as time goes on. Knowing the service life of your generator’s battery will ensure you know to replace it before it stops working.
Always make sure the batteries, chargers and all cables and connections leading to and from the battery are in good condition before operating your generator. Routinely clean and tighten connections and remove any sulfation buildup from the battery plates. Lead sulfates can keep the battery from delivering a strong current, resulting in preventable system failures.
Failure to Start
If your generator fails to start, double-check that the automatic operation controls are set. The main control switch must be in the “off/reset” position for the generator to automatically kick in when needed. If someone presses the emergency stop button or triggers alarms on the control switch, your generator’s automatic settings may have turned off.
In cases where you have had your generator serviced, make sure the automatic controls are set again before the generator’s next use. If you’re still experiencing diesel generator starting problems, check all connections to verify the machine is in full working condition.
Stalling During Operation
If your generator starts working but falters while running, a few different issues could be the culprit. Fouled spark plugs in natural gas generators, for instance, can prevent the machine from producing enough power to keep running. You should change your generator’s spark plugs after every 100 hours of use or if they’re worn or cracked. Failing spark plugs is mainly a common issue with natural gas generators, as diesel generators do not have spark plugs.
In addition, ensure the generator’s filters are clean and working effectively. Oil filters help remove contaminants from the machine’s engine oil that can otherwise build up over time and wear down the engine. Air filters allow clean air into the machine to compress and burn the fuel. If either of these filters is dirty or worn, clean or replace them to help keep your generator running smoothly.
The fuel for your diesel generator can stop working for several reasons, one of the most prominent being clogged fuel lines. Fuel lines allow the diesel to flow into the engine. If they’re restricted, they’ll pass an insufficient amount of fuel.
Clogged fuel lines are often the result of oxidation, which makes the diesel dirty and causes sludge buildup in the lines. While oxidation is an inevitable process, you can combat its effects and help your fuel last longer with proper fuel treatment and maintenance.
If your generator engine is overheating, the issue could be simple coolant depletion.
Coolant is the fluid that keeps your generator at ideal temperatures by dispersing heat throughout the engine so parts don’t freeze or overheat. Your generator’s engine produces high temperatures that the coolant works to combat. When in constant contact with those high temperatures, the water in the coolant evaporates over time, leading to low levels. Routine maintenance, including fluid level checks, can ensure your engine has the fluids it needs.
If your generator’s coolant levels are appropriate, but you’re still experiencing overheating, this may be a sign of another issue, such as worn hoses and drive belts or dirty coolant clogging the radiator core.
You can often prevent oil, fuel or coolant leaks by performing regular maintenance on a unit. However, it’s important to know the variety of parts and fluid levels to inspect when troubleshooting generator problems so you can avoid low oil, coolant and fuel levels.
Leaking Oil, Fuel or Coolant
If you keep up with routine fluid refills and are still experiencing low levels, a leak is likely the cause. During routine maintenance, always check the tank pumps and fuel lines for cracks to ensure everything is in working order.
Crankcase breathers, which help remove unwanted gases from the engine, sometimes cause oil leaks as they produce a puddle of oil in the process. You can prevent this leakage by installing a recirculating breather instead.
Fuel leaks can happen if your pump system fails or you overfill the fuel tank. Always ensure you’re filling the tank to the correct levels, and inspect your entire fuel system to make sure everything is sealed.
Block Heater Hose Failure
Some of the most common coolant leaks come from block heater hose failures. Block heaters help maintain ideal generator starting temperatures by warming the coolant. The coolant then heats the engine, letting it operate smoothly in lower temperatures and places less stress on the other systems.
However, block heater hoses can quickly wear out under the extreme temperatures they give off. Worn hoses allow coolant to leak into other places in the machine. Since high temperatures can damage rubber hoses, it’s best to use silicone hoses and replace them every three to four years.
Wet stacking is another form of fluid leak that causes generator inefficiency when it comes to diesel generators. It occurs when fluids such as oil, unburned fuel and condensed water build up in the exhaust system and drip out as a dark, thick substance. You can clean up a wet stacking issue by burning off the excess fuel. You can also prevent future wet stacking by monitoring exhaust temperatures, installing provisions for load bank testing and generator paralleling. This is usually an issue that only occurs with diesel generators, but it is often a culprit when it comes to a diesel generator not operating at rated loads.
Fuel depletion is a common problem for diesel and natural gas generators. Fuel gauges can sometimes fail to show correct fuel levels, which results in generators using up all their fuel without your knowledge. Mechanical gauges may get stuck, or fuel filters may get clogged with sludge, preventing the generator from accurately displaying fuel levels or using all the fuel you’ve provided.
To help prevent unknown fuel depletion, manually check your generator’s fuel levels before each use. It’s also best to have on-site fuel storage or other convenient means of getting more fuel for refueling when necessary. Finally, be sure to check your fuel filters and lines for contaminants such as dirt and water.
High Fuel Level Alarm
Fuel tank overfilling can lead to several of the above issues, such as wet stacking and other leaks. High fuel level alarms activate when fuel levels are too high, telling you to stop refueling to avoid overfilling the tank. While this is a helpful and usually accurate feature, in rare cases, it’s possible that as fuel undergoes natural thermal expansion — such as on extremely hot days — the high fuel alarm might activate unnecessarily.
The alarm may stop sounding on its own as the fuel level decreases to an appropriate level. Otherwise, you can reset the alarm manually as long as you’ve confirmed no legitimate issues are triggering it.
The Importance of Maintenance in Avoiding Generator Issues
By understanding the most common generator problems, you can easily prevent many issues through regular inspections and routine maintenance. Industrial generators help companies maintain power to protect themselves from downtime and successfully carry out mission-critical applications, such as retail computer processing, restaurant kitchen functions and providing businesses and institutions with necessary heat and electricity for medical applications, accessible services and more.
Generator maintenance helps keep your machines functioning for a long time so that you can perform all your business’s necessary functions. Some maintenance points to hit every time include:
- Alarms: Each time you run the generator, make sure no alarms or warnings occur.
- Fluid levels: Check and refill the fuel levels once a week and the oil and coolant levels once a month. Do a thorough check of the machine to ensure there are no fluid leaks.
- Startup: Each week, check to ensure the generator is in “Auto” mode.
- Battery: Once a month, check the battery charger to ensure the battery is in full working condition.
A certified technician should perform more complex maintenance work twice a year. Make appointments with a professional servicing company to ensure you stay on schedule and are always operating with a working generator.
Generator Services From Woodstock Power
If you own a generator, you know the importance of knowing it’s ready to run at any given moment. Knowing how to spot and fix common issues will help you work more efficiently, and it will also allow you to recognize when you need the help of a skilled professional.
Here at Woodstock Power, we’re committed to being a name your business can trust. Our used generators are a cost-effective investment in your business’s efficient future. Keep these machines in top shape with our professional on-site generator services, including preventive maintenance and emergency repairs.