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Generator problems
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 26, 2021 12:58PM
Hi everyone,

I just went out to remove the gas from my generator's tank -- I had filled it up right toward the end of our power outages with Ida, and I did add fuel stabilizer to the tank but haven't run the generator in probably about a month. Oh, and I also did an oil change after adding the gas (oil change was recommended after 25 hours of runtime), so it should have fresh oil.

So I siphoned off as much gas from the tank as I could -- I would say it was about 5 gallons, leaving some in the tank which I figured I could let the generator run through dry, for eventual storage. That should have left about three gallons in there, but it seemed like much less, though I can't get a good look in there. (I now have several canisters of propane, which i can use if we should have any more outages in the near future; the gas that I siphoned out of the tank I figure I can eventually use in my Prius.)

The problem? It won't start up. According to the company, you're supposed to press the electric start switch for three seconds, then while doing that, move the choke lever slowly from start to run ... but the generator never "catches" and starts up as it should. This model also has a pull cord, so I tried doing that but it didn't even make any startup noises with that.

Ideas? I'm looking at the manual (here: [cdn.shopify.com] ) ... but not even sure where to start to look for trouble, there are so many things it could be.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: btfc
Date: September 26, 2021 01:19PM
Is there a gas shutoff valve? On/off switch?

For a cold start, set choke to full and attempt to start. Once the motor attempts to run, then adjust the choke.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: jims
Date: September 26, 2021 01:26PM
I know you just changed the oil, but make sure you have the oil level correct. There is probably a cutoff switch that will not allow a start with the oil level low.

jims
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: macphanatic
Date: September 26, 2021 01:32PM
Take the air filter off and spray starter fluid into the carb. Then try to start. If it starts and dies, then the carb probably needs to be cleaned. Did you use stabilizer intended for gas that has alcohol in it?
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: btfc
Date: September 26, 2021 01:39PM
Also check that the wire to the spark plug is firmly attached.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 26, 2021 01:52PM
you siphoned off 5 G and there is another 3 G in there? that is one large gas tank. Most generators I looked at have a few gallons.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 26, 2021 02:00PM
No gas shutoff valve that I'm aware of. (If there is one, I certainly haven't touched it.)

Not sure what setting the choke to "full" is, it has a start and run position, but it make no difference in terms of it not starting if it's in either position (you're supposed to press the start button, then shift the choke from start to run).

Oil level looks fine.

I don't have any starter fluid ... have never used it. I did use Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer, which is supposed to be fine for ethanol-containing gas.

Edit: I think the spark plug wire looks fine -- it's a little hard to tell from the diagram in the manual exactly where it is supposed to be.

Another thing that occurs to me that I haven't tried -- but which I doubt would make any difference -- would be to try to start it using the propane rather than the gas. If you all think I should try try that, I can...




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2021 02:40PM by PeterB.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: bobinmurphy
Date: September 26, 2021 02:28PM
I have an old Craftsman leaf mulcher that acts the same way after sitting all summer. In my case the choke doesn't choke down the air coming it enough for the intake cycle on the engine to suck up much fuel. So I remove the air filter and hand choke it by covering the intake with my hand until it pulls fuel into the carb. At that point normally just using the coke in the start position is enough to get it to kick over and after about 30 seconds of running I can let off on the coke a bit moving it to the run position. (The engine will start sounding a bit rough if there's too much coke as it's "gagging" on too much fuel and not enough air.) After than it runs and starts fine which isn't too bad for an old work horse that's about 50+ years old.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: rz
Date: September 26, 2021 03:31PM
Have you considered taking it to repair shop instead of trying to figure it out yourself?
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Ammo
Date: September 26, 2021 03:54PM
This model also has a pull cord, so I tried doing that but it didn't even make any startup noises with that.

So you were getting some combustion (gas being ignited) when you pressed the starter switch but it didn’t run long enough to keep the engine going or was it just the electric starter turning the engine over with no combustion at all?



Where is there dignity unless there is also honesty? - Cicero

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. —Wendy Mass
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 26, 2021 04:45PM
It's under two months old. I will call their tech support tomorrow to see if they have any ideas.

Pressing the starter switch, it makes the loud sound like it's trying to start up, but never does.

Edit: more information:

1) Looking inside the tank, I saw that it was apparently dry (I guess I did a good job of siphoning?), and so I thought that maybe the lack of gas was the problem and tried putting some back in. Still no luck though.

2) I went ahead and tried attaching the propane tank, and sure enough, THAT works and it starts up! (But if I then try to start up using the gas, it still won't start up.) So I guess it has to be something specific to the gas lines. I also wonder if it could just be the ethanol in the gas (I know this is a problem), even though it did have stabilizer in it, and/or if you really do need fresh gas. I will still call their tech support tomorrow and see what they think about this.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2021 05:00PM by PeterB.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 26, 2021 05:34PM
Does the fuel selector switch work properly?

You can test it with the propane tank attached and the switch on the gas position. If it starts, that means the fuel selector switch is stuck on the propane position.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: macphanatic
Date: September 26, 2021 06:05PM
My moneys on the carb being gummed up from fuel siting in it. Using starter fluid would help confirm. If it starts and dies, fuel isn’t getting to the engine.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Racer X
Date: September 26, 2021 06:19PM
I'm leaning that way too.



********************************************
The police have no duty to respond. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005) or Warren v. District of Columbia[1] (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981)
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 26, 2021 06:38PM
in just one month?
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 26, 2021 06:39PM
I just bought a dual fuel inverter and I plan to hoard 3-4 tanks of propane and never have to run it on gasoline. Even though Champion does not support a natural gas conversion kit, I am going to look into one eventually.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: wurm
Date: September 26, 2021 07:45PM
I pretty much gave up on running ours with gas and will strictly use propane. I should clarify that it did run with gas, but would surge more than I liked. After getting and installing two new replacement carburetors from the manufacturer, I gave up.

Can you share the make and model, so maybe we can look it up and see if there's anything obvious that could be the issue?
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Racer X
Date: September 26, 2021 07:47PM
Quote
space-time
in just one month?

That is the insidious issue with E10-E15. It is an unstable formulation. And it contains less energy. E10 is 3% less than straight gasoline formulations. E85 is something like 40% less.



********************************************
The police have no duty to respond. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005) or Warren v. District of Columbia[1] (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981)
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: tenders
Date: September 26, 2021 07:52PM
If it’s running on propane then there is probably a fuel selector switch somewhere that has turned off the flow of gasoline into the carb. Running on both propane and gasoline would make a mess.

Edit: yeah, see item #1 on page 9 of the manual.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2021 07:55PM by tenders.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 26, 2021 08:16PM
Quote
tenders
If it’s running on propane then there is probably a fuel selector switch somewhere that has turned off the flow of gasoline into the carb. Running on both propane and gasoline would make a mess.

Edit: yeah, see item #1 on page 9 of the manual.

That switch is simply to switch between gas and propane (and being off) ... obviously I've tried putting it in the gas position for trying to use gas, and the propane position when using propane.

I could believe the carb is gummed up, EXCEPT for the fact that we're talking only a month and with stabilizer added. According to the manual, that should have been fine -- see page 31 of the manual. (The only thing I'm not sure if I did was to run the generator for 5-10 minutes after adding the stabilizer... it was an extremely stressful time that I was last running it, and a lot of that time is now a blank for me.) Make and model are in the manual I posted above.

I'll see what the company says tomorrow. Their customer/tech support so far has been excellent.

The only other thing that comes to mind is that I tried to start the generator with a relative minimum of gas (having siphoned most of it off). I might try adding the whole lot back and giving it another go ... but if I do that, I'm tempted just to get some fresh gas and try that instead.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2021 08:17PM by PeterB.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 26, 2021 08:56PM
and don't put that bad gas in your little Prius. Don't risk it.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: testcase
Date: September 26, 2021 09:00PM
Do you have any WD40 spray? If so, take the cover off the air filter to expose the carburetor. Give a light spritz of WD40 directly down the carb and immediately pull the cord to start the Honda. If it fires, even briefly, the fuel line is clogged. If it doesn’t fire up after one or two tries using WD40, there’s a different problem. If however it DOES fire up (even briefly) then get a can of Seafoam. Add several ounces of Seafoam to the fuel tank, pull the cord a few times (to move the Seafoam through the lines). Then, let the Seafoam sit a few hours (or overnight) to soften the clog. If the problem HAS been fuel related, this should get your Honda back up and running. Over the next several tankfuls of gas, add an ounce or three of Seafoam to ensure the fuel system is squeaky clean. Today’s “E” (ethanol”) based gasolines are more prone to deterioration and fuel system clogging, ESPECIALLY in small engines.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Bernie
Date: September 27, 2021 05:26AM
Paying 20 cents more for a gallon of Ethanol free gas don't seem that bad now.

But you created this problem not the Ethanol gas.

Remove air filter .... smell for gas presence.

That loud starter sound... is it a click bang or does it actually spin spin spin the motor?




Staunton, Virginia
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 27, 2021 05:47AM
Quote
Bernie
Paying 20 cents more for a gallon of Ethanol free gas don't seem that bad now.

...

where do you get ethanol free gas in the middle of a hurricane?

it drives me mad when people do not understand the word EMERGENCY
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: JoeH
Date: September 27, 2021 09:38AM
Quote
Bernie
Paying 20 cents more for a gallon of Ethanol free gas don't seem that bad now.

That may be possible where you live, but ethanol free gas is dollars more a gallon around here.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: deckeda
Date: September 27, 2021 11:33AM
Aren't small engines FUN? Sooner or later it helps to be able to get past all the plastic parts and access the carb, spark plug and so on. But man, when it's this new it should basically "just work."

If you get it started on gas run it dry. Sta-bil won't save you in the long run. But overall if the tank was indeed dry, it would take a little longer for gas to make it to the carb's fuel bowl. The propane connection has an advantage in that the LP tank's pressure sends fuel to the inlet near the carb, whereas the gas tank must let gravity work instead since there likely is not a fuel pump.

(And some generators now come with EFI.)

Quote
PeterB

Not sure what setting the choke to "full" is, it has a start and run position, but it make no difference in terms of it not starting if it's in either position (you're supposed to press the start button, then shift the choke from start to run).

I think you know about the choke setting because you would have had to have used it when you ran it successfully before. Choke position will always matter, and it needs to be either engaged or disengaged, "on" or "off" depending on ambient air, engine temp, and whether or not it's flooded with gas due to a problem.

And the manual does note to turn the choke off if the engine didn't start as it should (because by then the engine could be flooded with gas.) Taking a look at the spark plug isn't a bad idea to confirm. It'll probably either look pretty new/unused or soaked in fuel. If the latter, I'd swap in a new plug and try again. Or at least let it air dry first if soaked. (So long as the spark isn't WET it'll probably be fine.)
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Markintosh
Date: September 27, 2021 11:44AM
Weird. We buy gas with ethanol and treat it with Sta-bil. When I leave the snow blower for the summer, I try to run it dry, but if not, it usually just needs me to empty the bowl on the carb and it will start right up. But then again, it's a Honda.



“Live your life, love your life, don’t regret…live, learn and move forward positively.” – CR Johnson
Loving life in Lake Tahoe, CA
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Racer X
Date: September 27, 2021 02:32PM
One thing that needs to be an unconscious habit is to dose with Seafoam or any other high quality fuel system cleaner every time you buy the gas. Dose the jug as you fill it.

I was doing that with 2 stroke oil way back when I was in Sea Scouts and using old outboards. I forgot once, and lost a 5 horse Johnson when it locked up all of the sudden.

Hey, everyone was new to small motors at some point. No big deal. There is a wee bit of a learning curve of best practices that aren't in the manuals.



********************************************
The police have no duty to respond. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005) or Warren v. District of Columbia[1] (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981)
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: Ammo
Date: September 27, 2021 03:29PM
Seems like propane would be less problematic than gas, but there some disadvantages as compared to gasoline, too.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Propane as Generator Fuel Source
[midwestgeneratorsolutions.com]



Where is there dignity unless there is also honesty? - Cicero

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. —Wendy Mass
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: michael_s
Date: September 27, 2021 04:39PM
Peter, now that you know it will run, consider purchasing some good fuel, such as trufuel, and leave a small amount in the tank, and more importantly in the carburetor bowl. I would rather have good fuel with a preservative/stabilizer than nothing. You run the risk of the carb internals drying out and deteriorating if left empty.
I've stored equipment both ways. Not using for years, I'll run all fuel out and take a chance on carb work down the road.
Not using for 6-9 months or a year, I've taken to storing with a small amount of good fuel.
All three motors I've done this with have started easily last two years. Both motorcycles within two-three kicks. Mower on first pull.
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UPDATE
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 27, 2021 06:58PM
You all are going to laugh at me. (I'm saying that upfront!)

I called the company, and from the description I gave him, the guy was certain it was the carburetor-- and apparently they don't give specific instructions on how to clean it, he referred me to YouTube (!). But I did make a point of asking him how much gas has to be in there for it to start up. (I don't think this is mentioned in the manual anywhere, though they do say it has to have some amount in it.) He said about two gallons, which I'm pretty sure wasn't in the tank. So I just added back the gas, and... voila. Sure enough, it starts up again.

Now the question is ... should I just let it run through the gas in there (let it run dry), or leave some in there (the stuff having stabilizer in it) for storage. The manual seems to suggest it's fine to leave it in there so long as there's stabilizer, but on the phone he seemed to think better to let it run dry -- the latter is what I'd been planning to do anyway, since I knew that leaving it in there with the gas having ethanol isn't a great idea. I'm running it now for at least 30 minutes, since the manual says that you should be doing that once a month.

Oh and one more thing. The manual suggests that if it's going to be stored for more than about two weeks without being run, that you should use a trickle charger or battery maintainer... I'm thinking to store inside a shed, but not sure if there's a power outlet in there, so maybe a solar charger? (I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to use a maintainer, since the pull cord apparently only works with gas and not propane.)




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2021 07:01PM by PeterB.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: macphanatic
Date: September 27, 2021 08:43PM
My Toro lawnmower and Ariens snowblower have no issues with ethanol laced fuel.

My Honda generator has major issues with it. I had to drain the carb and clean it. I added Seafoam to the gas and ran it for a while. Made a huge difference. Now, I shut the gas off and run the generator until it dies. The gas doesn’t have to sit in the carb long before to gum a carb up.
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Re: Generator problems
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 27, 2021 08:57PM
Quote
macphanatic
My Toro lawnmower and Ariens snowblower have no issues with ethanol laced fuel.

My Honda generator has major issues with it. I had to drain the carb and clean it. I added Seafoam to the gas and ran it for a while. Made a huge difference. Now, I shut the gas off and run the generator until it dies. The gas doesn’t have to sit in the carb long before to gum a carb up.

What exactly is this Seafoam stuff? The manufacturer specifically states NOT to use anything in the tank other than gas and a fuel stabilizer, and that doing otherwise voids the warranty.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: UPDATE
Posted by: space-time
Date: September 28, 2021 11:59AM
How is Firman support? Thanks
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Re: UPDATE
Posted by: deckeda
Date: September 28, 2021 07:35PM
Glad it's working again. I had wondered about low gasoline level since it needs gravity to reach the carb.

I share the tech's opinion about running it dry if you can. There shouldn't be any gaskets that depend on fuel to do their jobs.

If it were mine I'd want to know who designed the engine, because none of the typical small-engine parts supply stores know anything about Firman. Not Stens, not Rotary, not Jack's Small Engines for example. Firman "makes" the engine but that doesn't mean they designed it. There are Honda clones, Kohler clones maybe even Briggs clones. Tecumseh's been gone for over 10 years and all of the other, older American companies such as Wisconsin and Clinton were gone decades ago.
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Re: UPDATE
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 28, 2021 08:05PM
Quote
deckeda
Glad it's working again. I had wondered about low gasoline level since it needs gravity to reach the carb.

I share the tech's opinion about running it dry if you can. There shouldn't be any gaskets that depend on fuel to do their jobs.

If it were mine I'd want to know who designed the engine, because none of the typical small-engine parts supply stores know anything about Firman. Not Stens, not Rotary, not Jack's Small Engines for example. Firman "makes" the engine but that doesn't mean they designed it. There are Honda clones, Kohler clones maybe even Briggs clones. Tecumseh's been gone for over 10 years and all of the other, older American companies such as Wisconsin and Clinton were gone decades ago.

I believe Firman's are Chinese -- more info here: [everythingwhat.com]

... but they are also now using some Kohler. [www.prnewswire.com]

I went with the Firman for a few reasons. First, it was available. grinning smiley ... most everything else in Lowes at the time were the Generacs, which people were buying like hotcakes, but they were the gas-only model ... and we all know how that worked out in New Orleans in the days after Ida. RollingEyesSmiley5 ... so I was really happy I went with the Firman. Also, the reviews of the Firman both on the Lowes website and elsewhere were generally excellent:

[generatorbible.com]
[www.lowes.com]

Lastly, I discovered more or less after the fact that their customer service seems pretty good -- every time I've called, it's taken me less than five minutes to get a tech, and a tech who is very obviously a native English speaker and who knows his/her stuff.

My only complaints about the generator so far are that it is LOUD (not an issue for me so much, but might be an issue for my neighbors!) and that it is very heavy ... but both of these are to be expected for one of this size and capacity.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: UPDATE
Posted by: deckeda
Date: September 28, 2021 09:07PM
Firman is based in Arizona. They make a point of announcing their products are designed in the U.S.

That press release about Kohler is a few years old and may not apply today or to your generator. My impression is that Firmin is a decent company but that they are really trying very hard to establish the brand name at the expense of some basic info such as engine provenance, which could make future maintenance an issue.
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Re: UPDATE
Posted by: PeterB
Date: September 28, 2021 11:02PM
Quote
deckeda
Firman is based in Arizona. They make a point of announcing their products are designed in the U.S.

That press release about Kohler is a few years old and may not apply today or to your generator. My impression is that Firmin is a decent company but that they are really trying very hard to establish the brand name at the expense of some basic info such as engine provenance, which could make future maintenance an issue.

You're right that they're based in Arizona, but elsewhere I saw Atlanta, so that may be a secondary location. The press release about Kohler is in reference to a different set of models, so it definitely doesn't apply to my generator. I agree with your assessment that they seem to be trying to establish the brand name, but I'm not sure it's at the expense of engine provenance ... since it's clear it's a Chinese company that's been around for awhile. More info here: [www.chainsawjournal.com]

Edit: again, in my case, it wasn't like there were a lot of choices ... Lowes being an absolute madhouse after Ida, and they really only had this model, a Generac, and maybe one other (I think a Briggs and Stratton). Of the three, this was the only one with dual fuel ... so that's why I went with it. Like I said, so far I've been pretty happy with it, other than the weight and the noise.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2021 11:07PM by PeterB.
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