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How to Fix an Overloaded Generator?

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All motors have a load limit within which it is expected to operate. Overloading any machine, especially generators, refers to exceeding the load limit stated in the machine’s manual.

Fixing an overloaded generator is reasonably easy because if it’s unable to produce the required power, the motor will start slowing down and trip the protection relays. In this situation, all you have to do is to remove what is causing a problem and reset it. 

In case the relays did not work and the engine did NOT shut down, it will start overheating and will eventually burn out. Yes, generators CAN NOT be requested to produce more power than they are rated for, and in a normal situation, they will shut down if an overload is detected.

Very often you can solve a generator overload problem by removing unnecessary appliances or getting a larger generator!

How to know if generator is overloaded

One clear sign of generator overload is a reduction of power output. Overheating of the generator or wiring that is melting, is another problem that you may face if the generator is overloaded.

If a circuit breaker isn’t installed, though, you’ll probably notice that the generator is getting too hot. Overheating and soot in the exhaust are also indicators that your generator has been overloaded.

Signs of overloaded generator

Following are some ways to tell if a generator is overloaded:

  • The generator’s fan is too noisy. If the fan is working excessively hard to cool your engine down, then there is a chance that the generator is overheating.
  • Tripping breaker. If you have a circuit breaker attached (as most modern generators do) overloading can cause it to trip and shut the whole thing down.
  • Weird sounds. When put under heavy loads, some generators make odd noises. If you hear a strange noise after turning on a fan or the television, that means your generator’s engine is under a load it can’t bear, and it’s time to power off the gadget.
  • Soot in the exhaust. If soot starts becoming apparent in your generator’s exhaust, then it could mean a potential problem with a generator that could lead to overload.

If any of the above signs are noticed, the first thing you need to do is switch off your generator to allow it to cool down and unplug any unnecessary appliances. After removing all electronics from the receptacles, hit the circuit protector reset button, followed by the overload reset button.

Generator overload problems

It is possible that your generator overload problem is very simple and all you have to do is disconnect a few devices. Of course, if the generator starts overheating or constantly keeps on tripping, your problem should be analyzed by a specialist.

Following things commonly  happen to generators when they are overloaded:

1. The generator overheated and won’t start

When a generator overheats and the sensor gets the reading, it should shut off immediately before more damage is done. Even if you start it after overheating, as soon as you release the starter, it will shut down.

This is a safety feature. Get a qualified mechanic to take a look at it. Generators could be rebuilt. In the worst-case scenario, you will need to get a new one.

2. Generator keeps tripping

Why does your generator keep tripping? A short within wiring or an appliance itself is usually a reason behind a breaker that keeps on tripping. If you are using GFCI receptacles, tripping may indicate the loss of electric current, which can be caused by torn or worn-out wiring.

When you connect too many appliances to the generator and turn them ON all at once, the demand for electricity is much more than the generator can handle and overload will occur. On the other hand, if you are using long extension cords, the undervoltage can follow and your breaker will trip as well.

If you cannot figure out what causes the tripping, consult a specialist and check out your wiring. It is very likely that something is shorted within your setup.

3. Generator overload with nothing plugged in

If an overload light comes up or your generator shuts down while there is nothing plugged in, all you have to do is reset it. You can hit the generator reset button and hold it for a few seconds, or flip a breaker. 

Restart your generator and it should work now. If instead, you have GFCI outlets, reset the outlets. This type of situation could take place because you’ve been trying to run your generator without a load for too long.

It could also be a fuel issue. If your carburetor and jets are blocked from having your fuel sitting there for a while, it could have an effect on the whole engine and the generator will NOT work properly.

4. Generator keeps overloading

If your generator keeps on going into overload mode and you tried everything, now it’s a good time to get professional help. This is especially true due to the fact that overloads are commonly caused by short circuits.

If a short circuit is left not addressed soon enough, it could cause more damage to the generator. In this situation, your generator is a fire hazard.

It could also pose a significant risk of an electric shock. Forcing or removing a circuit breaker is NOT a solution! Call a tech ASAP.

5. Generator overload causes

In case you are wondering what would cause the generator to overload, here are some clues for you:

  • Too many appliances plugged in
  • Your appliance or tool is above the generator rated wattage
  • Short in the wiring
  • Short in your appliances or equipment
  • Change in the polarity of the magnets
  • Bad feeding of load
  • Generator malfunction

If you are trying to use appliances that your generator cannot handle (above its rated wattage), all you have to do is remove them and the problem is solved! More complicated problems should be solved by a professional.

What does overload mean on a generator?

When the generator is overloaded, it generally means that too many appliances were connected to the generator and it just cannot keep up with it! As a result, the generator exceeds its rated wattage and possibly starts overheating.

Some generators have circuit breakers to prevent this situation, but if they don’t, the generator will get too hot and damage to your electrical devices can occur. Also, excessive electricity will travel through wires, and if they get melted, the whole situation becomes a fire hazard.

Another thing to note is that generators are often powered by gasoline, which is highly combustible. Overheating near the tank (or any kind of spark near the tank), might actually create an explosion with devastating results.

If you suspect an overloading problem with your generator, seek assistance from a certified electrician or electrical contractor.

What happens if you overload a generator?

The overloaded generator should pop the breaker and if it doesn’t, it will not be able to adequately supply electricity to its loads and may overheat. If it overheats and loses synchronization, you may be looking at the dead generator really soon.

And that’s in a good case! In a bad case, you might end up with a fire or a blown-up generator. Here is a video and an article on that:

Overloaded generator causes Joplin house fire

What happens if you overload a gas generator?

If your gas generator is overloaded, it could start outputting intermittent power, which is disastrous to your appliances. Overloaded gas generators heat up and get internal damages, which cause them to burn out and stop running altogether.

Modern generators do come with built-in circuit breakers, and in this case, they will flip or pop (if it’s a button):

It is not a good idea to try running your gas generator beyond its capacity and in many cases, it will just cut down the power and no harm is done. In the worst case, it will start overheating and become a fire hazard due to gasoline being extremely flammable.

Besides overheating, overload can make your generator falls out of synchronization which will eventually destroy it.

What happens if you overload a portable generator?

Portable generators today are much more efficient, inexpensive, and intelligent than those produced decades ago. They have overload protection built-in and unless your breaker is malfunctioning, you will be just fine.

What happens to the overloaded generator? In a good scenario, you will end up with a tripped circuit breaker (just like we have in our houses), otherwise, your generator will be destroyed. Hopefully, it will NOT start the fire and destroy everything else around you.

Generators are often advertised at their peak performance, meaning they state their Surge wattage (that only last for a few seconds) instead of Running wattage (which is what you need to run your appliances continuously).

Yes, please look at the fine print to know the exact wattage of your generator!

How to fix an overloaded generator

The generator overload sometimes can be fixed easily if you know exactly what created it. For example, if you are trying to run a new power tool and it just simply cannot handle it!

Any other problem, besides removing the excess equipment should be handled by a professional ONLY. Here are more solutions for you:

1. Overload alarm generator

When an overload alarm light comes ON while you are trying to power your equipment, setting your generator to the ECO mode, may actually solve your problem. ECO is sufficient enough to operate the equipment and an overload on the generator is avoided.  

Here is a 15-amp saw example:

Honda eu2000i Generator Overload

2. Generator overload light always ON

Basically, the overload light that comes ON and stays ON means that your generator is overloaded (or was overloaded) and needs to be reset. All you need to do is turn the power OFF or flip breakers and restart it (assuming that you unplugged all the appliances and tools).

If a simple fix doesn’t help, you will need a professional to take a look at it.

3. Inverter generator overload light stays ON

If you have an inverter-generator and the overload light always stays ON while you are NOT exceeding the rated load, then you may have a problem with an inverter. Inverters cannot be fixed and should be replaced.

In this case, you will need to ask for a professional opinion. If you ARE exceeding your load, unplug the devices and reset the inverter generator in the way mentioned below.

4. Generator overload light flashing

If your generator is flashing a red overload light and there is nothing plugged in, this is generally due to running it without load for too long. It commonly happens when you are running the gas out.

This problem can be solved by resetting the generator. As a side note, your RED indicator light could also be flashing because your generator requires service:

An overload indicator may flash when you are starting a device with a large startup current. This indicates that the generator is supplying your machine with more than Rated Wattage (for a few seconds) and it is quite normal.

5. Generator reset button

If your generator DOES have a reset button, then all you have to do is disconnect all your appliances and hold the button for a few seconds. Your indicator light will come OFF and the power will be restored.

You can use the overload reset button a maximum of 5 times and then, you will need to reset the button by turning the generator OFF and turning it back ON. After the power light is illuminated, you can reconnect the devices.

If a short circuit or major overload of the generator happens, the circuit breaker will immediately shut the whole system down. After that, these are the steps you can take to restart it:

  • Step 1. Disconnect all electrical equipment.
  • Step 2. Check if the equipment’s rated load capacity has not been surpassed before resetting the circuit breaker.
  • Step 3. To restart the generator, press and hold the reset button for one second (most manufacturers).
  • Step 4. Reconnect electrical equipment if the overload warning light has gone out and the output light has come back on.

If the overload warning light is still on, turn the generator off and take it to the repair shop.

6. How to reset breaker on generator

If your generator does NOT have a reset button, the following method works well:

62007 / EP2800i - Re setting the overloaded generator

7. Generator overload protection

When the generator detects the overload, the circuit breaker will trip and cut the power to your equipment. In this case, your generator’s engine will keep on running, but it will NOT produce any power.

In the event of a sudden generator failure due to prolonged engine overload, the overload reset button is used. If the generator overheats, after correcting the load, hit the overload reset button on the front panel.

If you didn’t do proper load calculations in the first place, try loading your generator very slow, one appliance after another to find out at which point your generator’s breaker will flip. On the other hand, it would be better if you calculate the wattage requirements of your appliances and electronics beforehand and the overload situation doesn’t have to happen.

Generators are tough machines! A slight overload may NOT even flip the breaker, but will surely reduce the generator’s lifespan.

So make sure you don’t overload it if you want to use it for a long time. The best idea for fixing an overload and taking care of your generator in the future is to make sure you have enough wattage for the equipment you want to run by checking the wattage specs.

Usually, one of the biggest loads that generators face is – air conditioning. A start capacitor is a good alternative offered by certain air conditioner manufacturers.

IF there is no start capacitor, the air conditioner can draw too much starting current, overloading the generator. Using a soft starter (paid link) is another way to dampen the initial current of your appliance.

Generator overload troubleshooting method

When the generator is producing power, a green stable light on your dash should indicate it. If the green light comes OFF and the red one comes ON (and stays ON), this means that the power is cut to your appliances.

The breaker will pop and your generator will go into overload mode while the engine is running. Sometimes the overload indicator light comes ON briefly when your generator is supplying the excessive surge current (to refrigerator compressor, for example) for a few seconds.

If the surge is too and it cannot handle it, it will also go into COMPLETE overload mode. Troubleshooting the overloaded generator comes down to the following.

  1. Turn OFF the power.
  2. Turn OFF the engine.
  3. Make sure you unplug all the appliances and devices.
  4. Check cooling air inlet for blockages and if any are found, remove them.
  5. Check control unit for blockages and remove them as well (if found).
  6. Restart the engine after checking.
  7. Turn the power back ON and flip breakers
  8. Connect the REDUCED load (within the Rated wattage of your generator)

** Very Important! Make sure you are looking at the RATED (or RUNNING) WATTAGE of your generator, NOT surge wattage. Surge wattage only lasts for a few seconds and is meant to power starting surge of some motor-powered appliances.

Predator generator overload problems

When your predator generator goes into overload mode, the first thing to do is to check the number of watts that you are actually pulling. Your generator CAN NOT go over its rated wattage and will only do the surge wattage for a few seconds.

It should NOT allow exceeding your outlet AMP rating. 15-amp outlet delivers 15 amps and 30-amp outlet delivers 30 amps. You may also want to watch when the overload is happening.

If it is during the A/C startup or a refrigerator condenser kicking in, it means that your generator has a problem with the surge current that your appliance is demanding. In this case, you may want to consider a soft starter (paid link) or getting a bigger generator.

Also, at high elevations, generator power will be lost as well. ECO-mode should also take power down a bit. Check if any circuit breakers have tripped and make sure that ALL circuit breakers are reset before starting the generator again.

Predator generator overload light flashing

If the Predator inverter-generator light is flashing, it could indicate a problem with an inverter and you need a specialist to take a look at it. Fouled spark plugs could also be a problem.

If you are running your generator in summer (90 degrees plus), high heat could cause the gas tank to pressurize and your carburetor could be flooded with gasoline. In this case, just clean the spark plug and reinstall.

Here are some owners manuals for Predator generator to solve your problem:

Predator Manual
2000 PDF
3500 PDF
4000 PDF

Ryobi generator overload problem

You can only plug a certain amount of appliances into your generator in order NOT to exceed the rated wattage. Even though Ryobi generators are quite powerful, making sure to stay within wattage requirements is a must for any generator.

Ryobi generator overload with nothing plugged in

If you don’t have any load and an overload light on your Ryobi generator comes ON, this could mean that your inverter unit is bad or there is a short in the stator winding. You will need to either fix the stator or replace the inverter.

Ryobi generator overload light

The stable red indicator light comes ON when your Ryobi generator is overloaded and you need to reduce your load if you planning to use it further.  If your Ryobi inverter-generator light is flashing, it is possible that your inverter section is damaged and needs to be replaced.

According to the Ryobi owner’s manual, the overload, auto resets after load removal. If it doesn’t, there is a reset button:

Please consult the following manuals for more information:

Ryobi Manual
RYi2200 PDF
RYi2300 PDF
RYi2322E PDF
RYi4022X PDF

Ryobi 2300 generator overload problem

The generator overload problem can be solved by removing excess load and resetting the generator. This is how you do it on Ryobi 2300 (see user manual):

If you did NOT go over the rated wattage of your generator (which is 1800 watts):

… then, it is possible that the inverter went bad. You can check your connections with the multimeter to see where the power is lost.

If the voltage is lost coming from the inverter, it is very possible that it needs to be replaced.

** Warning! Working with electrical devices is NOT advised if you don’t know what you are doing!

Honda generator overload alarm

Just like any other generator, Honda generators can overload if you did not size your load properly or you have a short circuit within your wiring. Here is how you fix a specific Honda generator related problem:

Honda eu3000i Handi, Low idle, Low power, Overloads. Solved

Honda generator overload alarm reset

First of all, you need to remove your load and reset the circuit breaker:

If that doesn’t help, turn your generator completely OFF and turn it back ON. Make sure to keep your load within the rated wattage of your generator.

Here are some manuals for you:

Honda Manual
EU1000i PDF
EU2000i PDF
EU2000i Companion PDF
EU2600i PDF
EU3000is PDF
EU7000is PDF

How to fix an overloaded Generac generator

What to do when the inverter-generator Generac light comes on?

First of all, you need to remove all the load, reset circuit breakers and make sure that your load is not exceeding the rated wattage. You could also try completely restarting your generator.

If that doesn’t help and you have the skills, you can look for problems inside the generator itself:

Generac ix2000 Overload Light. diagnosing and thoughts.

** Important! Working with electricity could be deadly, so if you are not sure what you are doing, DON’T do anything!

Here are some manuals in PDF for your Generac generator:

Generac Manual
iX1600 PDF
iX2000 PDF
GP2200i PDF
GP2500i PDF
GP3000i PDF
GP3300i PDF
iQ3500 PDF
GP3500iO PDF

Onan generator overload light

Check Onan user manual for detailed instructions:

Onan Manual
P2500i PDF
p4500i PDF
P9500df PDF

Champion generator overload light on

Check the following manuals to solve your problem:

Champion Manual
2000-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter PDF
2400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter PDF
2500 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter PDF
3100-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter PDF
3400-Watt Inverter PDF

Conclusion

When you are not getting enough output from your generator, it is probably because your generator is overloaded and you need to reduce the load. If you keep it overloaded long enough, it will either trip breakers (if you have them) or start overheating.

Adding soft starters is a good solution to avoiding generator overload and they will allow you to run larger appliances on smaller generators.

Here they are:


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1 Comment

  1. Etienne Andlau

    Hi I have a Predator 2000 inverter generator.
    My issue is that its suddenly overloading with the use of a coffee machine which it was handling very easily before. It just started running a little higher but the coffee machine didn’t overload it. For weeks.
    Then I changed the recoil assembly because my cord broke.
    Now it cant handle the coffee machine anymore which doesn’t make any sense.
    My laptop and phone runs on it without any issues just like before.

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