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Why does my Generator Keep Shutting OFF?


Why does my generator operate for a short time and then shut off? If your generator keeps shutting off, there may be an overload issue. You should also check for low fuel levels. Natural obstructions and bends (or any other damage to the fuel pipe) could be preventing fuel from reaching the engine.

Now, let’s talk about the fuel. It is obvious if your fuel is absent or restricted, you will not be able to run your generator for too long. What kind of problems we can have with the fuel delivery system?

Fuel Problems

Problem #1. Not enough fuel

Do you have enough fuel and is it fresh? Obviously, your generator will not function if it is not supplied with fuel. Check your fuel level if your generator only runs for a brief amount of time and then won’t start again. Some generators have nice gauges like this:

It’s a good idea to ALWAYS make sure the fuel tank is full before starting your generator to avoid running out of gasoline. Fuel has to be FRESH! If the fuel has gone stale (more than 1-2 months old), you may have trouble using your generator. Simply drain the tank and carburetor of any old fuel and replace it with a fresh supply.

If you need a consistent fuels supply, you can install a generator that runs on natural gas to power it directly from the utility (disregarding extreme circumstances where the utility may fail). This is usually the best solution for full house backup.

Problem #2. The fuel shutoff valve is turned OFF

When operating a portable generator, a fuel shutdown valve allows you to regulate the flow of fuel to your generator’s engine. It is also very useful when the generator is being stored for an extended length of time to avoid stale fuel from circulating unnecessarily.

It looks like this:

Or like this (in gasoline generators pretty much in similar location):

Check to see if this valve is still closed, preventing gasoline from reaching your engine. If the shutdown valve is closed, all you have to do is open it before starting your generator again.

Sometimes you can forget to open this valve after the generator had been in storage.

Problem #3. The fuel tank and/or pipes are filthy.

Your gasoline tank may get clogged with pressure, dust or debris may cause obstructions, or your pipes may become damaged and leak. This makes it difficult to circulate the correct amount of gasoline.

To fix a fuel system problem, start by inspecting the fuel cap vent for blockages. Check the gasoline tank for silt, poor fuel, and other issues if everything seems good with the fuel cap.

Cleaning the fuel tank and conditioning the fuel is a good option if the fuel tank appears to be unclean. Before each usage, it’s also a good idea to relieve pressure in the gasoline tank and examine all of the pipes.

Problem #4. The carburetor is filthy

Bad (old, stale) fuel can cause the volatile components in the gasoline to evaporate from the collected gas in the carburetor, resulting in a viscous mixture that clings in the carburetor and disrupts the fuel delivery.

The simplest solution is to maintain your carburetor clean. If a carburetor is kept unclean for an extended period of time, it may need to be replaced.

Easy solutions to keep your generator running

#1. Check your oil level.

Is your oil level low? Your generator may shut down if the oil level is too low. Generators will still start with low oil, but newer versions will automatically disable the engine if oil levels are too low, preventing the generator from functioning without oil.

Running your engine with low or no oil might result in severe wear and damage to critical components. If your “low oil” sensor came on:

First, check the oil level using the dipstick to fix a low oil level. Then, if the oil appears to be clean but the level is low, add more oil. An oil change is required if the oil is dirty and at a low level.

When the oil pressure in your generator is fine, it may still display a low oil pressure alarm. This might suggest a malfunctioning oil pressure sensor that needs to be replaced.

#2. Check your water level.

Most generators can’t withstand the increase in temperature without adequate water levels in the radiator. For the most sensitive elements of the engine, control panel, and voltage meter, running at a high temperature for any length of time is difficult.

Check the water level and, if necessary, add more water.

#3. Are you “over choking” your generator?

The choke must be in the FULL choke (ON/CLOSED/START) position to start the generator. Change it to half after a few minutes, then to RUN (OPEN/OFF) after a few more minutes.

If the choke is kept in the maximum choke position for too long, generators can shut down after a few minutes of operation. Here is the possible location of a choke (usually above air filter):

Closeup (it is just a metal handle, although in some models it’s made into a button):

#4. Check your spark plugs

You may hear crackling noise and watch your generator shut down after only a few seconds if you have a problem with unclean or defective spark plugs. The most effective approach in solving a spark plug problem is to replace them with fresh new ones.

However, certain spark plugs can become filthy but can be reasonably easily cleaned. Here is one way to clean spark plugs:


After that,  reinstall them and they will operate like new!

#5. Check your air filter

Is your air filter clogged? If an engine does not receive enough air from its surroundings, it will immediately shut down. An air filter ensures that the engine receives clean air.

If it’s clogged, it will not allow the proper amount of air to pass through to the engine. This is a simple repair. To improve air circulation, clean or change your air filter. Here is an example of how to do it:

#6. Don’t push it over the limit!

It is important to make sure that you’re not using more power than your generator can produce! If you run too much equipment on a tiny generator, the generator may shut down to avoid overworking itself.

Most generators are programmed to shut down when the system is overloaded. You know that the generator is overloaded if the “overload” button lights up:

If you get a Chinese model, you can safely assume that RED is BAD:

You may also need to push the “overload reset” button to get it going again (and flip your breaker back):

In this case, all you have to do is reduce load and restart the generator. If it is still overloaded, trying running it without a load and add appliances one by one to see which one of them will get it “over the edge”.

Calculating your watts is also a good idea before connecting. You can also read an article on “How to fix an overloaded generator” for more details.

#7. Got mice?

Generators provide a comfortable environment for little critters. When they are hungry and not much food nearby, they’ll gnaw on any exposed cables or hoses, which can lead to electrical problems or fluid leakage.

Get rid of the mice and repair any chewed-through cables or pipes. It’s also a good idea to set up rodent traps to catch “unwanted guests”  before they build a home in your pricey generator.

Complicated problems that require professional assistance

#1. Problem with battery

Typically, battery problems start with your charger. It’s possible that your charger is defective. Make sure that the battery charging supply is in good working order. It may be necessary to replace it.

If the charger isn’t broken, look for an overload in the circuitry. If the circuits are not overloaded and the charger is functioning properly, then, the battery should be replaced.

#2. Problems with the heater

Block heaters regulate the temperature of the liquid in your engine between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This enables fast starting and lubrication of crucial components.

Your generator may try to start, then shut down owing to a lack of fluid circulation, especially in lower temperatures, if your block heater is malfunctioning. The only method to solve this issue is to replace the block heater.

#3. Faulty engine

When you are not an expert mechanic, diagnosing an engine issue might be difficult. If you’ve tried all of the above and your generator still won’t operate for long periods of time, it’s possible that an engine issue is to blame.

If you suspect an engine problem, the best course of action is to have an expert mechanic inspect your generator.

#4. Fault in the exhaust system

Due to a buildup of exhaust creating a failure in the noxious emission sensors, a defect in the exhaust system might cause a generator to fail within a few minutes.

This is a serious problem that should be handled by a professional.

#5. Electrical issues

Electrical issues might occur in any section of your generator’s circuit or wiring. Electrical concerns should not be handled by inexperienced persons.

To solve this problem, you’ll need a skilled technician or electrician.

# 6. Sensor error

There are many sensors in newer generator types. When one sensor fails, it might trigger a chain reaction of problems with other sensors.

Sensors are usually the most costly component of a generator to fix or replace. A malfunctioning sensor can only be fixed by replacing it.

Before the control panel will resume operating properly after replacing the sensor, it may need to be reprogrammed to recognize any modifications made.

Any sensor replacements or reprogramming may be handled by an expert generator technician.

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