Got power? How to care for that generator

Get it running periodically

Keys Sunday staff writerMay 26, 2008 

For the thousands of Keys residents who purchased a generator the past few years, there are a few things you should do to ensure your alternate power source will be ready for use when the power is knocked out for the first time.

"From the smallest portable unit to the largest fixed generator, the most important thing to do is to start it every month or so," said Randy Mearns, owner of Marathon Electric. "If you were living in Iowa or somewhere where there wasn't all the salt in the air, you might be able to let it sit all winter, but not down here."

If you don't start your generator periodically, you run the risk of letting a component called the exciter becoming corroded, Mearns said. If the exciter becomes corroded, the generator will start in the future, but might not generate any power.

Starting the generator every month or two will also ensure the remaining gas and other fluids in the motor will not become degraded and hazardous to the generator. Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank prior to storing your generator will also keep the gas from getting pulpy.

"If you let the gas sit in the carburetor, it gets to be like a varnish," Mearns said. "It's just like your boat motor; you should get out there and crank it up every now and then to run the gas and fluids through it."

If you want to avoid having to start the engine all the time, you can drain all the gas and fluids. If you do this, however, remember to run all the gas out of the carburetor and be aware that the unit's exciter could still become corroded.

"Extra fuel in the tank isn't a problem, it's the fuel sitting in the carburetor that will become like varnish," Mearns said.

Fixed generators that run on propane have become increasingly popular among homeowners, and Mearns suggests they also be started periodically to keep them in prime condition.

"Obviously the propane is a stable fuel and it won't go bad, but the electrical components may still become corroded if you let it sit all winter," he warned.

While you may want to have the spark plugs changed prior to the start of hurricane season, Mears said it is not necessary for storing the unit for the winter. Nor is it vital to have the oil drained or changed, unless you do not plan on starting it periodically.

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