DIY Portable Generator Repair Tips for a Quick Fix

Whether you use your portable generator at home, the office or for camping, the last thing you want is for it to fail when you need it the most. Unfortunately, in the real world, things happen. Filters break, fuel lines clog and pull cords tear. 

Next thing you know, your small but mighty backup generator is having delays starting, is rattling or isn’t firing up at all!

Luckily, our generator service team has your back. These portable generator repair tips can help you to fix the issue yourself, before calling the repairman:

1. Know the Warning Signs

Before taking a temperamental portable generator to the dump, it’s important to understand what its problems really mean.

A torn pull cord— for instance— isn’t the end-all-be-all. In fact, it’s quite easy to replace. And a generator that’s experiencing start-up delays may only need a fuel or filter replacement. 

Here are 6 Common Troubles with Generators, many of which you can fix yourself to help you diagnose the issue.

2. Replace a Torn Pull Cord

One of the most common portable generator issues is the classic case of a broken pull cord. Fortunately, these aren’t difficult to replace and can be done fairly quickly, even with a flashlight during extreme weather.

While replacing the broken cord may seem as simple as wind-it-up and go, there’s one tricky thing to watch out for: the spring. Before you wrap the new cord around the starter, it’s crucial to ensure the spring has been wound as far as it can go. Failure to do so will cause the cord to hang from your generator without a functional spring to bring it back into the housing. This will lead to your generator not starting at all!

Thinking about switching from a small portable generator to a permanently installed home standby? See how much a home standby generator typically costs.

3. Check Your Breakers

Sometimes your generator starts and appears to run flawlessly, well except for one thing— it’s not putting out any electricity! This can be especially frustrating if your home experiences a power outage or you need it on the go.

In this case, it could be your breakers that are at fault. Have no fear! Replacing a breaker is as simple as ordering the proper set as designated by your generator’s manufacturer and installing them accordingly. While some handymen can do this on their own, we’re happy to help with that at SWFL Electric. Prevent the hassle by frequently checking your breakers. It may even be time to replace your electrical panel.

4. Replace a Fuel Filter

Depending on your generator, you may have a small plastic fuel filter inside. These filters prevent dust, debris and dirt— found in gasoline— from corrupting the fuel system. While these filters often excel at their jobs, some do it too well and can become clogged from all the debris they catch over time. When these filters clog, the fuel system will receive little to no fuel, and the generator will fail to run properly or sometimes not start at all.

Simply detach the fuel line where it attaches to the carburetor (holding it over a bucket or container to catch leftover fuel) and run your generator, paying special attention to whether or not any (or enough) fuel is seeping through the filter. If fuel is not passing through, it’s time to replace the filter. Sometimes you can get away with cleaning it, but generator filters are usually relatively cheap to replace.

5. Clear out the Gas Vent

On your gas cap, there should be either a valve or small hole that functions as a vent. The vent allows gas to flow from its storage area to the fuel system, effectively powering your system.

When the vent is clogged, the necessary airflow won’t reach the gas, and the gas won’t reach the carburetor. On the other hand, if the vent is only slightly plugged, your system will run, but poorly. Clearing out the gas vent is as simple as poking the small hole with a piece of wire, or even giving it a shot of compressed air. Talk about a quick fix!

Did you know home generators are either powered by liquid propane or natural gas? Compare the pros and cons of each generator fuel type here.

6. Maintain & Service the Generator Regularly

When your portable generator isn’t working properly, it can feel like the end of the world— especially when you wait until a power outage to check it when you need it to work now. But the best thing you can do to avoid frustrating issues come storm prep is to take good care of your generator all the time with proper maintenance and servicing— so you won’t need to worry about how to fix it fast.

By running your generator every few months (even when you don’t need it), routinely checking its fuel and lines, cleaning air filters and more, you can rest assured that your generator is ready when you need it most. Here are 7 Important Generator Maintenance Tips that only take a few minutes to do, but could prevent hours of troubleshooting and repair later.

Ready for Permanent Home Generator?

A small portable generator can be convenient for camping, using as a backup at home or even as a lifesaver in extreme Florida weather. But portables are not the generator you need for long-term, high voltage power. If your lines are down for days, a home backup unit is what you need.

In our Battle of the Home Standby Generators guide, we stack comparisons against three major generator brands Generac, Cummins, and Kohler, for three different generator sizes. Download our free resource today.

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