How to Start a Generator That Has Been Sitting? – Answered

For a survivalist, a generator is an important backup when the power knocks out. Since it is mainly used in emergencies and left idle otherwise, one might find it difficult to start a generator that has been sitting.

If a generator was not in use for a long time, it may not get started for various reasons. However, it is not something too worrying and can be fixed by the following steps:

  • Replacing the stale fuel with a fresh one
  • Closing the choke before starting the generator
  • Cleaning the fuel valve, if clogged
  • Removing the deposits on the spark plug and checking its condition with a recoil starter
  • Replacing the oil sensor, if needed
  • Cleaning the clogged air filters
  • Cleaning the carburetor
  • Checking the battery
portable generator dirty

Basic Check-up

When the generator is not in use for a considerable period, some basic issues pertaining to the oil or the gas may be there that can be dispelled by a quick check-up. So, check the level of oil, the position of the fuel valve, and the condition of the choke.

If the level of oil is low, get it refilled. The level can be ascertained by using a dipstick. In modern generators, an oil sensor is designed for this purpose. Here, keep in mind that even if there is sufficient oil, the low-oil sensor might get triggered if the generator is put on some uneven surface.

Add Fresh Fuel

gas tank
(Gas tank)

The fuel becomes stale over time, because of that the generator might have stopped working. So, to assess if the fuel is stale, check for any odor or if there is some cloudiness or fogginess on it, and if it is there, it needs to be replaced.

Check Fuel Valve

valve generator
(Fuel Valve)

The flow of fuel from the gas tank to the carburetor is controlled by the fuel valve. It must be open and unclogged.

To know if it is clogged, unplug the outlet hose from the fuel valve, and if ascertained that the gasoline is not flowing freely, the valve should be either cleaned or replaced with a new one. If there is an in-line filter between the fuel valve and the carburetor, pull it out and check for any clogging in it as well.

Check the Positioning of Choke

The function of a choke is to control the air that passes in the carburetor while starting the generator. If a generator is to be started after a long time, the choke should be set closed, which is the “start” position.

On the other hand, if the generator was turned off recently but is still not starting, put the choke on halfway or fully open to restart it.

Check the Ignition Coil and the Spark Plug

spark plug

A proper functioning ignition coil and a spark plug are essential elements of the ignition system. The spark plug receives a high voltage charge from the ignition coil that ignites the fuel mixture in the engine and the combustion occurs.

If doubtful of the spark plug, remove it and assess its external condition. Sometimes, some deposits and build ups can encrust on its center which can cause a loss of spark energy. If found so, clean it with a small knife, or if you have a carb cleaner, spray it on its body.

Also, before reinstalling the plug, pour some oil into the spark plug hole, rotate the engine more than 2 times, and then start the generator. If it doesn’t work out, it means there’s something serious with the plug or the ignition coil.

To check for it, hold the plug’s body to the engine crankcase and pull the recoil starter. If bright sparks with a blue color appear, it means that the ignition coil is good.

However, if the spark doesn’t appear, put the plug near the engine body and pull the recoil to check the coil. If there are sparks now, it means that the ignition coil is all right, but there is some serious issue with the spark plug, and it needs to be replaced.

Check the Oil Sensor

oil sensor generator
(Oil Sensor)

If the spark plug is free from any damage, check the oil sensor, which monitors the engine’s oil pressure.

To check it, first, disconnect the wire joining the engine with the oil sensor. Now, if the engine starts operating after getting it unplugged, it is an indication that this oil sensor is the cause of damage and should be replaced immediately.

Check the Air Filter

air filter
(Air Filter)

If the previous steps yielded no results, check the air filters. Just like other machines, the generator also needs proper air-flows to function properly. However, when a generator is kept idle for a long time, it is very likely that it gets clogged due to some dirt or debris. Consequently, the carburetor does not receive adequate air for combustion.

So, in such a case, pull out the air filter and check whether it is clogged or not. If it is, replace it with a new air filter.

Clean the Carburetor

carburetor engine
(Carburetor)

A carburetor – which is a part of the engine – is a device that mixes fuel and air for facilitating internal combustion.

If the engine is used after a prolonged period, the stale gasoline that remains in the carburetor clogs the entire functional circuit.

To clean it: first, close the fuel valve and remove the bowl from the bottom of the carburetor along with all the stale gasoline, then clean it with a brush or a towel and use a needle for cleaning the sharp brass jet nozzle.

If it still doesn’t work, try using a cleaning spray or a specialized carburetor cleaning product.

Check the Battery and other Electronic Plugs

In the case of an electric start generator, it may lose its battery in such a long time.

To fix this, try starting the generator with a recoil starter or a third-party battery charger.

If the battery sounds good, then check for any fuse blown. Sometimes, due to excessive passage of current, the metal ribbon inside the fuel melts out, causing it to blow. As a consequence, the entire electronic circuit collapses. So, if any fuse is blown, replace it immediately.

If the electronic connections are not cleaned over a long period, they get deteriorated due to corrosion. Therefore, if found so, clean the terminals using the wire brush. If at all cleaning doesn’t work out, change them completely.

Final Thoughts

It is quite usual to encounter the above discussed issues while trying to start a generator after a prolonged period. Hope your generator starts after incorporating the measures stated above. But if it doesn’t, there may be some serious technical issues with the engine, so you can call a repairer to get the work done.

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