Virtually every Nigerian man must have experienced the low side of starting a generator only to be greeted with a sound of ‘no response’. We all know how depressing it can be especially if you have some cogent to do with the generator power when primary source of electricity is out. Chances are that you might enter panic mode if you have no idea of what to do to get it started. Well, don’t fret yet as solution is in sight for this. We present here an every day guide to servicing your generator (first level servicing) before calling in for professional help when more difficult situations arise.
Check the Fuel
Well, this one is pretty obvious, isn’t it? This, however, is one of the most common reasons why generators refuse to start. In some cases, the fuel pump (regulator) may have been turned off and as such, ceasing the flow of fuel in the system. Effort to start the generator under this condition will fail until the fuel pump is opened. Most of us usually fall for this trick. Also, insufficient fuel is common especially if you’ve not used the generator in a while. You may also want to consider checking the source and quality of the fuel you usually purchase from vendors as this could lead to deterioration of the system. Asides the quality, fuel (i.e. petrol/PMS) usually degrade/evaporate if stored over a long period. If this is the case, chances are that fuel may have clogged up the engine of the generator. In this situation, you may have no choice but to call a professional for help.
Check The Oil Level
Some generators have automatic oil level checks built into the system to monitor oil level and prevent further usage once the oil level reaches a set threshold. As such, such generator will refused to start if there’s not enough oil to sustain its normally operation as set by the equipment manufacturer. However, such generating set are in the minority as large portion of generating sets in use and in the market does not have this functionality built in them. If your generator has a separate chamber for engine oil, you can simply monitor the oil levels using a dipstick, and top up the oil as required. If the generator is, however, the type that the oil and fuel are mixed such as the popular Tiger generator, you should ensure you follow the manufacturers’ instruction of the oil/fuel mixture ratio (i.e. amount of engine oil to be mixed with the fuel) for optimal function of the generating set. This is usually a small cup of oil to about 4 litres of fuel. For generator types where the OEM requires the mixing of fuel (Premium motor spirit) with engine oil before use, you are to ensure that both substannces are mix evenly before pouring into the generator tank as not doing so may cause an a malfunction in the generator which may result to your generator to accumulate a lot of carbon smoke that could further lead to breakdown.
It is your duty to determine when your generator is due for engine oil and oil filter change as well as servicing of carburetor. The user or technical manual that the OEM included as part of the your product documentation for your generator usually recommend how often you should change the engine oil and its filter. The recommended change frequency is usually determined by design and are calculated based on the number of hours the generator has been in operation.
Generator Is Running But Doesn’t Generate Power
If your generator starts and runs smoothly without outputting power/electricity, it could also be an electrical fault such as issue with alternator, brush or underlining damage to the motor. You can trace this faults by using a voltmeter or amp meter to ascertain that power is being outputted from the generator as well as its adequacy. Insert the voltmeter or amp meter reading wires (i.e. +ve and -ve wires) into the female plug where the male electric power plug is inserted to take the volt or amp readings being delivered by the generating set and compare the readings of the voltmeter/amp meter with the expected readings in your generators manual (e.g. 220/240V or 80/100Amp). If the readings sharply deviated from the standard reading documented by the OEM (i.e. low or high voltage/current), then there’s an underlining problem which may require the expertise of a professional for further checks and possible resolution.
Check The Electrical Load
Common problem generators face is the fact that they are carrying more load than their rated capacity, which result in the generators not produce enough power, intermittent failures, excessive noise and outright breakdown. Every generator is designed to handle a specific amount of electrical load, which should not be exceeded. Certain types of electrical appliances require a lot of power when starting up than they require during operation, for example, refrigerators, cathode ray tub (CRT) TVs, . The generator may have the ability to generate enough power to smoothly operate an appliance but may not be able to generate power needed for the initial start-up load, which could be as five times more.
This can be resolved by temporarily putting off all other appliances till the particular appliance that require much power is operational. Then add other appliances one after the other such that it does not unduly impact the generator operation.
Replacing Fuses and Circuit Breakers
If you start up your generator and it comes up without generating any power output on the load end, chances are your generator has tripped off a circuit breaker or blown up a fuse. The solution to this is to identify the fuse(s) or circuit breakers affected and replace/reset them accordingly. The best way to prevent this from repeating itself is to determine exactly what caused the fuses or circuit breakers go off. Overloading of the generator by high power appliances are usually culprit as the fuse or circuit breaker will usually set off when the load on them are more than their rated current. It is important to also ensure that the right rating of fuses and circuit breakers are used to prevent under-loading or overloading the system.
Weak or Faulty Plug
A plug is a device used for delivering electric current from an ignition system to the combustion chamber of a spark-ignition engine to ignite the compressed fuel/air mixture by an electric spark. This may sound too technical but a dirty/weak or faulty plug is one major reason generators don’t start. You should check to see if your plug is still good. Also ensure that you use high quality plugs in your generator that way, you will prolong the life span of your generating set and minimize the frequency of changing plugs and in effect breakdown.
A quick fix is dousing it in a little fuel to remove the buildup of grease and dirt. A little scraping can help as well. Doing so will at least keep the plug alive enough to run your generating set in the short term until you can replace same with a new one.
The best way to minimize problems and frequent breakdown in your generator is to ensure that you take all precautionary measures necessary as spelt out in the user manual. Timely change of engine oil and filter as stipulated by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and routine servicing will help to keep the generator in good working condition.
Also, using a high-quality engine oil and unadulterated fuel will help the engine and making the generator last longer.