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Keeping an RV generator in tip-top shape takes more than using it carefully and transporting it safely. Regular generator maintenance ensures the smooth operation of your generator and, most importantly, keeps it ready for your upcoming camping trip.
So, how to maintain an RV generator?
Be it a portable or an onboard RV generator, here is my generator maintenance checklist to keep it ready for your upcoming camping trip.
- Get an appropriate size generator for your RV
- Refueling a running generator is risky
- Letting a generator run out of gas is bad
- Old fuel can damage your generator
- Storing your generator properly will keep it ready
- Secure your generator at the campsite to prevent theft
- Grounding a generator can prevent electrocution
- Use a heavy-duty power cord
- Low oil levels can damage the engine
- Dirty air filters can hinder performance
- Exercising the generator will keep it in shape
- Keep your generator clean
- Bad spark plugs can prevent a generator from starting
- Keep the battery charged
- Inspect your generator visually to find leaks and damage
Preventive generator maintenance will not only extend its life but will also save you a lot of money in repairs in the long run.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper into each of the RV generator maintenance tips to help you understand better.
Table of Contents
- Do Generators need Maintenance?
- 16 Generator Maintenance Tips to Keep it Ready for your RV
- 1. Get the Right Size Generator for your RV
- 2. Don’t Refuel a Running Generator
- 3. Letting your Generator Run Out of Gas is Bad
- 4. Never Use Old Fuel
- 5. Store your Generator Properly
- 6. Secure your Generator at the Campsite
- 7. Grounding can Prevent Electrocution
- 8. Use Heavy-Duty Power Cord
- 9. Low Oil Level can Damage Engine
- 10. Dirty Air Filter can Hinder Performance
- 11. Exercising the Generator will Keep it Ready
- 12. Keep your Generator Clean
- 13. Bad Spark Plugs can Prevent a Generator from Starting
- 14. Keep the Battery Charged
- 15. Inspect your Generator Visually to Find Leaks and Damage
- 16. Break-In your Generator Properly
- How Often should an RV Generator be Serviced?
Do Generators need Maintenance?
Yes, all types of generators need scheduled maintenance, be it portable or onboard RV generators. A properly maintained generator will perform optimally, most importantly, will be there to serve you whenever you need it.
Regular generator maintenance increases fuel efficiency while preventing fuel-related issues. Not only does proper maintenance extend a generator’s working life, but it helps identify issues in the initial stages, which can save you a lot of money.
On the other hand, a poorly maintained generator will fail to work when you need it the most, giving you a hard time out in the middle of nowhere. Taking proper care of your generator is important, no matter how unnecessary it may feel.
If you take care of your generator, it will take care of you and your family when needed.
16 Generator Maintenance Tips to Keep it Ready for your RV
One of the best ways to keep your RV generator in shape is to design a preventive maintenance plan. Preventive generator maintenance helps identify minor issues before they create a dent in your wallet.
Every brand has a maintenance guide that you can follow for your specific generator. But here are my generator maintenance tips that work for both onboard and portable RV generators.
1. Get the Right Size Generator for your RV
RVs come in a wide variety of sizes that have varying power needs. A 50 amp RV is large and needs more power compared to a 30 amp RV.
You don’t have to worry about generator size if your rig came pre-installed with one. However, when buying a portable generator for your RV, you need to determine your total power needs to make sure the unit is capable enough to run your rig.
Because an underpowered generator will not be able to meet your RV power demands. On the other hand, an overpowered generator will be too big, which is a waste both in terms of power and money.
Here is a detailed article on finding the right size generator for your RV.
2. Don’t Refuel a Running Generator
Preventing the urge to refuel a running generator can keep both the generator and yourself from harm’s way. Gasoline is highly flammable, and spills of gas on the hot engine or exhaust are enough to create an inferno.
This makes refueling a running generator a recipe for disaster that causes many accidents on the campsites each year. Therefore, turn off your generator and let it cool down before refueling.
Because 15-20 minutes without power won’t kill you, but a fire will. However, if for some reason you don’t want to wait to put gas in, here is a safe way to refuel a running generator.
3. Letting your Generator Run Out of Gas is Bad
Letting your generator run out of gas while it is still powering your RV appliance can damage the generator. As the generator sips in the last bit of gas from the tank, it sucks in the dirt and debris from the fuel that has settled on the bottom of the tank.
This dirt can clog your fuel system and prevent your generator from starting. On the other hand, as the generator engine stops, the appliances connected to it are still drawing power, resulting in demagnetizing your generator’s coils.
At this point, your generator will start with no problem, but won’t produce any power. Though re-energizing your generator’s coil won’t cost you much, getting to a mechanic from your campsite can be difficult.
To prevent this, make sure you buy a fuel-efficient generator with the largest fuel tank or use a fuel tank extended to extend the runtime.
Here is how your RV generator all night.
4. Never Use Old Fuel
Using old or stale fuel is one of the biggest reasons your generator won’t start or perform well. As the fuel ages, it breaks down, reducing its flammable property.
This makes the generator run rough, underperform or prevent it from starting altogether. Moreover, as the fuel ages, it separates and gums up the carburetor and fuel lines, obstructing fuel from reaching the engine.
Always use fresh ethanol-free fuel or fuel with the highest octane rating you can find. Additionally, you can use a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL to minimize fuel breakdown and prevent gumming.
Here is an in-depth article on how much fuel stabilizer to use.
5. Store your Generator Properly
Storing a generator properly after a camping season is an important step in extending a generator’s life. Of them, the most pronounced are the problems associated with storing a generator with fuel in it.
Before storing a generator, make sure to drain the fuel tank and carburetor. Any untreated fuel left in the tank will start degrading in no time, causing all sorts of generator problems.
You don’t have to drain your fuel tank if the storage time between your camping trips is short. For short storage, you can add a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL to slow down fuel degradation.
6. Secure your Generator at the Campsite
Camping generators are lightweight and expensive, making them a lucrative target for thieves. Most inverter generators are so silent that you may not notice your unit has grown legs unit it’s too late.
RVers with a built-in generator don’t have to worry about their generators going missing as they are permanently mounted to their rig. However, RVs with portable generators need to take special measures to keep their powerhouse safe.
A simple way to deter a thief is to chain your portable generator down to your RV, toe vehicle, or a tree. Here are a few other ways to secure your generator to prevent theft.
7. Grounding can Prevent Electrocution
Grounding or earthing a generator is the easiest way to prevent electrocution caused by the strayed current. Grounding keeps your unit and appliances connected to it safe by sending the excess electricity to the earth.
You don’t have to worry about grounding if your generator is neutrally bonded to the frame of the unit. Simply drive the grounding rod into the earth and connect it to your generator using a cable.
However, it is important to follow the proper grounding procedures to prevent mishaps. Here is a detailed guide on the proper procedure to ground a portable generator.
8. Use Heavy-Duty Power Cord
Power cords help transfer the electricity produced by your generator to run your RV. A low-quality power cord will heat up and damage itself as the appliances draw power, increasing the risk of electrocution, or a fire due to a short circuit.
Therefore, you need to invest in a high-quality power cord that is no more than 100-feet in length. Because an increase in the length of the power cord decreases the voltage, which can damage the appliances connected to it.
9. Low Oil Level can Damage Engine
Generators use motor oil that helps lubricate the engine and keeps the wear and tear to a minimum. As the unit runs, it breaks down the oil while evaporating some.
You need to check the oil level before starting your generator every morning. Simply remove the dipstick on the engine and check the oil level.
Add oil if the oil is below the recommended level. Though most manufacturers recommend changing the oil every 50 hours, you should change it if it looks dirty or the color is deeper than usual.
Moreover, keeping a bottle or two of motor oil is a preventive measure as you’ll not have to run around to find a store to buy oil.
10. Dirty Air Filter can Hinder Performance
Apart from fuel and oil, a generator needs clean air to function properly. The air that the generator uses is cleaned by the air filter in the generator.
Over time, the air filter collects dirt and dust which blocks the flow of air. This obstructs the proper flow of air into the engine, preventing it from running properly.
You need to check your air filter periodically to make sure it is clean. Clean or replace the air filter immediately if it looks dirty or worn out. Cleaning a portable generator air filter is simple if you follow the proper procedure.
Here is a guide on the proper procedure for cleaning a portable generator’s air filter.
11. Exercising the Generator will Keep it Ready
Exercising a generator is one aspect that is often ignored by RV owners as they keep their generators in storage after a camping season. Exercising your generator will keep the unit lubricated, most importantly, keep it ready for your upcoming camping trip.
All you have to do is run your generator with some load on it for an hour every two weeks. Here is an article that explains everything you need to know about exercising a portable generator.
12. Keep your Generator Clean
Keeping your generator clean overall is as important as cleaning the carburetor and air filter. The build-up of dirt and debris on the generator can damage the critical parts and hinder its normal functionality.
They can corrode the metallic components while also damaging the electrical connections. Moreover, dirt on the surface of the generator can easily find its way inside a generator when refueling or changing the oil.
Simply dust off the dirt or wipe it with a cloth. However, never pressure wash or use running water to clean your generator.
13. Bad Spark Plugs can Prevent a Generator from Starting
Internal combustion engines use a spark plug to ignite the air and fuel mixture to run the engine. That means a bad spark plug can prevent your generator from starting and running properly.
A spark plug may become incapable of functioning properly due to age or excessive carbon deposit on the plug, preventing the proper connection. To clean your spark plug, remove it and clean the debris using a wire brush.
Whether your spark plug is at fault or not, a regular checkup is a good practice.
14. Keep the Battery Charged
Generators that have an automatic start use a battery to start the engine. That means a dead or undercharged battery will prevent a generator from starting at all.
Though most modern generators charge their battery as they run, many old generators don’t. However, if your generator’s battery is low on charge, all you have to do is use a battery charger like the Foval automatic trickle charger to top up your battery.
15. Inspect your Generator Visually to Find Leaks and Damage
Be it on the campsite or in storage at home, a visual inspection can tell a lot about the condition of your generator. A close inspection of a generator can help you identify issues before they become serious, especially on the campsite.
Look for signs of oil and fuel leaks, physical damage, missing parts, cable, and fuel line damages. These problems can cause disaster but are simple to solve if identified early on.
Make it a habit to visually inspect your generator every day, especially before starting the unit. Address any abnormalities immediately.
16. Break-In your Generator Properly
Breaking in your generator is the process of lubricating and setting the engine of a new generator. This is the first thing you should do once your buy your generator to ensure peak performance and extend its working life.
Though the break-in process is very simple and won’t cost you much, you need to follow the correct generator break-in procedure to ensure its effectiveness.
How Often should an RV Generator be Serviced?
The frequency of servicing a generator needs will mainly depend on its use. The more you use it, the more frequent servicing it will need.
However, a general rule of thumb is to service the unit at least once a year or every 100 hours by a professional generator mechanic. This should include an in-depth inspection of every aspect of the generator and getting it fixed.
Regular servicing will extend the generators working life and keep it in top-performing order.
Regular generator maintenance ensures the unit performs well and stays ready when you need it. It helps identify problems at the initial stages before it turns to an expensive repair.
Follow the RV generator maintenance checklist above and boondock worry-free.