&%%%!@## Generator!

I bought a small gasoline-powered generator for emergency backup around the house. We don’t get a lot of power failures here but they often are inconvenient and at night after a thunderstorm. The thing was easy to unload and unbox. Topped up the fluids and gave it a spin and another and another. It would not start. As the weather was marginal for 10W-30, I drained the cold oil and replaced it with 5W-30. Still no joy.

I checked all the usual culprits:

  • fuel was reaching the carburetor
  • spark-plug was pristine
  • switch was “ON/1”
  • machine was on a level surface
  • disconnected the oil level kill switch

Voila! It started! Joy! After a couple of minutes it stopped abruptly. Another pull got it running again and again it stopped.

I fiddled with this thing for hours and never got it to run longer than about 10 minutes. In frustration, I called “customer support” and got put on hold a lot. Finally, I was transferred to a tech who knew the beast inside and out. He walked me through the same checklist I had done to no avail. He then said to disconnect the black wire to the kill switch. I had seen the wire but did not see the disconnect. It was hidden under a thick black rubbery sleeve. I had to put down the phone to have enough strength to disconnect the kill switch and the thing ran and ran… I thought I had it made. The thing could be stopped by turning off the fuel. Unfortunately, there are more than one kill switch: oil, the red rocker switch, and an overvoltage protector… They all grounded that black wire to the spark coil…

To identify which part was causing the problem I volunteered to disassemble the control-panel and isolate the rocker switch and the overvoltage protector one at a time. The front panel came off easily with four accessible screws. The back of the panel had to be removed and that required more dexterity than I could easily muster in the cold. Finally, I had everything exposed. I disconnected the rocker switch and the problem persisted. That meant it was the overvoltage protector. I reconnected the rocker, fired the machine up and it ran and ran even with the overvoltage protector engaged. I called the tech back and we were both at a loss. It had to be the overvoltage protector but it wasn’t…

Next day, I fired up the machine and it died after a few minutes… ARGHHH! I hate intermittent defects.

It’s possible the orientation of the control-panel affects this thing. Upright the problem exists. Hanging out sideways, the problem disappears. Another possibility is that the voltage regulator on the alternator produces spikes randomly witch trip the overvoltage device. I’ve been running with no load. Perhaps with a load the spikes will be less and the problem will be “contained”. To be continued…

PS: Chuckle. After thinking about it quite a while, I tried one more thing. I connected a work light drawing ~150W after I got the machine started. It ran smoothly for 40minutes! I should make a peak detecting circuit to see whether the spikes in output are serious. Otherwise, this generator is good enough for what I do. It’s not designed for winter here or rain in summer but I can compensate by changing oil more frequently in winter and warming it up and giving it a canopy.

PPS: After an exchange of e-mail, the manufacturer offered to send a new voltage regulator and over voltage protection device. Great! The regulator is just under the end-cap of the alternator and the OVP device is on the inside of the control panel. I can do this…

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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