Troubleshooting Common Problems with Starting a Generator
It is a tedious experience starting a diesel generator in cold weather. This is because sufficient preparation has not gone into the process. When weather is cold, fuel does not vaporise well and this means it will not ignite. Here are a few steps to start your generator in the cold including troubleshooting tips.
Modern diesel generators use a glow plug or preheater to start in cold weather. Glow plugs help preheat air as it enters the combustion chamber. These may be manually operated or have a timing circuit. Glow plugs need to stay on for a while to ensure a smooth start.
Tips for Starting a Generator in the Cold
· Keep engine block heater plugged in and turned on
One might be tempted to save money by turning off the block heater. Even when you don’t have main power supply, use a small generator to run the block heater. We need to do this a few hours before we start the generator.
· Make sure battery charge is at peak value
Keep the battery charger plugged into the mains supply at all times. Use the generator if you do not have main current.
· Inspect generator before starting
Walk all round the generator and inspect for signs of oil spillage, debris, and puddle before you start it.
· Ventilation and exhaust system are working well
If the ventilation or exhaust is choked, this will prevent your generator from starting. Installing a protective cover in case of excessive snow will prove useful.
· Use anti-gelling agents
When you expect a drop in temperature, add anti-gelling and antimicrobial agents to your diesel fuel.
· Old model digital controls might not work
When it is extremely cold, the older model digital controls might stop working. Or, at times, the gauges might become unreadable.
Troubleshooting tips when generator won’t start
· Check your spark plug
Inspect spark plug to see if they are worn out or damaged. Check for cracks in the porcelain insulation. Electrode might be burnt away or you might have a heavy carbon build up at the electrode. If this is the case, replace the spark plug.
· Check the carburettor
If you leave your generator for a long period, this will lead to clogging of the carburettor. Fuel evaporates and becomes thick, this will clog the carburettor. Use a carburettor cleaner to clean. If this does not solve the problem, you have to replace the entire carburettor.
· Defective ignition coil
Check spark plug and ignition coil for defects. You can use an ignition coil tester to make sure that the coil is working well.
· Difficulty with start switch
If the start switch is difficult to turn on or off, replace it. Use a millimetre to test for continuity. This switch should remain in open contact in ‘off’ position and closed contact in ‘open’ position.
We can use starting fluids made of ether and petroleum distillates. These have a low freezing point and so work well in cold conditions. Many starting fluids have added anti-corrosive agents and lubricant added. Avoid overuse as this will damage the engine. When the temperature drops, diesel will become thick leading to filter plugging. You can use fuel additive to prevent this.
If these tips don’t work, contact your generator service provider for professional help.