You’ve invested in a brand-new generator to power your home during an outage or for recreational use. Now what?
Before you fire that up for the first time, there are a few things you need to know to break it in properly. Breaking in a new generator is critical to ensuring peak performance, efficiency, and long service life. If done improperly, you could significantly shorten your new generator’s lifespan.
Not to worry, we’ve created this complete guide to walk you through the steps to break in your generator correctly. Read on to learn more.
Why You Need to Break in a New Generator
A new generator must be properly broken in to reach its full potential and lifespan. Here’s why breaking in a generator is so important:
It maximizes performance and efficiency.
When you start a new generator, the internal components haven’t meshed fully, and the engine hasn’t loosened up. Running it for a few hours helps all the parts settle in, so your generator can operate at its best.
It prevents overheating.
Pushing a new generator too hard right away can cause it to overheat, damaging internal components. Breaking it in gradually allows the engine and other parts to loosen up slowly while staying within a safe temperature range.
It maximizes lifespan.
When you properly break in a generator, you immediately optimize performance and prevent damage. This helps ensure your generator will last as long as possible while providing reliable backup power whenever needed.
Safety First: Important Precautions Before Starting Your Generator
Safety should always come first when operating any power equipment, and generators are no exception. Before firing up your new generator, double-check these necessary precautions:
Make sure the generator is properly grounded. This means connecting the grounding post on the generator to a copper grounding rod driven into the earth. An ungrounded generator can electrocute you if there’s an electrical fault.
Ensure good ventilation. Generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that can be deadly. Run the generator 5 feet away from doors or windows and never in an enclosed space like a garage.
Have a fully charged fire extinguisher rated for electrical fires on hand. Though rare, generators can potentially spark fires. Be prepared in case of emergency.
Learn how to shut down the generator in an emergency properly. Know how to cut the supply of fuel and power in a hurry if needed.
Never overload the generator. Ensure the combined wattage of appliances does not exceed the generator’s rated wattage, or you risk damage to the generator and electronics.
Check All Fluids: Fuel, Oil, and Coolant Levels
Now that your new generator is set up, it’s time to check all the fluid levels before starting it up for the first time. Doing so will ensure everything is adequately lubricated and able to operate efficiently.
Check that the fuel tank is full of fresh, high-quality fuel – gasoline, diesel, or propane, depending on your generator type. Old or contaminated fuel can clog up the carburetor and fuel injectors, causing the generator to run poorly.
Check the oil level with the dipstick – it should be at the proper level indicated in your manual. Low oil will prevent the engine from cooling and lubricating correctly. High oil can lead to oil spurting out of the exhaust.
Check the coolant level in the radiator overflow tank for generators with liquid-cooled engines. Low coolant will cause the engine to overheat, while too much coolant can damage seals and gaskets.
Inspect Your Generator Thoroughly
A new generator is a serious investment, so you’ll want to inspect it to ensure no issues before first use thoroughly. Take some time to go over every part of your generator to guarantee safety and performance.
Check that the fuel lines are securely connected and not damaged or crimped. Ensure the fuel filter is clean and properly installed. Examine the carburetor or fuel injectors and ensure no visible leaks or clogs.
Review the engine oil level and refill as needed. Double-check that all belts and pulleys are appropriately tensioned and not showing signs of wear. Ensure the air filter is clean and properly oiled. Look for any loose or disconnected wires in the ignition system.
If your generator operates on 240V power, examine the AC and DC output sockets and circuit breakers for any damage. Ensure the grounding lug is installed correctly. Moreover, check that the voltage regulator is set to the correct voltage for your needs. By including this step in your inspection, you can ensure the safe and proper functioning of your 240V generator.
Start Your Generator for the First Time
When it’s time to start your new generator for the first time, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. These steps will ensure your generator is ready to power up and provide emergency backup or portable power whenever needed.
- Ensure you have plenty of fuel, whether propane, gasoline, or diesel. Fill the tank for the initial startup. Check that all connections are tight and secure and there are no visible leaks or damage before proceeding.
- Find the starter mechanism on your generator. This is usually a pull start, electric start button, or ignition switch. Prime the engine by pushing the primer bulb several times if your generator has one. This sends fuel into the carburetor to help with ignition.
- Next, turn the fuel valve or switch to the “on” position. This allows fuel to flow into the carburetor. Check that the choke is in the closed or “on” position. The choke restricts airflow into the carburetor, which helps the engine start.
- Locate the start mechanism, turn the ignition key, or press the start button to start the engine. Pull the recoil handle until you feel resistance, then pull firmly and rapidly. Repeat until the engine starts.
- Once the engine is running, let it idle for 10-15 minutes. This helps the engine components seat properly as the generator breaks in. After 15 minutes, turn the choke to the open or “off” position. This allows more air into the carburetor and helps the engine run smoothly.
Your generator is now broken in and ready to power equipment or essential circuits in your home. Perform periodic maintenance and exercise your generator regularly to keep it in working order for emergency backup power.
Let It Run Without a Load for 30 Minutes
Once your new generator is set up, you’ll want to break it properly before relying on it as a primary power source. The break-in period allows the parts to seat and mate correctly, which helps ensure maximum performance and longevity.
Initially running the generator without any appliances or equipment connected, known as ‘no load,’ allows the engine and alternator to run through a complete heat cycle. This helps the parts expand and contract as needed before powering vital equipment. Run the generator for 30 minutes without any load connected before moving on to the next step.
After the no-load run, connect a small load like a fan, lamp, or small space heater. The load should only be 25-50% of the generator’s rated wattage.
Once your new generator is fully assembled and the oil and fuel are added, it’s time to break it in properly. Rushing the process can damage internal components and void the warranty.
Every 2 to 3 hours, you can increase the load on the generator slightly by adding another device or two.
* Add a fan and a lamp after 2-3 hours
* Add a fan, lamp, and circular saw after 5-6 hours
* Add a fan, lamp, circular saw, and heater after 8 hours
Monitor how the generator is running with each load increase. It should run smoothly without strange noises, smells, or excessive vibration. If anything seems off, shut down the generator and have it checked by an authorized service dealer.
Properly breaking in a generator is critical to its longevity and performance.
Follow the guide we shared above, and before you know it, you’ll have a generator ready to power you through the next storm or camping trip.
Take your time, be patient through the initial break-in period, change the oil as recommended, and your generator will reward you with reliable service for a long time. The effort you put in now will give you peace of mind for years.