How to Fix a Broken Portable Generator

  • 0.5-1
  • Intermediate
  • 25-50
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

A portable generator can be an excellent back-up in the event of a power outage, especially if you live in a rural area where power can be out for a long time. However, portable generators aren’t infallible. They do break down as well so it’s in your best interests to take care of repairs as soon as possible.

Step 1 - Fuel Check

If your portable generator won’t work, the first thing to check is the fuel. Generators aren’t in regular use so it’s always possible that the fuel could be very low or you could have run out completely. Obviously, portable generator need fuel in order to run so avoid problems by making a habit of checking the fuel each time you wish to fire up your generator.

Step 2 - Self-Starter

A number of generators have self-starters which can save a lot of wear on your arms. However, these are battery-powered so if the generator won’t start with the self-starter, the battery could be at fault.

In order to fix this, you need to know how to start the generator manually, which is a skill you should master anyway so you can be prepared for any eventuality. If you are able to start the generator manually, you can assume with some certainty that the self-starter battery is dead and requires replacement.

Step 3 - Overload

Where the portable generator starts without a problem but cuts out intermittently, you might well be overloading it. Bear in mind that all generators have a maximum load that they can handle. If you go above this limit, they’ll cut out because they can’t handle the surge in power.

Even if your portable generator’s capacity seems to be the same as the electrical rating of your household equipment, it might well be that items like air conditioners require more power as they start up and this can easily overload your generator. To fix this issue, turn off some of your household electrical equipment and try your generator again. If it starts and stays running, the problem has been alleviated.

Step 4 - Fuses

When the portable generator runs as it should, but fails to produce any voltage, you need to look to see if there’s a blown fuse or if you’ve tripped a in-built circuit breaker. Try to reset the circuit breaker or look for the blown fuse and replace it. You also need to discover the reason the fuse blew in the first place since it could be a sign of an underlying problem.

Step 5 - Current and Voltage

If there seems to be no output from your portable generator, take your voltmeter, start the generator and check the output. It should generate a voltage of between 125 to 135 volts when off-load with a supply of about 63 Hz. Once a load is applied, the figures should change to 110 volts and 58 Hz.

If the generator isn’t supplying these voltages, the problem will either be in the governor, exhaust system, piston rings, valves or in the engine. Under these circumstances, have a professional examine the portable generator instead.