Generator not producing power

Generator not producing power
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    Your electric generator makes noise and burns fuel, but it’s not doing much. Even though the engine is working, your home still has no power. Why isn’t your generator producing power? This article will list the most likely problems and explain how to fix them in your garage.

    Sometimes the problem is as simple as a tripped circuit breaker. This could be due to overloading or a damaged cable. Another significant possibility is that your alternator has lost its residual magnetism. There could also be a faulty voltage regulator, capacitor, or excessive wear on the carbon brushes.

    Once you understand what’s wrong with your portable generator, you can usually get it running again with a few quick steps. So let’s get started!

    Generator runs but does not generate power

    Top reasons your generator is not producing power

    Circuit breaker tripped

    Like your house, your generator has a circuit breaker that works when the current gets too high. This can help you avoid electrical damage and fires if something goes wrong. If the circuit breaker trips, the generator cannot supply power.

    Look for the circuit breaker switch on the appliance control panel. If they are in the “off” position, the circuit breaker has tripped. The most straightforward reason is that you are trying to run too much equipment with the generator. The circuit breaker trips to prevent frying when the machine is over its head.

    Shut down everything unnecessary and start the generator again. Did it work this time? If so, then you are overloaded.

    Some power generators also have a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). This extra safety measure cuts off the current in the event of an electrical leakage. If the “reset” button on the generator pops out, the GFCI breaker has tripped.

    This could mean that the circuit breaker itself has faults. Unplug all the things from the generator, turn it on, and press the reset button. If it trips and the button reappears, the breaker must be replaced. It would help if you tried running a few small appliances from the GFCI outlet, one at a time. If you can do that, then the GFCI is not a problem.

    One possibility is a damaged power line connected to the generator. Ensure no visible wear, such as peeling insulation or frayed wires. If the wires are intact, plug them one by one into the GFCI receptacle and try getting power through them. See if any of them hit the reset button. In this case, you’ve found the culprit.

    What if none of these measures prevent the circuit breaker from tripping? This means there is a problem with your house wiring or equipment powered by your generator. The best way to diagnose the source of this problem is to isolate the specific component or section of the circuit to determine where the problem lies.

    Circuit breaker tripped

    Loss of residual magnetism

    It is possible to restore this residual field, sometimes called “flashing the exciter field.

    Your BISON generator uses spinning electromagnets to create electricity that flows to your lights and appliances. This coil usually remains slightly magnetic when you turn off the device. When you turn the machine on again, the machine relies on that little bit of magnetism to generate electricity.

    The most common reason a generator stops producing power is that it has lost its residual magnetism.

    There are three main ways this can happen:

    • You don’t use the generator for a while, and the magnetic field wears off over time.
    • You left something plugged in while the generator was off. When the machine is turned off, the magnetism is lost to the device it is powering.
    • You let the generator run on no load. This will dissipate the magnetism.

    It doesn’t take too much to recharge the magnetism in your generator.

    Here’s an easy way:

    • Find the power drill and remove the bit, leaving the chuck free.
    • Insert the drill bit into the generator’s socket. Set it to the “forward” orientation.
    • Turn on the generator.
    • While holding down the drill’s trigger, quickly turn the collet in the “reverse” direction. Please don’t hold it for too long or let your fingers get caught in the crevices.
    • Repeat the above operations until the electric drill is powered on, indicating the generator works. Just turn the drill chuck for 2 or 3 turns.
    • This effective trick works because your drill has its magnet. When you spin it back, you push some magnetism back into the generator.

    You can try “flashing” your generator if you don’t have a drill. No, this doesn’t involve trench coats. All you need is some alligator clips and a 12-volt battery.

    It works like this:

    • Unscrew and remove the end cap on the generator alternator.
    • Find the positive and negative wires from the voltage regulator and note where they are connected. The positive terminal is mostly red, and the negative terminal is black or white, but check the label to be sure.
    • Remove those wires and disconnect the regulator. Use an alligator clip to connect the battery’s ground terminal to where the negative wire is.
    • Clip the second alligator clip to the metal tab attached to the positive wire. Do not connect the other end to the battery. Make sure no other metal touches either clip.
    • Plug the lamp into the generator. This will let you see if there is any power output.
    • Then turn on the generator.
    • Connect the free end of the second alligator clip to the battery’s positive terminal. Leave it there for a few seconds. If you see the light glow, your generator is generating power again!
    Generator brush wear

    Worn brushes

    Well, flashing your generator doesn’t work. Since you’ve removed the cover from the alternator, you should check that the brushes are in good condition. Brushes are tiny carbon pieces that make contact with the rotor. They wear out over time, so more expensive generators may not use them.

    Assuming your generator does have brushes, they will be in the brush assembly. This is the small part with the metal tab that connects the wires from the voltage regulator. Unscrew it and check for the little carbon blocks sticking out. These are brushes.


    • Chips
    • Cracks
    • Brushes are worn down to less than half the size of new brushes
    • Loose brushes
    • Burnt or melted spots
    • Generator brush wear

    They’re not the brushes in your toothbrush but two small rectangles of metal with a wire joined to one side.

    If there are signs of damage, you must replace the brushes or the entire assembly. Fortunately, these parts are very cheap.

    Busted AVR

    Machines don’t like surprises. Your generator is equipped with an Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR). This critical component keeps the voltage stable to protect the alternator from overloads and surges. But when it fails, the AVR cuts the generator’s output.

    If you know how to use a multimeter, you can utilize it to test your AVR. Remove the leads from the brush assembly. Then unscrew and remove the entire AVR.

    Start the generator with the end plate still closed. When it’s running, you need to get a voltage reading:

    • Across the brushes.
    • Across each pair of windings. These are the four small terminals that line the side of the alternator.
    • Across the two positive winding terminals.
    • If this sounds too complicated, don’t worry; plenty of online resources can be a source of secondary information.

    The brushes should read between 5 and 10 volts. The whole winding should be 3-5. And there should be no voltage on the positive winding terminal. If these voltage readings are regular, the AVR has damaged your generator. You need a fresh one.

    If you get readings outside of these ranges, there is a problem with the alternator’s rotor or windings. These fixes are more extensive than we can cover here.

    generator capacitor

    Bad capacitor

    Many home generators use capacitors instead of AVRs to control voltage. They also cut off the output of the machine when they malfunction. If you have a brushless alternator, you should test the capacitors to see if that prevents you from getting power.

    You’ll find it in roughly the exact location as the AVR. Be extra careful when using capacitors. Do not allow fingers to connect the two terminals or severe electric shock may result. Here’s an example of how to do it correctly.

    You may see apparent damage, such as molten metal or burnt marks. If not, remove the cover and turn on the generator. With the engine started, touch the multimeter probes to both ends of the generator capacitor.

    If it reads around 5 volts, your alternator is operating correctly. The capacitor is what keeps the generator from working. Good news – they’re even cheaper than AVRs to replace.

    Connection problems

    Sometimes the connection itself is problematic. A damaged, burned, or frayed power cord can cause this, or sometimes you can find dirt, debrief, and errors in the outlet.

    Always check connections and outlets before making a decision.

    Outlets failure

    Faulty, worn out, or damaged outlets are one of the biggest reasons a generator won’t produce any power even when it’s working.

    A faulty outlet can also cause the generator to fail to generate electricity if the outlet is not adequately connected to the generator or if it is damaged. It is essential to ensure all outlets are correctly connected and in good working order before using the generator.

    If you want to check the outlets, take some readings with a multimeter. If you get some readings, then the outlets are fine.

    Outlets failure

    Disconnecting the start switch prematurely

    There is another, more common reason for a generator not producing electricity. You may have disconnected the starter switch too soon.

    We know it sounds simplistic, but in reality, many generators not producing power are simply cases of people letting go of the start button too quickly.

    When turning on the generator, hold the switch/button for some seconds after the engine starts to ensure the field winding is also charged. Otherwise, your generator may not be strong enough to generate electricity.

    It’s worth noting that even many newest and modern generators require the start button or switch to be held down for a few extra seconds (long enough to energize the windings and start the unit).

    For this reason, many new generators are equipped with an indicator light that flashes once the unit’s windings are fully energized.


    A generator that doesn’t produce power is no good to anyone. The good news is that you can usually get it running again by restoring its residual magnetism or reducing the load. Replacing small parts like capacitors or circuit breakers can also do the trick. Welcome to BISON to see more knowledge about generator maintenance. We wish you the best of luck and re-lighting!

    Generator not producing power FAQ

    Suppose the generator is not producing power even though the AVR, carbon brushes, outlets, and circuit breaker are working. In that case, you should flash the generator with a power drill or 12V battery to re-energize the magnet.

    Brushless generators, or synchronous generators, use permanent magnets to generate electricity.

    The rotation of the rotor within the stator produces a magnetic field that induces current in the stator windings.

    To troubleshoot a brushless generator, check the exciter and rotor for damage, ensure all internal components are properly lubricated and cooled, and check the control system for malfunctions or defects.

    The frequency of maintenance required for a brushless generator depends on the manufacturer’s recommendations and how often it is used.

    Regular maintenance, such as oil changes, inspections, and cleaning, is recommended every 100 hours of use or at least annually.

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