Portable generators are an increasingly popular means of backup fuel sources. This is good if you live in an area with frequent power outages so you can keep your food fresh, your lights on, and your appliances charged. They also make great alternative power sources if you want to tailgate with a buddy or need power tools in the shed.
But you don’t want a gas generator that fails when you need it most. It would help if you had your generator to be reliable. You don’t want a storm to hit; you go to power the light, only to find it doesn’t work.
Or make you the one who agrees to bring the alternator to the rear of the car and then be the one to let everyone down. So what to do if the generator runs for a few seconds and stops? Well, there can be many things, but most are easy to fix.
So please read this guide carefully, and you will discover how to fix the problem and make sure it never happens again.
The generator runs for a few seconds then stops – 13 common causes
Without a doubt, the most common cause of a generator starting for a few seconds and then stopping is overloading. This happens when you have too many devices connected to the generator, and it is struggling to handle it. In the past, gasoline generators were much more straightforward than they are now.
This means that when you are overloaded in the past, the generator will continue to work, but each of your appliances will be underpowered. But now, things have changed. Instead of providing less power, the generator turns off completely.
This is a great safety feature because it keeps your generator and appliances in better shape.
Solution: unplug some electrical appliances. When you restart it, you can be more careful about what the generator can handle.
If you hear the generator getting louder, you can tell it’s starting to overload, and you should be able to prevent it from happening again.
The carburetor is part of the power generator that lets air and fuel into the engine and mixes them to get the correct air-fuel ratio so combustion can occur. The problem is that the carburetor sometimes clogs. The main reason for carburetor clogging is that old fuel remains in the engine for a long time.
This is especially common if you use it one summer and leave it for the following year. When old fuel is left in it, it tends to become more viscous, which can clog the jets and ports in the carburetor. This also has a relatively simple solution: empty the old fuel and clean the carburetor.
Solution: Keep the carburetor clean and drain the oil regularly. Sometimes the damage from old oil is so bad that you have to replace the entire carburetor.
3. Low oil
We have no doubt that when you run your generator, you keep an eye on your fuel gauge and top up your tank regularly, especially if you run your generator for extended periods of time. This is what you need to do with generators as well.
You may have enough fuel to start the engine, but once you do, you’ll find no more fuel in the tank. Many of the more modern generators will have some fuel gauge and often a fuel indicator, so getting hold of this should be reasonably straightforward, but we know that sometimes a task can be on the to-do list for a long time without being done.
Solution: Simply monitor the fuel gauge on the control panel or perform this task manually if your generator is older. Refill the tank and then attempt to use it.
4. Fuel pipes
It’s not just fuel shortages that are causing generator problems. One of the reasons your generator might start and run for some seconds and then stop could be related to fuel in the lines or tank.
The pipes could end up bent or get damaged, including leaks, which could cause problems. Leaks can be one of the easiest to spot, as you can see traces of gasoline or diesel left behind when the generator is moved and even on the pipes.
It’s also not uncommon for dust to accumulate in the fuel tank or pipes, which can cause many problems with fuel flow. Or your alternator could also be struggling with pressure locking in the tank, which could again cause your alternator to stall.
Solution: Addressing issues with your fuel tank can be accomplished by cleaning it, relieving the pressure, and meticulously inspecting the pipes for any of the previously mentioned problems.
5. Oil level
We’ll once again draw your attention to an issue that generators share with cars; the oil level. You have to make sure the oil level is high and low.
When the oil level gets too high, the sensors go crazy, so they shut off. This is especially true of modern generators. But even more dangerous is the low levels of oil. When the oil level is too low, the temperature rises too fast.
It starts up fine because it’s not running yet, but once it does, it gets hotter, and the low oil level exacerbates this, causing it to shut down. Most generators have an automatic shutoff to ensure the generator doesn’t catch fire, so you shouldn’t have any significant issues. But it’s essential to keep an eye on the oil level.
Solution: Pay attention to the oil level to prevent the oil level in the generator from being too high or too low.
6. Water level
Similar to the oil level, you must also ensure the water level is correct. The water is in the radiator again; the water level is too low, and the temperature will rise too much if there is no water.
Failure to do so can cause problems with many parts of the generator, including the engine, if the generator overheats and can cause the generator to fail. Consider using some coolant in your radiator if you want to be extra careful.
Solution: It’s essential to keep your radiator filled with water and check it monthly.
7. Engine failure
Our seventh suggestion (and probably the one you’re worried about) as to why your generator might stop working is that there is an internal fault with the engine. If this is the case, you’re best off talking to a professional who can diagnose the actual problem with your engine.
Solution: Reach out to experts for engine maintenance and problem detection.
8. Coolant sensor failure
Check if the coolant sensor is faulty.
If this is the scenario, the display on the control panel will probably show a “low coolant warning“. This may fail without warning.
What does the pressure sensor look like? Are the terminals bent or broken?
Solution: After replacing the coolant sensor, the engine will start immediately.
9. Oil pressure switch failure
If this failure occurs, the display on the generator control panel will usually show a “low oil pressure warning“.
It’s worth noting that these switches can malfunction without warning.
Solution: Check the appearance and shape of the oil pressure sensor. Make sure the connections on the terminals are tight. Check that the thin cable is connected correctly and not damaged.
10. Control panel reprogramming
Most likely, your generator’s control panel needs to be reprogrammed. This will make it accept newly installed parts. This control panel may need to confirm the oil pressure switch and coolant sensor.
One way to solve this problem is to integrate the control panel.
Also, you may need to reset parameters related to newly installed components. Call your control panel specialist if you need more time to get to the job.
Solution: Ensure to examine the alerts on the control panel and swap out any malfunctioning sensor. Don’t forget to reconfigure your generator following the replacement of any sensor or other component.
11. Electrical Issues
This could also be due to an electrical issue with the generator’s circuitry and wiring.
Solution: If you know the electrical connections in your generator wiring, you can check them. Otherwise, it is best to seek help from the BISON generator manufacturer.
12. Battery problem
The battery powers to start the generator. If your battery is not charged correctly, your generator may shut down after running for a while.
Solution: You must use an external power source to properly charge the battery or check the alternator‘s charging mechanism.
13. Spark Plug
The spark plug is one of the essential parts of the generator and plays a vital role in starting the generator. If the spark plugs are bad and fail, your generator will pop right after starting and shut down within seconds.
Solution: Open the spark plug and check and visually inspect its condition. Sometimes you can reinsert the same plug after cleaning; otherwise, you must get a new plug for your generator.
There are other reasons why your generator might run for a few seconds and then shut off. It could be as simple as the battery not charging, the choke still open, or a problem with the spark plug causing the generator to shut down.
You can also check the exhaust system or air filter for clogs. But by now, the primary way to deal with these problems is to double-check to ensure no apparent issues.
Another straightforward way to ensure you don’t run into problems with your generator is to keep it clean. Ensure to clean it regularly, empty and change the fuel regularly, check the water and oil levels, and treat your generator respectfully.
Generator runs for a few seconds then stop FAQ
Why does my generator suddenly stop after 20-40 minutes?
As the outside temperature increases, the tank may pressurize or become vacuum-tight due to the gas cap failing to check the vacuum or pressure. As the tank warms, the gas expands and requires expansion of the air space to breathe and equalize pressure from the inside of the tank to the outside atmosphere.
If the air cap cannot balance the air, it may create a vacuum as the fuel gravity drains into the carburetor. If a vacuum occurs, it will cause the fuel to stop flowing until the vacuum is allowed to equilibrate with the outside air. If this happens, you will hear a rush of air into the tank when you open the gas cap. The fuel cap may be defective and must be replaced. If you think you have these symptoms, it is best to call an expert to solve this issue.
What is the most common problem with generators?
Battery failure is the most common generator problem. Batteries wear out over time, providing less and less power over time. Knowing the lifespan of your generator battery will ensure you know to change it before it stops working.
Can I run my generator without an air filter?
While running your generator without an air filter connected may be tempting, never try to do so. Doing so can cause permanent damage to the engine.