How to fix an overloaded generator

BISON open frame diesel generator
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    If your BISON generator isn’t running as expected, it’s time to look for any signs of overloading. This isn’t surprising if it’s years old, but new generators can also be overloaded for a number of reasons.

    Here we’ll see when your generator might be overloaded and what you can do with pro tips!

    What causes generator overload?

    Often, portable generators are overloaded when their power limits are exceeded. This means when the number of connected devices exceeds the number they are designed to run.

    Most portable generators can sustain a wattage increase for a short period of time. If they are connected to multiple devices for hours, the generators will not be able to keep up with the excess demand for electricity and will automatically go into overload mode.

    The entire system shuts down if the generator is connected to the circuit breaker. If not, there is a high probability of a fire hazard.

    In addition to the increased power limit, there are other reasons for overloading the generator.

    Some of them are mentioned below:

    • The connected appliance is higher than the rated power of the generator
    • Faulty appliances or equipment connected to the generator
    • Wiring system short circuit
    • The polarity of the magnet is fluctuating
    • Malfunctioning generator

    If the generator overload problem is simply because it’s connected to something more rated than the generator can handle, disconnect it from the generator. This will solve the problem. However, the generator overload light can also come on for other reasons.

    Generator in garage ready to use

    Signs Of Overloaded Generator

    With winter coming, your generator will likely stretch its legs between now and around April, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters. While home generators are important for maintaining power and heat during emergencies and severe weather, they are not immune to wear and tear and can become very dangerous if they start to fail due to overloading.

    Knowing the signs of generator overload is important to keep an eye on the integrity of the generator.

    Older devices are expected to get overloaded. Understanding your generator and its behavior is important to the continued operation of the generator and the overall safety of your home.

    As a professional Chinese generator manufacturer, BISON outlines some of the signs you need to look for in an overloaded generator.


    A sure sign is that your generator is overheating in use. (Generator Overheating Causes & Prevention) It may overrun the fan to cool itself, make a lot of noise, or put out too much heat as it gets the job done and cools itself. While overheating can be caused by other issues like insulation or blockages, it’s a good sign of an overloaded generator.

    Generator power down

    Power reduction

    Another way an overload can occur is by reducing the power output of the portable generator. The generator may be working too hard and outputting too little power. The work can be halved by overloading, resulting in poor machine performance.

    Soot in the exhaust gas

    An obvious sign of an overloaded generator is soot in the generator exhaust. While a black exhaust is normal, the soot left behind as a sign of carbon particles is not so normal. This can signify clogging, poor filtration, and anything else, but this usually causes the generator to be overloaded and defective.

    Armature overheating

    Heat buildup in the generator armature and other components indicates overheating.

    Breaker trips

    In the case of a circuit, overloading the circuit breaker can trip it and cause the entire machine to shut down.

    The generator fan is too noisy

    When the fan is working hard to keep the engine cool, the generator can be overloaded.

    Magnets get excited

    If the magnet is excited, high voltage may be the problem.


    Consequences of overloaded generator

    Other equipment may be damaged

    An overloaded home generator affects other equipment powered by it.

    Fire or explosion

    Overheated generators can catch fire if left unattended for long periods. You should check your generator if you see sparks or have a gas tank nearby. This could cause an explosion.

    Generator’s lifespan may be shortened

    Your generator’s lifespan may end up being shortened.

    When your generator is overloaded or hot, your alternator can be damaged. This will shorten its lifespan.

    How to fix an overloaded generator

    Read the user manual

    No matter where you set up your generator, it’s important to understand how it works. (Generator Working Principle: Everything You Need To Know)Identify any common problems, such as overloading, by reading the manual.

    Lubricating bearings

    Generator bearings are critical to engine performance supporting electrical output.

    These surfaces will stay cool, clean, and protected with plenty of synthetic oils.

    Power-only specified appliances

    Plugging everything you have into a generator is one of the easiest ways to overload it. Don’t plug everything into your generator at once.

    Don’t use the generator as the primary power source for the entire house, especially when using electric heaters, AC power, and other power-hungry devices.

    Turn it off when you hear strange noises

    Abnormal noise is abnormal, and it is best to turn off the generator immediately when you hear it. This will help avoid further damage to the generator.

    Fuse protection

    In most cases, a dedicated power cord will handle the overload. Using an appliance from the generator makes it worth investing in a GFCI extension cord. Both appliances and generators will be protected by GFCI.

    Maintain correct oil and coolant levels

    If your generator seems overloaded, you also need to check the oil and coolant levels. With too little oil or coolant, your engine won’t get enough lubrication. As a result, your generator can be unnecessarily stressed by overheating.

    Install overload protection on the generator

    Install overload protection on the generator

    Many generators have overload protection. A sensor detects that too much power is being supplied. This prevents damage caused by overcurrent.

    Purchase a bigger generator

    There is no one size fits all generator. Prices and quality vary, so it’s important to understand your needs before purchasing. You need to determine the power required and the type of transfer switch required.

    Install the transfer switch

    The transfer switch provides the electrical system with direct current from the generator.

    There is a risk of overloading the generator to the main electrical panel in your home without a switch.

    Generator overloads when unplugged

    Why is the generator overloaded with nothing plugged in?

    Sometimes generators have overload problems even when they are not connected to any equipment. This happens after the generator has been running without load for a while. This problem usually doesn’t happen, but it can happen if it continues to run without being connected to any device for a period of time.

    If you encounter a similar problem, don’t panic. Just reset the generator. First, disconnect the main source of power. Then restart the generator. Before resetting, press the overload reset button once to reset the setting. Now, when the generator is on, connect it to the load and see if the overload light is still flashing.

    Even after resetting the generator, the problem still needs to be resolved, probably because it is malfunctioning or needs an expert inspection. In this case, call a professional immediately and let him fix the problem.

    Tips to avoid generator overloading

    Tips to avoid generator overloading

    1. Never load a generator more than it can produce and run it at maximum output.
    2. Avoid overloading the generator by using the generator’s start/stop control to match generator load and demand, which will provide a more stable power supply.
    3. Use a generator with automatic voltage regulation (AVR) that automatically adjusts during voltage spikes or drops. A generator without an AVR has a higher risk of being damaged by overloading than a generator equipped with this device.
    4. If you have to run everything at once and your generator is constantly overloaded, choose a generator with a larger capacity.
    5. If you experience generator overload, use a generator with a higher capacity. If your generator is beyond repair and is under warranty, please contact BISON for professional advice on resolving electrical problems.
    6. Follow their instructions on using the generator properly and ensure they are properly rated before connecting any circuits directly to the outlet box. You also shouldn’t over-tighten the connections when adding power cords, as this could damage the circuitry inside the generator or cause heat to build up due to improper ventilation of the components.
    7. If you are replacing fuses and circuit breakers, always use the same quality and rating as the product you are replacing.
    8. When calculating the amount of power needed to run certain appliances, check that they have both running and starting wattages. Electric stoves, refrigerators, and other appliances require more power (starting watts) to start than they need to run (operating watts). Make sure your generators meet at least the starting wattage for each.


    When purchasing a portable generator, be sure to pay attention to its starting and operating wattage(Generator Running Watts Vs Starting Watts). Once you have the desired number, increase it by about 30%, giving you some extra leeway. If you find that your generator is struggling to handle the load, is prone to overloading, or gets hot, it’s time to lighten its load or purchase a bigger generator.

    It’s also worth mentioning that generator overload failures often shorten their lifespan and can cause certain components to fail. So make sure to keep an eye on everything, so your generator doesn’t fail when you need it most.

    overloaded generator FAQ

    Excessive load on a generator can inflict harm on the generator's engine, alternator, and various electrical parts.

    It can also result in overheating, flipped circuit breakers, and other potential dangers. Furthermore, overburdening might cause the generator to either shut off or stall, resulting in power disruptions.

    In order to reset a generator, you must first shut down the engine and disconnect any loads. Give the generator a few minutes to cool off before shutting the fuel valve. Following that, switch off the ignition and the circuit breaker.

    After a brief pause, reactivate the fuel valve, ignite the ignition, and restore the circuit breaker. To conclude, power up the engine and reconnect the loads.

    Excessively loading a gas generator can lead to a multitude of issues such as causing the generator to overheat, tripping the circuit breakers, and inflicting harm to the generator's electrical elements.

    Moreover, it could result in the engine stalling or shutting down, which may cause power interruptions. In extreme situations, the overburdening could ignite the generator, creating a significant safety risk.

    No, the use of power strips or extension cords does not alleviate overloading, and could in fact enhance the likelihood of overheating and electrical fires.

    Power strips and extension cords are not engineered to manage the high wattage and current generated by generators, thus posing a potential safety risk.

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