Troubleshooting Common Generator Problems

Posted in: Diesel Generators Performance

Generators can be lifesavers in times of emergency—workhorses to get your business through extended power outages.  Valuable as they are, though, they’re not perfect.  Generators can occasionally malfunction.  It’s important to know how to effectively troubleshoot your generator’s issues so you’re not left in the lurch when you are most in need of a backup power source. 

Here are a few of the most common problems that can affect industrial generators: 

  • Low Coolant Levels – A generator may sound an alarm or simply shut down when the coolant level is low. Most generators do not come equipped to detect low coolant levels.  Instead, the alarm usually sounds when the temperature of the coolant is rising.   When you hear the alarm go off, add more coolant if levels are low. If this happens repeatedly, you may need to check for a leak. 
  • Block Heaters – The function of the block heater is to heat the coolant that runs around the engine block. This can prevent the oil from becoming thick in cold temperatures. Contrary to misconceptions, block heaters are essential, even in warm climates.
  • Leaks – A generator could suffer from oil, fuel, or coolant leaks. Sometimes, what might seem like an oil leak is actually the result of “engine slobber” or wet stacking. This is the accumulation of unburned fuel, condensed water, carbon particles, and acids in the exhaust system. Legitimate leaks can occur when there is a block in the heater hoses. This can lead to extreme temperatures that can compromise the hoses. Overfilling of the base tank is another common cause of leaks. 
  • Controls Not in Automatic – Generators have enunciator or control panels that allow operators to manage their settings. The panels display important engine and alternator information. Most of the service calls for control panel problems are caused by operators failing to turn on the automatic controls.
  • Generators Won’t Start – Newer generators experience this problem a lot. Due to the stricter emission requirements, fuel systems now have closer tolerances and are more susceptible to air.  This can affect a generator’s ability to start up. When older generators don’t start, it is often because there is a leak in the line or because the check valves do not properly hold fuel.
  • Out of fuel – Sometimes, the level gauges may not be working properly. The gauge may get stuck in position, showing that there is still plenty of fuel when in fact it is almost empty. 
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