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Generators are often the primary source of power for our RVs. They give us a steady supply of power while on the road or parked in a remote location. So, it becomes a top priority when something goes wrong with it. It’s easy to become quickly frustrated with an issue like this!
Does your RV generator keep shutting off? Here’s what to do. DIY Step-by-step RV generator troubleshooting:
- Check fuel level
- Check fuel shut off valve
- Check oil level
- Check filters (air, fuel, and oil)
- Fuel pump relay
- Inspect Fuel lines
- Clean or Replace Carburetor
- Test Battery
- Clean or Replace Spark Plugs
You will find this guide helpful as you assess the issue and quite possibly fix this on your own. The following information has been tried and tested by many RV owners, trained generator specialists, and RV technicians.
Thankfully, most of these troubleshooting steps to check your generator issue can be taken by even the most novice of us RV DIYers. Another bonus is you have the opportunity to give the entire generator compartment a thorough once over so that you can get ahead of any future issues.
Let’s gear up – we’ve got work to do!
Through every step of this process, check every pin, screw, wire, and connection in the generator compartment that you come across. You’ll be checking for good connections, no loose screws and bent pins. In doing so, you can rule out the possibility of your generator shutting off due to an easy, quick fix like tightening a wire connection or screw.
Some generator control boards are equipped with a reset feature. You can press and hold the stop button, till you see the light come on, then press start to reset the system. Check the breaker box & circuit breakers on the side of your generator, they will often trip if put under a heavy load.
You may be saying to yourself, of course, I checked the fuel! Some generators are designed to automatically shut off when the fuel level drops to ¼ tank, to ensure that it doesn’t run out. So, make sure it’s filled at least halfway. Over filling the generator will also cause it to run poorly.
Fuel Shut Off Valve
Locate and inspect the condition of your generator’s fuel shut off petcock valve. When the generator is in use, this valve should be open. If not, your generator will immediately shut off.
When the oil heats up, it expands. Double checking that your oil level is not too high will assure you aren’t causing the generator to shut off from overflow of oil. If you believe it could be too full, you can siphon out a small amount until it is below the maximum line, and try starting it up.
Believe it or not, this is a very common cause of generators shutting off. Changing your generator oil is recommended every 50-200 hours of use.
Now, for filter checks. Refer to your generator manual to properly locate the air, fuel, and oil filters. Your manual should specify how often you should clean or replace your generator’s filters. You may be able to simply clean, and air dry your filters. But it may be time to purchase new replacements, which are typically affordable and easy to order.
If you aren’t sure the age of your filter it’s best to replace them anyway. The part numbers for the filters specific to your generator should be identified in your owner’s manual.
Fuel Pump Relay
When a fuel pump goes bad, you will be able to recognize it by the sound. It makes typically a loud “whining’ type of noise. But if your fuel pump relay goes bad you can experience generator stalling or shutting off. If the relay is sticky or dies all together. If this occurs your fuel pump will not receive the electrical signal it needs to properly transfer the fuel to your generator.
Other than shutting off or stalling, when fuel lines go bad you will also notice a strong smell of fuel or notice a leak in the line. This can be exceptionally dangerous if you have an onboard generator that uses propane. Visible cracks in the lines are an obvious sign of bad fuel lines or lines that are on their last legs.
Replacing them can be a simple fix just be sure to shut off your fuel supply before attempting to replace any lines.
A clogged carburetor is especially common with generators that have been out of use for a period of time. As the gas naturally evaporates it can leave a clog causing substance behind. A bit of carburetor cleaner should sort that out. If not, you may have to replace it.
Now if your generator won’t start at all or doesn’t turn over there is a good chance that your batteries might be on their last legs. Chances are you will probably have other issues to go along with not being able to start your generator if this is the culprit.
Your generator needs enough cold cranking amps to turn the starter fast enough for the engine to catch. Most automotive part stores will be able to perform a load test on your batteries for free.
This actually happened to us, our generator was having issues starting and our batteries were having issues keeping the lights on. We got new house batteries for our RV and voila our generator started no problem.
It is very common for spark plugs to get corroded over time which causes them to stop producing a strong spark. Without a healthy spark, your generator will not operate properly. Luckily changing your plug is an easy fix.
Generator spark plugs are usually found in the lawnmower and chain saw part isles of your local hardware store and can be purchased for under $10. To change the spark plugs will require a special deep socket that is deep enough to fit the length of the plug.
Hopefully, you have found the answer to why your generator keeps shutting down! If not, the next step is to take it in to get it checked by a professional.
Getting the Most Out of Your RV Generator
Treating your generator with love and continued care will ensure you are going to get the most out of it and with the least amount of possible problems.
Overloading your generator is a common problem. Overloading your generator can cause circuit breakers to trip or your generator to overheat. Calculating how much power you’re pulling with each appliance will give you a good place to start when comparing usage to the output of your unit.
A generator can be damaged, if it’s constantly running, with no load. This is rarely the case since RV’s consume a lot of power! Yet, this is important to remember as an RV owner, especially at times when you plan to be away from your rig for a while.
Regularly performed maintenance, including oil changes and cleaning, will extend the machine’s life. Fresh oil and filters will keep your generator running in tip-top shape. If you use a gas generator, it is best practice to only use clean, fresh fuel and add a fuel stabilizer additive when storing for the season.
Generator and RV Repair Courses
Though you may be equipped with a wealth of knowledge, there is plenty more out there to learn! RV repair courses can be taken online or in person. And, there are also courses available that are specifically geared towards generator repair and maintenance.
Some courses can even be completed in as little as six weeks. Great sources of RV repair courses include:
- Private technical training institutes
- Community college programs
- Online programs
Once you are certified, you’ll be able to take advantage of the many in-demand generator/ RV repair technicians job positions that are out there! For full-time RV dwellers that travel, this knowledge can come in quite handy as a steady side job gig! (And, of course, the bonus of being able to fix your own rig!)
Another option is to check out the Fix It Yourself Course by Ed Wilcox, a Certified RV Mechanic. He’s put together an 8 module course on how to fix common RV issues yourself!
Now that you have a whole checklist of items to look over to determine why your RV generator keeps shutting off, there’s a good chance you are going to identify your problem and maybe even fix it yourself.
If you’re more into the driving and not so much into the DIY-ing, have no fear. While it’s good to know how to take care of small fixes yourself while on the road, there is no shortage of good RV mechanics out there. It might still be a good idea to rule out some of the issues above, so you can give your mechanic a better idea of what’s going on with your RV.
Once you have your generator back up and running your next question maybe how long it can run for. I have a full article covering, How Long Can You Run an RV Generator? Plus Tips to Save Fuel.