Uncle Bobs Tips: Generator Guide

Generator Repair

Although a licensed electrician is the expert to call for generator repair, a patient home handyman with common sense and good tool skills can do many generator repairs safely and efficiently.

Although a licensed electrician is the expert to call for generator repair, a patient home handyman with common sense and good tool skills can do many generator repairs safely and efficiently.

Before engaging in generator repair, it is important to be aware of your local laws regarding electrical repairs. In many towns, there are limitations on the work an unlicensed person may do - even the homeowner! Local codes exist because of and are often based on local concerns. Densely populated areas, such as large cities, tend to have electrical codes severely limiting homeowner electrical repair work because errors can endanger hundreds or thousands of people. Rural codes are often less stringent, allowing more owner flexibility and involvement in the work.

Rule number one in any generator repair work: Don't forget to turn off the power! Of all the generator repair work you may do, the most potentially devastating mistakes are in faulty electrical wiring. Countless fires are caused by poor wiring techniques, substandard materials, or faulty extension cords.

Here are some important wiring guidelines for generator repair: Most small gasoline powered generators are designed for appliances to be plugged directly into them rather than plugging the generator into the home's wiring. Be sure to use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge that is adequate for the appliance load. If you need to connect a generator directly to your home wiring, a licensed electrical contractor should be called, and a power transfer switch should be installed before connecting the generator. Without this transfer switch, powering your generator will cause feed back into utility wires, creating a deadly threat to you, your neighbors and to repair crews.

Safety Tips for Large Standby Generator Repair:

  • Never shut off the generator when under load.
  • Always repair or service your generator with the engine stopped and the starting system disabled. On an automatic start generator, this means locking out the switch-gear and automatic transfer switch on the generator you are repairing. This makes sure that the generator does not try to start if an outage occurs when you are doing your work.
  • Before you repair a generator driven by a PTO, turn off the tractor and disconnect the PTO.
  • On PTO driven units, always set the tractor brake before starting the generator.
  • Use extreme care in wet conditions. The output voltage of a generator can cause a fatal electric shock.
  • Do not allow a child or unqualified person to repair, operate or connect the generator to any circuits.
  • Never re-fuel a generator when hot, or while the engine is running.
  • Relevant to all repair work with DC generators: DC generators rely on remaining magnetism to "know" which polarity to generate. If the polarization is reversed, you'll have the generator in series with the battery instead of in parallel once you start the engine. This can damage the regulator, the generator wiring and might actually cause a fire.

    To avoid reverse polarization during generator repair:

  • Always disconnect the negative lead from the battery when working with the generator wirings (unless of course you're measuring if it works or not)
  • To ensure correct polarization after reconnecting the generator and battery wirings, momentarily short the Gen and Bat contacts of the regulator before starting up the engine. The current surge will polarize the generator - especially important if you have had the generator out for repairs.
  • Portable Generator Repair Safety Tips
    More and more people are purchasing portable generators for recreational and emergency use. While generators can be a convenience, they can also be deadly when used or repaired improperly. The primary hazard to avoid when repairing a portable generator is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, operate generators outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area that is away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain or snow. A good location is an open shed, under a canopy or a carport. Never use or repair a portable generator indoors or in attached garages. When you repair a portable generator, remember that you cannot smell or see CO - even if you can't smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. Generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while repairing a generator, get to fresh air immediately. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately.

    During generator repair, follow these tips to protect against electrical hazards:

  • Keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Dry your hands if wet before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator, or use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as "back-feeding." This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

Follow these tips to protect against fire hazards during generator use and repair:

Never store fuel for your generator in the home. Flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store near a fuel-burning appliance. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Many generator dealers have a generator repair service center or generator repair mobile service units run by experienced generator repair mechanics and technicians. You can also purchase Generator Repair Manuals specific your generator brand. These generator repair manuals, intended for professionals as well as the do-it-yourself mechanic, feature step-by-step disassembly and reassembly procedures so you can repair, service or maintain your generator. Generator repair manuals provide detailed information on repair, maintenance, and troubleshooting procedures, as well as wiring schematics for all generators. Hundreds of illustrations guide you through the complete troubleshooting and repair process.

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