Sometimes we all find ourselves realizing the biggest maintenance issue to keeping our machinery in good running condition is when we discover we failed to practice preventive maintenance measures.
This was such the case for me. During 2012 when my wife and I were work-camping in Colorado, our Cyclone sat unused for six months which included all the winter months. In our first work-camping experience we had the privilege of living in a home provided by the Colorado State Parks system.
After about four months I decided to start the generator. It wouldn’t start. As I started going through my generator packet of manuals and papers, I discovered one important sheet. Come to think of it, I believe I picked up this sheet at the National Heartland RV Owners Rally in Goshen, IN in the year 2011. The sheet title - “Protect Against Fuel Varnishing in Your RV Generator”.
The Cummins Onan RV Generator Handbook states:
“The only ways to prevent fuel varnishing are to treat the contents of the tank supplying fuel to the generator with a fuel preservative and to exercise the set. Cummins Power Generation has developed a fuel preservative and stabilizer, OnaFresh, specifically formulated for Cummins Onan generators. We recommend adding this preservative to the fuel, especially on infrequently used RVs.”
To keep a long story short, I’ll tell you this. No matter what I tried to do to clean the carburetor including adding fresh fuel and some fuel additives as well, the generator would not run. Additional research on the RV forums indicated to replace the carburetor. That I did and all is well again.
Therefore, as part of winterizing your RV or if you don’t plan to use your generator for a while or use it infrequently, don’t forget to take care of the preventive maintenance on your generator.
Here are some maintenance and safety tips from Cummins Onan:
· Regular “exercise” is an important part of keeping your RV generator healthy. Lack of exercise can cause moisture build-up and fuel system damage that make it run poorly. Run gasoline generators at a minimum of 50 percent capacity (2000-watts, or one air conditioner for a 4000-watt set) for two hours at least once every four weeks. A long two-hour exercise period is preferable to several short periods.
· Exhaust gas is deadly. Check all exhaust system connections regularly for leaks and tighten them as necessary. Do NOT operate the generator with a faulty exhaust system.
· If your RV bottoms out on a driveway or road object, inspect the generator exhaust system for damage. The tail pipe must extend past the edge of the vehicle.
· Always operate the generator in an area where the wind will carry away the exhaust fumes.
· Never sleep with the generator running unless the RV is equipped with an operating carbon monoxide detector.
· Don’t store anything, especially gas, oil, rags or other flammable materials, in the generator compartment.
· Keep the exhaust and air intake free from obstructions such as clothing, furniture or other material, like road debris.
· Disable auto-start systems while refueling, servicing, storing or long-term parking.
· Perform all service and maintenance work with the generator engine off and the positive battery cable disconnected. Moving parts can cause severe personal injury or death, and live wires could cause fatal electrocution.
· Backfeed to utility systems can create serious risks to life or property. Do not connect the generator to a building electrical system except through an approved device and after the building’s main breaker is opened.
· Autostart Caution: Be sure to deactivate your autostart system before storing your RV, conducting electrical maintenance, or handing over your RV to a service center. To be sure your generator won’t start while conducting maintenance, follow the Operators Manual and disconnect the remote electrical harness prior to any service.
Statement Regarding Exhaust Extensions
Cummins Power Generation, manufacturer of Cummins Onan generator products, does not endorse the use of RV generator exhaust pipe extensions. Like all fuel burning devices, engine-driven generators emit carbon monoxide (CO) which, if not safely handled, can produce serious injury or death. Cummins Onan generators, in conjunction with RV OEM installed tailpipes, are designed to meet RVIA standards for safely handling exhaust gasses while minimizing noise and maximizing generator performance. Improper modifications to the exhaust components can result in unreasonable hazards to the vehicle occupants.
Cummins Power Generation has been unable to this date to identify any commercially available exhaust extension kit which meets reasonable standards for safely handling exhaust gases.
I’ll close with this question: When is the last time you cleaned the generator’s spark arrestor?
Here are some links to generator information: