You’ve got to make sure your generator will start when you need it to. The middle of a blizzard with a power outage is no time to be trying to start a stubborn generator.
Taking a few minutes to perform routine tasks before storing your generator can save hours of frustration later.
After checking with several generator manufacturers and a mechanic, we compiled a guide on how to properly store a generator. Ensure your equipment is ready when you need it by following a few basic steps.
Temporary Storage (Less Than 30 Days)
The preparation is relatively simple if you plan to store your generator for 30 days or less. Follow the steps below:
- Dust off any debris and dirt on the exterior of the unit.
- Wipe off any grease, grime, spilled gasoline, or oil.
- Inspect the unit for loose bolts, frayed or damaged wiring, wheel damage, or fuel tank damage.
- Once the unit cools, refill the fuel tank with fresh gasoline.
A fuel stabilizer such as StaBil or QuickSilver is always a good idea. Gasoline can begin decomposing within 30 days. Even though you don’t intend long-term storage, you can protect your investment and ensure a longer life for your equipment.
Long-Term Storage (More Than 30 Days)
Depending on your generator’s use, it may spend most of its life in long-term storage. If you use it for camping, that means most of the winter. If your generator is a backup for when the municipal grid goes down, it could spend years in storage.
Proper preparation and routine maintenance will ensure that it starts when needed. Because long-term storage is more complicated, we’ve outlined the steps below in greater detail.
Prepping Your Generator for Storage
Each step may vary slightly depending on the make and model of your generator. It is best to follow the guidelines in the owner’s manual.
If you don’t have that, you might be able to locate it on ManualsLib, an online manual depository. Manufacturers sometimes offer PDF versions of their manuals online.
Check the Oil
Begin by checking the oil. If it’s dirty, you should change it before storage. Most manufacturers recommend changing the oil in a generator after several hours. That can range from 50 to 200 hours of operation, depending on your unit type.
Dirty oil can cause difficulty starting, power spikes during operation, and other problems.
Drain or Stabilize the Fuel
We recommend that you drain or run out the fuel for long-term storage. Run the unit until the engine dies, then switch the choke lever to the choke position. Be sure that the carburetor and fuel tank are both dry.
If you know that you’ll be storing your generator for less than six months, it is acceptable to add a fuel stabilizer. Be sure to run the unit for at least two minutes to allow the stabilizing agent to travel through the system. Close the fuel valve, and the unit will stop shortly.
FUEL SAFETY TIPS:
- ALWAYS work with any fuel in a well-ventilated space
- STORE gasoline only in approved containers away from combustible materials
Lubricate the Piston Chamber
During regular operation, the piston chamber receives lubrication from the engine oil. When preparing for the long term, injecting a bit of clean oil directly into the cylinder is a good idea to prevent seizing. The process is relatively straightforward:
- Remove the spark plug using a spark plug socket.
- Pour one to two teaspoons (5–10 cc) of clean engine oil directly into the cylinder.
- SLOWLY pull the starting cord two to three times (pulling fast WILL make a mess).
- Replace the spark plug and tighten with the socket.
When you lubricate the cylinder like this, your unit may smoke slightly when you start it back up after storage. This is normal as the engine circulates to excess oil and burns it off. It should stop smoking within a few minutes.
Check Components for Damage
By “components,” we mean the entire generator. Check bolts to make sure they are tight. Look at the hoses to check for dry rot or degradation. Check the wiring and cabling. Check the tires if your unit has wheels. Give everything a good look-over.
If your unit is near milestone maintenance dates, performing the maintenance before storage is best. Check and change the oil based on the recommendations in your owner’s manual.
Clean Surface Areas
Clean the exterior of your generator using a damp cloth, then dry it with a lint-free cloth. That little drop of bird poop may contain digestive acids that will eat away at your generator over time.
This short video outlines the process of prepping your generator for storage.
Where to Store Your Generator
Depending on the size, a generator might fit on a shelf, or you may need to carve out a garage corner. It would be best always to store your equipment where it is cool, dry, and well-ventilated. Here are some choices on where to keep your generator:
- Outdoor shed
- Enclosures designed and built to house generators
Please DO NOT store your generator in your home or basement. Even with no fuel in the tank and storage mode, a generator emits fumes within a closed space, creating a hazardous situation.
Bringing Your Generator Out of Storage
If you perform the steps to prepare your generator for storage, it is easy to put it back in use again. Start with a quick look at cables and wires to ensure no critters have been snacking. Add fuel and check the oil level.
You’re ready to start your generator. Remember that a bit of dark smoke may be evident when you start your generator. This should clear itself within the first few minutes of operation.
Remember to use your generator in a well-vented, open area. This video covers some additional safety tips to keep your family safe.