A gas or diesel generator isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of device. It pays to conduct a visual inspection of the generator before every use, and create a maintenance schedule that includes weekly, monthly, and annual checkups.
A regular maintenance schedule is crucial to avoid breakdowns and prolong the life of your gas or diesel generator.
A generator maintenance checklist helps you prioritize which parts to check and when to check them, so you can keep the generator running properly when you need it most.
With preventive maintenance, a backup generator set can last for 20 years or more. Of course, that depends in part on how often you use it. You might need one for as little as 26 hours a year if you don’t have any outages and conduct a half-hour’s worth of weekly exercise.
Without preventive maintenance, generators are susceptible to fuel problems, which can cause breakdowns and even ruin a generator eventually. Running a gas or diesel generator regularly is an important part of maintenance, just as it’s important to take your car for a spin at least once a week, even just around the block.
By keeping your generator properly maintained, you will be able to keep it running smoothly for much longer than if you ignore maintenance tasks.
Download Our Printable Generator Maintenance Checklist
It’s a good idea to create a printable generator maintenance checklist to keep track of what you have and haven’t done, and when.
Preventive Generator Maintenance Checklist
Power generators have a lot of moving parts, from the control panel (the brains of the generator) to the battery and cables. Here are a few tasks you’ll want to consider for a preventive generator maintenance checklist.
Maintenance with each use
- General inspection
- Test batteries
- Check intake and exhaust
- Manual start
- Engine exercise
Maintenance as needed
- Replace filters
- Cooling system servicing
- Fuel system servicing
Weekly Generator Maintenance Checklist
During any inspection, whether weekly, monthly, or annually, begin by looking for oil leaks or other signs of wear. It’s also important to keep your generator clean by removing dirt and debris, and making sure no rodents, birds, or harmful insects have infiltrated the enclosed unit (if there is one).
During weekly maintenance, you should:
- Do a visual inspection
- Run the generator
- Check fluid levels
- Check for leaks
- Check auto mode
To exercise the generator, check the fuel level and start the motor, then leave it running for 30 minutes or so to make sure it’s working properly.
Once you’ve started the generator, check the exhaust system. Examine the muffler, manifold, and exhaust pipe for leaks, and be sure the pipes aren’t overheating any nearby components. Be sure the engine is purring; look and listen for signs of a misfire, such as vibrations, smoke, or power fluctuations.
Monthly Generator Maintenance Checklist
Inspect battery cables and electrolyte levels monthly. Remove the plastic tops from the cell ports and use a toothbrush and baking soda to clean away corrosion or dirt.
Check engine coolant and oil levels (the oil should be close to full without overflowing), and look for signs of leaks in the oil or coolant lines. Also check the coolant concentration: It should be roughly half purified water and half antifreeze. If you live where freezing is a risk, the antifreeze level can be as high as 60% (but no higher).
Use a load bank to conduct a load test monthly for at least 1 hour to make sure everything is in running order. You should also do an electrolyte specific gravity test or electrical conductance test at this time.
How often you use a generator matters, and for how long. If you use the generator more often, you’ll likely have to adjust how often you perform certain maintenance tasks to account for wear and tear.
Here’s a list of other steps to take on a monthly basis:
- Clean generator
- Clean surrounding area
- Check engine coolant levels
- Check battery charger
- Check engine oil levels
You should change the oil after 100 hours of use, and sooner the first time. It’s recommended that you do the first oil change after 30 hours.
Also, switch out plugs and the air filter every 200 hours. But if, on the other hand, you keep your generator in storage and don’t use it often, you should drain it of fuel.
Annual Generator Maintenance Checklist
Once a year, focus on the generator’s electrical system. Turn off all power sources to conduct an internal inspection. Examine the AC wiring and alternator, making sure it’s free of dirt.
Inspect the air intake system and replace the air filter. Check the air induction piping while you’re at it. You’ll also want to make sure the crankcase breather is in good shape: that’s the generator’s source of fresh air, which allows it to sweep fumes out of the crankcase.
Steps to take annually include:
- Change oil
- Change oil filter, fuel filter, and air filter
- Flush cooling system
- Inspect wiring/electrical system
- Change spark plugs
- Test transfer switch
Also, check the transfer switch to make sure it’s functioning to transfer your home’s power source from the grid to the generator during an outage. Finally, to simulate operation during a power outage, perform a functional test.
Some of these inspections and tests are more complicated, and more is at stake during the annual test: If you miss something and wait a year, there’s a greater chance for something to go wrong. You may want to have a professional perform your annual inspection.
Equipped with weekly, monthly, and annual maintenance checklists, you can give your generator the regular attention that it requires. In return, it can afford you years of safety, security, and peace of mind.