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RV Generators come in a variety of brands, are fueled by gasoline, diesel, or propane (LP), vary greatly in capacity, and may be air or water-cooled. Therefore, it is important to know exactly which generator and configuration you have in your RV. While it is as important as upkeep of the rest of your RV, generator maintenance is sometimes overlooked. Although troubleshooting and repair of a generator can get complicated, maintenance is not, and this generally results in fewer failures and longer life. Here, we will describe some simple generator maintenance tasks that most RVers can easily perform.
Get to Know Your RV Generator
- Locate a parts distributor for your brand of generator and make note of the make and model so you can order filters and other parts from them.
- Take note of the engine oil grade used and make sure to have a few quarts on board at all times.
- I keep all my RV statistics recorded in an app on my phone so I can access it, even at the parts counter.
- Remember that if you don’t have copies of your owner’s manual they are often available online from the manufacturers or third-party websites.
How Generators are Powered
Most generators will be fueled either by LP or the same fuel that powers the chassis (in the case of a motorhome). However, this is not always the case. I once had a diesel pusher that had a gas generator. Therefore, the RV had two fuel tanks. If the generator runs off the same fuel as the coach engine, it will draw fuel from the same tank. However, the generator will never run the coach out of fuel, since the generator dip tube going down into the fuel tank is shorter than the one used by the engine. In the case of an LP generator, there will be a separate large regulator (usually mounted with the generator) and fuel line than that used by the other appliances.
Generator Oil Change
The most basic of generator maintenance tasks is to change the oil regularly. All generator types and sizes share similar requirements for oil changes, but refer to your owner’s manual for specific information.
- Locate and remove the oil drain plug, but be sure to place a drain pan underneath.
- Replace the oil filter, then refill the crankcase to the specified volume.
- Start the generator
- Check for leaks
- Turn off the generator, and top up the oil as necessary.
- Replace/clean the air and fuel filters, as well as the sparkplugs and ignition components at the specified intervals.
- For water-cooled units, check the coolant level and concentration.
- Make sure the generator unit is clean and free of debris, especially around the air intake and exhaust, as well as the radiator.
- Inspect the generator, including the exhaust components, electrical cables, and fuel systems, for damage and leaks.
Very little else has to be done to keep your generator running smoothly during regular operation, but there are some additional precautionary steps that may be required.
- If your RV or generator is going to be unused for an extended period of time, such as during winter storage, be sure to pour some stabilizer into the fuel tank and run the generator for at least five minutes to ensure the stabilizer enters the generator fuel lines and system. This is not necessary if your generator is propane fueled.
- Removing the spark plugs and pouring a few drops of oil into the cylinder before replacing the plugs can provide extra corrosion and rust protection.
- Also, it is a good idea to have the 60Hz frequency verified periodically, as it can drift. This is especially important if your appliances or electronics exhibit erratic behavior. This is often manifested as flickering display screens or other miscreant electronics behavior. You can have this checked at a dealership or with a digital multi-meter that can measure frequency. This is an often-overlooked maintenance item that can damage electronics or appliance motors if left unchecked.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.
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