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How to Break In A Portable Generator (The Right Way)

- May 21, 2018 -

Did you know that what you do in the first few hours of owning a portable generator can have a big impact on how long it will last?

 If you dont carefully break in your generator, you will almost certainly have some big problems with it before you know it.

WHY you need to break in your new generator

When you don’t take the time to properly break in your new portable generator, you’re risking some pretty serious damage.

Youre also likely just shortening its lifespan. Buying a portable generator is an investment and its something that you should expect to last for quite some time.

If you dont carefully break it in, though, all bets are off.

The process for breaking in a generator is a cycle of letting it run and changing the oil.

Its important to let it run so that oil is able to circulate throughout and cover all moving parts.

But its also important for another reason.

Something you might not know about engines is that when they are new, tiny pieces of metal are likely to break off and move around in the engine.

This can cause some serious engine wear so if you care about the longevity of your portable generator, its vital to follow these instructions for breaking it in properly.


How-to: Step by Step

It does take a few hours of your time but the process for properly breaking in a generator is quite easy, even if you don’t know much about engines. Follow these steps and your generator should be working well for years to come.

1. Go shopping.

Before you can break in your generator, you need oil, gas, and a few other supplies.

For gas, you should buy the highest-octane gasoline you can get.

For oil, you should buy the oil brand recommended by the generator’s manufacturer.

You should also buy an oil conditioner like Lukas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer or Marvel Mystery Oil.

Dry starts are a major cause of wear in engines, especially new engines.

Adding some oil conditioner will ensure that there isnt a dry start.

These products have special properties that help the oil stick to the cylinder walls. This means that even if your generator has been sitting around for a long time without being used, you can trust that the internal parts arent dry and at risk for faster wear.

2. Start the lubrication process.

Remove the spark plug. Using a funnel, pour just a little bit of the oil conditioner down into the spark plug chamber.

This helps ensure that there is some lubrication in the cylinder before the first time you yank the cord to start the generator up.

You should never pull the starter cord before there is some lubrication on that cylinder wall.

After the conditioner is in, pull on the starter cord slowly about 10 times.

This allows the piston to move up and down in that newly lubricated cylinder. Replace the spark plug.

3.Add the oil.

First, squeeze some oil conditioner right into the crankcase. Using a funnel, fill up your portable generator with the appropriate amount of oil. Check the manual to see how much oil your generator takes.

4. Add the fuel.

Next, fill the tank up with gasoline.

It’s a good idea to use high-grade gasoline whenever possible.

Open the vent and switch it to the on position. Turn on the choke and then start the generator up.

It might take some extra pulls for this first start so dont be alarmed if it doesnt start after the first pull on the cord.

5. The first hour.

Let it run for one hour at the lowest speed. It’s extremely important to let it run for this first hour on no load whatsoever.

6. Change the oil.

After letting it run for 60 minutes with no load whatsoever, it’s time to drain the oil.

This helps get rid of the majority of those metal flakes and fragments.

Getting these out will prevent serious wear on the engine. Add some more oil conditioner and fill it up with fresh oil. 

7. The second hour.

Start it up again and let it run for another hour at no load.

8. Change the oil again.

After the second hour, power down and change the oil one more time. Once again, remember to add some oil conditioner.

Youll notice that the oil will be significantly cleaner than it was after the first hour.

9. The third and final hour.

Start it up for hour number three. This time, you should add a bit of load, around 500W is recommended.

After this third hour, your generator is officially broken in and you can start using it normally.

Other Considerations

If you live in an area where it’s hard to find gasoline without some amount of ethanol in it, you should add something like Sea Foam Motor Treatment to the gas.

This acts as a cleaner, an inhibitor, and a stabilizer for the fuel.

You should generally add 1-2 ounces per gallon to your fuel for best results.

Ethanol can cause a lot of damage to various generator components and a product like Sea Foam can help mitigate this damage.

Although its the first few hours that are the most important, dont forget about regular maintenance over the course of the generators lifetime.

Always follow the manufacturers recommendations for maintenance schedules, as laid out in the manual.

Just like with a car, regular maintenance can be easy to put off but its incredibly important.

Luckily, most portable generator maintenance doesnt take too much time or effort. It just has to be done! Whenever you change the oil on your portable generator, its a good idea to add some oil conditioner. 

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