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How to Start a Generator That Has Been Sitting

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Investing in a generator is a smart way to be prepared for any unexpected power outages that may arise. Due to their low frequency of use, generators sometimes sit idle for long periods of time before being called into service. Sometimes this causes them to not start up properly.

Before turning on a dormant generator, ensure everything is in working order. Then, drain the tank completely and refill it with fresh gas. Spark plugs need to be inspected and replaced as needed to keep your generator running at full performance. It is also important to check the air filter and clean the carburetor.

This article will go through things in more detail. 

Spot the problems

If your generator is difficult to start, it could be something serious or just the battery may be dying. This may be the result of a faulty connection or sulfation buildup. Changing the battery should fix the issue. With a bit of experience you will be able to do a check up blindfolded… almost. 

Is it a bad idea to use the generator's choke?

Constantly operating a generator with the choke on can cause a variety of malfunctions and failures. The engine may be damaged beyond repair, too much fuel would be used, and the generator engine would be used far too often.

You have to manually insert the gasoline priming bulbs into some generators. This helps control the initial air-fuel ratio of the engine.

How come my generator won't kick on unless the choke is in place?

Although the generator will run with the choke engaged, the diaphragm has likely failed. Lack of adequate fuel suction causes a vacuum leak. Occasionally, the carburetor will blow a pressed-in BB out of a drilled tunnel, forcing the gun to only fire when the choke is fully engaged.

How to Start a Generator That Has Been Sitting

Power generators are engineered to be exceptionally efficient. If you have difficulties getting yours going, it is of little use. If your generator has stopped operating, here are some things to check before calling a repairman.

Quick checkup

Some seemingly minor issues with the oil or gas can be quickly remedied with a quick inspection when the generator has been sitting idle for a while. Make that the choke is working and that the oil level is enough.

If the oil level is low, you should get it filled. The liquid can be tested with a dipstick. In modern generators, this is monitored by a dedicated oil sensor. Keep in mind that the low-oil sensor may trigger even if there is sufficient oil if the generator is placed on an uneven surface.

The spark plugs and ignition coil should be inspected

A properly functioning spark plug and ignition coil form the backbone of every ignition system. A high voltage charge from the ignition coil is transmitted to the spark plug, where it ignites the air-fuel mixture and starts the combustion process.

If you're unsure whether or not the spark plug is working, you can remove it and look at it from the outside. Over time, deposits and buildups can accumulate at its core, diminishing spark energy. Then you may either clean it with a small knife or spray it with carb cleaning.

In addition, you should turn the engine over more than twice before replacing the spark plug and pour oil to the spark plug hole. If it doesn't, there may be a serious issue with the ignition coil or plug.

To locate the missing spark plug, you can use a recoil starter and the engine's crankcase. If the ignition coil is working correctly, the sparks it creates will be a vivid blue color.

To test the coil, move the plug close to the engine and pull the recoil. Right now, if there are sparks, the ignition coil is fine.

Get some fresh gas

When a generator has been sitting idle for a time, one of the most common reasons it won't start is that the fuel is old. This is a common occurrence that can be remedied by purchasing some fresh gas. There is a built-in mechanism in fuel that causes it to stop working eventually.

Regular oil and gas changes are especially important for a generator that has been sitting inactive for a time. If you are unsure of how old the gas is, you can check it out. Change is required whenever clouds or fog are present.

In the future try to run the generator almost dry each time, and top it up before each time you start it. 

Fuel system's filter and fuel line

If you've already done what's been suggested and your generator is still malfunctioning, there are more steps you can do. The following step is to examine the gasoline line. Pinch marks, clogs, leaks, and even cracks can form in the gasoline line over time.

Some of the problems with the gas lines can be fixed quickly and simply, but others cannot. If a broken item can't be fixed by the owner or by a repairman, it must be replaced. Replacement fuel lines can be purchased for a low price and installed quickly and easily.

Even if it's not very likely, something could happen. That's why I always try to keep some spare parts on hand. A fuel line isn't necessary if you use a portable generator.

If you suspect a problem with the fuel supply, disconnect the line leading to the carburetor and give it a thorough inspection. When the fuel goes through the filter, it may be seen. In the event that it doesn't, it's definitely clogged and in need of replacement.

Make sure the air filter is checked

After you've checked the gasoline, the spark plug, and the basics, it's time to move on to the air filter. Effective operation of a generator necessitates a sufficient airflow. Only if the airflow is working properly can the machine do that.

From time to time, the air filter may become clogged, making it difficult to start the generator. Remove the filter from the air intake and make sure it is clear. Even though everything seems fine at first, you should clean it just to be sure.

If you notice that the air filter is dirty or worn, you should get a new one. Again, this is just a minor adjustment to a major problem. While you're out shopping, you might want to pick up an extra replacement just in case.

A spotless carburetor

The carburetor should be cleaned as a last resort when trying to start a dormant generator. Acquiring some automobile cleaner will be necessary to finish the job. Just spray it on the jets and inside the carburetor, and you should be good to go.

The carburetor needs to be removed sometimes for cleaning. Care should be taken to avoid scratching or otherwise damaging a component as it is being removed. Maintaining a clean carburetor is essential for removing any stale fuel.

Engines that are kicked into gear electrically

After a long time, the battery in an electric starter may die.

As a workaround, you may use a recoil starter or an external battery charger to kick-start the generator.

Even if the battery seems fine, you should check for blown fuses. There is a risk that excessive current will melt the metal ribbon inside, causing it to explode. As a result, the entire electronic circuit breaks down in a puddle of molten metal. Therefore, immediately repair any blown fuses.

Corrosion causes electronic connections to deteriorate if they are not cleaned routinely. If this is the case, try using a wire brush to clean the terminals. If washing doesn't help, you should replace them.

Small replacements help

Simply replacing worn out components restores the equipment to like-new condition. Even while some parts of generators naturally wear out more quickly than others, by investing a small amount of money in maintenance, the majority of the generator will last for many years.

Final thoughts

When modern generators have been sitting for a while without being used, they often fail to start. If my tips do not help, it could be due to more serious mechanical issues with the engine and you should seek professional help.

Most reliable generator brands

Having a reliable generator to start with is a must. Here are just a few of the most popular names in the industry:

Honda generators

Honda 664240 EU2200i 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Co-Minder

Japan is one of the world's largest producers of automobiles, and its tools, batteries, and generators are also highly regarded. Honda has been producing innovative products for almost eight decades. The reliability, longevity, and quality of Honda products are well-known industry-wide.

One look at Honda's offerings will reveal why their portable generators are the most sought after. The generators are small in size but boast powerful engines, high MPG ratings, and a solid construction. The best portable generators should have all of these characteristics.

Honda was also an early manufacturer of RV and home motors with low noise levels. Therefore, it is the best alternative for both domestic and industrial applications.

They are very fuel efficient, and can be left on all night. They are great for home use because of its easy oil-changing procedure, automatic shutoff, Bluetooth compatibility, and carbon monoxide detector.

The fact that Honda is widely recognised as the most reliable generator company boosts the practicality of their generators. The Honda EU2200i should be towards the top of your list when thinking about a new generator.

Yamaha generators

YAMAHA EF2200iS Inverter Generator, 2200 Watts, Blue

It is also a globally recognised brand of power tools and equipment. Yamaha is a popular brand of small generators the world over, it is a market leader in R&D and pushing new technologies. 

They are a premium brand with premium features, which naturally come with a premium price tag. However, they do still provide value for money because of how good they are. 

If you're looking for a quiet inverter generator for use around the house or in your recreational vehicle, the Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is an excellent choice. It has a 1.1-gallon fuel tank and an air-cooled 4-stroke motor that will keep going for over 10 hours without making a sound.

This generator is very portable and has an improved noise rating (up to 61 dBA). Connecting two EF2000s in parallel will effectively double the output power. Its diminutive dimensions of just 2.2 cubic feet in volume is excellent for the power output. It's a good option because it covers all the basics.

Champion Power Equipment

Champion Power Equipment 76533 4750/3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start

Champion, which positions itself as the industry leader and market leader in power equipment, is another prominent domestic brand in North America.

Since it's true that all local professionals, including the guys at your office and the guys at the neighboring building site, have good things to say about Champion, we're inclined to believe that claim. Its wireless-starting models are in a league of their own.

Its doors first opened in Wisconsin in 2003. There have been more than 3 million sales of generators.

Even while Champion is most well-known for its line of cutting-edge V-Twin engines, we like to think of them as a reliable brand that also makes some very durable portable generators that are appropriate for recreational vehicles. See for yourself why this is our recommended option below.

The Champion 76533 is one of their best models.

Cold Start technology is a game-changer since it allows you to start the motor even when the temperature outside is sub-zero. If you live in the north, there is no reason you can't utilize this powerful portable generator.

There is hardly any upkeep associated with this equipment. A motor toggle switch, oil shutoff sensor, and a large control panel mean that this may be used and forgotten.

This sturdy model can survive for ages with minimal care and regular use, despite Champion's recommendation of monthly maintenance. Both the propane and gasoline versions are more energy efficient than standard models, so you may find yourself using it more often than normal.


If you invest in one of these generator manufacturers, you can put off a lot of trouble. Buying cheap sometimes means you will have to buy a new one again a lot quicker than expected.

About Tom Bell

Hey, I’m Tom, the owner of Generator Reviews! I built this website to help you get the very most out of your generator and select the correct one for your personal circumstances. This site contains reviews of virtually every generator, detailed buying guides, as well as maintenance advice to help you keep yours in tip-top shape!


Generator.Reviews is an independent review business. I am not affiliated with any manufacturers and do not accept paid reviews. When you buy through my links, I may earn a commission which helps me to maintain this website and keep the reviews coming your way!

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