Why Does My Portable Generator Keep Shutting Off

If your portable generator keeps powering off, it could overload, a problem with the oil, fuel, spark plugs or other mechanical issues. This can frustrate you, especially when you are running it as an emergency power source at home. Other frustrating moments of a generator that keeps shutting off is when you’re camping, powering your RV, or running your trusty power tools. The main question is why does my portable generator keep shutting off?

This article will cover the exact reasons your portable generator keeps shutting off and the solutions. Read on to learn more.

 Reasons Why Does My Portable Generator Keep Shutting Off

1. Overloading

It’s the common reason a portable generator will keep shutting down regardless of the number of times you’ll power it on. This is common in modern portable generators; older models are less likely to shut down because of an overload. Auto shutting-down of an overloaded generator is not a problem but a working safety feature that prevents your generator from being overloaded. This feature protects your generator and the plugged-in appliances from overloading risks. Most portable generators with this feature come with an overload light signal that shows when the system is overloaded.

Overloading Solution

Possible solution? Reduce the load on the generator, press the overload reset button and restart the generator. You can avoid this issue by ensuring your generator carries the correct load size per its power capacity. Therefore, it is important to familiarize yourself with the maxim load your generator can handle.

An easier trick to ensure your portable generator does not auto shut down because of an overload is listening to its operating sound. If your generator produces a heavier sound than normal, it could signify an overworking generator engine. Reducing some load will save your generator from overworking.

2. Oil Level

Why Does My Portable Generator Keep Shutting OffModern portable generators cannot operate when the oil levels are down. Similarly, it will not operate when the oil level in the generator is excess. When you power on a generator that has a low oil level, it will start and automatically shut down after few seconds. This is another safety feature in modern portable generators that prevents the engine from running with no oil. While you may find it frustrating, this feature ”low oil shut-off sensor” extends the lifespan of your engine. Running generators with no oil increases the rate of wear and tear in some parts of the engine.

So, how does the sensor detect low oil? When the oil level in your generator is low, and you turn it on, the temperature in the oil will quickly rise. The high temperatures are responsible for the auto shutting down of the system. Some portable generator models come with a low oil light signal that will alert you when the oil level is low. When the oil levels are excessively high, the sensor will also shut down the generator. You should operate the generator with the right oil amount.

Oil Level Solution

Possible solution? Always ensure that your generator has an optimal oil level before you power it on. You can check the oil level using a dipstick. A dipstick will show you the oil level and whether the oil is clean or dirty. If the oil is clean but on a lower level, add more oil. However, if it is on a low level and dirty, change the oil.

3. Check Radiator Water Levels

Why Does My Portable Generator Keep Shutting OffJust like the engine of your car, the generator’s radiator needs adequate water levels. Water acts as a coolant to the increasing temperature in the engine parts as the generator is running. The sensitive parts of your generator, such as the control panel and the voltmeter, can only function well when the water level in the radiator is sufficient. If the water level in the radiator is low, the generator will auto shut down after a few minutes of running. This is because the sensitive engine parts cannot handle the increasing temperatures when the generator is running.

Radiator Water Levels Solution

Possible solution? Always check the water level in the radiator frequently before powering on this power equipment. Maintain optimal water level in the radiant at all times.

4. Check on the Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are one of the essential components of a generator’s engine. They play an important role in the starting up of the generator. Spark plugs supply spark to ignite the combination of air and fuel to produce energy that runs the engine. If your generator produces a crackling sound after start-up and shuts down after a few seconds, the spark plugs could be the main issue. They could either be dirty or defective.

Generator Spark Plugs Solution

Solution? Remove the spark plugs and assess their condition. If the spark plugs are fouled, clean them and fix them back, and they will work like new ones. If the plugs cannot be redeemed by cleaning them, replace them with new ones. Note your portable generator model when shopping for new spark plugs.

5. A Duty Air Filter

For a generator to run efficiently, it needs an adequate air supply from the surroundings. Any hindrance to adequate airflow will lead to the shutting down of your generator’s engine. A clean and stable air filter will provide an adequate flow of clean air from the surroundings to the engine. A dirty or clogged air filter blocks the adequate flow of air to the engine hence the reason for your generator shutting down.

Air Filter Solution

What is the solution? You can avoid this by frequently cleaning the air filter and replacing one whenever it is worn out. You don’t have to wait for your portable generator to keep shutting down to clean or replace the air filter.

6. Fuel Problems

Why Does My Portable Generator Keep Shutting OffFuel issues include low fuel levels, dirty fuel, fuel shut-off valve, blocked fuel pipes and clogged carburettor.

  1. Low fuel level: Your portable generator cannot operate if there is no fuel source. Among the many reasons for a generator that keeps shutting down, this is the primary one. Always check the fuel level before starting your generator. Doing so will give you an idea of how long the generator will run without shutting down because of the low fuel level. Some generator models come with an in-built fuel gauge that makes it easy for you to monitor the fuel level.
  2. Dirty fuel: Your generator can malfunction when it’s running on dirty or old fuel. Dirty and old fuel can stale in the carburettor, making it difficult for the engine to receive an adequate fuel supply. If the engine doesn’t receive enough fuel, it will shut down. Drain the fuel tank and carburettor of any old and dirty fuel and replace it with fresh fuel. You can void the staling of fuel by using a propane-powered generator because propane has a longer storage life than gasoline and diesel.
  3. Fuel shut-off valve: Some portable generator models come with a fuel shut-off valve that regulates fuel flow to the engine. Turning the valve off ensures the engine uses the fuel in the carburettor before it powers off. This is important, especially when storing the generator for a long period; there will be no cases of stale fuel in the carburettor. Failing to open this valve or turn it off by mistake can also lead to the malfunctioning of the generator. When starting your portable generator, ensure the fuel shut-off valve is open.
  4. Blocked fuel pipes: Dust and other debris can obstruct the fuel pipes, limiting fuel passage to the carburettor. The blockage of fuel pipes can result from using dirty or stale fuel. You can affix this issue by cleaning the fuel tank and inspecting the fuel pipes. Using fuel conditioning is also advisable since it lowers the possibility of stealing fuel.
  5. A clogged carburettor: Dirty and old fuel is the leading cause of a clogged carburettor. When gas is left in the carburettor for a long period, it evaporates, leaving behind a viscous mixture that can easily clog the carburettor. The best solution is to ensure the carburettor is always.

The issues above are part of the problem why your portable generator keeps shutting off. Luckily, you can handle most of them by yourself since they aren’t complicated. However, there are other mechanical reasons why a generator may keep shutting down that necessitate a qualified generator technician to handle. 

7. Mechanical Issues

  • Engine fault: If you have checked all the above issues, but the generator still powers off, it could be an engine problem. You will need a technician to check the engine and repair it.
  • Electrical problem: A portable generator may also develop electrical problems along its circuit or wiring. Any electrical problems a better handled by a professional.
  • Exhaust system fault: A buildup of exhaust in the exhaust system can lead to the failure of the emission sensors, which can make the generator shut down in minutes.
  • Sensor error: Modern generators are equipped with many sensors. A failure of one sensor can trigger the rest to fail, which means the generator will not operate. You’ll need a certified generator technician to handle the sensor errors.

Check out the video for Reason Why Generator Runs and Then Shuts Off

Last word

A portable generator can save you the day when you badly need a temporary power solution. However, just like any other equipment, a portable generator may fail and keep shutting off. Some of the leading reasons generators shut down are easy to spot and solve. With the discussed issues above, dealing with a generator that keeps shutting down is now easy. If you’re unsure of what to do, consult a qualified technician. 

About Steve Stuart

Steve Stuart is an electrical engineer who developed interest on generators during his school years. After school, he became a generator enthusiast. This is after encountering power supply problems at the area of residence where he lived. Power would be on and off and so food would go bad and the room heater would go off especially during winter. After trying the different generator brands for several years, Steve now provides information on the available brands and products in the market today. Based on his experience, he gives the do’s and the don’ts when it comes to generator use.

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