Why Does My Generator Keep Shutting Off?

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Last Updated on September 22, 2022 by John Smith

Here at cleverhandymen, we love generators, which is why we talk about silent generators, propane generators, hell, we even teach you how to safely run a generator in a garage!

But there’s one question we haven’t addressed: why does my generator keep shutting down?

Well, there could be a variety of reasons why this is happening, which is why I decided to write this article in which I discuss all of the reasons why generators suddenly shut down.

Oh, and I’ll also give you some pointers on how to solve each problem so you can use your generator without it shutting off.

Let’s get started.


Why Does My Generator Keep Shutting Off

When using a generator to power your devices, one common issue that always arises is that the generator (for whatever reason) keeps shutting down.

Here, we’ll discuss the most common causes of this, as well as how to prevent it.

Overload

So you get your first generator and start plugging things into it, only to discover that it automatically shuts off after a few minutes.

What causes this?

Most modern generators have a feature called overload protection.

The “overload protection” feature ensures that the generator is turned off automatically when it is asked to manage more watts than it can handle. It does this to avoid damaging the engine.

So, how can you ensure that the overload protection feature does not shut down the generator’s engine?

First, consult the owner’s manual to determine the wattage capacity of your generator. Then, add up all of the running and starting watts of the appliances you intend to connect to the generator to avoid overloading it.

That way, you’ll ensure that the generator never shuts down on its own.

Second, PAUSE and LISTEN to your generator.

Is it making a lot of noise? Then you’re most likely overloading it. When you start plugging things off, you’ll notice it becomes much more silent, which is a good indication that it won’t shut itself off.

Read More:

Running Low on Oil, Water or Fuel

Oil is essential for a generator’s engine because it keeps the internal parts lubricated, debris out, and the engine free of corrosion.

As a result, most modern generators include a “automatic shutdown” feature that activates when the generator detects a low oil level.

Water, on the other hand, is critical for keeping the engine cool and preventing excessive heat, which is one of the most common causes of engine failure.

And, of course, fuel is what keeps the engine running, right?

So, what happens when the generator detects a lack of oil, water, or fuel? It comes to a halt and turns off.

How can you avoid this happening?

Check the oil, water, and fuel levels on a regular basis. Yes, it’s that easy.

Faulty Fuel Tank or Pipes

Leaks in the fuel tank or fuel pipes are a common problem with generators.

These issues cause a rapid loss of pressure inside the fuel tank, affecting fuel delivery to the engine. That’s how, in an effort to save itself, the engine detects the problem and shuts down.

How could you handle this?

Again, prevention is essential. Examine the fuel tank and fuel lines for leaks on a regular basis and address them once spotted.

Choke is Still On

A choke is an important component of an engine that allows it to limit the amount of air in the fuel mixture, which is necessary when starting the generator with a cold engine.

If the choke is not working properly, the air-to-fuel mixture inside the generator’s fuel tank will be messed up, causing it to shut down to avoid serious problems.

So, how do you keep the generator from being turned off by the choke?

It’s simple. Turn off the generator, then turn off the choke, and restart it. If the problem persists, you should consult a mechanic.

Faulty Power Cord

When a cord frays, a slew of problems arise that could pose serious dangers to you and your generator.

You could be electrocuted, your appliances could be completely burned, hell, it could even cause a fire.

To avoid such problems, most modern generators normally shut themselves down automatically when they detect frayed power cords.

To prevent generators from shutting down due to faulty power cords, simply take a few minutes out of your day to inspect all power cords connected to and from the generator.

If you spot a faulty power cord, spend a few bucks in a new one and that’s that!

Faulty Carburetor

The carburetor is an essential part of the engine that mixes air and fuel in the right proportions so the engine runs efficiently without risk of damage.

A faulty carburetor can do two things:

  • It can make the air and fuel mixture too fuel rich, making the engine burn more fuel than it actually needs
  • Or, it can make the air and fuel mixture too lean, which puts the engine under serious risk of damage

So, when the generator senses its carburetor is not working properly it stops itself from working.

How can you prevent the carburetor from shutting of the generator?

Well, I’d say you should take the generator to a technician but if you want to do it yourself, these are the steps:

  • Carefully remove the carburetor with a pair of pliers
  • Take the carburetor apart slowly and place all the parts in a table
  • Start cleaning: take a piece of cloth and engine cleaning fluid and thoroughly clean each part (you can use a brush or a cotton swab if needed)
  • Build the carburetor back up and put it back in the generator
  • Done!

Faulty Engine

The engine is the generator’s brains and heart; without it, there is no generator.

Modern generators usually have a feature that allows them to shut down automatically if they detect that the generator is not working properly.

There are a hundred reasons why an engine might not be working properly, which is why I believe that taking it to a technician is the best way to ensure that a faulty engine does not prevent the generator from working.

Faulty Battery

A common problem with cordless generators is that their batteries eventually fail.

Again, in an attempt to protect the internal components, the generator shuts down when it detects that the battery is not functioning properly.

Otherwise, it risks damaging expensive internal parts, which could be time and money consuming.

Making sure the battery is fully charged is the best way to keep it from causing problems, and if it continues to malfunction, replacing it should be your next step.

Faulty Spark Plug

Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the air-fuel mixture inside the cylinder of a combustion engine.

When they don’t work properly, the ignition system of the engine gets all messed up which could affect the durability of the generator or stop it from functioning properly.

This is why most modern generators shut off once they sense a faulty spark plug is keeping the ignition system from functioning properly.

How can you solve this?

Turn off the generator, remove all spark plugs and start checking them one by one. If you see a faulty one, go to the manufactured and just ask for a replacement. It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.

Sensor Failure

Most modern generators include sensors that provide critical information about the engine’s performance.

There are air sensors, exhaust sensors, oil, fuel, and water sensors that all work together to ensure that the generator’s internal systems are operational.

However, when a sensor fails, it can cause a major headache because it normally completely shuts down the generator for self-preservation.

Fortunately, when a sensor stops working, it usually notifies the owner via a message in the generator’s control panel.

The quickest way to solve this problem is to take it to a technician, but if you want to do it yourself, you’ll need to replace the sensor, install it inside the generator, and reprogram it so it works properly again.

Faulty Air Filter

As previously stated, the air-fuel mixture is critical for the generator’s combustion engine.

In that context, an air filter is charged with ensuring that no dust enters the mixture, as dirt can accumulate inside the engine, causing serious and costly problems.

But what happens if the generator’s engine has a faulty air filter?

If that happens, you’ll notice that the engine will occasionally shut itself down for no apparent reason.

The quickest way to solve this is to replace the air filter.

Faulty Exhaust System

A generator’s exhaust system removes all waste emissions in gas form via a series of exhaust pipes.

When this system fails, the waste is not completely removed from the generator, which can cause serious damage to the engine in the short term.

As a result, most modern generators shut down when they detect a problem with the exhaust system.

To prevent this from happening again, you should disassemble the exhaust pipes and thoroughly clean them.

Faulty Oil Pressure Switch

Another internal part of the generator that might suddenly shut it off is the oil pressure switch.

Normally, when there is a faulty oil pressure switch, the control panel will show a “low oil pressure” sign, telling the user that there is something wrong with the oil pressure of the generator.

The best way to solve this issue is to check the oil pressure switch making sure all the connections are strong and that there is no corrosion. If it continues failing, then it might be time to replace it.


Quick Recap Table

Here’s a quick table of all the reasons why your generator might be shutting off out of nowhere and how to solve them.

ReasonSolution
Power Overload– Plug your appliances off
– Check wattage capabilities
It’s Running Low on Oil, Water or Fuel– Check oil, water and fuel levels regularly
Faulty Fuel Tank or Pipes– Check for leakages
Choke is Still On– Turn off choke and restart the generator
Faulty Power Cord– Replace frayed power cords
Faulty Carburetor– Take it apart and clean it
Faulty Engine– Take it to a mechanic
Faulty Battery– Recharge battery
– Replace battery if the problem continues
Faulty Spark Plug– Check all spark plugs and replace the faulty ones
Sensor Failure– Replace the sensor
– Reprogram it
Faulty Air Filter– Replace the air filter
Faulty Exhaust System– Take the exhaust system apart
– Clean it
– Put it back on
Faulty Oil Pressure Switch– Make sure all the connections are good
– Replace it if the problem continues

Most Reliable Generator

Westinghouse WGen9500DF Dual Fuel Home Backup Portable Generator

Features

  • Wattage: 9500 Running Watts and 12500 Peak Watts (Gasoline); 8500 Running Watts, 11200 Peak Watts (Propane)
  • Fuel: Gasoline and propane
  • Runtime: 12 hours

Westinghouse is known for manufacturing reliable generators such as this WGen9500DF model.

Its 457cc engine is capable of outputting 9500 running watts and 12500 peak watts on gasoline and 8500 running watts and 11200 peak watts on propane, which is sufficient wattage to power most of your house appliances.

Moreover, it comes with automatic “low oil” shutdown feature which automatically shuts of the generator when it’s running low on oil for self-preservation.

Its 6.6 gallon tank can be filled with either propane or gasoline, and it has a runtime of up to 12 hours, which is perfect for those days when the power unexpectedly goes out.

And, although it’s a bit heavy, other attributes such as its never flat wheels and remote start compensate for this thanks to their amazing convenience.

Pros

  • 457cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV engine outputs 9500 Running Watts and 12500 Peak Watts (Gasoline); 8500 Running Watts, 11200 Peak Watts (Propane)
  • Convenient remote start
  • 6.6 gallon tank allows for 12 hours of runtime
  • Automatic Low Oil Shutdown
  • VFT display provides info on voltage output, frequency, and lifetime hours
  • Never-flat wheels
  • EPA and CARB Compliant

Cons

  • It’s a bit heavy

Customer Reviews and Scores

There are more than 12,788 reviews on Amazon.com about this product at the time of writing and they have given it a 4.6 out of 5 rating on average. These reviews are positive overall.


Author
Hi, I’m John Smith, a proud husband, and father of two little beautiful girls. After a long time of thinking I made up my mind to build a website around my passion.. helping people who need smart advice from handymen with years of experience.

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