Use That Generator!

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 112016

Like most motorhome owners, we have a generator in our rig to supply electric power when we are not plugged into a campground’s power outlet. And like many new RVers who own generators, when we started fulltiming we abused our first motorhome’s gasoline powered Onan auxiliary power plant for a long time. Not by using the generator too much, but by not using it enough!

Yes, we used our generator. Once in a while when we were dry camping we would start it up and let it run an hour or two to charge our batteries, or in the morning for a few minutes to make coffee or run the microwave oven. But that was about it. We thought we were using our generator properly, but in actuality, we were neglecting it!

Over time carbon began to build up on the pistons and the generator began to knock when it was running, and the knocking began to grow louder every time we had the generator on.

Then we spent some extended time dry camping and living off our generator and solar panels. An experienced dry camper listened to the sounds our generator was making and told me that just like an automobile that is always operated at low speeds in stop and go traffic and needs to be taken out onto the highway and have the carbon blown out of it, our generator needed a good hard workout.

We fired up the genset and began applying loads to it. The rooftop air conditioner, then the microwave oven, we even plugged in a big electric frying pan! The old generator began to cough and wheeze, and I shot some Marvel Mystery Oil into the carburetor a few times. Smoke belched out of the generator’s exhaust pipe and it would lug down to the stalling point, then come back to full power. We did this over and over for an hour or more, and then began to back off on the loads.

I was surprised at the difference it made! The generator quieted down considerably and ran much smoother. Just like an old Ford, it needed the carbon blown out to be able to perform at its best.

So now we use our generator. Really use it. We’re not shy about traveling down the road with our rooftop air conditioner running at full power on hot summer days. When we are plugged into campground power for any length of time, we will disconnect the shore power and fire up the generator at least once a month and give it a hard workout under load for an hour or so. Like all of us, our generators need some strenuous exercise once in a while to stay healthy.

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  6 Responses to “Use That Generator!”

  1. Hi,

    Would that advice also hold for a propane generator like the ?


    Vall & Mo.

  2. Yes, any generator should be used under load for at least one hour a month.

  3. Another thing if you don’t have any Marvel Mystery oil. You can take a spray bottle of water. With a LIGHT spray of water in the carburetor the expansion rate is 20 to 1 when the water turns to steam it will break up the carbon

  4. Exactly! When we solared up with lots of panels, we didn’t use our generator enough either. The copper windings inside stopped producing enough current due to neglect. It became a VERY expensive repair to rebuild the rotor. (almost $500 just for fixing that part) We did all the removal and reinstallation of the entire generator to get that at that part just to send it off to be rewound. This would be very very expensive if you cannot do it yourself. It would probably be a $1,000-2,000 repair bill for the non-handy types. Now we run our generator once a month at least under a very heavy load to help keep the thing running right.

  5. When you look at almost any motorhome, one of the most bragged about features is, How BIG the Generator is, and how FEW hours, it has on it!!


  6. Wish you would’ve written this a few months ago! I learned the hard way – expensive carburetor replacement because of not using the generator enough. My RV shop recommends at least 2 hours per month under a load.

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