Generator Care Generator Maintenance

How Do You Properly Break in a Generator

If you’ve just acquired a new or refurbished generator, don’t make the mistake of filling it with the fluids and start hooking uploads to it. You want to make sure you break it incorrectly to avoid operational and mechanical issues in the long run. So, how do you break in a portable generator?

The best way is to lubricate the combustion chamber, add the engine oil and fuel, start the generator. Run it for 1-hour without load and shut it down before draining the oil and feeding it with new oil. Restart it and run it for another 1-hour with a light load (50% at most) before shutting down, drain oil, and add fresh oil. Repeat the last step one more time.

As you can see, there is something not covered in the paragraph above. There is more to do with breaking in a portable generator that I will cover in this post. So, it’ll be best to read it to the end.

What Are the Steps of Breaking in a Portable Generator? (Both New and Refurbished)

It’s always tempting to feed a new or refurbished generator with the fluids, start it and hook up your appliances straightaway. But that is not the best way. Generators need time to align things in the interior parts, such as the piston and the rings.

And the best part is, the process of breaking in a portable generator is relatively easy and doesn’t take a lock; you will need about four hours only. If you have done it before, that’s excellent. If not, here is the best way to break in a portable generator, either a new or refurbished model.

What you will need:

  1. Fuel: Rush to the gas station and get some gasoline as recommended by your generator’s manufacturer. If there are choices, it’d be best to buy fuel high on octane, such as premium gasoline with 90% octane.
  2. Oil: Get the recommended oil from the manufacturer. If asked, I recommend you break-in oil as it’s mainly made with no additives. It’s more lubrication power.
  3. Oil Conditioner: it will help prevent dry start as it helps lubricate the combustion chamber walls and the rings. Check the user manual for recommended oil conditioners by the manufacturer.
  4. User Manual: The generator manufacturer’s instructional manual has to be your friend during this process. It will help you locate parts such as the spark plug and drain plug if this is your first time working on a generator.
  5. Funnel: You will need to add oil to the engine and oil conditioner to the combustion chamber.
  6. Oil Draining Container: You will change the oil at least three times, and you will need a place to keep the used oil to dispose of it later.
  7. Spark Plug Wrench: the only way to add the oil conditioner to the combustion chamber is by removing the spark plug, and you will need the spark plug wrench for that.

Steps to Follow to Break into Your Portable Generator the Right Way:

Step 1. Add the Oil Conditioner to the Engine Cylinder to Lubricate

First, you want to start by lubricating the engine cylinder, piston, and rings to avoid a dry start when the surfaces grind together, causing damage to the rings and the cylinder walls. That’s why you MUST avoid pulling the cord or pushing the ignition key without adding lubricant.

So, how do you do it? Remove the spark plug cover and remove the plug itself with a compatible plug wrench. Insert your funnel into the spark plug hole and pour a tablespoon of oil condition into the chamber.

Once you pour the oil conditioner, pull the recoil starter slowly. You want to do this 5-10 times to move the piston up and down to help lubricate the cylinder. When the ten rounds are over, replace the spark plug and its boot.

Step 2. Add oil to the engine

Take a can and pour two tablespoons of the oil conditioner. Check the generator manual for the engine oil required and add it to the same can with the oil conditioner.

Mix well, and using a funnel, add it to the generator crankcase through the dipstick hole. The oil conditioner will improve the break-in engine oil effectiveness.

NB: If your generator comes with engine oil, drain it and store it as you can use it later after the break-in process.

Step 3. Add fuel

It’s time to feed your generator with some gasoline. Remember, you will be starting and running the generator for three 1-hour runs. So, it’d be best to fill the fuel tank, especially if you’re breaking in a small portable generator.

Step 4. Start and Run the generator for An Hour with No Load

With the oil and fuel in, start the generator. Don’t worry if your generator starts with the first or second pull; keep trying until it starts.

When the generator starts, keep it running for an hour without load. If it’s possible, you can run it at the lowest speed but still with no load.

Step 5. Change the Engine Oil (First Time)

After one hour is over, power down your generator, allow the engine to cool down a bit, and drain the used oil. The drain bolt is mainly near the dipstick. You want to make sure the generator is on a level surface and allow it to drain to the very last drop.

Changing the oil helps eliminate tiny metal pieces that might have broken off; removing them from the engine protects the generator from severe wear later.

Once the used oil is all out, add some oil conditioner to the crankcase and fill up with a fresh break-in oil. You can also use the regular engine oil.

Step 6. Start the Generator and Allow It to Run for another 1-Hour (No Load)

Restart the generator and allow the engine to run for another hour. Don’t connect the load; allow it to run for 60 minutes with no load.

Step 7. Change the Engine Oil (Second Time)

After the generator has run for another hour, power it down, cool down a bit, and drain the oil the second time. This time the oil will seem cleaner, but there will still be some metal fragments in it. Once you drain all the oil, add some oil conditioner and fill it with the recommended engine oil for your generator.

Step 8. Run the Generator for the Final Hour (With Light Load)

Start the engine one last time and allow it to run for an hour. Connect a load this time but stay at or below 50% of your generator’s running watts.

Also, occasionally vary your load to give the stator windings time to heat and cool down. Adjusting the load allows the engine speed to vary, which helps the piston rings seat better against the cylinder walls.

What’s more, with a brand new engine, the cylinder and piston rings need to be broken in to fit correctly.

When done, you will still need to change the oil, and this type fills the engine with the recommended regular engine oil—no need to add the oil conditioner.

Why Should You Break In Your Portable Generator?

1) Prevents Dry Start

When you don’t correctly break into your portable generator, you risk running the engine when improperly lubricated, the dry start. It’s one of the leading causes of engine damage, especially on the cylinder walls and rings.

2) Lower the Risks Engine Developing Carbon Build-Up

An improperly settled engine is at a high risk of developing a carbon buildup layer over time, and if they find a way to the cylinder wall, they may cause the exhaust to leak. It’s a common problem experienced with under-loaded generators. Incomplete combustion causes high carbon buildup between the piston and the walls, causing damage to both surfaces.

3) Reduce Risk of Blow By

This is when the fumes pass through a poorly settled cylinder. It’s not easily noticeable at first, but its intensity increases with time and starts to build up. It starts to be noticeable near the ventilation outlet on the crankcase – seen as excessive steam or liquid.

4) Helps Cleans Contaminants

The brand new engine will have microscopic metal contaminants that get circulated throughout the engine. If you don’t follow the proper procedure to get rid of them during the first five hours of operation, the contaminants might cause damage in the long run.

Things to Remember When Breaking In a Portable Generator

  • While breaking in your portable generator is crucially important, you also want to maintain the unit regularly.
  • Also, stick to your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedure and schedule. Also, refer to the manual for the products to use.
  • No matter the type of generator you have acquired, all engine types need enough break-in time before running it at its total capacity.
  • Even though some user manuals don’t mention breaking in a generator, they promote oil change in the first few hours of a fresh start.
  • Engine suffer a lot of damage when underused. You want to make sure you run it for the recommended 50-100 hours and every month to remain functional.

Related Questions

Can I refuel a generator while it’s running?

NO! NEVER refuel your generator when hot or running. Stop it and allow the engine to cool down before adding fuel. Also, avoid refueling near any fire, including cigarettes, sparks, or pilot light. Store the fuel and generator in a different room.

About the author

Sharif Gen

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