Dealing with a balky Emergency Generator

We were snowed in for a few days and ice built up on the trees to the point where branches were snapping off and blocking the roads.

Here is a picture of our lane taken by Tom King as he and a chainsaw-wielding neighbor cleared their way to the main road.

Silverleaf

I was completing a backlog of Christmas framing projects when the power went out but I was not too concerned because I thought my emergency generator was ready to go and save the day. After all, I had started it every few weeks after the last storm and everything had been working perfectly.

I had purchased an extra spark plug in case it was needed and had three 5 gallon cans of gasoline in addition to a full tank on the generator. I felt that I was much better prepared than last year.

Little did I know.

The generator started up as it should have but it faltered and died when I backed off on the choke. This state of affairs continued until the normally faithful Honda engine just quit and died and would not start again.

Thirty minutes of tinkering in the increasing cold produced no results and I called it quits for the night. This morning, Glenn Givens, who is a really good small engine repairman, came over and he found the problem almost immediately. There was water in the bottom of the emergency generator gas tank.

We drained the carburetor and the liquid looked cloudy at first, then the water settled out from the gas/water mixture in about 20 seconds. When we did the first test today, there was as much water in the jar as there was gasoline!

We kept draining the carburetor until the water disappeared from the gas, put a spritz of ether in the carburetor, and the engine started up like a charm.

I ran the generator with no problems until about 4:00 pm when the power came back on.

I felt I had been well prepared but I did not anticipate that freshly filled cans of gasoline would have so much water in them. I need to add a visual check for water in the gasoline to my emergency preparedness checklist.

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0 Responses to Dealing with a balky Emergency Generator

  1. Jane Chin says:

    It looks like a very white Christmas for you, David! Hope you and your family are enjoying a happy holiday season; wishing you a prosperous 2010!

  2. Brad says:

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to treat all the small engines stored gas with Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer.

  3. Based on what you describe, I’d look at two things. First is that you must add a stabilizer to your gas. Gas without a stabilizer will store for around 6 weeks, depending on the weather. Sta-bil is the most common brand; I hear that Pri-G is better.

    Second is from a conversation with my small engine guru just today. The “new” gasoline, adulterated (IMHO) with ethanol, has an marked tendency to draw water. This makes gasoline storage a challenge. He normally keeps a product that you use in addition to the stabilizer to eliminate this problem in stored gasoline. If you’re interested, when I get the name I can send it to you.

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