How to Clean Your Generator in 11 Easy Steps

Cleaning your generator regularly will keep it running smoothly.  Although generators are built to endure some rugged treatment, maintaining yours extends its life. Read further to find many helpful tips on the right way to clean your generator including:

Keeping your generator clean is as important as performing regular maintenance.  Dust and debris can clog the components and reduce its ability to perform at full capacity.  A dirty generator is a risk to allowing dust or bits of debris to drift into gas or oil openings when filling. 

Follow this short video for tips on correctly cleaning the exterior of a generator. 

Can I use a garden hose and water to wash my generator?

Consider what your generator is designed to do…produce electrical power.  Spraying water into the generator components risks damaging the connections and possibly allowing moisture to enter the fuel or fuel lines.  Water can cause rust to form, which can weaken the component parts.  Water is NOT recommended to clean your generator.  Additionally, any residual water left on or inside the generator can cause electrocution upon operation.

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Can I use my pressure washer to clean my generator?

Water is NOT recommended to clean your generator.  A pressure washer is not to be used as the force of the spray can damage the component parts and connections.  Moisture can enter the fuel or fuel lines.  Water can cause component parts and fittings to rust, weakening their ability to function.  Additionally, any residual water left on or inside the generator can cause electrocution upon operation.

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What tools can I use to clean my generator?

Use a cloth with a non-flammable degreaser to wipe dust and debris from the exterior of your generator.  A soft bristled brush (toothbrush) works to remove dust and fuel residue from around openings.  You may use an air compressor to blow dust and debris from the vents and tires.  Do not use flammable cleaning agents on any part of the generator, as the residue could spark a fire when the generator is in operation.

If you clean the air filter, carburetor, or spark plug you will need a screwdriver and possibly a wrench, as well as a wire brush for the spark plug.   

how to clean your generator
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11 Steps to properly clean and maintain your generator

  1. Check the oil. It is important with any engine to check the generator’s oil before each use. If your generator is new, plan to first change the oil when it has been used for 20 hours. Residue from assembly (lubricant and metallic particles) can break loose with use during the break-in of the engine. Generally, oil changes can be performed every 100 hours of use, unless the conditions are very dirty. Then, you should change it more often.
  2. Keep fuel fresh and clean. Always use OSHA-approved containers to store your fuel. Store receptacles in clean, dry areas. Dirty fuel with dust or particles of debris will damage your engine parts and reduce its firing power.
  3. Old fuel can break down, so put tags on receptacles with purchase dates to ensure that your fuel is fresh. Year-old fuel that has gone bad won’t help you if it won’t run your generator in an emergency.
  4. Clean the air filter. Like you, your generator engine needs air to breathe. Maintaining a clean air filter is important. You should check it following each use, especially if the conditions have been dusty. It should be cleaned when you change the oil, as well.
  5. Keep it clean. Regularly clean your generator. Removing harmful dirt and debris not only maintains the life of your generator, but it gives you a chance to spot any service issues that may be developing. Blow off dust and debris with your air compressor or compressed air (canned air), then wipe the surface with a clean cloth and degreaser (non-flammable) and soft brush. Be sure to clear any dust from the cooling vents.
  6. Watch for leaks. After cleaning the exterior of the generator, look for any oil or fuel leaks that may come from loosened parts. Tighten or replace any parts causing the leak.
  7. Tighten up components. Loose bolts and screws can vibrate out and cause damage to nearby components. It is a good time while cleaning to tighten everything!
  8. Keep the spark glowing. Spark plugs are important to keep your engine running smoothly. Over time plugs get soiled with dirt, oil, and carbon residue. This stops the spark from igniting. Plugs should be checked and cleaned when the oil is changed. Use a wire brush or spark plug cleaner. Anytime the porcelain is cracked, replace the plug immediately.
  9. Clean the strainer. There is a fuel strainer in the fill port to the fuel tank. This strainer is meant to collect dirt and debris that may be in the new fuel. Be sure to remove and clean it if sediment is present. Replace and top off your tank with new fuel.
  10. Check yearly. It is a good idea to do an annual inspection of your generator. Look for broken or cracked parts. Check the fuel line for cracks and replace it if needed.
  11. Storing your generator. You have cleaned and maintained your generator through a season of use. Now it is time to store it until you are ready to use it again. Make sure it is ready to go the next time you need it.

Before storing your generator, here are some steps to complete. 

  • Clean the battery posts.  Begin by removing the battery.  Use a wire brush to clean any oxidation and debris around the posts.  Finally, make sure the battery is fully charged.
  • If it will be more than 30 days before you use the generator again, you should drain the fuel from the tank.  This ensures that the fuel will not deteriorate in the tank during storage.  There are fuel additives that help prolong the life of fuel, but fuel should be drained for long periods of generator inactivity.
  • Remove the spark plug and add a couple drops of oil through the plug hole.  This keeps the cylinder bore lubricated and prevents corrosion.
  • Before replacing the spark plug, gently pull the recoil starter knob one to two times.  Then, pull it until you feel resistance and leave in that position.
  • Find a dry place to store and cover the generator to protect it from dust.

If you are not storing your generator between uses, make sure to start it regularly (every month or two) to keep it lubricated and ensure it is ready to go when you need it.  A fuel additive, also called a fuel stabilizer, will help reduce the deterioration of the gasoline or diesel.

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How do I check and clean the generator’s carburetor?

A common thing in carburetors is a condition known as “gumming-up”.  Old fuel and today’s ethanol blends (corn-based) can cause a build-up of a sludge-like substance in the carburetor.  Follow this link for easy-to-follow steps to cleaning your carburetor.

While this video shows a particular brand of generator, the basics are the same for most models.  Refer to your owner’s manual for specific location and directions for your generator brand and model.

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How do I clean the air filter on my generator?

Just like you, your generator needs to breathe.  Maintaining a clean air filter is vital to your generator’s overall optimum operation.  The following link will guide you through checking and cleaning your generator’s air filter.

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A generator that won’t start may just be dirty!

There are several reasons why a generator will not start, but the most common one is that you have not kept it clean.  Dust and debris have contaminated the fuel, the air filter, and carburetor.  Your generator’s engine is struggling because the spark plug is soiled and can’t fire.  You need to clean it!

Take the time with each use to clean your generator parts and maintain this important source of power to your home and recreational products.  A few minutes of care will save you hours of frustration later.

Congratulations!  You now have all the tools and tips necessary to clean maintain your generator.  Your investment will last longer with proper care.

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