Given the need for people to keep their distance from others during this current pandemic, and the fact that many RVers are boondocking in remote locations, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my tips for starting and maintaining your RV’s onboard generator, or a portable generator if you have one.
In this post, we’ll look at how to start an RV generator as well as some basic maintenance tips for RVers that you can use right now to keep your generator running smoothly when and if you need it.
We’ll also look at how to start your generator if it has an automated starter or if you’re using a portable generator that wasn’t installed by the manufacturer.
Finally, whether you’re dry camping or staying at a campsite with restricted electrical facilities, I’ll provide some personal advice on how to utilize a generator properly.
While some of these comments may be focused on potential technical concerns, others will focus on good manners while camping with people and utilizing a generator.
Table of Contents
How To Start An RV Generator Aboard
Starting an onboard generator is a straightforward job, albeit many RV models need you to get access to the generator via one of your storage bay doors.
Onboard generators are most often seen in class A and C motorhomes, although I’ve seen a lot of them on towable campers that run on a different fuel source.
If you’re in a motorhome or a class B conversion van, onboard generators are usually built to operate on the same gasoline that drives the engine.
Most towable RVs with onboard generators, on the other hand, are now commonly constructed to accommodate individuals who use propane tanks since it enables them to fuel their cooking stove, heater, and refrigerator at the same time provided they are properly outfitted to do so.
Onboard generators that use a fuel source delivered via your engine’s fuel system, on the other hand, are subject to safety safeguards built into the system by the manufacturer.
Fuel delivery and, most significantly, generator exhaustion are among them.
It’s critical to understand how these systems are built and integrated since some of them may collapse over time.
Motorhome generators are built to combine the gasoline needed to propel your rig down the road with the fuel required to power your onboard generator.
As a result, when the level of your RV’s fuel tank drops below one-quarter of a tank, it will cease sending gasoline to your generator.
You’ll need to prime your generator before attempting to start it if this occurs, and you’ll also need to do so if your generator hasn’t been started or ran in a long time.
However, not using your onboard generator on a regular basis might create concerns, which I will discuss later in this post.
The primer and starting buttons are usually situated adjacent to each other on most onboard generators.
Push the prime button 2-3 times to prime your generator, then hold the start button down until the engine starts.
If your onboard generator still won’t start after 3-4 seconds of holding the start button down, release it and try again.
If you’ve attempted this technique multiple times and your generator still won’t start, check your owner’s handbook or a professional technician who is familiar with the make and model of your generator.
Some manufacturers provide automated or remote start generators in addition to onboard generators.
These aren’t very popular among RVers, and they come at a premium when installed in your RV.
They do, however, let you to start an onboard RV unit without having to access it directly, which many people find appealing.
I would never acquire a unit like this since it is more expensive, needs more upkeep, and I like to start my generator outdoors.
Who wouldn’t want to breathe fresh air?
What Is The Best Way To Start A Portable Generator?
Starting a portable RV generator works in much the same way as starting an onboard generator.
The only difference is that you’ll have to physically unload the generator from your RV, check for fuel, and connect it into your RV’s power supply port.
Again, whether your RV’s generator is aboard or portable, the technique for starting it is relatively same.
Because portable generators are often noisier than onboard units, I would suggest keeping them away from your most frequently used living rooms, such as your bedroom, living areas, and outside relaxation areas.
This is also necessary due to the exhaust they produce when operating.
When you’re ready to start your portable generator, make sure it has enough fuel to last as long as you need it to, and check the oil level before starting it.
Unless you’ve turned off your portable generator for a brief period of time to refill it, you’ll probably have to prime it again to get it started.
I suggest consulting your operator’s handbook to find the priming button and educate yourself with certain information about the generator you’re operating, such as the kilowatt output and fuel consumption per hour of operation.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your manufacturer’s generator, it should be evident that most portable generators will need you to prime the carburetor in the same way that an onboard generator would.
You’ll need to prime the engine and pull the recoil cord since vintage generators seldom feature an electric or electronic ignition mechanism.
The recoil cord is found in push lawn mowers, outboard marine engines, portable generators, weed eaters, and a variety of other engines that must be portable and accessible in off-grid situations.
Your recoil is usually found on the side or top of your generator’s motor.
To start your generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and pull the recoil cord.
If it doesn’t start on the first pull, go through the steps again.
Generator Upkeep Is Required To Keep It Working Well.
For your generator to run well when you need it, you must do general or preventive maintenance, just like any other engine.
Even if you aren’t camping and don’t need to use your unit, I suggest running it once or twice a month.
If you are a part-time RVer or a seasonal camper, you should also do this while your RV is in storage.
Checking the oil level is one of the most critical things to perform anytime you start your generator.
It’s also crucial to replace the oil according to the manufacturer’s suggested use hours.
This form of maintenance would also involve changing the oil filter, fuel filter, and air filter as well as spark plugs on a regular basis.
Maintenance is essential; never go from a site with power to a boondocking site without first confirming that your generator is in good operating order.
It’s also a good idea to do this for any other components on your RV that you’ll need to reach without being connected to the grid, such as propane-fueled freezers, water heaters, and any other component that you’ll need to access without being connected to the grid.
Problems With Generators Are Common.
The majority of your generator problems will be directly related to how it was maintained, so make sure you have a maintenance plan in place that enables you to operate your generator occasionally and repair components or fuel as required.
Also, be sure to read my guide on keeping all of your RV’s vital components in good working order.
In a generator, for example, outdated fuel might be an issue.
It may include silt, which clogs gasoline lines and filters.
It’s equally as crucial to have good ventilation in the engine.
Your generator engine will not start if this is not done, just as it would if your sparkplugs or electronic ignition were not working correctly.
Always be in mind that riding on motorways and rough backroads might cause electrical connections to loosen.
Always be on the lookout for these problems and be ready to deal with them if they arise.
So, How Should I Proceed?
I’m constantly mindful of the location I’m in when I travel.
For example, before travelling to my next campground, I verify all of my generator’s components.
My fridge, as well as my furnace and air conditioning systems, are all in good working order.
If I’m traveling to a campsite with a power supply that’s less than what my RV needs for maximum efficiency, I carry adapters with me that enable me to use their power source, and I reduce my consumption to avoid blown fuses or breakers.
That’s simply basic logic.
Also, keep in mind your environmental impact while using your RV generator.
Don’t be that guy who uses his generator at all hours of the day or night if you’re in a shared campsite.
Most campsites have quiet hours, so observe them to avoid disturbing your fellow campers.
I’ve camped in a variety of locations around the United States.
From the highest peaks in Leadville, Colorado, to the lowest reaches of Death Valley, California.
Nobody likes to hear another traveler’s generator operating.
It simply detracts from the whole experience.
Traveling the world by RV, train, or air is now restricted.
My friends, be safe and well, and I wish you well.