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Why Is My Generator Sputtering? (Answered)

The generator has become an important addition to our lives due to its usefulness in protecting against power disruptions and power outages. As generators act as a powerful backup for a sustainable and reliable electrical supply, you must provide adequate maintenance to them.

Why is my generator sputtering?

A sputtering generator is often the result of a clogged carburetor. The carburetor can get clogged if you leave the fuel in the system for a very long time. Over time, the fuel gets sticky creating a gum-like element that clogs the carburetor and causes the generator to sputter or run rough.

If your generator suddenly starts to sputter while it’s running or sounds like it’s struggling, most of the time the problem is with the carburetor. It happens due to the fuel sticking to the carburetor and clogging it up. 

When it’s good to have a fuel backup, you should not leave fuel inside the system for a long period.

As time passes, some of the elements of the fuel evaporate and leave a very sticky element behind. This element jams the carburetor and stalls the engine which is often the reason for the generator running rough. 

There are other reasons too that can partially or fully contribute to the problem.

What causes a generator to sputter or run rough?

Basic reasons that cause a generator to sputter are discussed below –

Carburetor defect:

The most common problem with a generator starts with a defect in the carburetor. This is the place where fuel combines with air and gets sent to the combustion chamber. The proportion of fuel and air needed for the ignition is regulated by the carburetor.

If the carburetor develops any faults, it fails to combine air and fuel in the right amount. Thus the generator fails to generate the required power and starts sputtering. This situation can occur due to blockages in the carburetor.

The carburetor can get clogged by fuel that’s been left in the system for far too long than it should have been. Some parts of the fuel get evaporated and the remnant starts absorbing moisture and soon gets caked up jamming the carburetor.

Clogging of fuel filter:

Another reason for a rough-running generator can be a clogged fuel filter. It filters out any dirt and debris from the fuel that reaches the carburetor and then the combustion chamber for ignition. It is vital for the system that only clean fuel makes its way to the carburetor.

As the fuel filter keeps on filtering fuel, the sieves get jammed up with debris at one point. This results in less fuel in the carburetor causing the sputtering. If the situation is not taken care of fast, the lines may get clogged up completely shutting down the generator.

Faulty spark plug:

An integral part of the generator system is the spark plug that provides the electrical spark needed for the ignitions in the combustion chamber. If the spark plug starts malfunctioning, the air and fuel mixture won’t be ignited properly.

It will result in the generator running roughly. If the spark plug fails to spark consistently, the system will start breaking down. This can be the result of a burned or jammed electrode or cracks on the porcelain insulator.

Generator overloading:

If your generator is supplying power to too many electronics than what it can handle, it will overload the generator and cause it to sputter.

Stale fuel:

If your generator contains unused fuel that lasts more than a month, the fuel will start absorbing moisture and going stale. Some parts of it will evaporate and leave a sticky, ineffective element behind.

How to fix a sputtering generator?

Some basic solutions to fix a sputtering generator are given below –

Fix the carburetor:

To fix any problems with the carburetor, you will need to remove it first. Check all the parts of the carburetor for faults and fix them accordingly. Also, check the valves and pipes that are associated with the carburetor.

Test the electrical circuits as well. Lastly, clean the carburetor thoroughly. To remove caked-up fuel and debris, you can use a good-quality carburetor cleaner. Then reinstall the carburetor in place and test the generator.

There might be a bigger or different problem that can’t be solved by this simple procedure. For that, you will need professional assistance. You may also have to replace the carburetor with a new one.

Check and clean the fuel filter:

Next, you should check if the fuel filter is functioning well. Shut down the generator first and let it cool off. Then you can check the fuel line that comes out of the fuel filter while keeping the fuel valve open. 

There has to be a steady flowing line for the indication of the filter working properly.

If the result seems unsatisfying, you will have to remove the fuel filter to clean it up. Shut the fuel valve off, remove the filter, and then clean it using petrol in place of water. Once you clean the fuel filter, wait for it to dry completely and reinstall.

Check the spark plug:

Now you can check for faults in the spark plug. The problem with the spark plug is either because of cracks on the insulator, dirt buildup on the electrode, or a burned electrode. The first thing you should check is the physical appearance of the spark plug.

If you see dirt on the electrode, you can easily get rid of it with a knife or similar objects and then clean it with petrol instead of water. Dry it fully before reinstalling it. For cracks, you must get a new spark plug. 

Now to determine a burned electrode, you need to check if the plug works fine or not.

For this, you can use a spark tester if you have one in handy or you can connect one end of the plug to an electrical circuit and leave the other touching the crankcase while the engine is still cranking. 

If you see a strong blue spark, the spark plug is doing great. A weaker one means you should replace it.

Reduce loads:

You should not overload the generator. If your generator suddenly starts making noise while running, you can try reducing the loads by disconnecting some of the electronic devices. If that helps to stop the sound, now you know what has been causing it.

But if it doesn’t, then maybe overloading is not the problem here. Anyway, it is always a good idea to purchase a generator with a higher capacity than what your home requires so that you can add new electronics later if you need to.

Drain and replace fuel:

You must drain the stale fuel away and replace it with fresh fuel. Also, run the generator for at least three hours once every month to use up all the fuel.

Why is my new generator sputtering?

Although it is unlikely for a new generator to sputter, if you find your brand new generator sputtering, the problem may be with the fuel. Incorrect or poor quality fuel can cause problems in a new generator and make it run roughly.

Another thing can be insufficient fuel. Check the fuel level and make sure that you have a sufficient amount of fuel to run the generator. If you are running your generator in a drastically dusty place, it can clog the filters sooner than expected. 

You will have to clean the filters regularly.

How do I make my generator run smoother?

You can ensure that your generator runs smoothly by keeping the following things in check.

Keep the generator clean:

You must always keep your generator clean. Clean dust, debris, and spillages immediately. Also, cover it up when you don’t use it.

Check the oil and spark plugs:

It is a good and important practice to check the oil and spark plug of the generator every 100 hours. Get rid of any dirt, debris, or buildup from the spark plug with a wire brush.

Empty the tank and dispose of stale fuel:

You should not store fuel in the fuel tank of your generator. Also, get rid of stale fuel immediately and replace it with good quality, fresh fuel.

Don’t overload:

Overloading your generator is quite harmful to it. Don’t add new devices if your generator doesn’t have the capacity. It will only disrupt the smooth functioning of the generator and may shut it down completely.

Keep extra filters:

Another good practice would be to have one or two extra oil filters ready. This will prevent sudden disruptions and ensure smooth operation when you need to replace the filter.

Final Thoughts

A generator can start sputtering due to a clogged carburetor or fuel filter. You must not leave fuel inside the system for too long as it starts to go stale and sticky and clogs up the fuel filters as well as the carburetor. Other reasons can be faulty spark plugs or overloading of the generator.