How To Fix A Generator That Won’t Start

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If you’re reading this, then you may be where I was the last hurricane season. I went out to my shed to get my trusty generator out because a hurricane came my way. I pulled the cord and nothing…! A generator is great to have when the power goes out. When it works, what do you do when your power goes out and your generator won’t start? This guide will show you steps you can follow to get your generator running again, hopefully.


Start With The Basics

Check your generator’s owner’s manual. Make sure you’re following the proper startup procedure. Most modern generators have an on-off switch. Make sure the switch is turned to on.

Check The Gas

The first thing you should check is the gas. People rarely use generators on a calm sunny day. Usually, you use your generator when it is storming outside, and you need the power to keep your lights on and food from spoiling. Stress can cause you to forget to make sure there is gas in the tank. You may also forget to turn the fuel valve on so the gas can flow to the carburetor.

Mechanic Spark Plug Automotive

Check The Spark Plug

A dirty spark plug can cause your generator not to start while you can pull the spark plug and attempt to clean it with a wire brush. Spark plugs are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. Just make sure you buy the right one. If you think it may be the spark plug causing the generator not to start, you can save time and trouble and replace it.

To replace the spark plug, you will need a socket wrench and a spark plug removal tool.

Clean Your Air Filter

If you live in a part of the country with lots of pollen or other small floating particles, these particles can build up in the air filter, causing it to limit the airflow getting to your generator’s combustion chamber.

Remove your air filter and check to see if it is dirty. If your generator can’t get enough air, it won’t start plain and simple. You can try washing it out or use a can of compressed air to blow it out. If you wash it out, make sure you allow it to dry completely before reinstalling it. Having water get sucked into your generator will not help fix your problem.

The Basics Didn’t Work – HELP!

So you’ve checked everything above, and it’s still not working! I understand your frustration. I’ve been there. This time check to see if your gas is still good.  2 things can affect the gas’s ability to work.

  • Age: If the gas you use is more than six months old, it is probably bad. It will appear yellow; this is caused by the gas breaking down. The only remedy to bad gas is to replace it with new gas. Please properly dispose of your old gas by taking it to your local hazardous waste facility. Do not just pour it down the drain or on the ground!
  • Moisture (aka water): Overtime moisture can be absorbed into your gas, especially if you leave your gas cans outside. When water is added to gasoline, it sinks to the bottom. So it is the first “gas” your engine receives when you try to start it. Water does not burn. You can decide to remove it by using gas water remover treatments. These treatments bind to the water and cause it to mix with the gas and get burned in the engine.

Clean Your Carburetor

If your gas was bad, then there are chances it may have gummed up your carburetor. Bad gas can form a varnish-like substance that will coat all of the internal parts of your carburetor. This causes them not to work as intended.  To clean your carburetor, you will need a carburetor cleaner and a few hand tools.

  • Step 1. Start by closing the fuel line valve to make sure no more gas will flow into the carburetor.
  • Step 2. Remove the drain screw from your carburetor and let the old gas drain out. If your unsure where this screw is located, consult your owners manual; it is usually located on the side of the carburetor.
  • Step 3. After all of the gas has drained out, remove the large bolt on the bottom of the carburetor. This will allow you to remove the bowl from the bottom of the carburetor.
  • Step 4. Take your carburetor cleaner and spray the exposed parts of the carburetor. Be liberal with the spray, try to dissolve any varnish causing the components to stick, and wash any contaminants out of your carburetor. Repeat this process with the bowl you removed. Be sure to remove any rust or water you may find in the bowl.
  • Step 5. When your done cleaning the parts, reassemble the carburetor by bolting the fuel bowl back on and replacing the drain screw.
  • Step 6. Open the fuel line valve so fresh fuel can enter the carburetor.

Preventative Maintenance: Prepare For Next Year

Preventive maintenance will help keep your generator running for many years to come. The following are some of the things you may want to consider when storing your generator for the next hurricane season.

Run your generator dry or drain the gas out before putting it up. Draining the gas will keep your generator from getting gummed up with bad gas. If you’re unable to run it dry or drain it out, add a fuel stabilizer to your generators gas. The fuel stabilizer will prolong the life of your fuel and keep it from turning bad. Keep in mind fuel stabilizer will not keep the gas new forever. Most fuel stabilizers last six months to 2 years. Check the stabilizer you buy to see how much time you have when adding it to your generator.


Hopefully, your generator is now working! I believe with a little help and the right knowledge, anything is possible. Please check out my other posts.