Service Tip #4: Standby Generator Annual Maintenance

Many land based Standby Generators do not get enough hours accumulated in a year to qualify for an oil change. Therefore, it is very important to do an Annual Maintenance on those generators. We usually use the advent of the Hurricane Season as our time to do this.

What does Annual Maintenance consist of?

First and foremost is to change the oil and filter, if this hasn’t been done since last year. This is the life blood of your engine. Changing the oil (on time) alone on a Northern Lights generator can extend the life of your engine to 15,000-20,000 hours or more. Failure to do so can shorten engine life to less than 2,000 hours. Considering the investment you made in this piece of equipment, this is very cheap insurance.

While at it, change all of the filters: both primary and secondary fuel filters, air filter and coolant filter, if so equipped. Again, this is cheap and easy insurance. As discussed in previous tips, this is the time to change your engine coolant. You need to drain, flush with a good quality flush that is safe with aluminum components, then refill with a 33% or 50% pre-mix Ethylene Glycol coolant. Remember, if you have to add water, ONLY use Distilled Water. Check for water in your fuel tank. You do this by the use of water paste. Drain any water present of by pump or drain.

You might consider a tune up. On a Diesel Engine, a tune up consists of adjusting the valve clearance and testing the injectors. Most engine manufacturers recommend doing this every year. Not many engine owners actually comply with this recommendation however. This will eventually result in a rough running engine with smokey and smelly exhaust fumes. It can also result in a noisier engine. I recently did this to my own generator at home after 1600 hours and it made a world of difference.

Finally, test your Emergency Shut Down system. This consists of testing the Shut Down circuit at all of the switches (usually low oil pressure and high coolant temperature), and testing the switches themselves. The latter requires the switches to be removed and tested under pressure or high temperature. The time and expense to do this is often in excess of the cost of replacement switches. So, to save time, money and several trips, you might consider just having the person performing the work to bring replacement switches with him (or her) one time. For most standby generators, this is all the maintenance you will have to do for the next year, unless your generator runs for more than 250 hours, or you get bad fuel. Make sure you make the time, or the appointment, to get this work done.

Don’t wait until you have a Hurricane bearing down on you before you do. Everyone will have their hands full then and you may find that your often-forgotten generator will let you down when you need it most.