A Guide To Motorhome Generator Troubleshooting
For the most part, generators are reliable, and with proper maintenance, they give hours of trouble-free operation. When there are issues, they are often easily fixed and often don’t even require parts.
Motorhome generators are all very similar and pretty easy to troubleshoot. Even RVers with basic mechanical abilities can troubleshoot most issues. Being able to do some troubleshooting yourself can solve simple problems quickly and save you the cost of a technician.
Not every problem will be a quick easy fix; however, there are some common motorhome generator troubleshooting tips that will identify the most likely problems.
The generator isn’t sending power to the motorhome
If the generator starts and runs properly, but you are not receiving power to your RV, there are some easy motorhome generator troubleshooting ideas that will help.
As with anything electrical, the first check should be fuses and breakers. Your motorhome will have a panel with fuses and breakers. Tripped breakers can be easily spotted, as the tab will be in the off position. That being said, they can be tripped and not fully moved to the off position, so switching them off and back on is the safest bet.
Many fuse panels have a light beside each fuse that illuminates if the fuse blows. Fuses are easy to check with a multimeter or test light. With a test light grounded, simply touch the exposed metal pins on the fuse face. If the fuse is good, both sides will light up. When only one side lights up, the fuse is bad.
With a multimeter set to continuity, touch the two metal ends on the fuse face. If there is a complete circuit and a good fuse, the meter will sound. There is no sound if the fuse is bad.
Most generators will have an additional circuit breaker at the generator. This breaker can be hidden behind things in the generator compartment and accidentally tripped when working in the compartment.
Most newer models are hardwired to the RV; however, some older models used a plug to connect to the RV. This plug can become loose from vibration or accidentally pulled loose. Ensure it is fully secure.
Your generator starts and runs but stalls
As with the above situation, where there is no power from a running generator, a stalled generator may have tripped the circuit breaker. Check the main breaker in case of the generator stopping due to a power surge or short circuit. Monitor when the generator stalls to see if it is something tripping it. Microwaves and space heaters are common culprits.
Air and fuel in a specific ratio are required for your generator to run. If one or the other is restricted, the generator will struggle and stall. Check the air filter to see if it is clean and free of dirt and debris. Air must be able to flow freely through the filter. Having a replacement air filter is cheap insurance.
If air isn’t the issue, fuel may be. Most generators run off of the same fuel system as the motorhome engine does. With fuel starvation issues, if your motorhome starts and runs, it’s the fuel system at the generator that is the issue. The exception is the low full level in the tank. Many motorhomes will stop or not allow a generator to start if the fuel capacity is below a certain level. If you’re below 1/4 of a tank, this might be the fuel problem.
With no fuel, the generator won’t even start; however, with a weak flow, it may start and stall, so fuel pressure might be the problem. Pulling the fuel line at the carburetor and trying to start the generator should provide a steady stream of fuel. If there is a trickle or bursts of fuel followed by no fuel, you have a pressure problem.
Any motorhome generator troubleshooting involving fuel must be done carefully. Wear gloves and eye protection if you’re working with gasoline or diesel.
Motorhome generator won’t start
A no-start can have similar motorhome generator troubleshooting as a stalling generator. The fuel level in the RV should be confirmed first. Next are circuit breakers and any plugs. If your RV hasn’t been run in a long time, old gas could be the issue. Regularly used RVs shouldn’t have this issue.
If you have sufficient fuel in the tank, you need to make sure it’s making its way to the carburetor. Performing the fuel pressure check as described in the previous section should show steady flow.
Keep in mind there is a fuel filter somewhere inline, so if you remove the fuel line at the carburetor but after the fuel filter, it could be the filter restricting the flow. You can unhook before the filter to determine if the flow is being restricted by the filter or fuel pump.
A fouled spark plug can wreak havoc on your generator as well. If your generator is maintained and running properly, spark plugs will last years. They can, however, become fouled and cause a no-start. Pulling a spark plug is easy and can tell you a lot about the running condition of your generator.
A wet plug is a bad sign. If this is the cause, the plug needs to be changed. Ideally, spark plugs will be dry and light tan colored. Keep in mind that simply changing a wet plug may only temporarily fix the problem. If there is too much fuel or some oil causing the plug to foul, this problem should be further investigated.
Troubleshooting is the first step in fixing a problem. Identifying the issue through troubleshooting saves time and possibly money and keeps you from guessing or assuming what is wrong. When your motorhome generator gives you problems, you can be confident in troubleshooting the issue and getting things back up and running.
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.