RV generator maintenance is important - luckily the most important part of it is pretty simple. One of the primary problems with generators comes from lack of use. If you let a gasoline generator sit for long periods of time without using it, the fuel breaks down and gets gummy which is apt to cause hard starts and surging. Moisture will also build up and damage a generator if you’re not using it.
It takes no more than a month of
idleness for this to happen. Now that I am workamping and
tend to stay in one spot, plugged in to shore power, for several months, I have to remember to schedule time to exercise the generator in order to keep it
in good shape.
So, at least once every three or four weeks, you need to run the generator for two hours (better to run for a longer time than several short ones) – with at least a 50% load on it. They are designed to run with a load. That means running the air conditioner if it’s hot, or a couple of portable electric heaters if it’s cold. You’ll need to check the owner’s manual for loads specific to your particular unit. It is perfectly OK to run the generator while you are traveling – it’s actually more fuel efficient to run that and use your rig’s roof-mounted air conditioner, than to use the dash air conditioner.
If you’re at an RV park and plugged into their electric, you’ll need to unplug the cord from that outlet and plug it into the generator. I discovered to my embarrassment that it will run without being plugged in, but it won’t provide you with any electricity which means you can’t put a load on it. And, for all I know, it will cause harm.
The generator that comes as part of the RV equipment will get its fuel from the engine gas tank. If the gas tank runs low, it will shut down to make sure you don’t use all the fuel without realizing it.
There’s more to maintaining an rv generator than running it, of course. Prior to starting it you should check for fuel or oil leaks, check the oil level and take a look at the exhaust system to make sure there are no leaks.
There is an air filter and a fuel filter as well as various other parts. The generator panel in your rig monitors the hours of use; the owner’s manual will give you maintenance intervals for replacing the filters and spark plugs based on the hours of usage. I learned to change the air filter, but couldn’t figure out how to do the fuel filter, so left it for the rv service guys.
Keep your generator clean. In dusty parts of the country (which seems to include the entire Southwest), you may need to do air cleaner maintenance and oil changes more often.
While I was up close and personal with my rv generator, getting filthy, I also discovered that it has a changeable setting for altitude. It will run more efficiently at the proper setting, so keep that in mind when you go up into the mountains. No wonder my engine was gasping for breath on the climb into Yellowstone NP!
If you use a portable generator, the same sort of maintenance guidelines apply - check with the manual and follow the instructions given.
A generator is a wonderful thing to have when dry-camping (no electric hookups) but using one produces carbon monoxide, so inspect the exhaust system on the rv generator frequently to make sure it’s not damaged. When you park, check to make sure you're not close to a building or other RVs; don't leave windows open while it's running. If you're in close quarters, make sure neighboring RVs don't have their exhaust aimed in your direction.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning can include: dizziness, vomiting, nausea, muscular twitching, intense headache, inability to think coherently, throbbing in the temples, weakness, and sleepiness.
If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, get them out into the fresh air right away; if symptoms persist, get some medical attention. Turn off the generator; have it looked over and repaired by a professional service person.
PREPPING THE RV GENERATOR FOR STORAGE
If you're going to store your RV for six months or longer, and aren't planning to start it or your on-board generator during that period, there are things you need to do. First, fill your fuel tank with gas and add a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil. Run the engine and the generator (with a 50% load) for awhile to get the stabilizer throughout the whole fuel system. Follow the stabilizer manufacturer's directions.
Next, change the oil filter and oil, make sure your batteries are fully charged and disconnect the battery cables. The owner's manual for your RV will have further instructions for things to do to get your rig ready for storage.
Learn all you can about RV Safety. The life you save may be your own.