Cold weather can make it especially challenging for generators to start and run properly. Here are some generator maintenance tips to prepare your generator for winter and help ensure your equipment is ready to run when you need it.
Block Heaters/Jacket Water Heaters:
- One of the best methods to ensure an engine on a generator set starts easily and quickly is to keep the engine warm. The most common way this is achieved in our area (south-central U.S.) is by using block heaters or jacket water heaters.
- There are three types of block heaters: radiator hose, freeze plug, and tank-style heaters. These heaters serve to reduce engine wear caused during the ignition cycles, saving fuel, reducing emissions, and avoiding water condensation in the oil sump/oil pan.
- During cold weather, block heaters are working hard to keep the engine warm, and this is the most common time for failures. Block heater failure leads to generator alarms for low coolant temp and/or over crank if the engine fails to start within the defined parameters.
- Routine maintenance checks can help ensure the block heater or jacket water heater is functioning properly to allow for optimal starting conditions.
- Freezing temperatures can cause the naturally occurring paraffin wax in diesel fuel to thicken and crystallize. When the wax crystals begin to stick together, the fuel will take on a cloudy appearance. This is referred to as the cloud point – when the fuel begins to resist flow. This crystallized wax can clog fuel filters and prevent your generator from running.
- Diesel fuel can continue to solidify to the point that the fuel no longer flows. This is referred to as gelling, which can begin to occur around 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Water condensation in diesel fuel can cause fuel icing, which can also restrict flow and clog fuel filters.
- Fuel issues related to cold weather can be avoided with proper fuel maintenance including fuel treatment and fuel test sampling.
- Leaves, debris, snow and ice can block the generator’s air intake, causing it to overheat. To ensure your generator can run efficiently and cool the engine, periodically clear the area around the generator.
- Batteries are the single most common cause of failure of a generator in cold weather, hot weather, and every weather condition in between. These failures are commonly caused by three factors:
- Battery deterioration: As batteries age, the acid inside will coat the lead plates with sulfate resulting in restricting the battery’s ability to generate enough amps to crank the engine. This same process can lead to shorts if the lead debris from deterioration makes contact between plates at the bottom of the cell.
- Battery charger failure: Battery chargers commonly fail due to a simple breaker being open or tripped. Always check to make sure the battery charger breaker has been turned back on after the completion of routine or scheduled maintenance.
- Poor/loose battery connections: Battery cable connections should always be securely tightened, cleaned and free of debris. Any buildup of corrosion or debris can lead to shorted connections during the cranking cycle, discharge of battery, and deterioration of battery cables/wiring. At each service, apply a terminal protectant to the battery to prevent corrosion.
Contact Clifford Power to have an expert generator service technician help you get your generator prepared for the season.
For more information about maintaining generator system reliability, see The Key to Standby Generator System Reliability
For summer generator maintenance tips, see Generator Maintenance Tips for Summer and Warm Weather.
Clifford Power Systems, Inc. provides dependable generator equipment, service, and rental. We are solely focused on power generation and offer professional consultation to meet all your project needs. Contact us at any of our locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, or Arkansas.