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Jun 08

What Are The Top Preventable Reasons For Commercial Generator Failure?

By: Patti Dinneen


With each year, our dependence on an unlimited and uninterrupted supply of power increases. Businesses need power to keep running in order to avoid revenue loss, loss of important data, or the loss of resources. Business owners have opted to invest in backup commercial generators to secure their business. However, like any other piece of mechanical equipment, generator power systems require periodic preventative maintenance in order to maintain optimal conditions so the generator is ready to operate when the lights go out. Believe us, the middle of a power failure is not the most pleasant time to find out that your backup power system has issues.

In this post, we will discuss some of the top reasons for generator failure, while suggesting forms of preventative maintenance to prevent these issues.

Wet Stacking

Unfortunately, wet stacking is a very common problem for diesel engine commercial generators, especially if you purchase a larger commercial generator than you actually need. Commercial generators are designed to operate with a load, and they operate most effectively within 70% to 80% range of rated output. When a commercial generator operates at a level considerably lower than the rated output level, or with no load at all, the engine can start to over-fuel, or “wet stack,” and damage the engine. The best way to prevent wet stacking is to always run the generator set with an electrical load that reaches the designed operational temperature of the diesel, or roughly 75% of full load. A service technician can remove built-up fuel deposits and carbon by running the diesel engine at the required operational temperature for several hours, if wet stacking hasn’t yet reached the level where carbon buildup can only be removed by a major engine overhaul.

If you want to gain a more nuanced understanding of wet stacking, check out our post, “What Is Wet Stacking?”

Leaking Coolant

Leaking coolant is another typical reason for generators to cease working. Generators will often shut down if there is a low level of coolant, in order to prevent damage beyond repair. Again, periodic planned inspections of your generator will often alert you to any signs of leaking coolant. While inspections are best left to professionals, you can still check for puddles around the machine. If you are checking for puddles, you should be aware that the color of coolant will vary depending on the type of generator, so make sure you know what color coolant you are searching for.

Starting Batteries

Weak or undercharged starting batteries are the most common cause of standby power system failures. Even when kept fully charged and maintained, lead-acid starting batteries are subject to deterioration overtime and must be periodically replaced when they no longer hold a proper charge. Only a regular schedule of inspection and testing under load can prevent generator-starting problems.

Empty Fuel Tank

Mechanical fuel level gauges may not always be accurate. This may seem odd considering that most vehicles have accurate fuel level gauges; however, unlike a vehicle that is moving and using a higher percentage of its tank's capacity, a generator tank has no movement, causing the fuel to become stagnant. Mechanical gauges may also stick in a position until vibrations break them free. Frequent maintenance will likely uncover this issue before it becomes a major problem.

Frequency Of Preventative Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is typically completed on a schedule based on engine hours, or how frequently you use the generator. Your maintenance cycle should be adjusted to meet specific application needs: the more hours per year your unit operates, the more frequently it will require maintenance. Environment and weather also plays a significant role: The more severe the environment (dusty, extremely hot or cold, highly humid, etc.), the more frequent your need for service may be.

Kinsley Power Systems | Generator Service in NY, CT, MA, NH & ME

Our goal is to ensure that your system performs when needed. To that end, Kinsley Power offers customized preventive maintenance programs and extended warranties for all customers - hospitals and cable companies and factories and homeowners alike.

Kinsley services all major make and model generators, transfer switches, switchgear and PTOs. Kinsley also offers such specialized services as load bank and infrared testing.

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