Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prepper Hubris

I was feeling pretty good about my preps. We weathered the storm in good shape. My solar electric system worked just fine. There was plenty of food in the house. Our water system worked. We didn’t have anything float or blow away.

Today, just for the heck of it, I decided to start up my generator. Now I’m not a big fan of the gasoline internal combustion engine, but I do own a couple. I even keep a little stabilized fuel around. It’s for my sailboat’s outboard, but would work fine in the generator too. Only problem, the generator would not start.

It ran just fine the last time I tried it, but apparently I should have checked it more often. There are really only about three things to worry about with small gas engines: fuel, spark, and air. It had fuel in the tank and the fuel was getting to the spark plug. The carburetor looked fine. The air filter wasn’t plugged. However, when I checked the spark plug, there wasn’t any sparking going on. The plug is checked by unscrewing it, reconnecting the wire, resting the plug against the engine to make an electrical connection, and carefully pulling the starter cord. If the electrical system is working right, you’ll see a spark at the tip of the spark plug. No spark, so the problem is electrical.

I’m going to get a new spark plug and try that. It’s often as simple as bad plug. If that’s not the problem I’ll work my way deeper into the electrical system. Small gas engines are pretty simple. There’s only so many things to go wrong.

Now as it turned out, I didn’t need my backup to my backup. We’ve had some nice sunny days since the storm passed. The solar panels have been charging up the house batteries just fine. I might never have felt the need to charge them from the generator. However, I might have offered to lend my generator to someone with no power at all. I certainly would have felt silly if I’d offered a nonworking generator.

Back in my Firefighter days, one of my duties was to keep a number of small generators in working order. They were run and inspected at least once a week. Even so, occasionally a generator would fail when you needed it most. With my background, you’d think I’d know better that to neglect my own generator.

In my defense, my solar electric systems works so trouble free that I’ve taken it for granted. Unlike a generator, it runs quietly and with little effort. Upkeep is pretty easy. However, if I am going to own a generator, I’d better get used to testing and inspecting it on a regular schedule.



  1. I had the same problem when Ike came through here. My big generator wouldn't start, so I couldn't use my 220 volt pump motor on my well. Glad I had water in my RV tanks.

  2. Don't have a generator....wish I did.

  3. 1st saturday of the month i do a 30 minate load test. peace of mind.hope its just a spark plug for you.i have always conned one of my kids to hold the wire while i pulled the rope but now im out of suckers. i got to get a spark test light.granddad did it to me so i did it to mine :] gary in bama

  4. Only had to go thru one whirlygirl without my generator ta learn my lesson lol
    Now I start and run that sucker quite regular
    I love my little Honda 1000 !!!
    About a gallon a day, for all the power that I need. Very low noise too...wish I had another.

  5. Ten times out of nine it seems, it's the spark plug on those small engines. I guess that magneto is hard on plugs... And the absolute worst thing for any piece of machinery is to sit idle for long periods. Something which I can't seem to get through my boss's thick skull, but hey, it's job security for me. Nothing better than rebuilding carbs on hardly run engines (at least it's "clean" work, no greasy mess), or breaking loose frozen pumps, blowers, etc. At least we do start both our diesel generators once a week...

  6. At least I discovered the problem before I needed it for real.

    I had a nice little Honda 500 watt generator once. Gave it to my dad in FL so he'd be able to run a couple lights and a fan when he loses power again. He got short of cash and sold it. Oh well. It was his to do with what he wanted.