Top 10 Reasons That Generators Fail (Part 2)


Power failures can happen for a number of reasons: bad weather, an overloaded power station, or damage to transmission lines. Whatever the reason, many businesses and government organizations put backup generators in place to ensure normal operation can continue while the issue is resolved. Depending on the situation, loss of power can be incredibly detrimental to service delivery or productivity.

Generators are crucial for providing an ‘insurance policy’ in case of power failures and offer some peace of mind. But the last thing anyone wants is for a generator to fail as well! That’s why it is so important for generators to undergo regular generator maintenance to ensure all their systems are in good repair and functioning properly.

Here is part 2 of the top 10 reasons that generators fail—and some tips for what you can do to address the risk in the meantime.

6. Problems with the Circuit Breaker

When changing the load of your generator system, remember to adjust the circuit breaker trip settings to match these loads. During new installations, current surges can easily cause the tripping of incorrectly adjusted circuit breakers. If your circuit breaker trips for another reason, make sure you identify the problem before resetting it. Even if you do not run into issues such as these, bear in mind that the regular inspection of circuit breakers is an important part of any good maintenance plan.

7. Debris from Intake/Exhaust Valves

Issues with intake and exhaust valves can critically affect the engine of a generator, so you need to monitor both during an initial period of operation and then at regular intervals afterwards. Improperly adjusted valves will become damaged over time. Debris from these valve failures can cause serious harm to the key components of the engine, leading to potentially massive repairs for the operator.

8. Short-Circuits in Generator Windings

While the majority of problems will occur at the engine end of the system, you should not forget about the generator either. Damage to generator windings can cause some of the most costly failures and they are easy to prevent with proper maintenance. Watch for a coating of dust, dirt or oil on the windings. This accumulation can retain condensation, causing insulation to break down and possibly corrode the winding metal as well. Once formed, these pockets of moisture will turn into steam when the generator is in operation, potentially creating a short circuit or grounded winding if the insulation has broken down sufficiently. Conduct visual inspections to check for a coating of debris and test the insulation if you suspect that it has deteriorated due to a buildup of moisture.

9. Contaminated Lubricants

Lubricating oil is the key to keeping an engine running properly, but it has a short lifespan inside the engine. Since standby generators are rarely in operation for many hours, they are particularly vulnerable to contamination from the moisture and acids formed in the engine. Change the lubricating oil, oil filter and fuel filter on an annual basis is essential to proper maintenance.

10. Running at Less Than Full Load

When generators run with little to no load on them, this can create a number of problems. ‘Wet stacking’ is when lubricating oil and unburned fuel accumulate in the exhaust stack. ‘Carbon buildup’ occurs in the combustion chamber and on various other engine components. Both can be detrimental to the proper functioning of a generator and potentially cause failures. The best preventative measure is an annual load bank test, where the generator is run at full load. This maintenance can even regress the negative effects of running the generator on a lower load for the rest of the time.

The biggest reason that generators fail is lack of maintenance! Knowing when to schedule the proper maintenance for your power generation system is the key. Do you need monthly, quarterly or annual inspection? If you do not have the necessary resources in place to do this yourself, talk to our team of experts today. We will find the right maintenance plan for you!


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Posted by Bill Henderson | Aug 4, 2020 | Categories: Power Generation