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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-31-2019, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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Angry Generator in SUBZERO conditions- question

Every month a put just a bit of gas in my generator and let it run for 20 minutes until the tank runs dry.


Today I wanted to see if I could start it in -25 degree weather. I ended up having to warm it up with my vehicle exhaust before it would start. It started right up after warming up for 5 minutes that way.


However, Im thinking gas thickens in the cold. The little amount of gas I put in did not run the generator for 20 minutes as usual. Much shorter and I could see inside the tank a coating of what looked like thick gas.


I put the generator away until it warms up.


Im assuming there is remain gas in the engine that needs to be consumed before storage, correct? Can I burn the rest off in zero degree temperature?


Is running it in below zero temperatures hard on the engine?
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-02-2019, 08:18 AM
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Freezing point of gasoline is -70F per google search, add ethanol and it's lower, so I doubt that it's getting thicker. What you may be experiencing is a lack of vaporization at those lower temperatures. The coldest I have ever tried to start an engine, an automobile, was about -4F here in the deep south. Back in the days of the carburetor it could sometimes be iffy, modern fuel injected fires right up. You could also be experiencing thickening of the oil which could make it harder to start.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-02-2019, 01:28 PM
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Yeah I was going to say does the oil become a factor when a engine wont start in cold conditions? As I have made a bit of a error with my generator, Im using just SAE30 oil and that doesn't like freezing temps. But in the united kingdom the temperature only normally drops just below freezing, but still cold enough for the oil not to go around the engine as it should.

Last edited by speedy2019; 02-02-2019 at 01:31 PM.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-03-2019, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by speedy2019 View Post
Yeah I was going to say does the oil become a factor when a engine wont start in cold conditions? As I have made a bit of a error with my generator, Im using just SAE30 oil and that doesn't like freezing temps. But in the united kingdom the temperature only normally drops just below freezing, but still cold enough for the oil not to go around the engine as it should.
Here in central E Texas, USA our weather sounds a lot like yours, most winter days mid 30's F, some in mid to upper 20's and occasionally into teens. Seems like we hit single digits once ever 12-15 years, so not much of a problem.

I have honestly never have had to start one of my generators in cold weather. I keep all my equipment in a well insulated shed with a small heater to keep temp in the mid 50's-60 degrees. My big Honda has a battery maintainer installed as does my lawn mower so I always have a fully charged battery to start.


I run 10w-30 synthetic oil in everything, My Kawasaki and Honda manuals said the multi weight oils will increase oil consumption, but that's ok with me as I prefer to get the instant movement of the lighter weight viscosity when it first starts for what I hope is better lubrication. My big mower is now 13 years old and still going strong and really does not burn any oil that I can notice. Another point is I change the oil in it twice a year, mid season and at the end of season, probably about 25 hours at each point, plus the filters, so I am always using rather clean oil. I might start the generator once or twice a year just to circulate some oil, and usually change it about every 18 months if otherwise unused. If I have to use it due to outages, I change no matter how many hours it has run, be it one or thirty. If really low hourly I do take the filter off, turn it off, drain and replace instead of just installing a new filter. Generator is about 20 years old now and still looks and runs like new. The only times I have had to start it were during hurricaines or after a nearby tornado which took out the power grid locally. I do start lawn mower in cooler weather to cut leaves, but then again it is kept in relatively warm storage.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-03-2019, 05:55 PM
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This is a interesting read guys............

Why Your Generator Won’t Start When it’s Cold
When the temperature is low, the oil in your generator is going to be cold as well. When oil is cold, it is much thicker than when it is warm. This can cause three problems for you when you’re trying to start a generator on a cold winter morning.
The first is that because the oil is cold and thick, it’s going to be more difficult to pull the cord to start the engine. If it’s normally quite easy to pull the cord, when the temperatures are really low, it’s going to be more difficult because the oil is much thicker.
Cold oil also makes a generator with an electric starter more difficult to start. Cold batteries don’t have as much cranking power. Also keep in mind that just like it’s more difficult for you to pull the cord, the starter on your electric start generator is going to have to work that much harder to crank the engine over. In some cases, you might run the battery down to a level that is so low that it won’t turn the engine over at all.
The third problem that you might experience may seem quite strange to you but keep reading and it will become perfectly clear. Many generators have what are called, “low oil shutdown sensors” on them. These sensors are designed to automatically turn the engine on your generator off if it doesn’t detect that there is enough oil in your generator. This is a GOOD thing because it may help prevent costly engine damage if you don’t have enough oil in your generator’s engine.
Unfortunately, this feature can be very frustrating when the temperatures are cold. Here’s what we experienced with our little Honda generator in sub-freezing temperatures. The generator would start like normal but it might only run for about 10 seconds and then then the low oil shutdown indicator light would illuminate and the generator would automatically shut down.
We were certain that the engine had enough oil in it but the failsafe still triggered. After waiting a few seconds, we would try starting the engine again. If we were lucky, the engine might run for around 15 or so seconds this time before it shut down. Depending on exactly how cold it was, we might have to repeat this process several times. Each time the engine would stay running a little longer than the time before. Eventually, the engine would start and continue running.

but since this only happens to us when the temperatures are low, I think it’s fair to believe that since the engine oil is cold and thick, the oil in the generator’s engine isn’t flowing like it would when it is warm. We believe that this is what causes the the low oil shut down sensor to shut the engine off even though the engine isn’t actually low on oil.
Furthermore, this leads us to believe that each time the engine starts and runs for a few seconds the oil is slowly warming up. As it slowly becomes warmer and warmer, it is able to flow more easily. When it flows well enough, the low oil shutdown sensor no longer thinks that there isn’t oil in the engine and consequently, it doesn’t shut the engine down.
I should point out that we’ve owned three of these generators over about 13 years and the reason we kept buying them is because we really like them. We’re actually still using two of the three. My son and daughter-in-law are using one right now as their only source of electricity in our little off-the-grid cabin as a matter of fact.
I would like to point out that we experienced the same symptom on all three generators during cold weather conditions. The solution for us was to consult the owner’s manual to find out what viscosity of oil we should be running in the engine for the current temperatures. The manual said that when the temperatures fell and stayed below a certain temperature, we could use 5W-30 oil which is what we did.
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