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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have a Kohler 14RCA (RDC2 controller) that's about 1.5 years old.

The controller display is blank, but the unit's battery is good. I can start the generator manually, and it starts strongly. (The manual troubleshoots this issue by referring to a weak or dead battery.) Additionally, when I press the backlight button on the controller, the blank controller screen lights up. Finally, the generator still starts up at its preset weekly maintenance run time, so the controller appears to be "controlling" that function.

The installer/maintenance guy took the controller out of its housing and found a mouse nest underneath it. Although we didn't check for any chewed wires, etc. the conclusion was that a mouse damaged the controller and we'd need to buy a new one. I got the estimate yesterday, and it's almost $1,600.

My question is there any other possible fix that I could check out before I buy a new controller? Is anything I described above a clue to something? And, perhaps most important, if we found a chewed controller wire or something like that, could it be fixed directly?
 

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If the repair tech had swapped in a controller that he had on hand, and things lit up, you could assume wiring/cables to the controller are working. He didn't do that (right?), so he wants to go the "replace parts until something works again" route.

I'd assume the mouse chewed on some wires, so he should've inspected the wiring/cables (and even tested each one), to see if a break was present. Don't know if you'll be able to open things up enough to do this set of tests yourself. The controller might have gotten "shorted" by chewed wiring, and these things are notoriously hard to troubleshoot (circuit board level repair); my extent of such repair is to expose the board/components, and see if something is smoked (component, fuse, etc.) If that happened, you'll see evidence on the component/board.

BTW, when I replaced a generac controller once, it was $400 or thereabouts; yours seems to list for $1200, so remainder must be labor/trip-charges. You could find a Kohler forum, and ask questions there ... it may be possible to swap a new controller in yourself, with their assistance, if you're handy. It's a case of plugging in the wires/cable, and running setup on the new controller, if you want to save the $500 or so.

You could also look around for a dead Kohler with a good controller, and perhaps shave some off of the $1200 new price tag.

Hope this helps ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's good advice. I was thinking of taking the controller out of its housing to check the wiring on my own, after I turn the machine's circuit breaker off! If I need a special Kohler-only tool to get the nuts off I may not get very far. The electronics of replacing the controller are beyond me so the best outcome I can hope for is locating the problem in the wiring. Kohler told me the wiring harness is a separate purchase from the controller which left me irked at our service person. Why go immediately to buying the controller when the problem could be the wiring? Any further advice you can give me on getting the controller out to look at would be appreciated. Thanks for your help.
 

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In my way of thinking, you'll need:

1. a kohler forum ... run everything past them, and get diagnostic steps, replacement advice, etc

2. find the service manual, or enough equivalents (wiring diagram, other manuals, other forums & descriptions of repairs); look inside your unit, and see how hard it is to get at things. My controller was on top, and easily disconnected and popped out with some outer panel removals.

3a. if the wiring harness isn't that expensive, I'd buy it first, and test with the existing controller; depending on advice from the kohler forum.

3b. if wiring doesn't pan out, and as the controller is somewhat now described as "dead", it won't hurt to yank it and open it up. you might see a loose component, a bad solder joint, or a smoking gun of a melted component. My success rate on board-level stuff is usually 25% something I can fix, 25% something smoked (sometimes not fixable), and 50% mystery (not fixable at all).

4. don't be afraid to fix it yourself, but do be prepared to do it right (safety, tools, manuals, etc.), or, just pay the usual "arm and a leg" fee to the service tech, and save the effort; it is a complex standby unit.

I gave up on Generacs because of the complexity inside, the high-priced components, and so on; plus, I'm out in the middle of nowhere. No service guy is showing up here, unless extremely lost and needing direction back to civilization.

A pair of Duromax open-frame 12kw generators (online/spare), and I'm back up and running, and in control of things again, compared to the Generac (Kohler) service model.

Hope this helps ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for the detailed reply. I had done some of those things before I read it. The controller's on top and is attached with two screws. It was easy to take out and check the board and wiring. It all looked as good as new. That and the fact that the non-displaying controller still runs its scheduled exercise has made me very skeptical about needing a new controller. I tried resetting it by disconnecting the battery and briefly unplugging all the connections on the board but nothing worked.

However, earlier today I found this 10/2019 response from you on Garage Jornal to someone who had a similar problem

"Have you tried killing AC & DC power to the gen and unhooking everything from the controller? A hard reset will sometimes wake them back up."

He replied

"Totally removed the controller and set it aside for an hour. ... Put everything back together and it's working now!"

So I did I brought the controller into our air-conditioned house for several hours and when I hooked it back up the display was active. I reset the settings as needed and checked the Run Log. It was complete back to when I first noticed the display problem, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. (Maybe there's something further back in time.)

I suspect something related to heat caused the problem, given the temperatures here this summer and thermal changes caused by the mouse nest. Who knows? I'll need to check over the next few days to see if the problem returns.

Thanks very much, again, for your help!

ps. Kohler doesn't appear to sponsor or host a user forum.
 

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The manufacturers rarely support a forum, as it would most likely cut into their authorized service network. They might have an internal forum for the auth'd techs, just like their field service manual is restricted to auth'd techs.

No help for us, other than to drive us into the arms of the service network.

The "Generac" forum we point at (sponsored by Ziller) is a great service, and Ziller is an electrician/reseller (not the manufacturer). When I was trying to keep the Generacs running at our homestead, I lived on the Ziller forum.

A Kohler forum would be one like:

I also avoid authorized service networks like the plague, along with their $500 service/trip charges & such, but that's just me, living out in the country. Perhaps the Kohler forum(s) will help keep those beasts running for you.

Complexity (diagnostics and such) and parts costs are also potential gotcha's ... I'm still wondering what is inside that controller.

One of the generac's had a multi-thousand dollar computer, on just a $4k standby unit, so some of these things don't seem to add up.
 
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