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How to Fix Ryobi Generator Problems

A collage of how to operate a generator.

Whether you use your Ryobi generator for camping trips or work or when the lights go out, you want your backup electrical supply to work. But sometimes, our Ryobi generators have a few quirks that cause us frustration. Fortunately, some of the solutions to these problems are quick fixes.

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Below are some of the problems that Ryobi generators might have:

  1. Generator will not start.
  2. Generator surges or cuts out.
  3. Generator stops running (cuts off).
  4. Generator works with some machines intermittently.
  5. Fuel does not get into the generator’s carburetor.
  6. And more …

1. Generator Will Not Start

A man starting a portable generator.

You may find your Ryobi generator will not start even though you use it regularly. A few reasons could explain the generator’s failure to start. These include low gas levels, poor fuel quality, and many more.

Solution 1: Check The Gas

Whether your generator has been used regularly or standing for some time, it is good practice to check the gas before starting your generator. If your generator does not start, it may be because the gas level is too low or the quality of the fuel has been compromised with condensation or dirt.

If the gas tank is empty, you will need to fill it with gas to give your Ryobi generator the fuel required to start and run. Likewise, if the tank has gas that smells like lacquer or is dirty, you will need to drain the old gas and refill it with fresh, clean gas.

Solution 2: Check The Oil

Oil acts as a barrier or lubricant between the moving metal parts in an engine. Without oil, a machine can overheat or seize due to heat and friction. Checking the oil on your Ryobi generator is easy, as there is usually a little light warning you when your oil levels are low. However, the light won’t warn you if the generator is not running, so you must manually check the oil.

Attached to the oil fill cap is a dipstick. Unscrew the oil fill cap, wipe the dipstick, and insert it again. Pull out the dipstick again – there should be oil on it. If not, or if the oil is only on the tip of the dipstick, you will need to add more oil. Use the correct grade and amount of oil for your generator model. Such information will be in the generator user manual or online.

Ryobi usually recommends changing the oil in a generator after every 50 hours of running time. There are great tutorials on changing the oil in your Ryobi generator sans mess.

Solution 3: Check If The Generator Is On A Level Surface

Suppose your generator will not start, but the gas and oil levels are acceptable. In that case, it might be that your generator is not on a level surface. If the generator is at an angle, the sensors detecting the gas and oil level may give a false reading. For example, it may seem there is enough of either of these fluids, but there isn’t, or vice versa.

Place the generator on a level surface and let it stand for a couple of minutes to let the fluids settle before starting it again.

Solution 4: Check The Switches

A man turning switches of a generator.

Depending on your generator type, the switch may have been jostled to the ‘Cold Start’ or ‘Choke’ setting during transportation or moving. If this is the case, the generator’s engine might be flooded with gas and will not start.

Move the switch to the ‘Run’ or ‘Restart’ setting and pull the starter cable a few times to see if the generator will start. If not, leave it for a few minutes and try it once or twice on the ‘Cold Start’ or ‘Choke’ setting again. Do not leave it on that setting for long, as it will flood the engine with gas.

Solution 5: Check The Battery

Suppose you have eliminated the fuel, oil, and switches as being problematic. In that case, it may be that the generator battery has lost its charge or needs to be replaced.

You should check the battery terminals for signs of chemical buildup and wear and tear. Check the connections are correct and that there are no loose wires. You can make use of a multimeter to check if the battery is still good or needs to be replaced. Bear in mind that it is recommended that generator batteries should be replaced every 24 to 36 months.

Solution 6: Check The Choke Cable

The choke cable that levers the choke is a characteristic issue in a few Ryobi generator problems, including its failure to start. A choke that does not function properly will affect the gas flow to the engine and the generator’s starting ability.

You can check if the choke cable is tight or loose enough manually following these steps:

  • First, open the side compartment of the generator.
  • Next, check the choke using the switch. Does it move as it should? Does it properly close when released?
  • Check the choke manually by pushing the butterfly with your finger into the ‘Choke On’ position and try to start the generator.
  • If you notice the generator starts when you push the choke butterfly manually but not with the switch, you will have to tighten the choke cable using the linkage on the choke.

 

Solution 7: Check The Carburetor For Blockages

At times, the carburetor jets can become blocked and impede fuel flow, preventing the generator from starting. In addition, a carburetor becomes dirty from ‘running rich’, meaning there is too much fuel and not enough air, causing a buildup.

Gumout 800002231 Carb and Choke Cleaner, 14 oz.

To check this, you would need to open some of the carburetor components and use a carburetor cleaner or WD 40 to clean it out. Manually leaning out a carburetor involves removing the carburetor bowl, cleaning it out, and ensuring the float is free before reassembling it.

Solution 8: Check The Spark Plug

If your generator still does not want to start, it may be that the spark plug needs replacing. As its name suggests, a spark plug is designed to give a little spark of electricity. The spark is required during the ignition or startup process to ignite the fuel and air mixture, causing the combustion needed to make the pistons in an engine move.

The sparkplugs in Ryobi generators should be replaced every 100 working hours. If there is visible damage or buildup on a sparkplug, it should be replaced sooner. Also, if you have not serviced your generator in a while, it would be wise to change the spark plug.

2. Generator Surges Or Cuts Out

Suppose your Ryobi generator surges when idling or, worse, cuts out. In that case, it may indicate a problem with the calibration of the choke setting or that the EasyStart sticker isn’t correctly aligned with the EasyStart knob.

Solution

Check the positioning of the EasyStart sticker in relation to the optimal running sound and performance of the generator. For example, it may be that the sticker was not stuck in the correct position and that ‘Run/Restart’ may be closer to the ‘Choke’ position.

If your Ryobi generator is from the previous generations where the switch moves horizontally from ‘Stop’ to ‘Choke’ to ‘Run’, ensure you move it quickly to the ‘Stop’ position to prevent the engine from flooding.

3. Generator Stops Running (Cuts Off)

If your generator is running and then splutters to a stop, it may be because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • The gas has run out.
  • There is gas, but the generator is not on a level surface.
  • The switch has been moved to a different position or is still on choke.
  • The choke is still on.
  • The battery is old or no longer charges.

Solution 1: Check The Gas

A person pouring gasoline on the generator.

If your generator stops running, the first thing to check should be if there is enough gas in the tank. If not, refill your generator’s gas tank.

Solution 2: Check If The Generator Is On A Level Surface

The generator may have initially been placed on an unlevel surface or vibrated to a wobbly angle. This may influence the fuel intake. Secure the generator on a level surface before trying to restart it.

Solution 3: Check The Switch Position

Sometimes you may find that the switch is in the wrong position. This may happen if the switch is tampered with or erroneously moved to a different setting. Place the generator out of the reach of children, pets, or passageways to prevent this from happening.

Suppose the choke was left on for too long. In that case, the generator will run rich, causing flooding in the engine and possible buildup in its components. It will also use more gas. So, check the gas and top up if necessary, and try to restart the engine without using the choke.

Solution 4: Check The Battery

If you have checked the other possibilities, it may be that the generator’s battery has reached the end of its lifetime. Otherwise, it might indicate a fault with the voltage regulator or alternator. You can check your battery with a multimeter or replace the battery.

4. Generator Works With Some Machines Intermittently

Sometimes you will find that your Ryobi generator works fine with some appliances, but then there seems to be a fault. For example, it could be that the appliance runs with a compressor that requires more power than the generator’s capacity.

Solution

An example of a compressor-related issue includes an icemaker. The generator will usually run the water pump with no problem. Still, once the compressor kicks in for the ice machine, the generator or the icemaker will stop working. This is because the generator cannot handle the transient load. Therefore, ensure the wattage of your generator will handle the compressor’s energy needs.

5. Fuel Does Not Get Into Generator’s Carburetor

A used Carburetor for a Generator.

If fuel does not get into your generator, your genny won’t run properly. It may not even start. Suppose you have determined that the problem with your generator is carburetor related. In that case, it may be that the jets are plugged up with gunk or that the carburetor is damaged.

Solution

To clean your carburetor, you will need to strip it to clean it. However, it might not be necessary to completely strip the carburetor. You can detach the carburetor bowl and spray in a carburetor cleaner or WD 40 to clean the parts before reassembling it. Refer to Solution 7 of ‘Generator Will Not Start’ for tips and links to clean the carburetor of your Ryobi generator.

6. Generator Battery Keeps Dying

If the battery in your Ryobi generator keeps dying, the three most likely reasons are:

  • The battery is old and needs replacing.
  • The alternator does not work anymore.
  • The voltage regulator has malfunctioned.

Additionally, you should check for any chemical buildup around the terminals and any damage.

Solution

First, check the age and condition of your generator’s battery. It will most likely need replacing if it is older than 3 years or has visible buildup or damage.

If the battery is not old and has no damage, check your generator’s battery with a multimeter after charging it. If it does not hold a charge, the alternator or voltage regulator might be defective and need to be replaced or serviced by a battery specialist.

7. Generator Sounds And Runs Rough

If your generator sounds like a chainsaw massacre, skipping a beat or hopping, it could be running rough. The three most probable reasons for your generator running rough include the following:

  • A blocked or restricted carburetor.
  • A clogged fuel or air filter.
  • A defective spark plug.

Solution 1: Clean And Look After The Carburetor

If you aren’t using your generator for a while, drain the fuel to prevent it from separating or collecting dirt and condensation. Always use fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer to maintain the fuel’s quality. Alternatively, you may have to clean, repair, or replace the carburetor.

Solution 2: Clean And Replace The Fuel Filter

Just as buildup can occur in the carburetor, it can happen in a fuel and air filter. The filters should be replaced if they are old or dirty with impurities.

Solution 3: Check The Sparkplug

Spark plugs should be changed annually or sooner, depending on the frequency of use. Look for wear on the spark plug and carbon buildup. These will indicate a weakened electrode and that the spark plug needs to be replaced.

8. Generator Leaks Gas Or Oil

Your Ryobi generator may leak gas or oil. Apart from being messy, it is unsafe to have these flammable liquids exposed. So how do we prevent and repair these leaks?

Solution

Locate the source of the leak. If it is a seal or a broken or deteriorated pipe, you would need to replace or repair it. If a cap isn’t properly closed, close it carefully, ensuring the threads are correctly aligned.

If your generator is leaking gas, it may be that the issue lies with the gasket. The gasket may be missing, or it has dried out. If so, it would need to be replaced.

Another reason for gas leaks is when the tank is overfilled. When the generator warms up, the gas expands within the tank and will leak out if it is full, to begin with. Therefore, if you stay in warmer climates, it is best not to fill the gas tank of your generator too high.

If your generator leaks oil, ensure the pipes and valves are intact and that the parts used are genuine – not a knock-off. Oil is meant to work in a closed system under pressure, so it will be forced out of misaligned gaps when an engine is running. If the parts are genuine and not deteriorated, try refitting them securely.

Remember, prevention is better than cure.

A man pouring an oil on a portable generator.

You can prevent leaks by ensuring your generator is serviced regularly and watching for leaks where it is stored or used. Leaks can occur due to missing parts, unclosed caps, vermin chewing on pipes, deterioration, or wear and tear. If there is a leak, you must repair it as soon as possible to get the best out of your Ryobi generator.

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