The small, efficient gasoline generator is a practical necessity for extended RV boondocking or any time spent away from a source of alternating current for energizing appliances and battery charging. I recently switched from a Class A coach with a hefty 7.5 kW Cummins Onan generator to a tiny towable with a single marine deep-cycle battery and no generator. My boondocking plans would require a generator. I wondered what the best way was to break in a new generator so it had a long life. Here’s what I found.
Many options in small generators
There are many fine, small, efficient portable generators on the market. However, my experience involves the Honda EU2200i inverter/generator because my extensive research revealed this to be a good choice. Also, I have had positive experiences with other Honda power equipment. Once I located an available unit at an outdoor retailer, I brought the generator to my shop to begin the break-in process.
Manufacturer’s recommended procedure?
With the box open and the operator’s manual at hand, my first step was to find and refer to the manufacturer’s recommended break-in procedure. But wait—searching the manual front to back, I could find no break-in procedure whatsoever! The Honda manual only warned to be sure to put oil in the machine before starting. That alone would not do, as failing to make the initial engine runs correctly would, I firmly believe, shorten the service life of this rather expensive and necessary accessory.
DIY new generator break-in plan
An internet search and consulting our RVtravel.com resident tech guru Dave Solberg enabled me to devise a schedule that would ensure a proper break-in.
- Out of the box, the Honda generators have only a few drops of oil in them, so it is essential to fill the reservoir with a manufacturer’s approved oil. I went with the standard Honda W10-30 petroleum oil. In years past, I would have considered using straight-weight mineral oil for break-in. However, today’s engines are designed differently, to very tight tolerances, and the ordinary W10-30 is fine.
- With the oil reservoir full (and not over-filled, as this would result in oil being drawn up into the carburetor intake and stalling the engine), the next step is to add fuel to the gas tank. I used Honda’s recommended no Ethanol 91 octane premium. After fueling, I left the fuel vent shut off and the engine electrical switch closed. I turned the engine over 15-20 times with the starter cord to get the oil circulating. I opened the fuel vent and selected the run-switch to “on.”
- Following the online recommendation of Honda small engine technicians, I opened the carburetor intake cover, pulled the air filter down, sprayed just one small shot of ether starting fluid into the intake, and pulled the starter cord. The engine immediately fired up, and the RPMs increased toward idle.
- I selected “Eco” mode on the front control panel, which governs idle RPM at a low setting. The engine settled down to a low-RPM idle. I marked time in the new generator maintenance log and would initially run the gen for one hour.
- After one hour, I shut down the generator and drained the oil. As expected, the drain oil contained shiny metal filings—part of the break-in process.
- With 14 oz. of fresh Honda W10-30 in the reservoir, the next step is to run the generator for another hour under a light load. I used two small ceramic heaters, set on “fan-only” and then on the lowest setting. After this run, I changed the oil again.
- I will operate the generator for the next 10 hours on light loads, gradually increasing to moderate electrical loads, both on and off “Eco” mode.
- After 10 hours, I’ll change the oil again to full synthetic and operate the generator unrestricted to load, with oil changes every 50 hours.
No shortage of theories on engine break-in
From my experience in the aviation and marine industries, I know that there is an endless debate about new and overhauled engine break-in procedures and lubricant types—and brands, too, for that matter. Here I have outlined but one engineering-validated method that will get your expensive small-engine inverter/generator off to a good start toward a long and trouble-free service life.