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Break in your new generator the right way for long service life

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.

A Honda_EU2200is generator
Portable generators like this Honda EU2200i must be broken in correctly for a longer service life.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

##RVT1053

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Robert H.
1 month ago

I’ve got two Honda EU2000 generators that are 17 years old. I change the oil every year or so. They run perfect on regular unleaded. Nothing done to them except replace air filter foam a few years ago. I live in Florida, so they have been used. Great generators.

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago

Good Lord. If the owner’s manual says start it and use it, start it and use it. And ether (whatever some tech online said) is NEVER a good idea on any engine except in the most dire necessity.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

We were suppose to be hypnotized by the term Honda Tech recommendations. LOL.

Wolfe Rose
1 month ago

I’m going to echo this comment — advising using ether on an UNbroken-in engine made me cringe. It’s bad even for well-run-in engines, and the necessity indicates a problem unless it’s negative-50 out.

Barry
1 month ago

Ok, I’m not the mosr efficient camper when it comes to maintenance. My Honda 2000 is close to 20 yrs old and I have only changed the oil twice. Shame on me. I did have the carb cleaned since I left 87 octane unleaded in it over the winter. Since then I only use 91 octane ethanol free gas. Even over winter I have no problem starting it or it getting lacquered up. I normally run it when boon docking a couple hundred hours a year on idle connected to my 5th wheel and it runs great. Still get about 10 to 12 hours on a gallon of gas. Best was 15. Honda makes a great generator.

Ron
1 month ago

Honda engines are bullet proof, follow the manufacturers guidelines.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago

All these precautionary steps is just nonsense. Modern metallurgy has eliminated the “old wives tales” that keep circulating, do this, don’t do that.

Just read the manual, follow the steps and run it. If following some poppycock nonsense, handed down by your great granddaddy, helps you sleep at night, by all means have at it. However, if you begin to think ole grandad knows more than the engineers at say Honda (in this instance), then you just dont know as much as you think you do.

After all, surely Honda’s guidance, which drove this product to market, never took into consideration all the engineering that make modern generators so low maintenance.

captain gort
1 month ago

I have 2 Hondas: EU 1000 and EU2200. Mostly, I take along the lightweight EU1000. Quieter, smaller, lighter, less fuel use. Gets the battery charging job done nicely. Break in? Modern engines require far less break-in than old engines because manufacturing precision is far, far better as are the lubricants. So- Fill it with the proper lube oil (i use the overpriced Honda 10-30). Run it for an hour or two, hooked to a small space heater with wattage set to 1/3-1/2 of gen’s rated full load. Once in a while bump it to full load for 30 seconds or so, then back to light load. Don’t let it just sit and idle. After a couple hours, shut it down, drain the warm oil and refill with fresh. Your are now good for 100 hours. I always use 87 octane regular fuel and never ever a problem.

Steve
1 month ago

I concur, not at all necessary. It takes a few more pulls on the starter cord to prime a dry gasoline carb but the engine would have fired right up without the ether.

Wolfe Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Again, NEVER use ether on a new engine. As for priming the carb, many gennies are seem to be self-priming — my WEN runs the carb dry, and refills it when you turn back to START again. I suspect most gennies with the gas tank over the carb would gravity-prime but haven’t studied it. I know my WEN starts on one pull everytime, from dry carb, and cost 1/2 of a Honda… 😀 Even “cheap” gennies’ engineering has gotten better than older expensive gennies’.

TexasScout
1 month ago

Well, here’s the first problem, where I live, “NonEthanol 91 octane premium” can’t be found ANYWHERE around here in South Texas, 87 octane, yes. Also, Ether is a no-go with me also. Other than that, a very comprehensive list for break-in.

Last edited 1 month ago by TexasScout
TexasScout
1 month ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

I bought a truck that runs on E85 and Regular gas, I haven’t been able to find ANY in or around Corpus Christi. It’s all over Austin, just not here.

Dennis
1 month ago

I totally agree with the need for proper break-in period prior to putting your generator into service. My procedure for my new Honda 2000i was very similar. I used the recommended Honda oil for the break-in period and prior to adding fuel, pulled the starting cord several times. Where my method differed is I installed a magnetic oil plug before starting the generator. I did not use ether. I ran the generator once for half an hour, once for an hour, once for two hours and finally eight hours with a light load before changing to synthetic oil. The amount of fine metal particles captured by the magnetic plug was especially significant from the first two runs. Additionally, I installed an hour meter to help track usage between oil changes. It is very easy to forget the cumulative run time on an oil change. The cost of oil is cheap insurance for an expensive piece of equipment.

Scott
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis

I have 3 generators that I can use, 2 of the 2000 watt and a 3500 watt unit. On each of these , I use the run clocks, the magnetic oil plugs, synthetic oil and ethanol remover additive keep these 3 humming along nicely. At the end of the season, I drain almost all of the gas, add gasoline stabilizer to the tank and run them DRY. Next season, refill gasoline and 1 pull , good to go. No ethanol free gasoline needed

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

I would really question the small shot of ether. Ether can and does cause detonation in an engine. Even the slightest detonation can cause damage to the rings, pistons and cylinder head. I have disassembled engines that have been repeatedly started with ether to find cracks in the cylinder heads, broken ring lands and even holes in the pistons.

Crowman
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

And can also wash the oil off the cylinder walls on start up.

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