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How to Fix an RV Generator That Won’t Start

Ready to get your battery charged up or use appliances without a battery? Your generator needs to be working for that. Having a generator that won’t work is frustrating. Especially if you have a pull start generator and spend the time and energy trying to pull the cord over and over.

Since generators are a pretty important part of the RV – so important they often come with one, we’ll give you some ideas about what could be wrong. Some fixes are fairly easy while others might need a bit more expertise, either way, we’ll explain options.

An RV generator won’t start for a variety of reasons. The issues can include a lack of oil, bad gas, a gummer carburetor, or the battery itself. Generally using your RV on a regular basis can actually lead to it having a healthy life of starting when needed.

Generators and your RV

We will start by clarifying a couple of things. Some RVs have built in generators. Other RVs don’t come with the generator, but make it possible to store a generator somewhere in the RVs internal compartments. RVs that are built in usually are connected to the RV battery so they can potentially charge each other. 

Low to no oil in your RV generator

Motor oil is essential to the function of your RV generator, and your RV. Motor oil lubricates the moving parts so they can move quickly and freely without causing damage to each other. 

You’ll likely want to check your generator manual, but the oil in your generator is probably located near the top, or potentially in a tank on bottom. The cap may be labeled with what looks like an oil can spurting.

The dipstick itself is removable and has lines that indicate the oil level. Since oil is relatively easy to find and change, we suggest having it full to the line at all times. 

Your generator might not specify what kind of oil it needs, or if it needs a fuel and oil mixture. Look up the manual or your generator online to see what it takes. If it’s low, add more.

Bad fuel or low fuel

Fuel does go bad and becomes less combustible. This really refers specifically to generators that are not hooked directly up to the RVs gas line. If you have an RV with a built in generator, it’s otherwise possible that the gas line is off or somehow clogged.

If the fuel hasn’t been replaced in a while or is very low, it’s certainly possible that the generator won’t start. 

Adding fuel to a low tank should fix the issue. A generator with enough fuel that doesn’t smell as strong as it used to might need to be drained.

Draining the fuel is a matter of either getting a siphon and another fuel safe container for disposable. It’s also possible, though more work to turn your generator on its side to let the fuel out into an environmentally safe container.

Gas should be kept as fresh as possible, preferably sitting in the tank for less than a month. When storing gas, keep the lid on tight too. This keeps air from weakening the fuel.

When you are not using the RV for an extended period or just aren’t using the generator much, consider either draining the tank or letting it run until it stops. A gas tank with no gas in it is safer for your generator than a tank full of bad gas.

Also, be sure to check the cap or manual to see what kind of gas the generator needs. Most run unleaded, but check anyway.

Bad carburetor

The generator carburetor takes in air and mixes it with the gas necessary to produce combustion. A clogged generator will either keep the generator from starting or keep it from running for very long.

A bad carburetor is a result of bad fuel. Keeping fuel in your generator too long without refreshing or using it can make it gummy. Carburetors have very small holes that are rather sensitive to clogs.

Many hardware stores sell carburetor cleaner that you can pour in. This is ultimately hoping for the best. Another option is to attempt to replace the carburetor or remove and clean it.

Other bad parts

Old or bad fuel is bad for just about every part of your generators systems. Hoses and valves carry gas into the generator and those can go bad too. Generator parts also do wear out over time. 

What can I do to prevent generator issues?

Keep fresh fuel and good oil in the tank at all times. The rest of the issues possible with an RV not starting are more up to the quality of the parts present and its storage than anything else. Keeping your RV in a warm, dry place also helps it start easier, but RVs themselves generally do a good job of that.

We referred to running your generator until it’s out of fuel to keep it first. You should also start your generator once in a while just to ensure things are flowing. It’s better to learn you have a problem with your generator when you don’t need it than when you do – you’ll have more time and possibly patience to fix it.


Your RV’s generator is one of the most important parts of the RV system, especially if you want to go off the grid more. Our best piece of advice is to keep it maintained along with the rest of our RV with regular tune ups and cleanings – and runs, to ensure it works when you want it.

Fresh oil and fuel are key to keeping your generator from gradually developing problems that will be harder to fix in the long run. Do maintenance on your generator when you perform maintenance on the rest of your RV and you’ll reduce the likelihood of a problem.

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