Generator Keeps Shutting Off – Why It Happens and What to Do

This article looks at several possible issues that cause your generator to keep shutting off and how to resolve them.
Rodney Nestor
Rodney Nestor
Research Writer
Rodney holds a Master’s degree in Arts and apart from working as a freelance writer, is a rather successful author of science fiction stories published in several literary read more
Last updated: September 12, 2023
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Your generator shutting off unexpectedly is something you should learn to be comfortable with as an owner. It’s something that’s bound to happen occasionally, and while it may spell trouble, sometimes fixing it and getting the machine to run better is a simple matter.

Nevertheless, if you’re a first-time generator owner, this may be new territory to you, making it quite scary. You don’t know why your generator keeps shutting off or even how to stop it from doing so. It would be easier if there were only one possible reason for the shutdown. However, the possible reasons are numerous, and you need to know about each of them if you’re going to attempt to rectify the situation. Fortunately, we list all these reasons below so you won’t have to look for the information elsewhere.

Reasons why generator might be shutting off

Before we get into the reasons, it’s important to know that there are some that you can solve on your own, but others will require professional assistance. With that, here’s the list.


Overloading being the reason your generator is shutting down is not something you’ll encounter with older machine models. On the other hand, newer generator models have an auto switch-off mechanism that jumps in whenever your device is overloaded.

Typically, generators have a designed wattage which is the maximum power it should output while working. When you connect too many appliances, there’s a chance that the machine won’t be able to provide enough power. This is where the auto switch-off mechanism comes in to shut off the device.

In older generation models, the device wouldn’t shut down but would instead provide your appliances with lower power compared to what they need. According to information by Energuide Trusted Source How do I protect my appliances against power failures or power outages? – Energuide In case of a power failure or a mains power outage, some devices and appliances will malfunction. In that case, any damage is your own responsibility. Thankfully, damage can be largely avoided. , this is one of the easiest ways to shorten the service life of your appliances. As such, the auto switch-off feature in your generator is a good thing. That said, the only solution to this problem is to stop overloading the generator by disconnecting some of your appliances.

Low or high oil levels

Generator Keeps Shutting Off – Why It Happens and What to Do

The oil level in your generator is something that you have to get just right. It should be neither too high nor too low. Luckily generators come with dipsticks that can be used to check for the ideal oil level.

Notably, with levels that are too low, the oil temperature will rise too quickly and cause the engine to overheat. Modern generators have features to stop this from happening and will shut down the engine before there is lasting damage.

High oil levels are just as bad because oil tends to expand when heated, which is why there’s a sensor for that in modern generators. As such, it may start, but it will quickly shut down. Of course, the remedy for this situation is to keep oil levels in the desired range.

Low water level in the radiator

Another possible reason why your generator runs for a few minutes then stops is the presence of low water levels in the radiator. Notably, this component is partly responsible for keeping engine heat low and does this by using a combination of water and coolant. However, if the water level isn’t high enough, then the radiator’s ability to function will be limited, and the generator will eventually shut down as a result. As such, you can check the radiator water levels and top it up if necessary as a solution.

Internal engine fault

If there’s a problem with your generator’s engine, it’s unlikely that it will run for very long. Unfortunately, diagnosing engine problems and fixing them is not a job for the average person. As such, you’d need to call in a professional for the job.

Faulty fuel tank or fuel pipes

Most generators will run on fuel such as diesel or gas. As such, if there’s a problem that keeps the fuel from reaching the engine, then your Honda, Generac, or Briggs and Stratton generator will keep shutting off. These problems will either be in the fuel tank or the fuel pipes.

As for the fuel tank, it could have a leak that drains the fuel from the device. The same is the case with the fuel pipes, although there are other possible reasons for the conduits not delivering fuel to the engine and carburetor.

Examples include the accumulation of dirt and dust or being bent.

Ultimately, these problems will lead to supply issues, and your generator will keep shutting off at the most inopportune times. To solve the problem, you should clean your fuel tank and then inspect both the tank and the pipes for damage. Diesel marks on the pipes or under the generator are clear signs of a leak.

If there’s no leak, cleaning the components should be enough. If there’s a leak replacing the damaged part is the only solution.

Faulty carburetor

Another essential component of a generator engine’s functionality is the carburetor. According to the Universal Technical Institute Trusted Source How Does a Carburetor Work? Carburetors are important parts to understand as a motorcycle enthusiast. Learn more about the role they play in powering engines here. ,  this component mixes the fuel and air in the right proportions just before ignition. As such, a faulty carburetor will definitely lead to your Generac, Briggs, and Stratton, or Honda generator shutting off.

One of the common reasons for your carbureter malfunctioning is bad fuel being left in there for too long. As such, cleaning this component is often more than enough to solve the problem. However, if it doesn’t solve the issue, you can have it professionally serviced or replace it with a new one.

Battery problem

Generator Keeps Shutting Off – Why It Happens and What to Do

For battery-powered generators, a faulty battery isn’t going to give you the runtime you expect. You could charge it for hours or even days on end, and it would still not have enough energy to keep your household running for long. This is why it’s recommended that batteries be replaced every two to three years.

If they’re still new and in perfect condition, the problem could be the charging system and not the batteries. If so, you’ll need a professional’s help to diagnose and fix the problem.

If you’re using a fuel generator and the battery has issues, it simply won’t start. However, a generator not starting is a different issue altogether. That said, users recommend the Honda EU3000IS1AN generator because despite having a battery, it incorporates a recoil backup and is thus still reliable even when the battery fails.

Problems with wiring or circuits

Problems with wiring or the circuits in the generator are often another issue that requires professional intervention. You can look for loose, exposed, or broken wires, but trying to fix them without knowing how could damage the device and compromise your safety.


We mentioned above that the carburetor mixes air and fuel pre-ignition. Notably, the choke helps control the amount of air in the carbureter at any given time. It’s also essential for starting a cold engine because then it needs a richer fuel mixture with less air than fuel. When the engine is warm enough, it can go back to using equal parts fuel and air.

Your generator’s choke could be in the wrong position, and the resulting air-fuel imbalance could force the generator to shut down. As such, you only need to adjust it to match the current needs, and the generator will work just fine.

Faulty spark plug

Spark plugs continuously provide the ignition spark to light the fuel in the generator as it’s working. As such, if they lose their effectiveness, your generator simply won’t work for very long. You can clean the spark plug, and if the problem persists, replace it.

Coolant sensor failure

Just like cars, generators come with coolant sensors, and they basically perform the same functions in both machines. According to Hella Tech World, these devices detect the machine’s operating temperature allowing it to make the necessary adjustments as per the operating conditions.

If the coolant sensor isn’t in the optimum working conditions, the generator won’t be able to regulate itself properly and may shut off due to a resulting malfunction. The generator’s control panel should provide some insight as to what is wrong.

A faulty coolant sensor will need to be replaced. After that, your control panel needs to be reprogrammed to match the new sensor; otherwise, the problem may persist.

Other sensors

Not every generator shut down is due to faulty sensors. Sometimes it means that your sensors are in perfect condition. This is especially the case with safety sensors. According to reviewers, the Briggs & Stratton P2400 is one of the safest portable generators due to the carbon monoxide sensor included. This feature will protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning as the generator will shut down as soon as it detects

Exhaust system

Since your machine is burning fuel, it will need an outlet for the exhaust. However, there may be blockages in the conduits. In such a case, it will start fairly well, run for a few seconds, then shut down. That said, you can ensure it stays running properly by cleaning your exhaust system often. That way, there won’t be enough build-up of dirt and grime to cause a blockage.

Dirty air filter

Generator Keeps Shutting Off – Why It Happens and What to Do

Also, the engine is supposed to work with clean air, which is why filters for the same are included. That said, the dirt that’s blocked accumulates on the filter and can impede the intake of air. Ultimately this means not enough air will be getting to the engine, and the result is your Champion, Onan, or other models of generator keeps shutting off. You can avoid these circumstances by cleaning the air filters regularly and replacing them whenever necessary.

Oil pressure switch

There is an optimum oil pressure range for your generator, and the oil pressure switch and sensor are incorporated to enforce that. Usually, it turns off the engine when there’s not enough oil pressure. It will also work the same way when the switch fails because this will be reflected in the control panel as low oil pressure.

If the oil pressure sensor looks damaged, you need to replace it. However, if it’s in tip-top shape, it may be a problem with the connected wires. If you’re not tech-savvy enough to fix the wiring, a qualified technician can help you out.

Faulty control panel

If your generator always runs for a few minutes then stops, the last most likely cause is an uncalibrated control panel. This typically happens when you change or replace some of the sensors. As such, if you reset the parameters of the panel, your problems will be as good as solved.

How to maintain your generator

While you can’t avoid generator shutdowns completely, you can reduce their frequency by maintaining the device as best as you can. One way to keep the generator in tip-top condition is to manage the load. As we mentioned above, too high a load could be a problem. That said, running the generator continuously with no load is even worse as it will damage the device over time. As such, always ensure the load is in the acceptable range.

Also, check on the various components of the device periodically so you can catch problems early enough. This includes the engine, carburetor, fuel lines, wiring, control panel, air filters, and spark plugs. Replace or repair if necessary, and this includes replacing even the oil since it can go bad. Lastly, don’t leave your generator idle for too long. Make sure you run it every few months, even if it’s not needed.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining the generator as best you can will reduce the number of shutdowns experienced in a certain duration of time. However, it won’t eliminate them completely. That said, all the trouble-shooting tips included above should help you determine the reasons why your generator keeps shutting off. Consequently, you’ll be able to resolve them and have your device up and running in no time at all.


How do I protect my appliances against power failures or power outages? – Energuide
In case of a power failure or a mains power outage, some devices and appliances will malfunction. In that case, any damage is your own responsibility. Thankfully, damage can be largely avoided.
How Does a Carburetor Work?
Carburetors are important parts to understand as a motorcycle enthusiast. Learn more about the role they play in powering engines here.
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