10 Reasons Your Generator Backfires and DIY Fixes
A backfired generator doesn’t only impact the performance but also can reduce the lifespan of the machine and harm voltage-sensitive appliances like chargers, microwaves, laptops, etc.
“Backfiring occurs when the mixture of gas and air ignite at the wrong time or doesn’t combust properly”
Fortunately, backfiring can be fixed at home by doing some basic maintenance like cleaning the carburetor, spark plug, filters, fuel lines, etc.
Below is the list of the top 10 most common causes of the generator’s backfiring with DIY fixes.
Why is My Generator Backfiring? – [10 Causes With DIY Fixes]
1. Early Combustion:
Early combustion/pre-ignition can be a prominent reason behind the generator’s backfiring.
Pre-ignition occurs when the air-fuel mixture within the engine’s cylinder ignites before the designated time causing knocking sounds, backfires, sputtering, etc.
Hot spots in the cylinder, improper spark timing, lean air and fuel mixture, and poor/stall fuel could trigger pre-ignition.
Below are the maintenance tasks to prevent the machine from Early combustion/Pre–ignition.
- Adjust the ignition timing according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Inspect the condition of the Spark Plug, If you find carbon deposits or damaged electrodes, make sure to replace the spark plug.
- Use Fresh high-octane fuel or at least a normal fuel with a fuel stabilizer. Poor/ Stall fuel will not only hurt the longevity of the machine but also contribute to early combustion.
- Cleaning the carbon deposit from the combustion chamber can help prevent hot spots.
- Do an Inspection of the Combustion Chamber, and ensure the combustion chamber’s design is optimal and free from irregularities.
If the problem is still there, consult with a Professional or claim the warranty.
2. Lean Air Fuel Mixture in the Carburetor:
Lean air-fuel mixture can also be a leading cause of transporting the unburnt fuel to the exhaust system and starting combustion there.
When the unburned fuel ignites in the exhaust system, it causes a sudden release of energy. This release of energy creates a loud popping sound or even flames shooting out from the exhaust pipe, which is what’s known as a backfire.
- Ensure the carburetor or fuel injection system is properly adjusted to maintain the correct air-fuel ratio.
- Inspect the carburetor and clean it properly. If you find something damaged make sure to replace or repair it.
- Check for other potential causes of lean fuel, such as vacuum leaks, clogged fuel filters, etc.
- Schedule routine maintenance.
3. Faulty or Clogged Carburetor:
The carburetor is the main organ that makes sure the combustion chamber gets a sufficient amount of fuel with a proper air-to-fuel ratio.
If the carburetor is clogged or faulty, improper combustion will occur resulting in poor engine performance, difficulty in starting, backfiring, etc.
- Dismantle the carburetor and carefully clean its jets, fuel lines, and other components so that the air and fuel can pass smoothly.
- Schedule cleaning of the carburetor.
- If you find damaged seals, jets, or fuel lines, make sure to replace them.
4. Faulty Spark Plug
A Worn-out or Faulty Spark Plug with a fouled or damaged electrode might Not Ignite the Fuel timely Causing, difficulty in starting, Misfiring, poor efficiency, and Backfiring as well.
Note: A faulty spark plug can also be a leading cause of fluctuating voltages that may hurt your voltage-sensitive appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, laptops, etc.
Fareed (Freddy) COO of Safepowering has written a detailed guide about selecting a perfect-sized generator to run an air conditioner. Make sure to have a look.
- Turn off the generator remove the spark plug and Inspect the electrode of the spark plug, If you find it damaged, replace the spark plug.
- Ensure the spark plug gap (the distance between the center and ground electrode) matches the manufacturer’s specifications.
- If the spark plug is dirty, clean it using a spark plug cleaner.
5. Choke Is at Wrong Position:
The purpose of a choke is to control the flow of air to the carburetor to ensure a proper blend of oxygen and fuel should be fed to the combustion chamber.
If the choke/leaver is at the wrong position the generator may overheat, sputtering backfiring, irregular RPMs, etc.
Locate the choke/lever on your generator. Typically found on the side and positioned above the air filter, some models cleverly incorporate this lever into the power knob.
Make sure the choke is set to the “Closed” position. As the engine warms up over the first few seconds of operation, after warming the choke should be at the “Open” position to ensure a sufficient amount of air should be transported to the carburetor for smoother operation.
6. Faulty Intake Valves:
The sole purpose of intake valves is to control the flow of air and fuel to the combustion chamber.
If the intake valves malfunction, mainly sticking or not closing properly, the combustion timing can be disturbed, and as a result, the generator provides lower output, reduced runtime, or backfiring as well.
- Inspect the physical condition of the intake valves, and replace or repair them if you find some physical damage, We recommend consulting with a generator mechanic for better assistance.
- Clean the valve and its components to remove any dirt, debris, or carbon buildup that might be affecting its smoother operation.
- Adjust the valve times or clearance as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Make a schedule of regular maintenance.
7. Low or Stall Fuel:
Low or old stall fuel can be a leading cause of not only the generator’s backfiring but also sputtering, low performance, etc.
If the generator is running out of fuel it may start backfiring as there is no fuel for burning, Also if the fuel sits for more than 3 months, it becomes stalled and loses the power of combustibility because of the extra moisture content available in the fuel.
- Check the fuel gauge or fuel level manually, sometimes we forget to refill the machine.
- If you suspect that you have poured more than 3 months old fuel, chances are that fuel was stalled, make sure to drain the old fuel from both the carburetor and fuel tank, pour some high-octane fresh fuel, and run the machine for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Store the fuel in a properly labeled air-tight container so that there is no entrance for moisture and contamination, also Stick a piece of duct tape on the container with the purchased date of the fuel.
- Don’t use more than 3 months old fuel.
- Must use a fuel stabilizer for better performance, I mostly pour the stabilizer right into the fuel tank.
8. Exhaust System Issues:
A Blocked or Damaged muffler can cause unburned fuel to ignite within the exhaust system or produce backpressure that Affects the Engine’s Performance and Leads to Backfiring.
- Turn off the generator and leave it for a while to cool down, Monitor the visual condition of the exhaust system, if you find a leak or damaged muffler, pipes, or other connection, make sure to repair or replace it.
- Restore the airflow by Cleaning the blockages and rust.
- If you find a leakage use exhaust system repair kits, heat-resistant sealants, or clamps to seal leaks.
- Tight the loose parts of the exhaust assembly.
- Incorporate regular exhaust system inspections/maintenance.
9. Faulty Fuel Valve:
The fuel valve is responsible to restrict or allow the fuel to the carburetor.
If it’s not functioning well or closed a lean air and fuel mixture may be fed to the combustion chamber causing backfiring, irregular RPMs, lower output, etc.
Open the fuel valve to the recommended position and make sure to inspect its physical condition and connections to the carburetor and fuel lines.
10. Air Leakage:
Excessive air intake from the leaked seals, improper choke position, and filter leakages could disrupt the air-to-fuel ratio causing backfiring and excessive vibration as well.
- Replace the broken or damaged seals and keep the choke in the right position as per the weather conditions.
- Seal any leakage with recommended heat-resistive material.
- Replace the damaged air filter.
Can a Backfire Damage a Generator’s Engine?
Yes, backfiring can potentially damage a generator’s engine, particularly the parts like the combustion chamber, piston, etc. that can’t be repaired or replaced cheaply.
Addressing the backfiring plays a vital role in not only providing super smoother operation but also improving the longevity, efficiency, and output of the generator.
Can Backfire Damage Power Valve?
Yes, because of the excessive stress, the backfiring can potentially damage a power valve of the internal combustion engine.
Why a Generator Does Backfire When You Shut It Off?
After turning off a generator, backfiring can happen if there’s extra unburnt fuel in the engine and the piston still has some motion left.
When the generator is running, the air-fuel mixture ignites properly; however, once we shut down the generator suddenly the fuel in the engine may not have had the chance to burn properly resulting in backfiring (also known as after firing).
What Causes Generators to Afterfire?
The following factors could contribute to Generators after firing or Afterburn.
Rich Air-Fuel Mixture:
When there is unburned fuel available in the exhaust system, it can continue to burn after the engine is turned off. This can be caused by a rich air-fuel mixture (more fuel than required).
Clogged Air Filter:
A clogged air filter blocks the airflow to the carburetor causing a lean air-fuel mixture will be fed to the combustion chamber.
Fuel System is Malfunctioning:
A clogged fuel filter, fuel lines, or a malfunctioning fuel pump could also contribute after firing, as there is no proper air and fuel mixture available for proper combustion.
Faulty Exhaust Components:
Issues such as a damaged or worn-out muffler, exhaust manifold, or catalytic converter can contribute to after-fire. These components might retain heat and create conditions for post-shutdown combustion.
Like backfiring, delayed combustion can also be a leading cause of the after-firing.
If the spark plug is not providing ignition within the right time frame, the unburnt fuel can be burned in the exhaust system resulting after firing.
High Engine Temperature:
If the engine’s temperature is elevated due to prolonged operation or other reasons, the heat can cause unburned fuel to ignite in the exhaust system.
Generator Backfiring Vs. After fire
|Aspects||Generator Backfiring||Generator Afterfire|
|Timing||During engine operation||After the engine has been turned off|
|Sound||Popping, banging, or bursting sounds||Popping or banging sound from exhaust|
|Cause||Incorrect ignition timing, fuel mixture, clogged carburetor, faulty fuel valves, etc.||Unburned fuel igniting in hot exhaust|
|Combustion Location||Within the engine’s cylinders||Within the exhaust system|
|Harmfulness||Can be harmful and indicative of problems||Generally harmless but can indicate issues|
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to James Condon
To Sum Up
Taking care of your generator’s backfiring or after firing isn’t just about keeping things smooth and efficient; it’s also a smart move to prevent costly repairs down the road.
As per my experience backfiring occurs when there is no proper air and fuel mixture or early combustion occurs due to the improper ignition timings.
However, if the problem is worse like a damaged combustion chamber, piston, etc. you may have to seek help from a specialist.