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Author Topic: Onan generator not starting  (Read 718 times)

Sweetsurrender

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Onan generator not starting
« on: February 25, 2020, 07:52:22 PM »
Hi All.  I looked in the "Search" area for help with this, but didn't see anything that looked like the problem we've got with the generator, so, here I am. :D

I read past posts about "excercising" the generator on a motorhome when they aren't being used.  Today, I finally got around to beginning to do just that, and lo and behold!  It just won't start!  (no big surprise I guess, as it hasn't been started in 9 months....my bad!)  At any rate, we aren't sure what to do about it. 

There is plenty of gas in the tank.  We have a 2019 Jayco 28 ft. Class C rig.  When pushing the start button, the generator keeps turning over, but will not start.  I tried it three times, then it stopped even trying, and only sort of went "click, click".  The manual said to wait a few minutes or so and it could reset itself.  Then we found the priming pump on the generator.  Primed it, tried again, and got the same results of it turning over, then going to "click, click" after a few tries at starting.

Realizing that there are sooooo many things that could be wrong,  I am asking for suggestions as to how to get this baby fired up so that we can start (better late than never, I suppose) taking better care of it so that it will be there when we need it.

Thanks in advance for any and all advice.
 

UTTransplant

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2020, 07:59:00 PM »
My 8000kW Onan takes between 10-15 seconds to start. I hold down the button until it turns over. Did you leave it on for 30 seconds or so?
Pam and Kevin plus Lily the cat
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Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2020, 08:04:25 PM »
I did that.  At first (before digging out the manual) I didn't, but the manual says with a gas (as opposed to diesel) it takes maybe 30 seconds or so.  Each time after finding that bit, I did hold it quite awhile.  Thanks for that, though.  Its not something I knew originally!

Henry J Fate

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2020, 08:12:13 PM »
Make sure you have enough fuel. Use a fully charged battery bank. Make sure you have primed the carburetor properly.

If you have done all above and still have zero indication of any combustion, next step would be to pull the fuel line off the carburetor, put the line into a container and use the prime feature to see if gas is flowing out the line.

From there there will be a host of other steps to locate the problem but start with that and get those batteries charged up or use an adequate jump from another source.

Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2020, 10:56:22 PM »
Will try it all..thanks.

LarsMac

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2020, 11:48:08 PM »
Have you verified the Spark Plug is good?
And then, how old is the gas? Really.

 
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J32952

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2020, 05:55:51 AM »
Just a thought.. small engines (the carbs) do not like E gas.  That’s what most now run in their vehicles.  If the fuel been sitting 9 months, no impact on your vehicle engine, but could be in genny.  In all my small engine stuff, lawn mower, chain saw, pressure washer, portable generator etc I only run Rec 90 (gas, not corn crap).  Obviously not an option in my RV (well it is but an extra $1 a gallon would add up fast)
   Might have to pull the carb & get cleaned.
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John From Detroit

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2020, 06:11:57 AM »
I keep hearing how "Small endinges do not like E-Gas" My Onan is about to hit 15 years old (Come May) has done some extended runs... Boondocking, post-hurricane,  Couple ham radio Field Days.. other events.  and still fires on the 2nd try every time... First try I dont' even try to start it just tap the start button so it fuels up and then push to start a half to mintue later.. Only once has it failed to start..... out of gas.
Nothing adds excitement like something that is none of your business
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Bobtop46

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2020, 08:37:53 AM »
Start the RV engine first, let that run for a bit, then try to start the Onan.  If the RV has sat for some time, you need some sort of stabilizer in the gas and the generator run to get that into the Onan fuel system before sitting for long periods of time.
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House Husband

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2020, 10:39:32 AM »
Have you checked the choke to make sure it'e closing?

Richard
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Matt_C

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2020, 11:02:57 AM »
If you have to take it someplace, do not go to an RV place.  Onan engines are used all over the place for potable power, so find a friendly small engine shop to have a go at it.  There are so many simple things it could be that you need someone that knows them to have a look at it. 

Matt
A lifelong waterman with a trophy wife and a pair of mutts going places we cannot get by boat.

LarsMac

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2020, 11:04:57 AM »
Cummins shops usually have a certified ONAN expert.
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Rene T

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2020, 03:18:33 PM »
Take it back to the dealer. It may still be covered by a warrantee. If not, stay away from any RV dealer for repairs like that. Go find an expert.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2020, 04:43:37 PM by Rene T »
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Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2020, 03:56:37 PM »
As to age of the gas, we filled it after our last trip about 3 weeks ago, so it isn't that old. We just have never used the generator except one short time last summer.

Update..I ran the RV engine for about 20 minutes then tried the generator. No dice. I was going to look at the spark plug, but...um..don't know where that might be. I like the idea of cleaning the carburetor, but I seriously don't know exactly what that is, let alone where it is and how to get it out.

I did call the dealer, and you guys are absolutely correct that this is usually not under RV warranty, though I do think if that's so they really should let new owners know the generators need to be run every few weeks. Ok...I ranted. It's over, back to fixing the problem.

Thanks for advice to go to regular mechanic and not the dealer. If Jayco indeed will not cover it, I will seek a regular engine person to try to clean the carburetor before we spend the big bucks replacing it.  Fun fact...Onan does not allow the RV dealers to clean the carburetors. Seems like a revenue enhancing policy to me.

Also, the (really helpful guy actually) service guy at the dealer recommended we get a fuel shut off valve installed on it after we get it going again so we don't need to remember to run it regularly. Any thoughts on that?

Thank you all. As always, very helpful advice. I will update when I get this resolved.

Larry N.

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2020, 04:40:36 PM »
Quote
Also, the (really helpful guy actually) service guy at the dealer recommended we get a fuel shut off valve installed on it after we get it going again so we don't need to remember to run it regularly. Any thoughts on that?

Yup. He's thinking about gas turning bad in the engine or lines, but while that may be a factor sometimes, the more urgent reason for running the generator for a while every month or so is that you need to get the moisture out of the generator itself (not the engine), something that applies equally to diesel units, which aren't subject to bad gas. About 30 minutes or so under a fair load (run air conditioners or electric heaters) should be adequate.
Larry and Mary Ann N.
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Henry J Fate

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2020, 07:23:39 PM »
Fuel valve will not help. Exercising the generator is best. If you don't plan to run the generator for an extended period, the best thing to do is to drain the fuel out of the carburetor bowl and let it sit dry so that there is no fuel that can oxidize and clog up the passage ways once a start is attempted.

A fuel valve could possibly help with reducing the possibility of accidentally sending fuel to the carburetor after draining but it's not needed if the unit is just sitting.

If you have confirmed a fully charged battery and the generator is turning over nice and crisp, the next step is to confirm fuel to the carburetor and spark to the spark plug. If you do not have the skills needed to make those determinations then you will need to have someone that can.

« Last Edit: February 26, 2020, 07:58:51 PM by Henry J Fate »

Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2020, 12:02:38 AM »
Thanks Larry and Henry. It does make sense to run it for awhile for different reasons.

I am learning as we go, and will be asking someone for help that is willing to let me see how it's all done. I guess you don't need to be a mechanic to successfully and happily RV, but you better be willing to learn a few things! 

Happy trails.





phil-t

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2020, 04:47:01 AM »
Do you have generator model number?  Should be a tag/id plate visible on the generator.  Does the generator "try" to start, as in sound like it's running while the start switch is pressed, then quit when the switch is released?
« Last Edit: February 27, 2020, 04:48:34 AM by phil-t »
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J32952

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2020, 07:46:04 AM »
John in Detroit:  you keep hearing  "Small engines do not like E-Gas" " because it's true.  If you run regularly then it's not a problem, however if they sit, the alcohol in the e gas will create a problem.  Mostly related to water (condensation), phase separation, and in some cases deteriorating fuel lines. 
  Not sure for most this is a problem for RV generators - as long as one runs their genny underload at least 30 minutes monthly. 
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Heli_av8tor

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2020, 11:02:02 AM »
This is the result of leaving e-gas in my log splitter for a year without running.
Tom & Theresa
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Henry J Fate

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2020, 11:33:45 AM »
That's a pretty bad carb bowl and float assembly. That is a good example of why it's best to drain the bowl of fuel when you don't plan to run the equipment for extended periods.

Mark_K5LXP

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2020, 01:06:45 PM »
This isn't really a problem, it's a learning opportunity. :o

You said the genset ran fine last summer so it's not like it suffered some terrible trauma that will require a major restorative effort.  Just like most things that quit it's probably one root cause that once you identify it, is straightforward to address and correct.

I know, easier said than done and easier to get someone else to fix it than deal with it.  That's fine at a unit level but this isn't like dropping off a a lawnmower to get tuned up, you have to find someone even willing to look at it, schedule a time, schlep the RV over there, and pay them by the hour to figure things out.  If the end result is a successful repair then you can usually justify that trouble and expense but these things are inherently fussy.  If you ended up schlepping to a repair guy every time there was a generator hiccup you would be out a lot of time and effort, not to mention expense.  All that being said, what happens when the thing craps out on a trip when you need it the most?  In a perfect world genset repair places would be everywhere but they're not, you're lucky if you can find one near where you live.  Point of all this is as simple as the problems tend to be you're way ahead to dig into it and learn what you can and become self sufficient with the basics.  Gummed up carbs and fouled plugs are going to be most of what you'll find wrong, so if you get familiar enough with those, the rest takes care of itself.  In the event of something more drastic like a dead fuel pump you'll at least have the insight to determine it's not the carb or the plug.  Personally I'd hate to have to modify a trip just because of a fouled plug on a genset so being self sufficient for the basics I think is worth the time and trouble.

Mark B,
Albuquerque, NM

Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2020, 05:35:12 PM »
The generator does seem to want 5o start, just can't. So it's not exactly running with start button in then stopping when it is released. I saw a you tube on that particular problem.😏

Yup, there is no doubt we need to learn to fix what makes these things run. That learning curve!! Fortunately there is a neighborhood mechanic that is all kinds of brilliant with engines, and a real friendly guy who has no problem sharing his knowledge with his customers. He is going to dig into this on Sunday, and I'll be there with eyes and ears open, maybe even get my paws dirty.

Whoa!! I hope ours isn't as crusty as the one in the photo, though, it may be. Man, that's really bad. Visual aid to what can happen. Also, thanks for posting it. Now I don't feel like the lone ranger with not running the darned thing.

Again, thanks to all for input.

X-Roughneck

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2020, 08:55:06 AM »
I ran my 4K for a hour this week.  I run it each month.  It is right outside my back door so I am inclined to piddle around anyway. 

Monday it was 36 F outside I had 4 cranks on it. 

It had me wondering for a bit if she was going to start. 

Once started, I ran it for a hour.  I was pulling loads intermittently heating water and running my better half's 1875 watt turbo hair dryer.  Probably 1500-2800 watt range periodically. 

I got a kick out of revving the 4K Generator engine with the turbo button on my wife's hair dryer.  I admit. 

Wasn't the scream of the big D353 Cats, Paired no mufflers we ran on the drilling rigs back in the day.  Those Beasts 15 feet from the working floor could put Goose Bumps on you when they were pulling 250,000 LBs out of the hole, The Growl listening to the power while standing clouded over with diesel exhaust smoke, makes you feel alive!  Power my friends, Raw Power! That stuff is built to last. 

Most everything in these boxes mounted on wheels are cheaply made.  Gasoline will eventually varnish up and freeze the working parts in the fuel systems.

Question: The generator is drawing out of my 55 gallon fuel tank for the ford. I hear STA-Bil.  I know I use it in all my small engine gasoline but treating a 55 gallon tank with Sta-bil?  I have not checked the Mixing / ratio for treating on a large scale (I will). 

I rarely read the directions anyway.  ;D.  I still remember seeing the "Real Men read the directions" bumper sticker years ago.  I only flash back to it when I put something on upside out out of the box.   Maybe for the folks who are storing away from their sticks and bricks long term I can see it.

I plan on changing the oil at 40 hours. 

I think it takes 1.6 quart.

I read somewhere, I think here.  Once you get it running, be very careful no to even slightly overfill or it can create starting and die situations. 

If you are hearing the dead Clicks of you battery you have to sort that out first. 

Don't be over that first Yellow Thread on the Oil Dip Stick. 

At 1.6 quart I think (Guessing) this 4K has to be oil bath / drag lubrication?  It is Air Cooled. 

Any body care it impart some "Get Rich Quick Training" to us out here in the Peanut gallery?

Have Fun Everybody.  :)

Nobody Get's out of here alive.

JD
« Last Edit: February 28, 2020, 09:14:20 AM by X-Roughneck »
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Stehl Tow Dolly / Mazda CX-5.

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Only Lessons I never forgot, Were taught by my parents, or a Dog.

John/JD

Larry N.

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2020, 10:05:27 AM »
Quote
Wasn't the scream of the big D353 Cats, Paired no mufflers we ran on the drilling rigs back in the day.
Nope. But those twin V-12 Cummins' on Halliburton's HT400 gave some of that feeling on a frac job until they broke through.
Larry and Mary Ann N.
2016 Newmar Ventana 3709 -ISB6.7 XT 360HP
2015 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited toad
Formerly: Trailmanor 2720SL, Bounder, Beaver
  de N8GGG

skydivemark

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2020, 02:23:08 PM »
After every trip I always put stabil in the gas tank within a few days after parking it, then run the engine 10-15 minutes and the genny at least 30 minutes (yes I still do the monthly 30-45 minutes exercise). Our RV doesn't stay parked more than a few months at a time so I use a ratio of 1-1.5oz per every 5gallons, when the tank is full I add 10-12 oz (it's a 55 gal tank).
This is only our second RV but (so far) I haven't had any bad-gas related genset issues (neither have I with any yard equipment - that gas is also always stabilized).
2015 Thor Four Winds 31L
Clermont, FL

X-Roughneck

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2020, 08:22:44 PM »
Nope. But those twin V-12 Cummins' on Halliburton's HT400 gave some of that feeling on a frac job until they broke through.

Quick drift off topic.  I need to entertain myself and Larry for a second. Mostly myself.

Let me apologize to the entire board upfront / in advance for Thread Drifting....

Larry there is something about ROAR of those Big Engines straight no exhaust off the Turbo in your face Scary Power.

I can only imagine standing in the middle of the line up of Big Engines working in concert on the Fracking side of it.  I have seen some locations where Halliburton Was out in Full Force, it was awe inspiring, WOW, to see it. I am sure you have to wear ear protector out there or certain deafness will occur thru rupture.

Are you a pilot?  OMG no thanks...but that would be exhilarating also to be behind the wheel / stick. 

I was on the drilling side of it for a little over 5 years.  We were our own Dangerous Traveling Carnival, our own little city, Power Plant and All.  4 man crews. Working 8 hour tours.   

Drilled alot of wells south of Odessa, out in the Permian Basin, Big Lake, St Lawrence, Midkiff, Garden City, Sprayberry, alot out near Mertzon, TX out there on the University of Texas Lands.  Those UT Lands were 38 miles of Bad dirt road and a muddy hell when it rained.  Had a bulldozer push us the last 5 miles once out there on the UT lands.  Bulldozer was actually there to unstick the water truck we attempted to pass as we ripped off the transmission cooling lines on the Caddy stranding us out there in a sea of rutted mud.  As we rolled up or was pushed up to the rig  the dozer bucket got stuck and ripped off the bumper bolts on one side of the Fleetwood.  We called it the back road of Morraco.  No "diamond cutting" in that back seat driving down that dusty highway to hell.  I will say the old 1970s Fleetwood Cadillac tanks were the Choice of alot of Drillers to chauffeur the crew to the rigs in.  Bouncing around in those old Caddys on those dirt roads like being in a car wreck getting whiplashed hitting the ruts. 

Some days we were all adventured out just getting to work and we still had 8 hours, hopefully morning tower didn't twist off (Quit) and make it a 16 hr day. That happened a few times on rig up day.  Not a bad gig for a dumb kid with no papers in hand. Oilfield is a young man's game for sure.  The 100 mile drive to and from work 7 days a week did put a damper on fun to be had after work.  Those were boom times.  I got to work with a Legend while I was out there. I love you Lightnin, my Oil Field Dad, Leonard Anderson, RIP.  They don't make men like this often.  Tough as nails.  Rig would stack and if I could get a job working Derricks or Floors it was on to the next Circus.  FWA, Transcontinental, Double D, My Mother in Law worked for the owner of Fortune Drilling, John Nolan.  He greased the Skids and I was able to  break out working floors for Lightnin Anderson.  I remember John the owner of the Drilling Company made sure It was him or AD Colley.  These 2 men were to the Oilfield like Gary_RV Wizard is around here.  These were not ordinary men.  I could have not had three better mentors in life.  My parents and this man.  I found Lightnin's grave and left a pint of Black Velvet Whisky on his stone on my way to Monument Valley Back in 2018.  Great Man.                   

One winter in the early 80s I was working for Sitton Drilling Company, Lubbock TX.  Scope Up, Drive Onto pony sub, 20 ft substructure, Triple, 4 1/2" drill pipe and they were drilling 10,000 ft wells with this thing.  I was like, Really?  Looked like a big pulling unit to me.  They had to have a 55 gallon drum of hydraulic fluid on the stinger pole and a truck near by hydraulic reservoir.  When Scoping Out the Mast like raining hydraulic fluid the seals were so bad.  Leaky Dangerous contraption.  I did not like the lean and the open feeling.  I like the jack knife derricks with legs.  Scope up Derricks are way too flimsy for open hole drilling adventures in my mind.

This company had a Triplex Pump with a 12 Cylinder Cat, Dual Turbocharged, 6 ft Ladder welded to the screen protecting the radiator.  You had to climb up a ladder to check the Radiator fluid.  We would change the oil at Rig Down before we moved the Derrick and Substructure to the new location.  A Gin truck would put a stinger pole we would hang a 55 Gallon Drum of Motor Oil and a 2" gate valve.  Motor took the Entire 55 Gallons of Motor Oil to Fill it.

First hand account of when it goes bad.

We are driving up to that same Sitton Rig about 1020 PM, working 1030- 0630 Morning Tower, hoping and praying for a night of easy drilling, 15 Degrees windy outside January.  In the middle of nowhere, near Lubbock, TX.

Car lights shining on the 12 Cylinder Cat in the yard stroking that triplex pump,  drilling ahead, Turbos Glowing RED Hot like they were just poured at a foundry, Big old air cleaners shaking violently and Flung 10 ft away when they came loose as the spider wheel on the main pump shaft shattered. The Motor had came loose on the skid and it quickly vibrated out of whack breaking the spider wheel on the pump where the motor slides into the airflex clutch.  Motor parted, upper portion twisted and you could look down into the oil pan.  Normally they would send a rig mechanic out and we would assist in the repair.  That went to the yard.  We had to put the standby on line.  Pear Burner unfreezing the valve pots.  Lot's of fun in the Patch.

The Man holding the Spinning chain in this photo, James Tolbert, Derrickman.  Killed on this FWA Drilling Rig.  RIP James, Brother. 

My good buddy Steven Fairchild Running the rig in this photo.  I think he is a Firefighter now in Midland TX.

I am back on topic with Sky dive..         
« Last Edit: February 28, 2020, 08:59:06 PM by X-Roughneck »
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Stehl Tow Dolly / Mazda CX-5.

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Only Lessons I never forgot, Were taught by my parents, or a Dog.

John/JD

X-Roughneck

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2020, 08:35:55 PM »
After every trip I always put stabil in the gas tank within a few days after parking it, then run the engine 10-15 minutes and the genny at least 30 minutes (yes I still do the monthly 30-45 minutes exercise). Our RV doesn't stay parked more than a few months at a time so I use a ratio of 1-1.5oz per every 5gallons, when the tank is full I add 10-12 oz (it's a 55 gal tank).
This is only our second RV but (so far) I haven't had any bad-gas related genset issues (neither have I with any yard equipment - that gas is also always stabilized).

Mark,

Your strategy sounds good to me.  With the 55 gallon tank I did not immediately think to treat that volume with stabil.  I think I will adopt it as my own on putting the rig back at the house.  My Generator, that I start every month, did not impress me much on this last 36 F degree start.  At least it did start on the 4th long crank.  I think the stabil additive to the fuel will be worth the investment.  It can't hurt for sure.

Thanks for sharing.

JD
« Last Edit: February 28, 2020, 08:38:47 PM by X-Roughneck »
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Stehl Tow Dolly / Mazda CX-5.

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Only Lessons I never forgot, Were taught by my parents, or a Dog.

John/JD

Larry N.

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  • Westminster, CO
Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #28 on: February 29, 2020, 08:58:56 AM »
Quote
Are you a pilot?  OMG no thanks...but that would be exhilarating also to be behind the wheel / stick. 
Yup, I used to own that bird in my pic.

The rest I'll take to PM.
Larry and Mary Ann N.
2016 Newmar Ventana 3709 -ISB6.7 XT 360HP
2015 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited toad
Formerly: Trailmanor 2720SL, Bounder, Beaver
  de N8GGG

Sweetsurrender

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Re: Onan generator not starting
« Reply #29 on: February 29, 2020, 10:20:10 AM »
I guess we will try the Stabil too. The rig  does sit awhile between trips.