Stupid hard-starting generator

We have this generator, that we bought a few years back to use during power outages. It spends 99.9% of its time sitting in the garage gathering dust (much like the snowblower). Every few months, I start the thing up and run it for 20 minutes or so, just to make sure it will work if we ever really do need it. That was one of today’s chores.

Now, the generator has always been a little hard to start when it’s been sitting for 2 or 3 months. But it’s pretty reliable: it takes 9 or 10 yanks on the cord, then it starts up. Then you have to run it partially choked for several minutes so it doesn’t miss. Then, finally, it will warm up and run at the factory-set fuel mixture. Not exactly a finely tuned machine, but at least it works.

Today, I figured, well, it’s January, it’s cold, so the generator will probably be even more reluctant to start. So, I got the bright idea to spray some starting fluid into the carb. I did, and it fired right up on the first pull. Then, after 10 seconds or so, it died. And refused to start up again for love or money.

A couple dozen cord pulls, several more shots of starting fluid, and countless swear words later, I checked the oil. Hmm, seems a tad low. Topped it off with some 10w30. Started on the first pull, and stayed running. I guess there was just enough oil in there to start it initially, but once it started sloshing around in there, it tripped the low oil cutoff. Moral of the story: I need to check the oil every time I start the thing up. Followup: I later checked my records, and found that this was the first time I had tried to start it after changing the oil a couple months ago. I guess I didn’t add enough.

My theory about the hard starting problem.. I think over time, the fuel is slowly seeping out of the fuel pump/carb and causing it to lose prime. After 9 or 10 pulls, it reprimes itself and everything works again. I think Honda would do well to add a manual primer bulb to the engine. In any case, I think I’ll try the starting fluid again next time around, and see if I have better luck.