RV Generator Won’t Start? Causes And Troubleshooting Tips to Try

One of the often forgotten wonders of owning an RV is the upkeep. While the RVing life may feel glamourous and straightforward at times, there is still work to be done and maintenance to keep up with.

One common problem area that many RVers struggle with is their generator.

There are often simple reasons why your RV generator won’t start, and we will address the most common ones in this article. 

Here are some of the most common reasons why your RV generator won’t start: 

  • Low Oil Level

  • Battery Issues

  • Lack of Fuel in RV

  • Old Fuel

  • A part is broken and needs to be replaced

  • The generator is old and worn out

Now, this list is not all-inclusive. These are simply the most common reasons why your RV generator won’t start and are a good starting place if you’re troubleshooting.

Honestly, issues beyond this list usually require the help of a certified technician to diagnose and fix appropriately. 

While we couldn’t just leave you with a list of issues, we also had to include go-to solutions as well.

So, read on, and hopefully, we can help you get your RV generator up and running in no time. 

Why Won’t My RV Generator Start And How Do I Fix It?

The generator is one of your RV’s major appliances, and when it stops working, it can be stressful.

So, why not have some tools of knowledge in your wheelhouse if or when this happens to you?

Not all of these can be fixed on your own, but at least some of them can be addressed quickly and efficiently to get your generator up and running again. 

1. Low Oil Level

Like many mechanical systems, your generator needs oil to keep things running smoothly.

If the oil is low, the different aspects of the generator will not have proper lubrication.

When this happens, they’ll malfunction or just quit working altogether. 

The Fix

Like many cars, the generator should have an oil dipstick to check oil levels. If your generator is acting strange or won’t start, checking the oil should be one of the first things you do.

Although generators run on standard motor fuel, not all of them use the same kind.

If the oil is low, check your RV owner’s manual to see what type of oil you should use in the generator. 

You can always top the oil off yourself, but if the oil is really dirty, it will need to be changed. If you are unsure of how to do this properly, bring it to a mechanic. 

2. Battery Issues

The battery is an integral part of the generator system. I mean, it is the reason the generator functions at all.

So, if there is an issue with the generator, the battery should also be on the top of the list for things to check.

The built-in battery requires voltage from the main house or coach battery to start.

So, if the battery isn’t fully charged or connections are not fully attached, and tight, the battery can cause the generator not to start at all. 

The Fix

If you suspect the battery could be an issue, first see if the battery is fully charged. Then, if that isn’t the problem, check all of the connections.

Are the connecting points clean and tight? You may need to adjust them and clean them off if they aren’t.

There is also the possibility of areas of the battery could be corroded or leaking, so check every aspect that you can. 

In some cases, the battery is just old and worn out. This happens with car batteries too. So, you may need to change the battery with a new one.

3. Lack Of Fuel In RV Fuel Tank

If your RV’s fuel tank gets below a quarter of a tank, there will not be enough to provide fuel for the generator.

Therefore, the generator will not run if the RV fuel tank is too low. Your Rv’s generator runs off of either diesel, gas, or propane.

The vast majority of built-in RV generators will run off of the RV’s fuel tank of either diesel or gas instead of having their own tank. 

To prevent the generator from depleting your RV of all of the fuel, the generator will switch off if the fuel gets too low.

Otherwise, you’d be stranded because you decided to run your generator through the night. 

This won’t be an issue if your generator runs on propane. However, you should check the fuel level of the propane if your generator stops working. 

The Fix

First, check the fuel gauge, and if your tank is low, it may be the culprit. This is an easy fix as you can head to the gas station and fill up.

If your generator still isn’t working after you’ve put more fuel in your tank, then you’ll need to look into other possible reasons. 

4. Old Fuel Or Not Enough

Some RV generators are stand-alone units and do not have a fuel line connected to your RV fuel tank.

So, in some instances, your fuel may be low in the generator itself. Another common scenario is the fuel has been sitting in the generator between travel seasons and is just old.

You can only store the fuel for so long, so if it is too old, your generator won’t run. 

The Fix

The only thing you can do for this is to either add or replace the fuel that is in the tank.

Be sure that you check the users manual before you do this though! Adding the wrong type of fuel can destroy the generator.

If you suspect that the generator’s fuel is old, not low, then the fuel filter may also need to be changed. 

If you do not have a good base of mechanical knowledge, it may be best to bring the generator to a mechanic to change out the old fuel.

They’ll be able to properly clean out the tank and replace the fuel filter before adding new fuel. 

5. Parts Should Be Replaced

So the fuel, battery, and oil issues are not the only things that can go wrong with an RV generator.

These are simply the most common culprits and the first to check if your generator stops running.

With so many other parts in the generator, really anything could be wrong. 

The Fix

This will either take some troubleshooting on your end or you should have a mechanic take a look to diagnose the issue at hand.

You may be able to look around at some of the connecting points or critical moving parts to see if there is corrosion or if anything is loose/broken.

If there isn’t physical damage, it can be hard to determine what is wrong on your own. 

6. It’s Just Old

Everything mechanical has an expiration date. You can provide a long life for machines by giving them the proper upkeep and maintenance that they need, but eventually, they will need to be replaced.

If you’ve had your generator for a long time, you may have just worn it out. This should also be a consideration if you bought your generator used.

You may not know how much it has been used or how well it was maintained. 

The Fix

Buy a new one! Try your best to fix the old one and consider bringing it to a mechanic to determine if you can fix it.

We recommend fixing it if at all possible, but sometimes, RV generators just get worn out. If that’s the case with yours, then it is time to start shopping. 

The Importance Of General Maintenance 

As with our cars and other motorized vehicles, RVs need proper upkeep to stay in tip-top running shape.

Not all aspects of the RV require a ton of attention, but you should spend time making sure the generator is functioning correctly. 

There are a lot of aspects of an RV’s generator that can break, corrode, or just get worn out with use and time.

All of the connecting wires, rubber hoses, and fluids that keep it running should be checked often.

Maybe something is clogged, or the antifreeze is low. These are all things you can check during a general maintenance look over. 

In most cases, a well-maintained generator will outlast other parts of your RV.

Stick to a good maintenance routine, and you probably won’t run into many of the issues we listed above.

Some things you can’t avoid, but at least you can check them before, and you’re ahead to the game.

When In Doubt, Call A Certified Technician

While RVing can be the perfect hobby for do-it-yourselfers, some things are best left up to the experts.

In many of the instances that we discussed above, the generator issues were solvable on your own.

However, as with most mechanical things, breaks and fixes can sometimes get complicated. 

If you are unable to diagnose the reason your generator won’t start or is malfunctioning, take it to someone that can.

At least they will be able to tell you the problem and if it is fixable before you rush out to buy a new one.

Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson

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    8 thoughts on “RV Generator Won’t Start? Causes And Troubleshooting Tips to Try”

    1. Hi,
      Look forward to hearing about your adventures.
      Just retired, new to rving,looking forward to many new adventures .

      Reply
    2. Aaron,
      Thank you so much for your guidance and information to get me started on troubleshooting my RV Generator. It would not start and because of your tips I now have a place to start looking into why.

      Reply
    3. Aaron, I’m Dean. [email protected].

      I have a 2020 BT Cruiser with a onan 4000 gen set. My gen won’t start. It acts as though the battery is not connected. It is connected and the battery checks out fine. I am positive the starting circuit is locked out. Thought it my be the oil sensor so I changed the oil just in case. Changing the oil did not help. I tried a reset, two rapid off followed by a rapid on with the start switch as described by Google, no help. Where is the fuse or CB for this gen? Thanks for the help…

      Reply
      • The “holder with the clasp at one end” is a holder for 2 spare fuses…(and for the control board fuse which is on the back side of that “holder”).

        To remove, check or replace the control board fuse pull that holder out from the panel on the generator.

        Reply
    4. My tech tells me my primer switch needs replacing and is why my unit won’t stay running. This is after having put on a new carburetor, changing oil and filter, new air filter, new spark plug and adjusting valves. He says he has to order the switch and is sure that’s the issue. I’m not convinced as I don’t see how the primer switch has anything to do with keeping it running. Have you heard of this being the case? It will start then die in 10-15 seconds at most.

      Reply
      • Check the wire going to the oil sensor. For a quick check unplug it and ground that wire. If it stays running replace the sensor

        Reply
    5. Good info on generator. We have a 1998 Country Coach, diesel pusher. Had it to a mechanic where he added a little more oil and it ran there. We got it home and now it isn’t starting, again.
      We’re thinking fuel line may be cracked or clogged?? Replaced fuel filter. Not sure replacing lines is a job for us! Do you know Where can we find reliable mechanic in Pa. area??

      Reply
      • Hit up an online RVing message board or ask around the campground when you pull into one of our RV Sites. Your fellow RVers may be able to help point you in the right direction of a high-quality RV mechanic.

        Reply

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