If you own a gas engine welder/generator, getting it ready for the winter months requires planning. The way you intend to use it over the winter dictates the routine maintenance and preparations you'll need to undertake.
Ethanol use in welder/generators
One of the most important factors to consider when preparing your equipment for winter is the use of ethanol in your gasoline. Most states mandate a 10% ethanol/90% gas blend. However, smaller engines and engines used less frequently — including those found in welder/generators — are more susceptible to problems with ethanol-blended gas and fuel deterioration. Negative effects of ethanol can be minimized with EFI technology versus carbureted models, but you should still take steps to prevent engine problems associated with ethanol gas.
Before packing up your machine, do the following to ensure it’s still ready to go at a moment’s notice:
1. Use additives to prevent phase separation. Phase separation is one of the most common problems that results from ethanol-blended gas. This occurs when the fuel absorbs moisture from the air in the tank, which in turn bonds with the ethanol, separates from the gasoline and sinks to the bottom of the tank. This ethanol/water mix can cause potential fuel system and engine damage.
Several fuel additives are available to prevent phase separation from occurring, but these products will not alleviate the problem once it occurs. Avoid phase separation by using additives and by keeping the fuel tank as full as possible at all times to reduce the amount of air, and moisture, in the tank.
2. Add a gas stabilizer. Before storing your welder/generator, add a gas stabilizer designed for ethanol gas blends. Ethanol has a shorter shelf life than pure gasoline, which means that it will turn to varnish and gum up your carburetors and fuel lines in as few as 30 days (pure gasoline typically stays fresh for 90 days). Stabilizers and additives prevent this from occurring, but they won't renew stale gas to freshness.
A full tank of treated gas will remain useable all winter with the use of these additives. However, to be on the safe side, it's a good idea to drain the carburetors of fuel if you expect the engine to sit unused for an extended period of time.
3. Add isopropyl alcohol. Carburetor icing is another potential problem that can occur in cold weather. It usually happens while running your engine at idle or low loads for an extended time on humid days when the temperature is 30 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The best ways to prevent carburetor icing are to add isopropyl alcohol to your fuel supply and to avoid extended periods of no-load idling. Some engine manufacturers also offer anti-icing kits, which can be installed by an authorized service center.
4. Keep a fully charged battery. Your battery is also subject to deterioration and failure from exposure to cold weather. If your welder/generator is likely to sit unused for more than a couple weeks in the cold, make sure your battery stays fully charged to keep it from freezing. If you need to replace your battery, reference the owner’s manual or maintenance label for your unit to get the proper battery.
If you will be using your machine regularly in cold weather, follow the standard routine maintenance that you perform in warmer weather (refer to your owner's manual for the maintenance schedules for your specific welder/generator). If you expect to use your welder/generator in temperatures below 0-degrees Fahrenheit, or change to a lighter weight oil, 5W-30 is typically recommended to provide better viscosity and circulation throughout the engine.
Remember, winter is one of the most important times to have a welder/generator available. Be sure that it's ready when you need it by following simple maintenance and winterization tips.