Winterize Your Gas Engine Welder/Generator
Learn the proper maintenance needed to prepare your gas engine welder/generator for the winter months.
Preparing for winter
If you live in a northern state, you've probably already begun some of your annual winter preparation rituals — purchasing new furnace filters, draining your garden hose...the list goes on.
If you own a gas engine welder/generator, getting it ready for the winter months also requires some attention and routine maintenance. The way you plan to use it over the winter will dictate the maintenance and preparations you'll need to undertake.
When not used for an extended period of time, gasoline engines may experience a number of problems, so consider yourself lucky if you plan on using your welder/generator on a weekly basis. For the most part, you only need to keep up with the standard routine maintenance that you should also 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.
But what if you don't plan on using your engine drive welder/generator much (or at all), but still want it ready at a moment's notice for back-up power and welding capability in the event of an unforeseen event? If you fall into this camp, there are several things you should be aware of before packing your engine drive away.
One of the most important factors to consider when winterizing your welder/generator is the use of ethanol in your gasoline. Most states mandate a 10% ethanol/90% gas blend. Cars generally don't see problems running a 10% ethanol blend because they are frequently used (often driven daily) and have fuel-injection systems.
Note that all 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 vs. carbureted models, but you should still take steps to prevent engine problems associated with ethanol gas.
Proper care procedures
Following a few proper care procedures listed below will also help you to prevent pitfalls associated with ethanol.
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 the engine to seize, potentially creating severe 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 these additives and by keeping the fuel tank as full as possible at all times to reduce the amount of air, and thus moisture, in the tank.
Ethanol acts as a cleaning agent in your fuel system, dislodging debris that finds its way to the nooks and crannies of a dirty fuel system. As this debris is dislodged, however, it can clog the fuel filter, leading to sub-optimal power delivery.
Also recommended for storage or infrequent use would be to add a gas stabilizer designer 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 are available to 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.
Carburetor icing is another potential problem to be aware of as you prepare your equipment for the cold months ahead. This usually occurs while running your engine at idle or low loads for an extended time on high humidity days when the temperature is 30 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Some engine manufacturers offer anti-icing kits, which can be installed by an authorized service center. 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.
Finally, 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, Miller engine drives use a 435 CCA battery.
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 these simple maintenance and winterization tips.