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RV Generator Won’t Stay Running

Owning an RV opens up a world of adventure and exploration.

Whether you’re embarking on a cross-country road trip or simply camping in the great outdoors, having a reliable power source is crucial for a comfortable experience.

However, it can be frustrating when your RV generator won’t stay running.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore common reasons why this issue occurs and provide you with troubleshooting tips to get your generator up and running again.

Understanding the Basics of an RV Generator

Before diving into troubleshooting, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how an RV generator works.

Most RV generators are powered by either gasoline, diesel, propane, or a combination of fuels.

These generators typically consist of an engine, an alternator, a fuel system, and a control system.

Common Causes of a Generator That Won’t Stay Running

When your RV generator refuses to stay running, several factors could be at play.

Let’s examine some of the common causes and how to address them:

Fuel Issues

One of the primary culprits behind a generator that won’t stay running is fuel-related issues.

These can include:

  • Clogged Fuel Filters: Over time, fuel filters can become clogged with debris, restricting the flow of fuel to the generator. Regularly inspect and clean or replace the fuel filters to ensure optimal performance.
  • Empty Fuel Tank: Running out of fuel is an obvious but often overlooked cause of generator failure. Always check the fuel level before starting your generator.
  • Bad Fuel: Stale or contaminated fuel can wreak havoc on your generator’s performance. Drain the old fuel and replace it with fresh, clean fuel.
  • Fuel Line Obstructions: Inspect the fuel lines for any kinks, bends, or clogs. Clear any obstructions to allow fuel to flow freely.

Electrical System Problems

Issues with the electrical system can also contribute to a generator that won’t stay running.

Consider the following:

  • Low Battery Charge: A low battery charge can prevent the generator from starting or cause it to shut down prematurely. Ensure your RV’s batteries are adequately charged.
  • Faulty Wiring: Examine the generator’s wiring for loose connections, frayed wires, or other signs of damage. Repair or replace any faulty wiring to restore proper functionality.

Overload Conditions

Running too many appliances simultaneously can overload the generator, causing it to shut down.

Be mindful of the power requirements of your appliances and avoid exceeding the generator’s capacity.

Mechanical Issues

Mechanical problems can also be responsible for a generator that won’t stay running.

Some common mechanical issues include:

  • Dirty Air Filters: Dirty air filters can impede airflow to the engine, leading to performance issues. Regularly clean or replace the air filters to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Malfunctioning Carburetor: The carburetor is responsible for mixing fuel and air in the correct proportions. If it becomes clogged or damaged, the generator may not run smoothly or fail to start. Clean or repair the carburetor as needed.
  • Worn Spark Plugs: Over time, spark plugs can wear out, affecting the generator’s ignition system. Replace old spark plugs with new ones to ensure a consistent spark.

Troubleshooting Steps for a Generator That Won’t Stay Running

Now that you’re familiar with the common causes of a generator that won’t stay running, let’s delve into troubleshooting steps to help you resolve the issue:

Step 1: Check the Fuel System

Start by inspecting the fuel system for any issues, such as clogged filters, fuel line obstructions, or empty fuel tanks.

Clean or replace the filters, clear any obstructions, and ensure the fuel tank is adequately filled.

Step 2: Examine the Electrical System

Next, assess the electrical system for any problems.

Check the battery charge, ensuring it is sufficient to start the generator.

Inspect the wiring for loose connections or damage, and address any issues accordingly.

Step 3: Verify Load Capacity

Confirm that you are not overloading the generator by running too many appliances simultaneously.

If necessary, reduce the load to a level that the generator can comfortably handle.

Step 4: Address Mechanical Issues

Inspect the generator for any mechanical issues.

Clean or replace dirty air filters, repair or clean the carburetor, and replace worn spark plugs as needed.

Regular maintenance of these components will help ensure optimal generator performance.

Step 5: Consult the Manufacturer’s Manual

If the above troubleshooting steps do not resolve the issue, consult the manufacturer’s manual for specific guidance and recommendations.

The manual may provide additional troubleshooting steps or highlight known issues with your particular generator model.


To further assist you in troubleshooting your RV generator, here are some frequently asked questions along with their answers:

Why does my generator start but then immediately shut off?

This could indicate a fuel-related issue, such as a clogged fuel filter or carburetor. Check and clean these components to ensure proper fuel flow.

Can a low oil level cause the generator to shut down?

Yes, many generators have built-in safety features that automatically shut off the engine if the oil level drops too low. Check the oil level and add more if necessary.

How often should I perform maintenance on my RV generator?

Regular maintenance is crucial for the longevity and performance of your generator. Refer to the manufacturer’s manual for specific maintenance intervals and tasks.

Why does my generator struggle to start in cold weather?

Cold weather can affect the performance of generators, particularly those powered by gasoline. Consider using a cold-weather fuel additive and keeping the generator warm to facilitate starting.

Can I troubleshoot and repair the generator myself, or should I seek professional help?

Simple troubleshooting tasks, such as checking fuel levels and cleaning filters, can often be performed by RV owners. However, if you are unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it’s best to consult a professional to avoid further damage.


When your RV generator won’t stay running, it can put a damper on your outdoor adventures.

By understanding the common causes and following the troubleshooting tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to address the issue and restore your generator’s functionality.

Remember to perform regular maintenance and consult the manufacturer’s manual for specific guidance.

With a reliable power source, you can continue to enjoy the freedom and convenience of RV travel.