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How to Start an RV Generator: The Ultimate Guide

how to start rv generator
Written by Jamie Masterson

Starting an RV generator might seem an easy process, but many RV models require you to access the generator from one of your storage side doors to get started. Use these directions as a guide to learn how to start your RV generator when you need it the most.

How to Start RV Generator

1. Take your generator to a well-ventilated environment

The generator should be placed far enough away from you that its sound does not disturb you. Please note that a generator’s average decibel level is usually measured from a distance of 25 feet. It would sound significantly louder if you move it closer to you. If you are using a diesel generator, you’ll want to make sure the gases are properly vented. The combustion pipe must be directed away from your camp or location. Carbon monoxide contamination is not something you want to risk.

2. Check the oil and fuel levels

An RV generator is usually powered by gas. Always use fresh gasoline before starting your engine. Over time, the ethanol in the gas might consume water. Not only does stale fuel make it difficult or even impossible to start the generator but it can also hurt it. Inspect the oil amount in your generator as well to ensure that the generator is properly lubricated. Insert the oil into the generator’s designated line.

3. Disconnect all loads from the generator

Detach all cords and equipment before starting the RV generator. Before attaching your generator to the RV, make sure it’s turned on. During startup, you do not want any load connected.

4. Turn on the fuel valve

Switch on the fuel valve. Fuel flows to the carburetor when the fuel lever is opened assisting the generator to start. When fuel is transferred to the generator’s turbine, this mechanism controls when it is supplied. The generator requires fuel to operate and generate power, but the fuel lever should not be turned on until you want to start the RV generator.

5. Move the choke to a closed position

Shift the direction of the choke point from right to left side. This makes starting the generator smoothly. Your generator should have a mechanism that regulates when it produces electricity. Before starting your generator, double-check that’s in the “OFF” state.

6. Turn on the engine switch

To power the engine on, certain generators need you to toggle a switch. This is an engine control that should be turned on before pulling the recoil cable. if your generator has an automatic start switch, you should use it to start it instead of using the recoil cable. If your automatic starter does not work, your battery might be empty. You can overcome this problem by using a charger to charge your battery.

7. Start the engine and the generator

Now switch the fuel lever to the ON state. Generally, that’s the vertical orientation. Move the choke towards the ON position. You start the engine with a recoil start by pulling on the cord. Many new generators now come with the option to start generators automatically. This lets you start an RV generator by simply pressing a button, flicking a lever, or turning a dial. Furthermore, if you don’t want to mess with finding out how to start an RV generator, this is the best option.

8. Move the choke to an open position

You are starting the generator as you release the recoil cable. Pull the recoil cable until you feel certain resistance, then release it. If the generator still won’t start, pull the handle again. If the generator still won’t start, set the choke to “half-run” and then pull the recoil cable once more. You can return the choke to the “full-run” position after the generator has been operating for a few minutes.

9. Operate the generator at no load for awhile

Before connecting to some power cables, let the generator operate for several minutes. Also, double-check if the circuit breakers are switched on. You can start connecting the generator to the RV after it has worked for 5-10 minutes.

10. Connect the load

Return the choke to its original position once the generator has started. You can now connect your cables or accessories and power the devices you need.

Possible Reasons Your Generator Fails to Start

Since RV generators are commonly used, monthly inspections and service schedules are essential to ensuring that problems do not happen. Let’s see at the most frequent causes of generator failure and what you should do to stop them in the future.

1. Battery failure

A battery malfunction is one of the most frequent causes for a generator not starting. A sulfation build-up or a loose contact are two common causes. A battery malfunction may also be caused by an unprotected inoperable charger connector, which is normally caused by a malfunction within the battery charger device itself or by a tripped power switch detaching the AC supply. Finally, battery damage can be caused by corroded or loose contacts. Connections must be maintained and cleaned regularly to avoid malfunction.

2. Low coolant levels

A generator will easily overheat without coolant resulting in mechanical malfunction and engine breakdown. Coolant amounts should be tested daily, and any ponds of coolant must be visually checked. The color of the coolant largely depends on the supplier, but it is most usually red.

Low coolant amount interruptions can also be caused by internally plugged heater cores. Whenever the generator is under pressure, the thermostats open entirely when the engine exceeds the optimal working temperature, preventing the radiator from allowing sufficient flow through the generator.

3. Bad fuel mix

Sometimes, the cause your RV generator won’t start is related to fuel in a certain way. It is always a good idea to monitor the fuel as one of the regular maintenance of every RV generator to guarantee that it does not trigger any potential problem.

4. Controls not in auto

The “Not in auto mode” warning on your settings screen is the cause of human error usually due to the central control switch being put in the off/reset mode. The generator will not start while it is in this location in the case of a power failure

Inspect your generator’s settings menu regularly to ensure the “not in auto mode” notification is not displayed. There are a variety of other errors that appear on the settings menu which could cause the generator to not function.


When using an RV generator, there are numerous procedures and safety measures to follow, as shown above. It is essential, as with any generator, to do basic or preventative checks on your generator for it to function properly whenever you need it. Even if you’re not camping, it is recommended that you use your RV generator once or twice per month.

About the author

Jamie Masterson

With decade-long experience as a generator technician, Jamie has worked with USA’s top generator manufacturers and suppliers as an independent contractor.

The long years of service to the industry has taught Jamie the ins and outs of troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining all kinds of generators in home, industrial and outdoor settings.

Jamie thinks this platform is a great opportunity to share his tips and tricks with you so you can make the most of such power equipment for better living.

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