Generator Backfiring – Everything to know + Troubleshooting

  • Post last modified:January 10, 2023
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Generator backfiring is a problem that occurs when the generator produces loud banging or popping noises and may also result in reduced power output and difficulty starting. Issues with the fuel-to-air ratio, ignition system, or other generator components usually cause it.

Why is my generator backfiring?

Your generator is backfiring for the following reasons:

  1. Improper fuel-to-air ratio 
  2. Failed ignition system 
  3. Clogged air filter 
  4. Stale or contaminated fuel 
  5. Worn or damaged piston rings
  6. Dirty or old spark plugs 
  7. Carbon build-up in the engine 
  8. Incorrectly sized fuel injectors

 

How to fix a generator that is backfiring?

Improper fuel-to-air ratio 

Fuel-to-air ratio describes the proportion of fuel to air introduced to the combustion process. Backfiring and other issues can occur if the engine cannot burn fuel efficiently due to an incorrect ratio. 

If the air level is less or more than the required amount, then fuel may not burn completely in the exhaust system & cause a backfire. Besides these, a clogged air filter, faulty carburetor or fuel injection system, or improper adjustment can also imbalance the ratio & cause a backfire. 

Maintaining these systems and a clean air filter prevents backfiring caused by an improper fuel-to-air balance.

 

Failed ignition system 

Ignition systems spark fuel in the engine. If the ignition system does not burn fuel efficiently, it may cause backfiring. 

If the spark plug, ignition wires, and ignition coils of an ignition system fail or damage, then it may not generate a strong enough spark to ignite the fuel causing backfiring. 

Maintaining and replacing worn or damaged ignition system parts prevents backfiring. High-quality spark plugs and other ignition system components can also prevent problems.

 

Clogged Air Filter

The air filter cleans the air before it is sucked into the engine. If the air filter is damaged or clogged, it causes an imbalance in fuel to air ratio in the engine & finally causes a backfire.

To prevent backfiring, you must regularly check the air filter for the perfect fuel-air balance.

 

Stale or contaminated fuel

If the generator fuel sits for a long time, then the fuel’s molecular structure may be damaged. It causes an imbalance in the fuel-air ratio & causes backfiring. 

However, the fuel becomes polluted or mixed with water or other contaminants & in that case; the fuel-to-air ratio is thrown off, resulting in poor engine functioning and, in extreme cases, backfiring. 

Always use fresh, high-quality fuel to protect your unit from backfiring. Try to change gasoline after 3-6 months for better performance.

 

Damaged piston rings

In a generator’s engine, piston rings are responsible for closing the space between the pistons & cylinder walls. 

If the piston rings are worn or damaged due to excessive heat, friction or overloading, then extra fuel may leak into the crankcase or exhaust system & cause backfiring. If excess energy passes into the exhaust system, it may also cause a fire in your generator

You may quickly understand the current condition of your prison rings by performing compression tests & smoke tests. It is also possible to visually inspect your generator by removing the spark plug.

 

Dirty or old spark plug

If a spark plug gets dirty or old, it may not provide a strong, stable spark. A weak or unsteady spark may not ignite the engine’s combustion chamber fuel. Unburned fuel might escape the exhaust system and ignite in the muffler or exhaust pipe, triggering a backfire. 

Second, a filthy or outdated spark plug may not fire throughout the engine’s combustion cycle. The fuel-air mixture in the engine might backfire if the spark is too early or late. 

A faulty spark plug may lean out the engine’s fuel-air combination (too much air, not enough fuel). Incomplete combustion and backfires can result.

Typically, a spark plug in a generator will last for up to 100 hours of operation. If you change and maintain the spark plug in your generator regularly, you can keep it from backfiring.

 

Carbon buildup in the engine

The engine’s air-fuel ratio might become unbalanced due to carbon buildup. If there is too much air and not enough fuel, the exhaust system will collect unburned energy & might backfire in the exhaust manifold or muffler. 

Carbon buildup can form hot areas in the combustion chamber, causing pre-ignition or “knocking.” Pre-ignition occurs when the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder ignites before the spark plug fires, causing the fuel to detonate. This may backfire. 

Maintaining and tuning your engine, replacing spark plugs and air filters, and using high-quality fuel prevent carbon buildup and backfiring.

 

Incorrectly sized fuel injectors

The fuel injectors ensure the engine receives the proper quantity of fuel. Engines may run lean (not enough fuel) or rich (too much fuel) if their fuel injectors aren’t in the suitable size for the machine (too much fuel). 

It’s possible to damage an engine by running it on too lean of a fuel combination. However, the engine may not operate properly or backfire if the fuel mixture is too rich. The extra gasoline will be discharged via the exhaust system, which increases the fire hazard. 

To avoid problems like backfiring, it is crucial to utilize fuel injectors that are appropriately sized for the engine. A generator that is backfiring might have fuel injectors that are too small or too large, so it’s best to get it checked out by a professional mechanic or generator repair technician.