Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Generator Woes!

by Haresh Karamchandani

After using it for about 5 years we upgraded our Kama 5.5 KVA Diesel Generator to a Chinese made 7.5 KVA Generator at our residence about a year ago.

This cost us US$3,000.00, but considering it was a 7.5 KVA we were happy to spend this money as a 10 KVA Lister Petter or Perkins would cost about $7,500.00, and considering our usage load at home a 7.5 KVA would be good enough.

We ensured that the generator was well maintained regularly. The company that sold the generator to us would send their technician to service the generator regularly by changing the oil, oil filter, fuel filter, air filter and do a general check and clean-up.

The generator worked well, worked well till one evening:

LEC went off one evening and I jumped off my couch to start it before the UPS would go off. It would start, but instantly switch off. I tried and tried to no avail. Bye bye Dallas! (We watch the 80s TV series on DSTV Channel, CBS Drama, Channel 134 every evening at 9:30 PM)

The next morning I got a technician to have a look and he took out a solenoid valve and cleaned it up and put it back. This solved the starting problem.

2 nights later, the same pattern followed, but this time it would not even start. It would just keep kicking but no starting. Our landlord who lives in the same apartment complex said he knew a technician and called him to come and help. The “experienced” technician worked on the machine for an hour and a half but was unable to fix it and eventually gave up citing that the fuel pump has failed!

The next morning I called up the supplier of the generator and asked them to send over their technician. A different technician came and got down to the job. After some trouble shooting he concluded that yes indeed the Fuel Pump had failed.

I could not believe the young technician as we had maintained and serviced the generator by the book all the time. The technician invited me to come and have a look. I went down to the generator room and this is what I learnt.

Apparently there is a dip stick on the fuel pump which helps to check the oil levels in the pump whenever the maintenance is done. And there is a bolt that need to be opened and oil needs to be replenished if low from time to time. The oil in our fuel pump was COMPLETELY DRY, and this is why the fuel pump had failed!

I spoke to another Lebanese technician friend and asked him what he thought about this. He said the Lister Petters or Perkins do not have this kind of feature. Instead the fuel pump automatically gets oil from the engine. The Chinese decided to make this feature for reasons best known to them. I checked the service manual and there was no mention of this there.

I then called up the original technician who has been servicing our generator over the last one year and asked him:
Me: Kamara, did you check the oil in the fuel pump when you did the servicing the last month? Kamara: Mr. Haresh, what oil? The fuel pump? Me: Yes, the fuel pump. Kamara: Mr. Haresh, the fuel pump should NEVER be touched. If you touch it you spoil the generator!
I straight away realized that this guy has never worked on a Chinese machine and did not know that the Chinese fuel pump needs to be checked periodically. He has been under the impression that the Chinese machine worked like the regular Listers and Perkins! They say “Little knowledge is dangerous” I fully agree.

Now this fuel pump had to be repaired or replaced in order to get the generator to work.

I called up the supplier and asked him if he had a replacement fuel pump in stock. He said he did not, but could order it by DHL from China and it would cost US $1,000.00 and would take 10 days. I said that was not a good solution and there should be another way out. He then suggested that we take the fuel pump out and go to Hydraulic Technical Inc, in Bushrod Island to see if they could repair it.

HTI is a swanky, well equipped, state of the art workshop that repairs all types of pumps. I was very impressed with their set up with an Operation Theatre like lab and latest diagnostic tools and equipment. The chief technician was an elderly Egyptian who claimed to have 40 years’ experience in repairs of pumps. He spoke like a Doctor and explained that the fuel pump was actually the heart of the generator. He got down to the job and a few hours and US$350.00 later the pump was as good as new.

He blamed the damage to bad quality fuel in the market and advised that we spend another $125.00 and install a water-fuel separator, which I agreed.

So the machine now has a water-fuel separator and it is working like brand new. At least for now!


  1. HariOm Haresh Bhai, kem chho Hiru (Rajni) forwarded me this link
    and I truly loved the read; very informative- especially the 'dip stick on the fuel pump' part.
    Shall keep me alert and on the look-out next time. Kind regards