How to Start a Portable Generator

Cleveland Van Cecil

Portable generators are used in areas where there are frequent blackouts, or where a power source is not available from the local municipality. Knowing how to properly start your generator during and emergency situation prevents panic when the time comes.

Portable generators supply power in emergency situations.

It's recommended that you regularly test your generator's starting capabilities so that you're not surprised when the generator is needed. Although most generators will start the same way, look at your owner's manual for the correct process for your unit.


Replace gas that has been in the unit for six months or more. Run the generator until old gas is used after each use, or add a fuel stabilizer.

  1. Check the fuel tank for the correct amount of fuel. Leave 1 1/2-inch space from the top of the tank to the fuel line to prevent spills or too much pressure. Check the manufacturer's specification for your machine.

  2. Lift out the oil cap and dipstick and wipe away the old oil. Dip the cap in again so the cap is all the way on, and pull it out again. The oil level will be clear on the dip stick. Fill the oil level so that you can touch the oil with your finger if your machine doesn't have a dipstick.

  3. Roll the generator to a well ventilated area, with the exhaust pipe leading away from the home. This prevents carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust away from windows and doors.

  4. Turn the fuel valve to the "On" position, which is usually in a vertical position.

  5. Pull the choke to the "On" position. Pull it all the way out.

  6. Press the control switch to the "On" position to turn on the generator, if it's an electric start, or pull the cord to start it. Push the choke in once the generator has started.