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12 Reasons a Champion Generator Starts Then Dies

When your generator just quits running and leaves you without a power source, you need to find and fix the problem quickly. I put together this guide to help!

A Champion generator starts then dies due to an empty fuel tank, plugged fuel filter, dirty carburetor, clogged fuel line, bad gas cap, dirty spark plug, faulty ignition coil, low engine oil level, or old gas.

Before beginning any work, remove the spark plug wire and wait for the engine to cool. Follow all safety precautions listed in your operator’s manual.

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual before diagnosing, repairing, or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, or knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

Your Champion Generator Starts Then Dies and Shuts Off

1. Gas Tank is Empty

Obviously, a generator will stop running when it’s low on gas. If you run out of gas sooner than you thought you should have, check over the generator to make sure there isn’t a fuel leak or a bad fuel gauge.

SOLUTION: Make sure the generator is placed on a flat surface. Repair any leaks or a faulty fuel gauge. Add fresh fuel to the generator when it is running low or is out of fuel.

2. Old Fuel

Most generator owners are not using their generators regularly. It’s often kept on hand for emergency situations or an occasional outdoor event.

Gas sitting in a generator over long periods can leave behind varnish that gums the fuel system and causes fuel restrictions. When less fuel is getting to the engine, the generator will sputter and possibly die.

Because gas begins to break down and become less effective as soon as 30 days after you purchase it, it’s important to run fresh gas and consume it within 30 days.

I know this is easier said than done. You may only use the generator during a power outage and you never know how long that will be.

This is why you should add a fuel additive to fresh gas before you add it to the fuel tank. A fuel additive like Sea Foam Motor Treatment will stabilize fuel and reduce moisture so it lasts a little longer.

Follow these tips to get the best fuel results:

  • Champion generators with 4-cycle engines require unleaded gasoline with a minimum 87-octane rating and a maximum ethanol content of 10%. Don’t use gasoline with higher ethanol contents.
  • Use gas within 30 days.
  • Don’t leave gas outdoors or in areas where it can attract moisture.
  • Store gas in a dry place.
  • Only buy enough gas you can use within 30 days. If you purchase more than this, add a fuel additive to stabilize the gas.

SOLUTION: Drain old gas into a container to be disposed of properly. Add fresh fuel with a fuel additive mixed in to stabilize gas and clean the fuel system.

3. Plugged Fuel Filter

Your Champion generator uses a fuel filter to keep dirt from contaminating the fuel system and causing wear on the engine.

When the filter isn’t changed out regularly, it can become plugged keeping a good flow of fuel from flowing through the filter. A lack of fuel can cause the engine to run sluggishly and die.

You may find an inline fuel filter that is easy to spot and change out. However, on many Champion generators, the filters aren’t easily accessible.

The filter may be placed in the bottom of the fuel tank or it may be placed in another fuel component.

SOLUTION: Replace a dirty fuel filter. On generators that don’t have an inline fuel filter, you may want a mechanic to find and replace the filter.

4. Fuel Line Blockage

Another thing that can restrict fuel flow is a clogged fuel line. To find a clog in a fuel line, stop and start the fuel flow while checking the fuel flow coming from each section of the fuel line.

SOLUTION: To remove a restriction from the line, remove the fuel line from the generator and spray some carburetor cleaner into the line to help loosen the clog. Next, blow air through the line using compressed air until the clog is removed.

Reinstall the line. If you can’t remove the clog or you find the fuel line is dry and cracked, you can easily replace it with a new fuel line.

5. Bad Fuel Pump

Your Champion generator will use a fuel pump when the carburetor sits higher than the fuel tank. It requires a pump to move fuel uphill. Not all generators will need a fuel pump.

When a fuel pump fails to work, the carburetor won’t get enough gas and the generator will die.

Before you begin testing the fuel pump, confirm you are getting fuel to the inlet port on the pump. Then remove the line from the carburetor and place it in a container.

Start the engine and watch for a steady or pulsating flow coming out of the line.

SOLUTION: Replace a fuel pump that is unable to provide a constant flow of fuel to the carburetor.

6. Dirty Carburetor

Varnish buildup in the carburetor may prevent it from allowing the right amount of gas to mix with air to create combustion in the engine’s cylinder.

The Champion generator may run sluggish and shut down when the engine is no longer able to get the correct air and fuel mixture.

SOLUTION: Clean your carburetor to remove gummy deposits and crusty buildups that remain from running old fuel and fuels with ethanol. If your carburetor is excessively dirty or has broken components, you may have to rebuild or replace it.

7. Wrong Choke Setting

A Champion generator with a cold engine must be started with the choke closed to restrict air. Once the engine warms up the choke must be adjusted to the open position to allow more airflow so the engine continues to run.

SOLUTION: If your engine starts and then shuts down right away, you need to make sure the choke is off and in the open position.

8. Clogged Air Filter

The air filter is essential to keep dirt from entering the air intake allowing dirt to wear the engine. This is an important part that must be routinely checked to keep it in good condition.

For the average homeowner, I recommend replacing the air filter annually and cleaning it a few times a year. When you notice the filter is extremely dirty or damaged, you must replace it.

You will definitely need to replace it more often if you are running the generator in dry dusty conditions.

If you are not cleaning and replacing the filter regularly, the filter can become plugged with so much dirt that the engine won’t get sufficient air. It can overheat and cause extensive permanent engine damage.

Clean a Champion generator foam-style air filter

  • Remove the air filter from the housing.
  • Wipe out any dirt remaining in the air filter housing and cover. Don’t allow dirt to fall into the air intake.
  • Inspect the foam filter for damage and replace it if needed.
  • If the filter is in good condition, clean it in soapy water and rinse it until the water runs clear.
  • Squeeze the filter and allow it to dry.
  • Coat the filter in a clean lightweight engine oil like SAE 30. Squeeze the filter to remove excess oil.
  • Install the air filter.
  • Reattach the air filter cover.

SOLUTION: If you find your air filter is plugged, clean it using the procedure above for a foam air filter. If you are using a different type of filter, consult the Champion operator’s manual for cleaning instructions.

9. Bad Gas Cap / Fuel Tank Vent

The fuel tank needs to have a vent so air is able to pass through it to equalize the pressure in the fuel tank.

When the vent is plugged, the tank will form a vacuum and won’t allow fuel to get to the carburetor. This will keep the generator from running.

To determine whether the fuel tank vent is the cause of your starting problem use a pressure gauge to identify vacuum buildup in the tank.

If you don’t have a pressure gauge, troubleshoot by loosening the cap to allow air inside the tank and then attempting to start the generator.

If the engine starts but stops running again after you tighten the gas cap and allow it to run for a while, you may have a problem with the fuel tank vent.

SOLUTION: Replace the gas cap or rollover valve tank vent (depending on your model Champion) when you find the fuel tank is no longer venting properly.

10. Dirty Spark Plug

The spark plug provided the spark required to get it started, however, if the plug is very dirty or damaged, it may have intermittent spark problems that will cause the generator to sputter and die.

SOLUTION: Remove the spark plug and check its condition. If the tip is very dark in color, the electrode is worn or the porcelain is broken, you must replace the spark plug with a new one.

If it appears in good condition, clean it with a wire brush and check the electrode gap and securely attach the spark plug wire. A loose wire or incorrect spark plug gap can also cause the generator to quit running.

11. Bad Ignition Coil

Before checking for a bad ignition coil, make sure your spark plug is in good condition. The ignition coil provides voltage to the spark plug so it can start the engine and allow it to continue to run.

SOLUTION: Check the continuity of the ignition coil using an ohm meter. If you find a break in the continuity, replace the ignition coil.

12. Insufficient Engine Oil Level

Your generator may run for a while and then suddenly stop. Check to see if the low engine oil light is on.

When the oil level is low, Champion has a sensor that will shut it down to protect the engine from damage. It will not restart until the engine oil level is corrected.

It may be frustrating that it won’t keep running. However, the generator shutting down is a good thing.

Continuing to run an engine that is low on oil can result in significant engine damage because a lack of sufficient lubrication will cause friction and heat to build in the engine. The engine can become so hot that the parts can begin to melt.

SOLUTION: To check the engine oil level, begin by placing the generator on a flat-level surface. Remove the oil fill cap and wipe off the dipstick with a clean cloth to remove the oil.

Reinsert the dipstick into the oil-fill tube, but don’t screw on the cap. Remove it and look at the oil level on the dipstick. Ensure it is in the full range on the dipstick.

If it is not, correct the engine oil level by removing or adding a little oil until it is at the correct level.

When you find you have the correct engine oil level and the low oil sensor stays on, you may have a faulty sensor. It’s best to take the generator to a service center to be repaired.