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15 Reasons a Craftsman Generator Won’t Start: SOLVED!

A Craftsman generator won’t start due to a plugged air filter, wrong choke setting, bad spark plug, plugged fuel filter, clogged fuel line, dirty carburetor, plugged fuel tank vent, plugged spark arrestor, or faulty recoil starter.

If your Craftsman is a model with an electric start, check for a bad starter solenoid, weak battery, and faulty ignition switch.

Follow safety precautions in the Craftsman operator’s manual. This includes removing the spark plug boot before making repairs.

Generator will not start

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to 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.

Reasons Your Craftsman Generator Starting Problem

1. Empty Fuel Tank on a Craftsman Generator

The fuel tank is small on a generator and depending on how much load you place on it, some Craftsman models will run for a few hours before you need to refuel it.

You may have simply forgotten the last time you added fuel to the generator, the fuel gauge may be faulty, or you may have developed a fuel leak.

I mention this obvious cause for a starting problem just in case you skipped checking the fuel level and moved on to troubleshooting other parts of the generator.

SOLUTION: Check over the fuel system and fix or replace any parts that are faulty or leaking. Add fresh gasoline to the fuel tank.

2. Bad or Old Fuel in a Craftsman Generator

Fuel can begin to oxidize and break down as soon as 30 days after purchase. Old fuel has negative effects on a Craftsman generator so it’s important to consume it within 30 days.

Ethanol, found in most gasoline, attracts moisture to the fuel system. The ethanol and water mixture not only leaves behind varnish that restricts fuel flow and damaged components, but it will also separate from gas and sink to the bottom of the tank.

The mixture runs extremely hot when burned in the engine causing potential engine damage.

Because of the adverse effects ethanol has on a Craftsman generator, it’s important to keep these things in mind when purchasing, storing, and consuming fuel:

  • Purchase fresh fuel with a minimum 87 octane rating.
  • Never use gas with more than a 10% ethanol content. Ethanol-free fuel is best.
  • Consume fuel within 30 days.
  • Use a fuel stabilizer if you are unable to consume it within 30 days to make it last a little longer before it breaks down. (Fuel stabilizer must be added to fresh fuel. It will not reverse the effects of old fuel).
  • Store fuel in an approved fuel container away from moisture or combustible products.

SOLUTION: If you find old fuel in your Craftsman generator, drain the fuel. A fuel siphon pump works well for this.

Next, mix fresh gas with a fuel additive in a fuel container and add this mixture to the fuel tank.

Once you are able to get the generator to start, allow it to run for about 10 minutes so the gas and fuel additive mixture is able to work its way through the fuel system.

I like a product called Sea Foam Motor Treatment. I use this product in every tank of gas to help reduce the issues that can result from using fuel with ethanol.

It helps reduce moisture, clean the fuel system and keep the gas stable. Another good option is STA-BIL.

3. Plugged Fuel Filter on a Craftsman Generator

You may find a fuel filter in the fuel tank or installed between the fuel lines on some Craftsman generators. On other models, a fuel sediment bowl and screen will be installed that will need to be removed and cleaned.

The filter or sediment bowl and screen are used to keep dirt and other contaminants from entering the fuel system causing wear on the engine.

A plugged filter or screen will prevent a good flow of fuel from getting to the engine for combustion.

Replacing the fuel filter or cleaning the fuel bowl is a maintenance item that should be completed annually.

SOLUTION: Replace a plugged fuel filter OR clean the fuel bowl and screen on the fuel valve (depending on which type of filter is used on your Craftsman generator).

4. Clogged Fuel Line on a Craftsman Generator

The gummy deposits or dirt left behind by old fuel can clog the fuel system including the fuel line. Check for clogs in the fuel line that could be restricting fuel to the engine.

SOLUTION: If you find a restriction in the fuel line, remove the line from the generator. Spray carburetor cleaner to loosen the clog and blow compressed air to the line to remove it.

If you are unable to remove the fuel restriction, replace it with a new fuel line.

5. Dirty Carburetor on a Craftsman Generator

The carburetor’s function is to regulate the amount of gas that is mixed with air to form \combustion in the cylinder.

When the carburetor is dirty and gums up from old fuel, components in the carburetor no longer function properly. The carburetor may not allow the gas required to start your Craftsman generator.

After you have verified you are getting fuel to the carburetor, you need to take a look at the carburetor. This is a common part that can gum up and leave behind crusty deposits from old gas.

SOLUTION: Remove the carburetor and clean it with a carburetor cleaner to remove varnish and deposits forming in the carburetor. Take a look at the carburetor float, float needle, and fuel jets to make sure they are sufficiently clean and in good condition.

If you find any damaged parts, you must replace them using a carburetor rebuild kit or a replacement carburetor.

6. Plugged Air Filter on a Craftsman Generator

Like the fuel filter, the air filter is installed to keep dirt and debris from entering through the air intake. This is to protect the engine from damage that can be caused by just a small amount of dirt.

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.

When 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.

SOLUTION: If you find your air filter is plugged, clean it using the procedure below for your type of air filter. If you are unsure of the type of filter you have and its cleaning procedure or if you have a different type of filter, consult the operator’s manual.

Clean a Craftsman 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.
  • Install the air filter.
  • Reattach the air filter cover.

Clean a Craftsman generator paper 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 paper air filter. Tap the filter to loosen dirt so it falls from the filter. If the filter is very dirty, damaged, or no longer seals the air intake sufficiently, replace it with a new one.
  • Install the air filter.
  • Reattach the air filter cover.

7. Plugged Fuel Vent on a Craftsman Generator

On most portable Craftsman generators, the fuel tank vents out of the gas cap. A vent is required to keep the pressure in the fuel tank equal to the atmospheric air pressure.

When air isn’t allowed to pass through the gas cap due to a plugged vent, the fuel tank will form a vacuum. This prevents fuel from getting to the carburetor and your generator will fail to start.

On some Craftsman generators, instead of the vent being placed in the gas cap, you will find a small part installed on the top of the fuel tank to allow it to vent.

SOLUTION: To determine whether a plugged fuel tank vent is the cause of your starting problem, loosen or remove your cap to allow air inside the tank and then attempt to start the generator.

If it starts, but stops running again after you place the cap back on the generator and allow it to run for a while, you may have a plugged vent. I recommend replacing a bad fuel cap or bad tank vent.

8. Plugged Spark Arrestor on a Craftsman Generator

The spark arrestor screen is a metal piece on the muffler that prevents sparks and hot material from shooting out of the muffler. This screen is required to prevent injuries and fires.

When it becomes plugged, the generator will have a hard time starting and running.

SOLUTION: Remove the spark arrestor screen from the muffler. Take a look at it to ensure it isn’t torn and doesn’t have any holes in the screen. If it does, the screen must be replaced with a new one.

If it doesn’t have any damage, go ahead and clean it with a commercial solvent or brush it lightly with a small metal brush to remove soot deposits. Once clean, reinsert the screen back onto the muffler.

9. Bad Spark Plug on a Craftsman Generator

A spark plug can be faulty when the tip is dirty, the porcelain is cracked or the electrode is burnt. This will cause your generator not to start because of a lack of spark.

SOLUTION: You can clean the spark plug to remove the deposits on the tip. If your spark plug tip is very dark in color or damaged, you must replace it with a new one.

Your spark plug needs to be properly gapped following the manufacturer’s specifications as found in the operator’s manual. Starting problems can be caused by a spark plug that is gapped incorrectly or a spark plug wire that is loose.

10. Incorrect Engine Oil Level in a Craftsman Generator

The generator will not start when the engine oil is not at the correct level. The generator has a sensor that recognizes a low engine oil level.

The sensor will shut off the engine and prevent it from starting to protect the engine when the oil level is low.

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 at the right level, 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.

11. Bad Choke Dial/Switch or Wrong Choke Setting on a Craftsman Generator

On Craftsman models with an OFF-RUN-CHOKE dial, it may be faulty and no longer function correctly. This bad dial on a generator will keep the generator from starting if it is no longer adjusting the choke when switching it between the CHOKE and RUN positions.

Other Craftsman models may have a choke lever to choke a cold engine to start it. Once the engine warms up, the choke must be placed in the off position to allow the engine to get air so it continues to run.

SOLUTION: Have a service center identify if the problem is in the dial or another problem such as a stuck choke that is preventing the generator from starting with the dial in the right positions.

With a manual choke lever, ensure it is in the correct position for starting the generator.

12. Bad Recoil on a Manual Start Craftsman Generator

When the starter recoil wears or parts of the recoil break, it’s hard or impossible to get the generator started. The rope on the recoil can become unstrung or the pulley, springs, or clips may break causing your starting problems.

SOLUTION: Sometimes, restringing the recoil is all you need. Other times you will have to replace broken parts in your recoil. Before replacing parts, price out a full recoil replacement.

Depending on the price difference, it may be better to replace the Craftsman recoil assembly over tearing it down and replacing broken components.

13. Bad Ignition Switch on a Craftsman Generator (Electric Start)

The switch can go bad on a generator with an electric start preventing it from starting. When the electric start isn’t working, use the manual recoil to start the generator until you are able to get it fixed.

SOLUTION: Test the switch using a multimeter and replace it if necessary.

14. Bad Battery on a Craftsman Generator (Electric Start)

Make sure the battery is charged. If it has a low charge, you can attempt to charge the battery. If it won’t hold a charge, it’s time to replace the battery with a new one.

Check the cables and wiring to make sure you have good continuity and making good connections.

SOLUTION: Check the voltage of the battery and charge it if it is weak. Replace a dead battery or one that won’t hold a charge.

15. Bad Starter Solenoid on a Craftsman Generator (Electric Start)

You may hear a clicking or humming sound when you press the ignition switch button or turn the key (depending on your model) and your generator won’t start. Or, you may find the wiring is getting hot and beginning to smoke.

These are indications the solenoid may be bad. A starter solenoid goes bad when the internal spring gets weak or the copper plate begins to corrode. A weak starter, bad battery, or bad ground can also be the reason for the solenoid failure.

SOLUTION: You can attempt to bypass the starter using a screwdriver or pliers by touching the cable from the battery and the cable to the starter.

Be careful as it may throw a spark. If the engine turns over with the solenoid bypassed, it is likely the starter solenoid is bad.

You must check for loose wires or bad ground before replacing the solenoid. These are items that can cause the solenoid to not work correctly.

The good news is most portable Craftsman generators with an electric start have a manual starter recoil installed to pull-start it to get it running. If you are able to manually start it, you can narrow down your problem to the electric start system.