Service tips: Generator maintenance

Top five best rental practices (The customer is always right, until they aren’t.)

 by Bret Shive

The old adage dictates that whatever the customer asks for, the customer should get. However, there’s a distinct difference between what a customer may want and what they need. And as new emissions regulations and changing technology increasingly impacts generator rentals, the customer may not always know what to ask for. 

When it comes to generator rentals, giving the customer exactly what they ask for is just one of several common mistakes. You can avoid the most common mistakes with these five tips.

1. Ask more questions
Simply giving the customer what they ask for can lead to inefficiencies and potential misuse of generators on the job site. Many customers have always used a certain size generator on their job site, so they expect to rent that same size without considering load conditions.

Rental centers can avoid providing the wrong generator for a job by being prepared to ask questions about the job site’s needs. Have a list of questions to ask the customer about their project, which could include:

1. Is the load resistive or motor starting?

2. How many start-up amperages and running amperages make up the load?

3. Do you plan to add any extra load to the generator?

4. What have you used in the past, and how did that work?

These questions will help guide the rental process and ensure your customer receives the right generator and support equipment for their project.

2. Size it up
Wet stacking on low loads is all too common. It happens when Tier 4 Final-compliant engines aren’t operating with enough load and the exhaust system isn’t hot enough to trap and burn off all unburned diesel particulate matter. This leads to raw diesel and unburned carbon to mix in the exhaust system, which accumulates in diesel particulate filter systems. It eventually clogs and creates enough back pressure to shut down the unit.

When that happens, the result is downtime while the unit regenerates, or worse, requires a service call. Your customer’s job site is negatively impacted. To avoid this costly mistake, rental centers need to better understand their customer’s job site needs to help them right-size the generator for the project.

Customers may prefer to rent an oversized unit, assuming it will be able to power all of the equipment on their job site. However, they aren’t taking into consideration the consequences of running a less than full load on an oversized generator. Rental centers can prevent this by asking about specific power needs. It may be better for the customer, generator and the rental center to rent several smaller units vs. one large unit to prevent wet stacking and keep the job site up and running.

3. Invest in a load bank
As wet stacking becomes a more common problem with the implementation of Tier 4 regulations, a load bank can help your facility avoid it.

If you’re concerned about a unit being wet-stacked, having a load bank at your disposal can allow you to quickly diagnose power generation units.

Once connected, technicians can get a read-out detailing voltage on every leg as well as the amperage and the frequency. The load bank can also put a full load on the generator and clean the system out. A load bank is the best way to test your equipment and ensure it’s operating optimally.

4. Have the right personnel
Renting a generator is just the first step — once customers leave with a generator in tow, they need to be able to properly install it on their site. While many customers may be prepared with an electrician or qualified technician on staff, those that don’t will need assistance.

Having a qualified employee on your team to assist customers with generator installation ensures your customer’s job site will be properly powered; it also helps guard against safety infractions.

A trained technician will be able to connect everything properly to avoid any unbalanced loads and identify and resolve any generator issues before they become a problem or a safety concern.

5. Maintain best practices
Ensuring your generators are serviced on a regular basis cuts down on equipment malfunctions and unexpected downtime on your customers’ job sites. Creating and adhering to a maintenance schedule will keep your generators up and running and ready to be rented at a moment’s notice.

Equip your technicians with the ability to spot an issue when the generators are coming off a job site or being serviced. They should look for things like oil drips, fuel leaks, dirty filters and if the radiator needs to be cleaned. Solid visual inspections and adherence to a service schedule will help identify coming maintenance needs and resolve them easily.

Taking the time to truly understand your customer’s needs and ensuring your facility is equipped to properly install and maintain your generators will help you provide the right generator for the job — every time. 

Brett Shive is a senior field service technician at Allmand Bros. Inc.