The day that Irene came thru, I didn't lose grid power as such, but did
have a series of outages that lasted 2-3 seconds apiece. Unfortunately,
these were enough to kick on the generator, only to stop a few seconds
later when the grid returned. And so it was on, off; on, off; on, off .....
So now the generator's broken. Battery won't even try to crank. All I get
is a grinding sound. Battery charger still shows a green light, so I
assume that a connection(s) has come loose or some sort of fuse blew.
Any ideas? Also, can this type of thing be fixed by an electrician? I do
have a service contract with the co. that installed the Kohler, and they
really know their business, but they are severely swamped with repair
tickets, which is understandable. Finally, can the automatic transfer
switch be adjusted to keep the generator from kicking on until grid power
has shut down for 10 seconds or so?
A grinding sound would seem to indicate that most likely either the
starter is bad or that it's not getting full power to be able
to correctly spin out and engage. If that's what it is, it's
fairly easy to diagnose and fix, depending on how accessible
the starter, soenoid, etc are.
From the problem it sounds like an engine problem, not
a generator problem, so an electrician would not be my choice
unless he's one that does generators. If it's only a backup
since you have a service contract, I'd just wait if I were
As to transfer switch adjustability, I guess what you may or may
not be able to adjust would seem to depend on exactly which
one you have. The on/off cycling several times should not have
caused the problem you are having. To burn out the starter it
would have to crank the starter for a long time.
If it makes you feel any better, a neighbor had a $7K Generac that
was about 6 years old fail after 5 hours of hurricane duty. His guy
did come out and the generator itself is cooked, beyond repair.
He's got a whole new one on order. I wonder if these things are
really worth it. With the high cost you also get increased complexity
and more things to fail. And if it does fail, it costs a bundle to
For $500 or so you can get a breaker panel kit
and a receptacle installed and then use one of the manual start
generators that can be had for $400. I'll bet your yearly service
contract costs more than that. There are applications where
you need it to start automatically, eg where there are critical
loads and no one available to get there in time to start it up.
But for the typical homeowner, I think the expense isn't worth
Try charging the battery. Just like with a car battery, that extended on-
off-on-off cycle can drain the battery very quickly.
Have you used a multimeter to check the battery's voltage across the
It might be a bad battery, but it's not an issue of it not
running enough to recharge it. These automatic systems
have a charger to keep the battery at full charge using line
AC power when the generator is not being used.
Presumably by now, days later
it's had plenty of time to recharge. He also indicated that
the battery charging indicator showed green, which
usually means the charger believes the battery is
Whatever it is, I agree it sounds like something between
the battery, starter solenoid, and starter.
That's what I think too. Especially given the cost.
They make sense if you need it to be able to start
up and run when nobody will be available in a
reasonable amount of time to start it. But otherwise
I think a $400 generator, plus an Interlockit panel
kit and a conversion kit to make the generator run
on natural gas makes a very compelling case.
I could put that together for $1000.
Thank you all for your replies.
Based on your answers which led to further research, I think this nails it:
If a starter solenoid receives insufficient power from the battery, it will
fail to start the motor, and may produce a rapid clicking sound. The lack
of power can be caused by a low battery, by corroded or loose connections
in the battery cable, or by a damaged positive (red) cable from the
battery. Any of these problems will result in some, but not enough, power
being sent to the solenoid, which means that the solenoid will only begin
to push the engagement gear, making the metallic click sound. Starter
solenoid problems are best diagnosed by an experienced auto-electrician.
I previously referred to a "grinding" sound but it would be more accurately
called a "rapid clicking sound." My bad.
So, other than waiting for the generator tech who is swamped with work, who
would be the next best person to fix the issue: electrician? auto
Any decent small engine mechanic should be able to troubleshoot your starter
If you really want someone who knows the Kohler CH740s motors, locate an Exmark
commercial mower dealer in your area.
The Kohler twin cylinder motors are often used in them and the Exmark dealers
tend to be top-notch.
They would also have any replacement parts you'd need.
You can find a dealer near you at www.exmark.com
Maybe yourself. Sounds like the starter solenoid want to kick in, but does
not have the juice. Rad my post about cleaning the connections. That is
step one. Then be sure the battery really is charged. If neither works, an
auto mechanic or small engine guy would be a good bet. My guess it is the
engine side, not the generator side, so any competent engine guy can get you
If it is a 12v batter & starting system and you can get your car close
enough.....jump it with the car.
disconnect the various connection points (one at a time). Clean them
pull the battery out of a car & use it.
my answer may not be the greatest, since I missed a lot of this
If you've got a friend who's an auto mechanic, that would work. Auto
mechanics usually do not make house calls, especially for something
that isn't an auto.
It is probably a simple matter of lifting the lid on the battery box,
removing the cables from the battery, and cleaning the corrosion.
There is likely to be a large pile of blueish crud on one or both of
the battery posts.
Well, I waited for the generator tech after all and he diagnosed a
dead battery and put in a new one. No charge to me; part of the
I thought that the AC chargers drastically reduced the incidence of
Where I work we have 2 desel pumps that have 250 hp engines on them for
emergency fire protection.. The charging system is very high dollar units.
They still go bad and cook the 2 12 volt batteries on each pump. Acutally
there are 2 sets of batteries for each pump. If one set goes bad, it
switches over to the next set to try for a start. Even though the chargers
are high dollar, they are made in China.
I think the transfer switch should be adjusted to approximately this spec. and
is what caused your problem so their installation and testing should cover any
costs, especially with their "service contract".
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