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Old 06-11-2016, 11:39 AM   #1
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Generator smoking

Sorry if this is redundant to other threads / [posts. I searched but haven't found anything yet. And it's Saturday, so can't call the company. Relying on the operating manual, but haven't found the answer.

Started up my generator this morning, waited a while (5 min?) ... all the appliance lights on the power panel were lit green, and then started the air conditioner. Soon I noticed some heavy smoke in back of the vehicle (I was working inside). So I went back there to watch, and intermittently the generator exhaust would pump out heavy blue-white smoke for a few seconds, then subside. Then do it again in another minute or so. Finally the generator just shut off.

I went inside and looked for a code. No fault light was blinking. The generator read 8111.5, and would blink intermittently with the 7.3 hrs I've used it so far.

After about 10 minutes I started it all up again. With no aircon on, it seems to run steady. After a while, when I started the aircon, here comes the blue-white smoke again, intermittently, for several seconds, and then the generator stopped.

btw, 2000 miles and one month ago, I asked the Airstream dealer in Ca where I had it parked to check the oil. He said he "changed" the oil (that wasn't my request). Could it be overfilled or something? Or is this just the pattern when a generator is over loaded. And if so, why would it be overloaded with just the aircon, after I had let it run a while to power up?

Any ideas appreciated. THANKS

p.s. this is a 2015 AI, Cummins Onan generator No other appliances were on. In Chicago (low altitude) and in the low 90's this am (!)
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Old 06-11-2016, 12:08 PM   #2
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A propane-fueled generator should not pump out visible smoke unless it's burning oil. That happens sometimes when the generator is new (first 25 hours of operation) and the piston rings haven't seated themselves yet. It can also happen if it was over-filled with oil.

The generator also has a low-oil cutoff switch, so smoke plus cutoff means it's more likely to be low on oil than to be over-filled.
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Old 06-11-2016, 12:19 PM   #3
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A propane-fueled generator should not pump out visible smoke unless it's burning oil. That happens sometimes when the generator is new (first 25 hours of operation) and the piston rings haven't seated themselves yet. It can also happen if it was over-filled with oil.

The generator also has a low-oil cutoff switch, so smoke plus cutoff means it's more likely to be low on oil than to be over-filled.
Thanks. Would low oil lead to the problem happening only after I turned on the air conditioner? Maybe it would have started after a while, even had I not turned on the air con. So maybe I should turn it on again, wait and see if the smoke starts without turning on air con
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Old 06-11-2016, 12:25 PM   #4
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Thanks. Would low oil lead to the problem happening only after I turned on the air conditioner?
It might. The generator runs faster under a load than at idle.

But before you try running it again— with or without the a/c— it would be prudent to crawl under your Interstate and check the oil in the generator. You may need to drop the spare tire to do this.
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Old 06-11-2016, 12:36 PM   #5
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ugh...I live in a high rise in Chicago. Store the van on a lot at a nearby storage place. Doing even simple work like that is a pain. And the dealer is an hour away! But ... I hear ya
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Old 06-11-2016, 01:29 PM   #6
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My best guess is overfilled and the crankshaft is whipping the oil into foam that gets drawn into the intake manifold through the crankcase vent. I wouldn't run the engine again until you check it out.
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Old 06-11-2016, 01:47 PM   #7
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My best guess is overfilled and the crankshaft is whipping the oil into foam that gets drawn into the intake manifold through the crankcase vent. I wouldn't run the engine again until you check it out.
OK .. assuming I can get under there and lower the spare, how will I see if it's overfilled? and what to do about that?

THX
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Old 06-11-2016, 02:00 PM   #8
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My best guess is overfilled and the crankshaft is whipping the oil into foam that gets drawn into the intake manifold through the crankcase vent. I wouldn't run the engine again until you check it out.
Just talked w/ Service guy at Airstream out in California who changed my gen oil a month ago. He said they take 3/4 of a quart of oil, and it's entirely possible that it could have been slightly overfilled. He said not to run it, as it could build up too much pressure and blow a seal.

If I can figure out how to access it, I"ll pull the dipstick and check the level and either drain it a bit myself, or take it to someone.

Thanks
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Old 06-12-2016, 01:38 AM   #9
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I haven't seen how the generator is mounted in your camper so I can't advise beyond say that it is usually something easy to check because it is important. I do wonder what Airstream was thinking sometimes though! Sounds like they stuffed that gen way under? A flashlight and mirror may help. Maybe you could get a cheap turkey baster at WalMart, some clear hose at a hardware store to shove tightly onto the end and suck out a little oil until the dipstick shows just full. A photo or two of the adventure may be instructive to somebody in the future if you can do that!
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Old 06-12-2016, 02:02 AM   #10
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It might. The generator runs faster under a load than at idle.

But before you try running it again— with or without the a/c— it would be prudent to crawl under your Interstate and check the oil in the generator. You may need to drop the spare tire to do this.

Hi, I'm sure that you are right, but that is a totally ridiculous way to have to check the oil in a generator. [drop the spare tire]
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Old 06-12-2016, 07:44 AM   #11
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At least in my 2013, I did not have to lower the spare tire to check the oil. See this thread:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...or-140031.html

To make it easier to get under the motorhome, see if you can find a place where the pavement falls away. Back your AI over this area so the rear overhangs the falling away area, This will give you room to crawl under the motorhome to the generator. Make sure the motorhome itself is level or you won't get an accurate oil level reading.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:18 AM   #12
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At least in my 2013, I did not have to lower the spare tire to check the oil. See this thread:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...or-140031.html

To make it easier to get under the motorhome, see if you can find a place where the pavement falls away. Back your AI over this area so the rear overhangs the falling away area, This will give you room to crawl under the motorhome to the generator. Make sure the motorhome itself is level or you won't get an accurate oil level reading.
LOL your original post was amazing, especially the photos. WELL DONE

I knew I had seen that months back, and searched the forum this time but can't find it, at least not at first. I hate to take up people's time making them re-post, but the search function in this forum isn't so great. So thanks for re-linking.

Honestly, given that I live in a high rise; the van is on a storage lot and I'd have to find a curb someplace w/ room to work; and that I think I have an overfill problem...I'd have to figure out how to drain out just enough oil (note: the generator takes less than a quart); I think I"ll try to find someone to service it nearby. I need a closer, reliable service resource anyway vs. the dealer an hour and a half away who always seems too busy to give me an appointment.

But seriously ... thanks for this.

p.s. one more note .. I believe I read somewhere that on a 2015 (and maybe later) you DO have to lower the spare. I know my dealer did when he checked the oil after my first 4 hours of use; and the Airstream guy in California also told me that yesterday. That could possibly just be for more convenience or easier access, not sure.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:49 AM   #13
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Just find a quickie oil change shop, like "jiffy lube", they can easily access the underside of you AI when you pull in to one of their bays. I had them change the generator oil in mine. It took less than ten minutes and was very inexpensive.
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