How to Start an RV Generator

Campers in their RVs will always need to start the generator. This can be for several reasons, such as needing the power to run the air conditioner on a hot day or to charge the batteries.

It can seem like a daunting task for those who have never started an RV generator before. 

But not to worry – This blog post is here to help.

This article will discuss the basics of starting an RV generator and provide some tips to make the process easier. It will also cover some common problems people experience when trying to start their generators and provide solutions for each one.

How to Start an RV Generator in Simple Steps

Follow these simple steps to start an RV generator:

Step 1: Turn off high-demand 110-volt appliances

The first step to starting an RV generator is to turn off the high-demanding appliances. 

This includes things like the microwave and the TV, but not the refrigerator or freezer. These appliances use a lot of power, and it’s better to wait until after the generator has been running for several minutes.

If there are several different high-demand appliances like a refrigerator, freezer, and an AC unit, one may want to start with the AC unit and work up from there. 

This will ensure that the system doesn’t start failing from too much strain in one sitting.

Step 2: Check fuel level

Before starting the generator, check the fuel level. It’s best to have some fuel in the tank — It is not advisable to start the generator on an empty gas tank. 

It is recommended that one check oil levels in an RV generator before every use. The oil will settle over time, and it is best to have it topped off before using. 

The RV generator should be shut off again before this is done—as the oil level can rise when the generator runs for several minutes.

Step 3: Locate the control buttons used to start the RV generator

Most RV generators have a keypad or remote to start the generator. One side of the control buttons is labeled “Start,” and one side is labeled “Stop.” Some RVs do not have this feature and instead have a pull-chain located next to the driver’s seat.

To start the RV generator, one will need to push the ” Start ” button on the keypad or use the remote control. 

After pushing either button, wait for one full minute. It may take longer than one minute for the generator to turn on, so be patient.

Step 4: Turn the RV generator on

The RV generator should turn on once the button is pushed. Some RV generators have a low fuel light that stays on for about two minutes until the generator has reached a steady state. 

It is important to start the RV generator in a well-ventilated area, not an enclosed garage or shed, because dust will be generated as the engine heats up.

Step 5: Wait until the engine reaches a steady-state

Now that the generator is running, it is best to wait for it to reach a steady state. The first minute can be rough, as the RV generator should seem to run very slow. 

However, after one minute, the RV generator should settle into a more consistent rhythm and may even run faster than when it was just started. The owner’s manual should state how long it usually takes to reach a steady state in the first use of the generator.

Step 6: Turn on the high-demanding appliances.

Once the generator can produce proper voltages for at least a minute, one can turn on the high-demanding appliances.

Start with the 110-volt equipment and work up to the less-powerful 12-volt appliances.

It is always best to use the voltmeter to test all circuits to ensure that power before turning on any of the equipment.

Check out the best propane generators for RV use to ensure enough power for the heavy appliances.

Common Problems with Starting an RV Generator and Solutions

Problem: The generator will not start.

Solution: There are a few things one can do to try and fix this. First, make sure that there is fuel in the tank. If there is fuel, check to see if the choke is open. If it is, close it and try again. Also, multiple times, pushing or pulling the start button (or pulling the cord if it’s a manual starter) can get it going.

Problem: The generator starts but then stops soon after.

Solution: This could be caused by several things, such as a low fuel level or an overload. Make sure to check the fuel level regularly and avoid putting too much load on the generator.

Problem: The generator runs but does not generate power.

Solution: There are a few things one can do to try and fix this. First, check the oil level and ensure it’s at the correct level. If it is, close the choke (if applicable) and try again.



How to start an Onan RV generator?

First, make sure the generator is in the “off” position. Next, locate the start switch, usually a red button on the generator. Push the start switch and hold it until the engine starts. Once the engine has started, release the switch.

How long can the generator in an RV run?

It depends on the size of the RV generator. Generators are usually rated by their horsepower or kW and have a maximum output capacity. In general, generators will produce power for at least 8-20 hours on average.


Starting the RV generator is pretty much a straightforward task. As long as one follows the steps above and has the RV owner’s manual on hand, starting and running an RV generator will be a breeze. 

To learn more about RV generators and how to charge an RV battery, please reach out to us today.



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