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Old 09-14-2010, 02:40 PM   #1
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Unhappy Onan genset emerald I

My wife & I just bought out first Motorhome. It's a relic and needed a ton of TLC. The price was well within our budget. It's a Fleetwood Southwind 1989. It has a Chevy chassis. Basically my problem is with the generator. It's an Onan Genset Emerald I (BGE model). I can't get this thing to start. It cranks very well. It just won't start. So far I have changed the points, capacitor (why, I don't know), the coil, plugs, and plug wires...still, nothing! I jumped the fuel pump wire to the positive battery wire and it seems to work (if that's what the clicking noise means). I took the cover where the starter switch is off and, aside from a dish of spaghetti wires, the only two things in there is the starter solenoid and voltage regulator. The VR has a tag dated "2008" so I assume it was replaced back then. I give up. I was hoping someone here would have some experience or insight as to what it could be. We don't do much dry camping but I found out that the engine A/C is seized up and has been disabled. That is my need for the generator, to run the in-house A/C. Besides the kids wanting to watch movies while on the road. Oh, and I do know about the gas tank needing to be over 1/4 full and the generator oil is full. I'm an electrician (I admit my knowledge of gens is limited. I just hook them up). I'm totally stumped. We are heading to the southern states in two weeks and would really like to get this thing running. Thanks!
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Old 09-14-2010, 02:56 PM   #2
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RonS1985,
You are doing some of the right things... maybe just not going far enough.
The three things you need for that engine to run; FUEL, AIR and a SPARK ...but they have to be in the correct proportion at the right time IN THE COMBUSTION CHAMBER.

What you know is that the fuel pump makes a clicking sound... but you do not know that it is pumping fuel... maybe a fuel filter is completely clogged.
You have replaced some ignition components, but do you have a spark at the PLUG?... as verified by shorting it against the block while cranking and looking for a bright blue spark?
Have you considered that the carbureator may be gumed up from sitting?... lots of possibilities.
Do you have the manual? Someone may be able to send a link.
You are right that you must have it here in Florida for the A/Cs!!
Good luck,
Jim
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Old 09-14-2010, 05:54 PM   #3
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I would try spraying some starting fluid in the carb intake when cranking it over, if it sounds like wants to start you will know it's a fuel related problem.
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Old 09-15-2010, 01:54 PM   #4
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Forgot to mention

I guess I forgot to mention a few things. I have all of the original manuals to the generator. The original owner drove the RV into the ground but did keep the manuals in great condition. They did not help. Since this is a 1989 mondel I could tell that manuals back then were printed for idiots. It does not give information for the do-it-yourselfer. An example: generator cranks but won't start...Probably cause: out of fuel, breaker off (it doesn't have a breaker). I mean, real obvious stuff but no detail. I also failed to mention to you nice folks that I already checked for spark with a meter (as an electrician I'm very leary of the "grounding technique"). I also sprayed ether into the carb and did not get so much as a sputter. Since the tailpipe is located near the start button the ether just passed through the system back into my face. As I said, I am truly, truly stumped on this one. A new VR is $170 so I'm trying very hard not to go that route just yet, but I also feel that I am out of options. I know the clicking in the fuel pump does not indicate that it is functioning properly but I figured it was a good sign. As soon as I get the RV fueled up again I'm going to hotwire the pump again. I assume I should quickly see the fuel filter glass fill up with fuel if it's working. I put my meter on the fuel pump hot wire. It showed only 9.4V going to it. I know the system is 12V but I don't know if the fuel pump requires all 12V to operate properly. It would help with my trouble-shooting if I could find out if these type of generators are like the big ones used at hospitals in that if they don't get fuel flow they won't produce a spark and, if they have fuel but no spark the pump will not pump the fuel so that there won't be fuel build-up (flooding) in the combustion area. I don't know if that technology existed back then. As far as cleaning the carb; I haven't taken it apart but I have sprayed a half dozen of different types of cleaners through the carb but the carb isn't the issue...yet. Thanks everyone!
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Old 09-15-2010, 02:06 PM   #5
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Have you checked the spark plug since the cleaners were run through the carb? Even if you have fuel and spark to the plug, it could be fouled out from the cleaners. One other thing you might try is pulling the spark plug and doing a compression test. If the previous owner abused it and neglected routine maintenance the piston rings could be stuck or worn causing low compression. If you have fuel and spark, I would recommend to check this next.
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:20 PM   #6
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Good info from the members above but one more thing you can check is the choke, it may be stuck open. Also, try jumpering 12 volts to the fuel pump and try it.
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:32 PM   #7
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RonS1985,
I know you verified the oil level as full to rule out the "Low Oil Cut-off" ...

BUT, look also at the function of the sender and related circuitry for that safety override.
If the sender or any of the circuit is faulty, it would be the same as a low oil fault.
Keep trying... you're closer than you think!
Jim
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