Generator Air Filter Soaked with Oil: Causes, Effects, and Solutions

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Lately, here at Generator Hacks, we explain the importance of air filters and how you can clean your generator air filter. We also outline the effects and benefits of not frequently cleaning your air filter. 

Back at RAF Tech Engineering Works, we found out that 60% of air filters soaked with oil are caused by worn piston rings or valve seals, 30% are caused by oil overfilling, and the remaining 10% of this issue is caused by a faulty crankcase ventilation system.

While you need to troubleshoot the issue instantly, it’s recommended you understand what might cause it and how you can avoid it in the future so you won’t keep on calling a professional to help.

Henceforward, in this article, we’ll be exploring the effects and solutions to address this concern of your generator air filter soaked with oil and how you can avoid it in the future. 

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Causes of Oil Soaking in Generator Air Filter

There are several reasons why your generator air filter is soaked with oil. Some of the causes might include the following:

1. Engine overfilling with oil

One of the leading causes of oil soaking in the air filter is overfilling the engine with oil. This happens whenever the crankcase has excessive oil. So, when the engine is running, due to it being overfilled, the oil can find its way into the air filter through the breather system.

2. Worn piston rings or valve seals

If the oil is not overfilled, then the engine’s piston rings or valve seals might be worn out resulting in oil leakage into the combustion chamber where you might also notice white smoke coming out from the generator exhaust. As a result of this, some of this oil can then be pushed back into the air filter during the engine’s intake stroke.

3. Faulty crankcase ventilation system

Lastly, a faulty crankcase ventilation system can also cause your air filter to be soaked with oil. The crankcase ventilation system is designed to vent excess gasses and pressure from the engine’s crankcase. A malfunctioning ventilation system can lead to increased pressure, causing oil to be forced into the air filter.

Effects of Oil Soaking in Generator Air Filter

When the generator’s air filter becomes soaked with oil, several adverse effects can impact its performance and longevity. 

Let’s take a look at some of these effects:

1. Reduced air intake and engine performance: The presence of oil in your generator air filter likely restricts the flow of clean air into the engine, leading to incomplete combustion and reduced power output of your generator.

2. Increased fuel consumption: When your generator’s air filter becomes clogged with engine oil, it forces the engine to work harder to draw air, leading to higher fuel consumption and increased operational costs.

3. Potential damage to internal components: Oil-soaked air filters can result in oil contamination within the engine, leading to increased wear on important components of your generator such as piston rings, valves, and cylinders.

How to Diagnose Oil Soaked in Your Generator Air Filter

So, you’ve known what might cause your generator’s air filter to get soaked with oil. But how can you diagnose it to know why any of the causes listed in this blog post by Generator Hacks causes this issue?

However, it’s not that hard, and to find out, are some few steps you should follow to diagnose the oil soak in your generator’s air filter:

1. Visual inspection of the air filter: First of all, visually inspect the areas of the air filter by removing the air filter cover, and the air filter itself. After that, go on and check for any signs of excessive oil saturation or wetness on it.

2. Checking for excessive oil consumption: If you have inspected the air filter and found it soaked with oil, monitor your generator’s oil levels regularly. When monitoring your oil level, if you notice any significant signs of a decrease in oil levels between changes, it might indicate an oil consumption issue. Additionally, you should also check if the oil is excessive in the engine crankcase.

3. Compression and leak-down tests: You have found out the issues with your generator oil soaking your air filter and your generator engine oil decreasing or the oil is excessive. Now what are you going to do to find out what might cause it and how you can fix it? Observe compression and leak-down tests. These tests are done by professionals if we may say to help identify internal engine problems, such as worn piston rings or faulty valve seals, which can contribute to oil soaking in the air filter.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fix a Generator Oil Soaked Air Filter

You’ve known what might cause your generator air filter to get soaked by oil, and also how you can diagnose the issue whenever you are in a heist and can’t wait for a professional to help. But what you haven’t known is how you can fix that issue.

If that’s the case, don’t worry. Here are some few steps you can take to address the issue fast and simple:

1. Correcting engine oil levels 

The first step you need to take before any other thing is to confirm and ensure that the engine oil is at the appropriate level as recommended by your generator model manufacturer. If in any way the oil is overfilled, drain the excess oil to prevent further contamination of the air filter. But if it’s not, and the engine is blowing out white smoke, then you need to move to the next step which might require the help of a professional if you’d know any around.

2. Replacing worn piston rings or valve seals

Earlier, we said in this step, you will need the help of a professional because you will have to replace either the piston rings or the valve seals. That’s if compression or leak-down tests reveal worn piston rings or faulty valve seals, hence, you must have them replaced by a professional to prevent oil leakage into the air filter and decrease your generator oil.

3. Repairing or replacing the crankcase ventilation system

Lastly, if you are done with the two other cases but the issue persists, there’s still one last thing you can do, which is to have the crankcase ventilation system repaired or replaced. So, in the case of a faulty crankcase ventilation system, you should also have it inspected and repaired by a professional for your generator to be able to restore its proper ventilation and prevent oil from reaching the air filter.

How to Prevent Your Generator Air Filter From Getting Soaked With Oil

Now that you have fixed the issue, how can you minimize the likelihood of encountering it in the future?

Here are a few things you can do:

1. Regular maintenance and servicing your generator: This is the most important thing you should neglect. To prevent the issue in the future, you must adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, including air filter inspections, oil changes, and general system checks.

2. Checking oil levels and changing oil filters as recommended: Secondly, you should regularly monitor the oil levels and change the oil filters at the recommended intervals to ensure proper lubrication and minimize the risk of excessive oil consumption.

3. Monitoring fuel quality: Lastly, ensure you use clean and high-quality fuel to minimize the accumulation of harmful deposits and contaminants that can affect the engine’s performance and increase the chances of oil soaking in the air filter.

Final Thought 

A generator’s air filter plays one of the most important roles in maintaining optimal engine performance by ensuring clean air intake. When the air filter becomes soaked with oil, it hinders airflow, reduces engine efficiency, and potentially damages internal components. 

Therefore, by understanding the causes, effects, and solutions for oil-soaked air filters, you can take appropriate measures to maintain the efficiency and longevity of your generator when needed. 

Hence, you must always remember that regular maintenance, monitoring oil levels, and addressing engine issues promptly are the key aspects to preventing oil soaking and ensuring reliable generator operation.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Can I clean and reuse an oil-soaked air filter?

No, it is not recommended to clean and reuse an oil-soaked air filter. Once an air filter becomes soaked with oil, it loses its filtering capability and should be replaced with a new one.

2. How often should I replace the generator air filter?

The frequency of air filter replacement depends on various factors such as usage, operating conditions, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Generally, it is advisable to inspect and replace the air filter annually or more frequently if operating in dusty environments.

3. Can I run the generator without an air filter?

Running a generator without an air filter is strongly discouraged. The air filter is essential for preventing dirt, debris, and contaminants from entering the engine, which can cause significant damage and reduce its lifespan.

4. Is oil soaking a sign of a serious engine problem?

Oil soaking in the air filter can be an indication of an underlying engine issue, such as worn piston rings or faulty valve seals. It is important to address these problems promptly to prevent further damage to the engine.

5. Can I prevent oil from soaking in the air filter by using a different type of oil?

While using the recommended oil type and viscosity is essential, it may not prevent oil soaking if there are underlying mechanical issues.


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