Last night I heard the generator's steady rumble falter and then change. I called my dad on the VHF handheld radio that we use to communicate to alert him. By the time he came back to me, the power began to surge and I turned off all my electronics. The generator's sound was a broken gallop now and the lights dulled and brightened rhythmically.
My dad braved the blustery cold north wind and dark night with only a flashlight, to turn off the generator, which is situated on a float tied to their floathouse and only reachable by a narrow plank that stretches over some very cold water. He shut off the dying, galloping genny for the night. He called me when he got back inside and guessed the problem was dirty fuel, but he didn't plan on taking care of the problem until daylight.
This morning we checked out the damage. My dad strained some of the fuel in the tank through an absorbant pad and a thick residue was discovered. He diagnosed algae, a problem with older fuel, which this was. Fortunately, he has an algae-eating additive whiche he now put in the genny's fuel tank.
He cleaned the filter and put it back in place after a brief struggle--generators are not the easiest things to work on. My dad often asks for the use of my smaller hands to work in tight engine corners, but he managed this time on his own.
Next he bled the fuel lines to flush out the bad fuel and get rid of any air in the line.
He had to refill the tank, but first sloshed a winter additive into the summer weight diesel.
Once he'd mixed it he poured it into the tank and tried starting the generator. To our relief it fired right up. Which is not always--or even usually--the case.
Over the years we have had many generator related adventures and nightmares. Everyone is responsible for their own electricity out here, but my dad is often called by locals to help figure out a generator or electrical problem because he has some kind of affinity--not passed on to his oldest daughter--for engines in general and generators in particular.
Because I have done a lot of wintertime housesitting out here in the bush, I have been exposed to a broad array of temperamental engines, each with their own eccentricities to cope with. I've often been on the radio with my dad as he talked me through various procedures to get a generator running again.
But those rants--I mean stories--will have to wait until I have a more reliable signal....
Tara Neilson (ADOW)