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Old 11-25-2008, 12:44 PM   #1
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Oil in PowerTech generator

We took delivery of our Sprinter SMB in Austin two months ago, and recently took it into its first winter weather: 30's-40's F in West Virginia while visiting family.

We were quite puzzled when the PowerTech 3.0kW generator refused to start, signaling "low oil pressure." I checked the oil on the dipstick, and although the level was fine, the oil was nearly solid.

The manual specifies various single-weight oils for different temperature ranges, or 10W-30 for ALL temps from sub-freezing to summertime. Although my inquiries to Sportsmobile were met with only attempts to dodge responsibility ("It must be PowerTech's fault.") and then silence, the viscous black filth I drained from the generator once we returned to Florida told me all I need to know.

Apparently, SMB Texas fills these $5K+ generators with the absolute cheapest crap oil they can find, rather than a multi-weight oil that cost me a whopping 3 dollars at Wal-Mart. Anyone owning a newly-delivered SMB with a genset might want to change the oil pre-emptively before going anywhere even mildly chilly, or your generator might leave you "out in the cold."
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Old 11-25-2008, 01:02 PM   #2
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Two months ago?...and no pictures?
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Old 11-26-2008, 08:59 PM   #3
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Why is the assumption that the gen had its oil filled at SMB TX ?

Maybe I am getting different treatment because I am local to Austin, but every time I have had an issue SMB TX has been more than willing to help get it figured out.

There were two Xantrex RS2000 inverters purchased and installed and many hours of phone work with techs of Xantrex and Danhard to get the issues troubleshot, all at their cost.

I do agree that you need to check things. ...and oil fill is one specific thing to watch. Large volume re-usable oil containers can be mis-labeled or mis-filled, but folks can get lazy and sloppy too.

For our Prius, oil fill level is critical to superior fuel economy. We have found that dealers almost always overfill the oil level, and that costs us 3 to 5 mpg. We have seen this at 3 different dealers. We started bringing our oil, and giving them only 3.5 qts. ....and they still messed it up.... they said they used our oil, but it was still on the front seat floorboard. (they got to do another oil change).
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Old 11-27-2008, 12:26 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg In Austin
Why is the assumption that the gen had its oil filled at SMB TX ?
My experience in this is limited, but I've never taken delivery of any small engine that was filled with oil. (I presume because of the likelihood it would leak/spill out during shipping.) I've bought lawnmowers, generators, pressure washers, etc. that came with a bottle of oil and a big warning tag that said "Add this before you try to start it," but never oil actually IN the pan. And in such cases, the contents of the bottle have always been clearly identified.

Further, the only response I got from Paul Meyer was an unhelpful "Gee, I don't know if they come with oil..." which would mean the oil in the pan was not only poured in, but sourced by SMB Austin. (They started the generator up as part of the delivery check-out process.)

In any case, SMB Austin ought to have known what they were pouring in, and per the oil specifications in the PowerTech manual, the choice is literally as simple as single-weight oil for a single season, or 10W-30 for ALL seasons:

Above 77F: SAE 30 or 10W-30
32-77F: SAE 20 or 10W-30
Below 32F: SAE 10 or 10W-30

I just find it an appalling lack of attention to detail that SMB Austin couldn't afford the trouble to put $3 worth of multi-weight oil into a $5,000 genset to assure all-season readiness.
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Old 11-27-2008, 12:43 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg In Austin
Maybe I am getting different treatment because I am local to Austin, but every time I have had an issue SMB TX has been more than willing to help get it figured out.

There were two Xantrex RS2000 inverters purchased and installed and many hours of phone work with techs of Xantrex and Danhard to get the issues troubleshot, all at their cost.
"Different treatment" is putting it mildly. Our inverter was initially installed in a bizarre Rube-Goldberg manner in which power from both shore and the genset bypassed it to reach the roof A/C. This, of course, meant that the inverter could NOT supply power to the A/C. This was only discovered--by us--during persistent fiddling with the system during our delivery check-out process. We spent the next day sitting in the SMB shop in Austin while they rectified this.

The inverter--a model I had previously used without any problems to start and run a 15K BTU roof A/C in another RV--then refused to start the roof A/C. SMB's response: "Gee, that's a pickle. Hope that works out for you." They even added that they have NEVER been able to get a true-sine-wave inverter to start a roof A/C. This shortcoming didn't seem to bother them.

It was up to us to research the problem, find a solution, buy it, and install it. (The SUPCO SPP-6)

To be fair, SMB was very accommodating, throughout the design process, in arriving at a feasible custom layout that was agreeable to us. It is disappointing, though, that they followed up such an impressive performance on structure with such inattention to details of function.

Apparently, SMB is in the business of "putting these rigs together." Getting them to work is left up to the customer.
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Old 11-27-2008, 06:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethereal
the choice is literally as simple as single-weight oil for a single season, or 10W-30 for ALL seasons
What weight oil was in the gen when you discover the problem ?
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2006 Toyota Prius (48 to 68 mpg) 120k miles [Penelope]
2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (15 to 18 mpg) [Johnnie]
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Old 11-27-2008, 06:14 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethereal
I've never taken delivery of any small engine that was filled with oil.
Wow, my experience is just the opposite :

chainsaw
two tillers
three lawnmowers
string trimmer
power washer
generator

....all came filled with oil....
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2008 Ford 6.0PSD EB/E-PH SMB 4X4 Aluminess f/r bumpers (13.5mpg avg, 15mpg hwy) 52k miles [Texas McBeast]
2006 Toyota Prius (48 to 68 mpg) 120k miles [Penelope]
2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (15 to 18 mpg) [Johnnie]
2012 Mitsubishi MiEV (no gas required) ($.50/day in electricity) [Evie]
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Old 11-27-2008, 09:25 AM   #8
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Hey Greg, keep in mind too that for those of us over 100 miles away the policy of "just bring it back" is hardly palitable. Imagine if you were 8 hours drive from SMB- how would that color each time you've had an issue?

Not that they haven't tried to help me over the phone, but since they're convinced their guys did everything absolutely right it's left to me to find the problems in my electrical.

I don't think they did a bad job, per se, but I also don't think they bothered to test the house battery they were adding to, they skipped the battery temp monitor (which gives me no end to faults), and there are some other gremlins- all of which I have yet to bother with.
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Old 11-27-2008, 10:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg In Austin
What weight oil was in the gen when you discover the problem ?
SAE 30. In WV in November, it looked a lot like chicken fat in a freezer.
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Old 11-27-2008, 10:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg In Austin
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethereal
I've never taken delivery of any small engine that was filled with oil.
Wow, my experience is just the opposite :

chainsaw
You bought a chainsaw with a four-stroke cycle engine?
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