This was our 2013 Jayco Flight Swift 198 RD


Thursday, 1 February 2018

Our Honda Generator gets an hour meter

About a week ago, Bill, from "On Our Way" and Patsy, from "Chillin' with Patsy" treated themselves to a new 3400W inverter generator at the famous Quartzsite RV bash in Arizona. While reading about that, it triggered in my brain the thoughts of how is our sleeping, packed away Honda 2000i generator doing? I should get it out and fire it up. It also crossed my mind that it might be badly in need of an oil change. 

We bought this inverter style generator in 2014 at Wana Engine Center in Shipshewana, Indiana on our way to Arizona, because this dealer had the best price and it came with a long-range 5 gal. external fuel tank. The supplied fuel hose has also a connector for another fuel hose in case you double up the Honda 2000i with a Honda 2000i Companion to increase the Watts to 4000.
After I had the generator removed from the trailer’s basement during our cold spell of below -14C temps, I transported it into the ice cold and unheated garage to fire it up. First turning the on-off rotary knob to the on position, then flicking the choke to on and after that opening the fuel caps vent, I jerked the starter cord once, twice, three times, and then I lost count. What the heck is wrong with the bugger? I figured I had to stay calm, no swearing and no bad words and to work things out in my mind because there is always a reason for trouble. Normally the generator fires up at the first pull but today it was stubborn. I had not used the generator for a while. The last time it was in use during a power outage after a thunderstorm last summer. The conclusion was to take the generator to my little heated shop, suck the old gas out of the tank and fill in fresh high-octane super gas. Then change the spark plug and give it another try. 
That is what I did and after filling the gas tank with super gasoline and with the new fitted spark plug it took a couple of pulls on the starter cord to bring the generator to life, purring away as it should be. I like to mention that the old motor oil did not look too bad and I replaced it with 10W30 full synthetic motor oil from Castrol.

I have extreme good experience in using synthetic motor oil with our previous “Diesel Duck” Trawler’s main diesel engine and the 3 cyl. - 6KW diesel generator. Synthetic oil keeps a better oil film on cylinder walls after engine shut down, this prevents a dry run with wear at start up, this oil does not thick down in cold weather like mineral based motor oil, it is more slippery and causes less abrasion on internal metal parts of the motor and stays fairly clean and gives the engine a longer lifespan.
Looking at the old spark plug it crossed my mind that I didn’t know how many hours we had used this Honda until now. Trying to count all the overnight stops with the trailer on the road in the winter 14/15 and the stops winter 15/16 – 16/17. Each stop was at least 3 hours of generator use in the evenings for dinner and TV time, plus approximately an hour in the morning for breakfast time, which amounts to 4 hours use at each stop. Oh boy, how many stops did we have plus all the hours we used the generator as a standby during power blackouts over the years here at our house. I could only guess, but definitely too many hours for this engine oil and spark plug. I remembered that I did the recommended initial oil change at the approx. 20 hours with a 10W30 Honda motor oil that we had purchased at Camping World way back in Arizona. 
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an hour meter on the generator like we had on the 3 cyl. 6KW Diesel generator on our trawler was my thought. With an hour meter you don’t have to guess and you know always when an oil change is required or maintenance is due. I have seen small hour meters offered at Honda dealers for sale for this generator and a search on Google showed that Amazon had a pile of offerings of the same product and for a lot less $$. Amazon Hour Meter Link

These hour meters are very easy to install. A wire wraps around the spark plug cable and another is mounted to bolt for ground and the tiny meter is fitted with stick-on tape on the outside of the generator’s housing. These tiny hour meters have a non-changeable battery mounted on the inside. The meter cannot be opened up and the battery shall be good for a lifetime. But reviews mentioned they do have problems and sometimes the lifespan has lasted only 2 years or less.
I opted to use a generator powered hour meter with mechanical counter. Its footprint is a little bigger and it needs a 12-volt or 120-volt supply from the generator to function.

To power up the meter a couple of wires need to be hooked to it from a 12 volt or 120 volt source at the generator.

A meter-mounting hole of 2” must be drilled at a location that has enough clearance to handle the meter’s rear housing with the spade connectors. 

In contrast, these meters are known for not going on the fritz and are very reliable.  Below are pictures of the installation.

I removed the 4 mounting screws from the inverter control panel and flipped it out to access the mounted components. Of interest for me was the 12 volt charging outlet, where I spliced my grey cable with the red and black wire to the 12 volt supply wire, which linked the outlet to the internal rectifier mounted next to starter cord reel. In case you have decided to use a 120 volt hour meter you could use the two free terminal screws of the 120 volt duplex outlet to hook the hour meter supply wire up. (red is the hot wire and the white is the neutral wire)

The top picture shows the mounted 12 volt rectifier location inside the 
maintenance access opening.

The lower picture is a close up of the rectifier. The wire plug is removable. Here you could as well splice into the 12 volt wire to get a 12 volt supply to your 12 volt hour meter. The owner manual has a wiring diagram listed which gives you the color code for the wires.

The top picture shows the proper location for the hour meter with enough space inside 
to house the hour meter.

The picture below is the final picture showing the mounted hour meter ready for action!

Hour Meter Update
The cheap meter that I had installed (above) had a major flaw. It counted too fast. To put it mildly, it counted 10 times faster then the actual time. It would show after a nine hour running time already 90 hours. Oh man, I didn’t want this Honda generator to age that quickly! So I didn’t waste any time returning it to Amazon and ordered instead a digital Bosch 2” diameter hour meter from them. After testing this new Bosch instrument it counted properly to my satisfaction.

I learned again that it does not always pay out to use extreme cheap products.


  1. Great idea Benno, I am going to look into doing the same with ours.

  2. In the past we have only Guessed at how many hours we had run our generator for but your idea would take that away and be very accurate.
    The experts say to run your generator under Full Load at least an hour a month to minimize a Tarnish build up on the armature itself.
    My son showed me use Fuel Stabilizer. By putting some in the Fuel Tank and the Fuel Can keeps the gasoline fresh. If you are using the generator on a regular basis that is not necessary.
    Another great project!
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. I should use fuel stabilizer for future winter gas on the generator, but have the hope to avoid future cold weather, Rick. It's a damn good idea.

  3. Bill, I noticed the tiny meters have a nice yellow coloured meter. It would blend in nicely with your new Champion generator.

  4. Good ideal to have the hour meter, very nice install. Our coach has one on the Onan 5500 , we don't use it lots just enough to exercise it every month or so. Only 684 hours in 19 years does the job though.

  5. Lets face it George, 684 hrs running time in 19 years of your Onan, that is like 6 minutes per day (probably for the toaster), is disgusting ;-)
    Onan is a great product like its parent company Cummins Diesel.

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