How to Replace the Fuel Pump and Fuel Filter on an Onan Model 5500 RV Generator
RV Generators Require Maintenance
Having a functioning power generator in your RV is so convenient for the owner that most motorhome owners, especially, cannot imagine not having one for their travels.
But, of course, a generator, being a mechanical device, requires maintenance and care at times. And all mechanical devices will eventually break down, even if they are maintained properly.
So every RV owner who has a generator should be prepared to have certain things go bad.
When My RV Generator Died
Recently, my generator stopped operating on me. It had a little over 500 hours on the meter, but it had always been maintained properly.
It had been running fine, until it stopped running. I could crank it, but it would not fire up at all.
I had to fix this, of course, so I did some troubleshooting. I suspected it had a bad fuel pump, since this is a common problem with generators, but I had to do some investigation to confirm my suspicion.
Troubleshooting My RV Generator
To find out what was wrong with my generator, I went through a thorough troubleshooting procedure, and eventually confirmed that the fuel pump on my generator was bad.
During my diagnostics, I removed the cover of the generator and determined, among other things, that:
- There were no loose connections visible.
- There were no leaking fluids.
- The motor had oil in the reservoir.
- The DC power source was good.
- The fuel filter was clean.
The first step in troubleshooting just about anything is to remove the obvious things from the list of potential problems.
Finding the Fuel Pump
And I discovered one other thing: On my generator, an Onan model built for motorhomes, they didn't put the fuel pump inside the generator compartment.
Rather, for some unknown reason, they decided to mount the fuel pump and the fuel line filter onto the underside of the generator base plate.
I should note here that over the years, these generator manufacturers can change their designs numerous times.
They might make a core generator, like my 5500-watt model, and then have a dozen or more configurations of the basic generator to fit numerous applications.
For instance, where mine is set up for my motorhome, the same core generator unit might also be configured as a portable model on wheels, a home backup power source, a remotely-controlled model for remote site backup power, or any of dozens of other special applications.
In these specialty designs, peripheral parts like the fuel pump, fuel filter, carburetor, air filter, and oil drain and input, can take different forms, or, as is often the case, be mounted in different positions.
The position of the fuel pump and fuel filter on my RV though meant that to replace the fuel pump, or even just to replace the fuel filter, you had to get under the RV and work while lying on your back. I didn’t like this, but it was what had to be done.
Ordering the Fuel Pump and Fuel Filter
I decided to replace both the fuel pump and the fuel filter, as people often do, because they are mounted close to one another and are cheap, and I wanted to make absolutely sure that I replaced whatever was causing the problem.
One of the great things about having a smartphone is that you always have a good camera on hand. So, even before I looked at the generator manual, I crawled under my RV and took several pictures of the fuel pump and the fuel filter that showed the labels as well as how they were mounted.
Back home, I sat down with my specific part numbers and pictures and shopped the web for the best deal on the parts I needed.
It turned out that Amazon gave me the best price and I was able to get free shipping within five days of placing the order. When I finally received my parts, it was time to install them and get my generator running again.
Installing the New Parts
Here is where I must mention that when you work on a machine like a gas-powered generator, there are certain safety procedures you should follow.
I disconnected the 12-V DC to the generator, shut off the fuel lines, and I also followed the other manufacturer requirements listed in the owners manual.
Once all of this was done, I was ready to perform the actual replacement.
By looking at the pictures I had taken, I was able to determine the tools I would need for this job:
- Flat-blade screwdriver (for the hose clamps)
- Crescent wrench (for disassembling the fuel pump and fuel filter from each other)
- 5/16 socket and wrench set (for the two bolts that held the fuel pump to the base plate)
- 1/4-inch diameter wood dowel (or other device, to plug the fuel line from the fuel tank)
- A short piece of plumber’s tape (to assure a good seal between the fuel pump and the filter)
Knowing this ahead of time allowed me to take to my RV only the tools I would need, not a huge toolbox full of tools.
Fuel Pump and Fuel Filter Replacement Procedure
Since in my case the fuel pump and the fuel filter were on the underside of the generator, I checked and saw that there were only two things I had to disconnect on the upper side of the generator:
- the two wires that provided power to the fuel pump,
- and the actual output fuel line from the fuel pump to the input of the fuel cut-off valve that is inline to the carburetor of the generator.
So, the very first thing I did was disconnect these two wires and this fuel line.
- Then I crawled under the RV, removed the fuel line from the fuel filter, and stuck a piece of the wood dowel into the hose to prevent it from dripping onto the ground and me.
- I then removed the two screws that held the fuel pump in place with the socket wrench.
- Carefully, I pulled down the two wires and the fuel line with the fuel pump-fuel filter combination attached, and with this assembly in hand, crawled out from under the RV.
- I assembled the new fuel filter onto the new fuel pump making sure that the connection was sealed well with a piece of plumber’s tape.
- I pulled the short piece of fuel line off of the output of the old fuel pump and attached it to the output of the new fuel pump, using the same hose clamp.
- I took the time and compared the two assemblies to make sure they were essentially the same dimensions and that the new one should fit properly.
- I crawled back under the RV and fed the two wires and the fuel hose up and through the gap through which I had removed them.
- I then mounted the new fuel pump where the other one had been, with the same bolts.
- I connected the fuel line from the fuel tank to the input of the new fuel filter and reused the same hose clamp on this.
- Then, checking that everything fit properly and was firmly mounted, I crawled back out from under the RV.
- All that remained now was for me to reconnect the two wires, and then slip the end of the hose from the fuel pump onto the input connection of the cut-off valve. I reused the same hose clamp on the hose connection.
- Having had finished the replacement of the fuel pump and fuel filter without incident, I reconnected the 12-V DC, and got ready to test how the generator worked with the replacement parts.
Testing the Generator
I was now ready to run a quick test on the generator to assure that my new parts had solved the problem and the generator was now operating properly.
Using the two-position switch that is installed with my generator (with a parallel one on the RV dash), I pressed the lower section and primed the generator. Do see the operator's manual if you are not familiar with this commonly-used switch. I noted that the pump was making a sound and vibrating.
Then I pressed the other side of the switch to start the generator, After a couple of seconds of cranking, the generator fired up and started idling.
I then let the generator run for almost ten minutes.
Because it was running evenly after that period of time, I went inside and checked that my RV's power control panel indicated that I had 50-amp service and that power was available for ALL of my AC appliances.
I then turned on one of my air conditioners, to check the generator under a load—the air conditioner uses a lot of power— and after the AC had cycled and was running properly, I went outside and watched my generator run for a couple of more minutes as the overall load shifted on and off with the AC compressor.
Since the generator seemed to be operating properly after several minutes under a load, I pronounced my task done.
I went inside, shut down the AC, and turned off the generator. I was now ready for my next trip confident that I had a functional AC generator in my RV ready to provide me with the comforts I am used to.
How to Troubleshoot an Onan Gas RV Generator
Onan 5500 RV Generator Maintenance
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Don Bobbitt