How To Start Generator Without A Battery (Explained)

The lights flickered briefly and then total darkness and quiet. One by one, you hear standby generators start-up and the lights at some of the neighborhood houses coming back on.

You put your headlamp on and trudge out to the shed where you store your generator. At the push of the start button, there is no response. The starter battery is dead. What now?

  • Remove the flywheel cover.
  • Fit a socket that will fit the flywheel nut to your power drill
  • Set the drill direction clockwise
  • Open the fuel valve and choke
  • Engage the socket and apply power to the drill to spin the engine
  • When the engine fires up, pull the power drill off the wheel nut

Using a power drill to start up your generator is not without risk. You need to disengage the socket from the flywheel nut or risk the engine spinning the drill out of your hands.

You could also fashion a pull cord to wrap around the flywheel pulley and pull-start the generator. Let’s look at both methods in more detail.

Two men starting a generator on a roof

What Is The Safest To Start A Generator With A Dead Battery?

Even when you regularly start your generator for monthly checks and maintenance, be prepared for the eventuality of having to start it when the battery is dead and will not turn the starter motor.

  • Find a length of cord about four feet long.
  • Knot the one end and tie a pull handle to the other end
  • Remove the flywheel cover, open the fuel valve, and set the choke
  • Fit the knot to the notch on the flywheel and wind the rope in a clockwise manner
  • Pull the cord to turn the engine and fire up

Most generators have built-in redundancy to be started manually if the starter battery is dead. A manual pull start is often fitted to the generator in such situations.

In the event that the generator is not fitted with a pull cord starter, the flywheel will be notched to accept as pull rope.


Once you have removed the flywheel cover with an appropriate socket, you will see the flywheel, and you should have a notch cut into the flywheel flange with space to wind a pull cord onto.

Should the flywheel not be notched, you will have to follow the power drill method to turn the engine over to start.

A knot at one end of the rope must fit snugly into the notch in the flywheel flange, allowing you to wind about three feet of rope around the flange.

Power Cord

Tie the other end of the rope to a dowel to enable you to pull the cord with some force. Open up the fuel valve and set the choke for a cold start.

Pull the cord powerfully to get the flywheel to turn the engine over and kick into life. If your first attempts fail, repeat the windup and pull until the engine sputters to life, and you can adjust the choke to allow for optimal engine running.

Let the engine warm up for no longer than five minutes before connecting the generator to a load.

Keep the flywheel cover and attachment bolts safely stored. The open flywheel presents a danger, and you should not attempt to replace the cover with the engine running. Make sure that children and other adults are aware of the open flywheel and its danger.

Can I Use A Power Drill To Start Up The Generator?

Using a socket extension fitted with the correct size socket connected to your power drill can turn the flywheel nut of the generator to start the engine.

As soon as the engine fires to life and starts spinning the flywheel, the risk exists that the power drill is wrenched from your hands.

As soon as the engine fires up, you need to be ready to pull the socket connected to the flywheel nut away quickly. The torque of the engine will twist the power drill out of your hands.

You could hurt your wrists and even break a thumb if you are not careful. To reduce the risk of injury, you should test this technique to start the generator in a non-emergency situation.

You could invest in a directional clutch-type socket connector that will spin freely once the engine has fired up and not transfer any torque to the power drill.

The alternative is to maintain the battery on the generator every month and check that your generator is always ready to fire up.

How To Start A Generator In Three Ways?

The generator is designed to be started using the electrically powered started motor, fitted pull cord, or a temporary pull cord via the notch in the flywheel.

You can also use a battery-powered drill set to its highest torque setting to connect to the flywheel nut via a socket extension and socket connector.

The engineering concept of redundancy is building or preparing methods to perform a task when the primary or secondary methods fail.

A generator fitted with a starter motor and battery has a notched flywheel to enable the pull cord to start the engine in case the battery is dead.

The engineers designing the generator realized that there might be occasions when a battery is discharged. They cannot turn the starter motor on the generator to fire up the engine.

The flywheel cover may be fitted with a pull cord to use in such instances. The flywheel will still be notched to accept a temporary pull cord if no pull cord exists.

To start the engine, you need to rotate the flywheel for several revolutions to allow the piston to draw in the air-fuel mixture and for the magneto to provide a spark at the sparkplug to ignite the first combustion cycle.

If the engine fires up the rotation of the engine will impart spin to the flywheel and help the engine to keep running.

The power drill method presents the risk of kick-back once the engine fires up and starts rotating. You need to practice this method or buy a special directional clutch fitted socket connector that will prevent the engine’s torque from applying torque to the power drill.


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