The much maligned Harbor Freight Tailgator 700/900W Generator

Discussion in 'Power - Site Power/Batteries/Generators/Solar' started by JimmyM, Jul 2, 2018.

  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    Last year, they were on sale for $88.99 and thought I'd give it a shot. So I got it (#63025) and the 1 year extended warranty.
    Fast forward to last week. 1 Year warranty is almost up. I finally got around to getting it out and breaking it in.
    Generator #1 prep - None. 40:1 pre-mix, a few pulls and it fired up. Ran a little rough (4 stroking) under no load. After about 10 min running I put a Kill-a-watt and a 60W bulb on it. It showed around 61Hz and 118-120V. Great. After a tank running like that, I added a 300W halogen load. Another tank later and it's making a knocking sound. So back to HF for a new one. But did a bunch of research first. Turns out, they also have a #63024 as well. Some reviews say it's a better generator. Probably a different factory. I got that one this time and tried again.
    Generator #2 prep - Remove intake and use a dropper to put 2-cycle oil directly into the main bearing and a few squirts into the bore (behind piston), remove the plug and a little more 2-stroke oil into the combustion chamber. I gave it a few pulls to let the oil move around.
    Genny fired up after a few pulls and smoked for a little while. Which was expected. I ran 1 tank of fuel through it with the 60W lightbulb. Refilled it for another tank and it never started again. Tried everything. Back for generator #3.
    Generator #3 prep - Same as Gen#2 except with the addition of some recommended parts.
    I had ordered a new plug, an inline fuel filter, and an NGK sparkplug boot. The old boot was crap and broke when removing it from the plug.
    Gen #3 (63024) is now in its 3rd tank of gas.
    Observations: This thing is cheap. Castings are cheap, plug boot and connector are cheap. Spotty quality.
    With a light load on it, the roughness smooths out and it runs evenly. It's NOT a quiet generator, but not as bad as you might think. It's not inverter-gen quiet, but not a chainsaw either.
    Below are the parts I ordered.
    Fuel filters: Pretty much any small engine filter will work. The ones I've seen recommended are 150 micron filters. These are 75 micron.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078SZDSYZ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Spark plug: Most recommendations I've seen are for the NGK BP6ES (BPR6ES = resistor plug) I went with the BPR6EIX since it was just a couple $ more and I thought the pointed iridium electrode would better in "iffy" ignition situations.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UK1Y00/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Plug boot: The one I saw recommended was the NGK LB05EP (5 KOhm resistor boot), but since that was also recommended with the non-resistor plug, I ordered the LB01EP boot with only 1 KOhm resistance since the plug I ordered was already a resistor plug.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0018JVQXC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    There you have it. My experiences with the HF Tailgator (sometimes called the Storm Cat)
     
  2. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

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    It sounds like the generator god has pooped in your yard:)
    I purchase a lot of items at HF and mostly I am happy with the items that I buy, but once in a while they turn out bad and the replacement usually works out fine. I bought my 3200kw generator at Lowes on sale and it runs everything I have in the TT and with extra items plugged in, (skill saw etc.) plus it came with a free wheel kit.
    Good Luck and happy camping.
     
  3. Customer

    Customer Well-Known Member

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    I have noticed they rate the generator at 700/900 now, when I bought mine 6 - 7 years ago it was 800/900. The first one had a broken carburetor casting and dumped gas all over. The second one has worked fine since new although it doesn't get frequent use.

    Mine has a higher output than the rating. Even though I replaced the plug it is still hard to start. After started it runs fine.
     
  4. jnc

    jnc Welcome from New Hampshire

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    I have 4 years on mine with about 300 hours of running my Cpap. My niece's boy friend used it for a side Job before I could do a proper breakin Because the one I told him to use was to heavy & he didn't have the money for Propane when he returned it was sounding like it blew a piston While I was screwing with it I noticed that the nose was coming from the Puller. The nut was bouncing around so I did the whole LocTite everywhere and the NGK sparkplug added its been a great little generator.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    If this one survives break-in, I'll be LocTite-ing everything as well. It's been running now for 6+ hours on a 300W load.
    I'd really only use it in an "emergency" while camping. Even during the day, I imagine it would annoy a lot of people. But it's better having a $90 genny sit around unused "just in case" than a $600+ one.
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    Genny ran out of gas just a minute ago. I gave it a splash to see if it would restart. 2 pulls, fired right up. SO I topped it off and will run again tomorrow.
     
  7. xvz12

    xvz12 Well-Known Member

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    Ours is on it's second year now, been on 9 camps with us so far, plus some random use at home, still running on the spark plug it came with. Since it's a cheapy, I've been using it as a guinea pig...been running it with Amsoil at their recommended 80:1 extreme duty mix, just to see how it holds out. It's had roughly 12 gallons of fuel thru it so far, & running fine. I have been running ethanol-free fuel in it ( I do this with all my small engines), & have been adding a fuel stabilizer as recommended by the instruction manual. It got about 15 minutes of free running out of the box, then ran an electric hot plate at full tilt for the remainder of the tank of fuel, I've always been of the school of 'break em in like you're gonna use em'....never been disappointed yet....lol Anyways, it hasn't given me a second's problem....yet, that may change tomorrow....lol.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    I'm just using Valvoline 2-stroke oil at 40:1 right now. I wan't to break it in easy with plenty of lubrication and low load to allow the piston/cylinder to polish instead of scoring. I saw a teardown video after running a few hours from new where there was already scoring on the walls. I'll run it at 50:1 after break-in.
     
  9. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

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    I'll just keep my Honda :)
     
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  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    For what you paid for that thing, I would too!
     
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  11. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    used mine for several winter power outages to keep the fridge and freezer cold. Can operate either one at a time and also either the TV or modem/computer.

    Hard to start, pull out plug let it dry and then it will start, now I have a can of spray and that worked the last time I exercised it.

    Camped with it a couple of times.
     
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    I didn't mean to come across as crass. I mean, I lust after a Honda generator, specifically the eu3000is. But until I can justify the cost to my CFO (DW), I'm going to have to settle for my bargain basement project generator.
     
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  13. Customer

    Customer Well-Known Member

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    Although I have had the HF 800/900 for 6 - 7 years, I have never used it camping. I use it around the house for occasional power tool use. I have a large property that would require way too much extension cord.

    For camping I have two Champion 2000 watt inverter generators.

    Our trailer also has a built in Onan 3600 watt generator.

    We are a four generator household.
     
  14. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

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    If we get a winter power outage here in Minnesota, we just put the food in boxes and put them outside![LOL]
     
  15. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

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    Jimmy - no offense taken! Sometimes I wonder about my $1000 sitting in the corner waiting for the power to go out!
     
  16. ezakoske

    ezakoske Active Member

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    I've had my little HF genny for years with no issues. I just use it to run my battery charger.

    It does rattle a fair amount - I'll have to check the puller to see that is where it's coming from. I searched around a bit to see if I could come up with some sort of muffler for it, but gave up on that pretty quickly.
    Lately, I just use my 100W solar panel that I throw up on the roof when I get to the campsite.
     
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    That's my preferred method, I have a pair of 160w panels. But the sun doesn't always shine. In those cases, I have my Harbor Fright portable sun.
     
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  18. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

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    I have the eu3000is. It is worth lusting for. It replaced a cheap knock off inverter gen that had died.

    I will say this: you can find factory refurbished Hondas for about $800 less. Still get the warranty but at a lower price. My wife loves that it's quiet and will run the A/C.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
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  19. BillyMc

    BillyMc Well-Known Member

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    Contemplating on of these to charge batteries when boon docking.
     
  20. dbhost

    dbhost Active Member

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    I have one of the Talgator generators. the Tailgator item #63024. I got it on coupon sale for something like $85.00. Some thoughts on it.

    #1. It's not the generator I wanted, but it will do. The Generator I want isn't even as high end as the Honda. I am aiming at a Westinghouse iGen 2200 camoflauge. Just a touch over half the cost of the Honda, and from the folks I know that have them, actually seems like a better generator. No faulting Honda here, but that Westinghouse is very quiet, with good clean power output.
    #2. I have less than 1 hour on mine. I followed the manual break in instructions to the letter. 50:1 mix, added the StaBil fuel stabilizer and had at it... Used a dropper and put a couple of drops of 2 stroke oil in the cylinder, and cylced the engine a couple of times with the plug wire still disconnected. It smoked quite a bit on first startup, but once it settled in, it seemed to run pretty well.
    #3. The biggest load I have put on the generator thus far has been a 5amp 5K BTU window AC. And it handled that load just fine.
    #4. The spark plug boot is absolute trash. I've worked on a LOT of engines over the years, and I have never seen anything like this. A normal / proper plug boot is a proper mod for this thing. Sadly the plug wire and coil are an integrated unit, so it needs to be a replacement boot... Looking for a good replacement currently.
    #5. Not sure why everyone says the Torch spark plug is bad. I mean mine works. However I know NGK makes great plugs, so I am planning on swapping out to a BP5ES which I already have, once I get to the auto parts store to get a new gap gauge. I lost mine somehwere...
    #6. The low grade fuel line, and lack of a fuel filter are both major concerns for me. Planning on doing an upgrade on both of those soonest possible. Mind you, I got the 1 year extended warranty with it as it was cheap insurance, so I won't be modding it until that warranty is up...
    #7. Fuel efficiency as compared to the 4 stroke generator I REALLY want is poor. In the long run using this generator, with the cost of added fuel, and 2 cycle mix oil will cost me more than running a 4 stroke inverter generator, but that tipping point is fairly distant, and the added cost per outing is less than the cost of an extra can of soda. For my uses, camping, and emergency power, I will have replaced this generator with that nicer 4 stroke inverter generator, or gone solar long before I reach the tipping point.
    #8. It's been noted that this thing is loud. Hard to describe, it is definately a 2 stroke engine, that gets put under load, but no, it doesn't sound quite like a chain saw. No chain working here you know... In my testing, I made a baffle box of sorts out of rigid foam insulation and duct tape, allowing for ventilation and cooling of course, and ran the generator under load. At a distance of about 25' it is barely noticeable, and that's without anything between you and the generator. The outside unit on my neighbors A.C. is louder than this thing is when it is in that quiet box...

    YES there are a LOT of shortcomings with this generator. But considering this is just about the lowest cost point to get into a generator that will work to run an AC, a Fridge, or a CPAP, it is a useful device for camping, or emergency power. Reliability has definately to be tested yet. However aside from the few this one's a dud reports, for the most part, people are getting good service out of the Tailgator, and its predecessor Storm Cat models...
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
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