Generator Oil Change

In this video, we change the oil in our Northern Lights 12kW generator and discuss related aspects including oil storage, obtaining new oil and disposing of used oil as we travel the world.



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13 comments on “Generator Oil Change
  1. Gary says:

    Hi James Jennifer,

    Nice trick on running the Reverso Pump while changing the oil filter. I always make a mess! Not to hijack the thread but can you comment on exhaust elbow. We are fairly new at some 550 hours on our 12 KW NL (same as Dirona). Many are reporting early failures due to low load operation resulting in carbon fouling and corrosion. Assume you have long ago switched to the upgraded SS elbow? Some have reported having ceramic coated? Your thoughts and input would be much appreciated! (And I know you love the tube bundle end cap design! Now that was a surprise the first time I had to chase a piece of impeller!)

    Thanks, Gary

    • The cast iron parts are very poor and rust through quickly. So quickly, that I would just replace it with stainless steel rather than waiting until it fails. Unfortunately, the stainless parts have uneven quality where some have casting porosity so will leak very early as well. On my relatively small sample, something close to 30% to 40% of the stainless units suffer from this problem and they too need to be replaced. Once you get a stainless elbow without casting porosity, it’ll last years.

      On the last stainless part that I replaced due to casting porosity, I drilled out the leaking pin hole, threaded the hole, and ran in a screw. I’ll give this a try — I suspect it’s a way to make faulty exhaust elbows last well but I’ve not tried it yet.

  2. Carsten Overgaard says:

    Hi Jennifer and James.
    Thank you for your great video. Great pictures, good questions and very good answers!

    As an old racing mechanic, have you thought about the possibility of having dry sump lubrication on the engines? It could have several benefits. In high seas, oil pressure will always be assured. With 2 oil tanks and a manifold, you will be able to change oil without having to stop the engine. I know it will be almost impossible to rebuild your engines, but for future engines maybe? Just a thought.

    Hope You soon can go to new adventures.

    • Dry sump has lots of appeal but most of the advantages aren’t helpful for the generator. Dry sump is a win in race cars because: 1) very high G maneuvers won’t cause oil starvation, 2) engine can be lower in chassis without contacting the road, 3) less wasted power by scavenging oil before it drips down through the moving machinery, and 4) the ability to put the oil anywhere in the car. #2 and #4 don’t matter much in a recreational boat. #1 is only an issue in extreme conditions and it does happen and was the cause of a recent cruise ship total loss of power off the Norwegian coast. So #1 is potentially worth something in a marine engine but extreme conditions are rare and the Viking cruise ship off Norway was running very low oil levels so it probably wouldn’t have been a problem otherwise. #3 matters slightly and it would slightly increase fuel efficiency but the gain would be slight and the additional cost would be fairly high.

      Overall, I would say that dry sump is better than wet sump in almost all applications but the amount that dry sump is better is fairly slight in marine applications and the additional cost is fairly high.

  3. Bob Breen says:

    Another great video! I have that very same generator and will definitely use your tip of running the Reverso while removing the oil filter. I’ve made a much bigger mess no matter how careful I tried to be.

    One question: did you close off the generator’s oil valve to the Reverso once you finished the oil change?

    • Good note on the valve. I did neglect to mention closing it but, if you check the video at 31:22 you’ll see the I get it closed before putting the cover back on. I just neglected to mention I had done it.

  4. Theo A. W. Le Duc says:

    Hey James,
    thank you for posting the video. I always run the gen or engines to operating temperature just before I change the oil… just the make sure the “sludge” is dispersed well. Stay safe.
    We are “locked inn” in Antwerp left bank marina and waiting further “relaxation”.Stay safe. Theo / Ritser

  5. Alex Goodwin says:


    Loved the video, but one thing I noticed when Jennifer dug out the new oil filter – although the original lobbed near the end of the video, where was the spare moggy?

    • Your right, it’s not often we open up a spares cabinet and don’t find spitfire in there pretty quickly. But, on the oil change, he slept through that part of the video (sleeping is his other big skill) and then came down to the engine room later to check on us as we wrapped up the job.

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