Thursday, February 20, 2014

Riverwalkers Gear Review - The Predator 4000 Generator from Harbor Freight Tools

If the grid goes down for more than a few hours, you could wind up suffering a bigger loss than your lights or TV. That fridge or freezer full of food items can be a total loss if you don’t have a means of auxiliary power to protect your food investment. If the power stays off for an extended period of time, you will probably need a portable generator to prevent a catastrophic loss.

The Predator 4000 generator from Harbor Freight Tools has received a lot of very positive reviews from numerous individuals. This made the Harbor Freight 4000 peak/3200 running watts-6.5 hp (212cc) gas generator #69676 an excellent choice for a survival gear review. 

Here is a list of the Predator 4000 generator main features:

212cc 6.5 HP air-cooled OHV gas engine

10 hours run-time @ 50% capacity

Low oil indicator and low oil shutdown

Heavy duty 1" steel roll cage

UL listed circuit breakers

Recoil start

Four 120 volt, 20 amp grounded receptacles

One 240 volt, 30 amp grounded receptacle

One 12 volt DC cigarette lighter port

First Impressions

1.) The generator unit I received arrived in a very timely fashion in only 7 days. The shipping time was estimated at 7 to 10 days. This was within the time frame specified.

2.) Straight out of the box I was very impressed by the fit and finish of the Predator 4000 Generator. A check for sharp edges, loose bolts or missing parts turned up negative. The paint job was excellent and exhibited no major flaws or defects.

3,) It also came with a small tool kit (Philips head screwdriver, spark plug wrench and an open end wrench), an Instruction Manual and a Quick Start Guide.

Straight out of the box this unit gets a solid 5 star rating.

Operational and Maintenance Features

One of the most important things about a piece of equipment is its ease of operation and the ability to perform routine maintenance in an easy and simple manner. The Predator 4000 Generator comes out very “user friendly” in this regard with only one exception.

1.) The Fuel Tank - The top-mounted fuel tank with a capacity of four gallons makes refueling an easy task. It includes a tank vent, top-mounted fuel gauge, a debris strainer and a large fuel cap with a retention chain. The large opening on the fuel tank made fueling the generator a very quick and simple process. 

2.) The Control Panel - The On/Off switch, the outlet receptacles, circuit breakers and low oil warning light are all located in a panel on the front side of the unit. This keeps everything together and makes it easy to access and check.

3.) The Spark Plug, Air Filter and Carburetor - The spark plug is easy to access and can be cleaned or changed easily with the spark plug wrench supplied in the tool kit that came with the unit. The air filter on this generator (foam) was easy to access without additional tools, very simple to clean (soap and water) and then re-install. The carburetor also included a drain plug to assist with long term storage. This makes the maintenance of these items a simple task without any extra hassle. 

4.) Oil Fill and Drain - This is the exception when it comes to operation and maintenance of this generator. Access to the oil fill plug is somewhat of a hassle. You will need a funnel with a long “flexible” spout or an oil squirt can (my choice) to add oil to the unit. Draining the oil also requires the unit to be tilted. This is something that could be easily corrected with the addition of an oil drain plug to the engine.

Overall, I would rate the operation and maintenance of this generator 4 out of 5 stars. While the majority of operation and maintenance is a simple task, the process of filling and changing the oil is simply not as “user friendly” as it could be for what will most likely be a fairly frequent task.

The Load Test

After filling the generator with the required amount of oil (approximately 3/4 quart or .6 liter) and adding approximately 2 1/2 gallons (half a tank by the fuel gauge) of treated fuel with a stabilizer additive, it was time to pull the handle and crank this new generator up. 

1.) Light Load - The unit cranked on the third pull and the engine smoothed out very quickly in less than a minute. It was allowed to operate about 15 minutes without a load. It was then shut down and re-started. It cranked on the first pull and was allowed to run about 5 minutes before a light load was applied.

A small lamp was hooked up to the init and worked well with no noticeable increase in the load on the generator. All power outlets on the unit were then checked and found to be functioning properly. The generator was run with this light load for approximately 45 minutes.

An LP14-30 cord was then connected and a light load used to check the four prong outlet on the generator. This was also found to be operating correctly.

2.) Heavy Load - A heavy load was not placed on the unit because the unit requires a break-in time of about 3 hours and was only operated about 2 hours during this initial use. 

Here is an update with the results of a heavy load test and the installation of a wheel kit: 

Final Impressions

1.) The Predator 4000 Generator is a very “user friendly” piece of equipment and all features worked properly.

2.) Its cost is relatively inexpensive and can be found on sale frequently which makes it an even better buy. The fit and finish of this generator was also excellent straight out of the box.

3.) Most of the operation and maintenance chores on this generator are easy to accomplish. The only exception is the oil fill and drain issues noted previously.

4.) The generator unit is heavy (128 pounds). Unless you are planning a more permanent installation, you will probably need to order the wheel kit that is available for this generator. This will make moving it to various locations an easier task.

5.) You also need to add a torpedo level to the tool kit. This will allow you to check the level of the unit. Units that are not level can cause problems with the low oil shutdown feature or affect how efficiently fuel feeds from the gas tank.

6.) Make sure to read the Owner's Manual and Instructions prior to operating this unit.

The Predator 4000 Generator makes an excellent and very affordable addition to your preparedness gear.

Got generator?

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

That bolt beside the oil fill is a drain plug. These chinese engines are exact replicas of the trusty Honda design.

Ken said...

...a fishin' pal bought that same genny before one of the ice storms in december...he has used and abused it(i know for a fact he didn't read the manual, or break it in) so far so good, we used it in his shop last weekend...

riverwalker said...

To: anon 6:12

I thought that might be the case. When I tried to remove the bolt to check it, it was awful tight and I didn't want to strip it.

Will try again later. Thanks for the tip anon.


riverwalker said...

To: Ken

I have a tendecy to be pretty rough on my equipment...I expect it to do the job it was made for.

I usually try to follow break-in guides because it seems to help my equipment life.

Thanks Ken.


Anonymous said...

I've avoided the generator buy because of several reasons: 1) Having one would likely make me a future target of looters, 2) No space to store it or the fuel, 3) ethanol fuels are really a pain to store because of damage caused by old fuel. But due to many electrical brown / blackouts which now occur even when 'nothing' occurs, the concept of owning one is becoming more crucial.

Thanks for the review - it does sound like a good piece of equipment. The other considered (Honda EU2000i) was just too expensive for my budget.

riverwalker said...

To: anon 7:19

It does seem like our current infrastructure is not holding up as well as it did in the past (age?).

Losing power seems more like a regular occurrence...even during the regular thunderstorms in my area.

The Honda units are pricey and can run 2 to 3 times the cost. Even if I only get a single use out of this generator, it will save me more in food dollars than its cost.

I plan to do an update later. I've got a wheel kit coming and still want to do a heavy load test before the thunderboomers start rolling in.

Thanks anon.


Anonymous said...

I haven't tried the gennie,but I did buy the same engine to replace one on a roto tiller.I wasn't sure what to expect,but I broke it in,on syn oil,let it run an hour and mounted it.Purred like a kitten and started on the second pull every time! Reading the reveiws,I saw a few with issues,but I liked my engine.And the pull starter is removeable,to rotate it to a better position,I had to for the tiller.
Dean in az

riverwalker said...

To: Dean in az

Thanks for the tip about being able to rotate the pull starter on this type of engine.


Anonymous said...

i'll add... replace the factory spark plug with a NGK from napa- and buy a couple more for backups

Unknown said...

I have noticed that the Predator never displays the noise output level. Most small generators do and more expensive generators do also. Anyone know the noise output of the 4000?

riverwalker said...

To: Gary Malara

The noise level at operating conditions is generally about 70 decibels or the equivalent of the noise made by a small vacuum cleaner. Hope this helps.


Anonymous said...

That chrome looking "bolt" on the bottom of the crankcase to the left of the "26" stamp on your generator on the same side as the fill and dip stick is an oil drain plug. Pull that, and no need to tilt the unit to drain the oil.

captainthumper said...

Generators supply power and the second amendment should take care of your looting concerns. Or if your a bleeding heart? A dog is always an option.

Anonymous said...

To combat the Fuel Issue-- I always use PREMIUM gasoline and add stable.
You could always use RECREATIONAL GRADE Ethanol. Find it in towns that t are near lakes,etc....

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to inform you. Premium fuel has higher octane and on small engines such as this could actually cause "detonation" and destroy the engine. Most small engines cannot handle it. It is also not helping your car unless your car specifically requires it. Very high compression engines such as Corvette, etc. Otherwise stay away! Premium fuel was designed for "premium" engines only!

Anonymous said...

Premium fuel does the opposite of causing detonation, whether your engine is high or low compression. All you do is loose a small amount of power due to the lower volatility of the higher octane fuel.

Unknown said...

modern gas engines do not require any break in procedures. I have two new unused Honda generators new in the box waiting for some reason to put gas in it.

Unknown said...

So I am no expert on gasoline but I do buy those 1 quart cans of small engine 4 cycle fuel. For use in chainsaws and snow throwers it's affordable. I can't get ethanol free gas in my area. I used this fuel to break in my generator before modifying to trifuel. The point of this email is that the octane is 92 and higher. As this is made for small engines, I don't believe the high octane is a problem. I was under the impression that stabilizer was not needed for this fuel but in fact, after about 1 year I had to drain all the gas out because it would not start. It started immediately with fresh fuel. I am in process of finding a kit to convert to trifuel. This way I can use proprane or run it off natural gas.

Ian Overton said...

What kind of oil did you use? I didn't see a recommendation of one kind or another in the manual. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I use AC Delco 10-W 30 in my predator.

Anonymous said...

I'm homeless and live off my predator 4000 I bought it used and I've been running 24/7 for about 7 months now I change my oil 20 w50 evey 4 or 5 days don't turn it off to give gas stays running TV AC fans microwave ps3 lights runs it all no problem still starts first pull if it don't change spark plug

Anonymous said...

Damn dude you livin in a modified school bus house or what?


Nice blog, thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

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