When I worked at a RV dealership, every spring our service department was booked with appointments for generators that either wouldn't start, or if they did start they had that all too familiar surging sound. This was a result of letting the generator sit for periods of time without starting and exercising it. Lack of use is one of the biggest problems with generators. In gasoline generators the fuel breaks down and gums up causing hard starting and surging problems. This can happen in as short a period of time as one month.
RV generators are extremely dependable and in many cases will out last the RV if they are properly maintained and cared for. They do not require your constant attention, just some basic maintenance. The first thing you need to understand about maintaining your generator is that they need to be exercised on a regular basis. This applies to gas and diesel generators. Gasoline generators could have fuel related problems in as little as one month of sitting idle. This is one of the biggest problems, but it can easily be prevented if you get in a habit of exercising the generator on a monthly basis.
Some people think that they could avoid this by adding a fuel preservative to the fuel tank and then running the generator long enough to get the preservative through the generator set. You definitely should use a fuel preservative whenever the unit will be in storage, but there are many other reasons to start and exercise the generator on a regular basis. Moisture build up can cause damage to your generator. When you exercise your generator it heats up the generator windings and eliminates this moisture build up. This monthly exercise regime also lubricates all of the engine seals and components and helps to prevent carbon build up.
So, what exactly do I mean when I say exercise your generator? For a gasoline generator I mean that you start and run the generator with at least a 50 percent load for at least two hours every month. It is extremely important that you run it with this minimum rated load. Generators are designed to run with a load placed on them. Our motor home has a 4,000 watt generator so I can either turn the roof air conditioner on in the summer time, which is about 2,000 watts or I can use a couple of small portable electric heaters if it's cold out. It's always better to let your generator run for longer periods than it is for short periods. Check your generator owner's manual for load ratings specific to your unit.
Other maintenance intervals for generators are based on usage. Your generator set will have an hour meter so you can monitor the usage. Consult your owner's manual for maintenance intervals.
The bottom line is, do not hesitate to use your generator and when you do use it put a load on it. A little exercise and preventive maintenance will keep you generator in top operating condition and provide many years of faithful service