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Generators & Electric Motors General Discussion

Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

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Old 11-02-2019, 01:34:06 PM
SoCal Dave SoCal Dave is offline
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Default Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

Good morning to all. First post here. I joined the forum looking for advice on generators, however, my advice that I am seeking is slightly different that most first time posters.

In 2006, I purchased a new, inexpensive home portable generator to get me through hurricane season in Louisiana. Its a Coleman Powermate, 5k running, 6250 max, with a 10hp B&S engine. GenPower 305, 10Hp. The endbell / generator head is labeled Coleman Powermate PM0545003, and it uses diodes and a capacitor to feed the brushes and to excite the generator (no AVR regulation). The endbell looks like the old AgTronic endbells I see reference to as I search Smokstak. As I physically inspect the endbell internal wiring, the wiring diagram is very close to what I see for the AgTronic, and only differs in the connections to the 240v L14-20 twistlock outlet on the endbell.

Recently, I've used the Coleman to provide power while SCE an PG&E turn us off due to fire danger. I've put about 25 hours run time on the Coleman this past week, which for a 13 year old unit that has only seen about 100 hours, and is now seeing extensive use and is being loaded up to near full capacity...its a bit concerning to me.

I've got spares for what I can find (capacitor, brushes), but am concerned because the entire endbell and other major parts are no longer available in case something goes wrong. I am aware of the Achilles heel of this generator (the endbell bearing). I am currently in the middle of giving the endbell a good once over and making sure everything is still good. Bearing tapped out, cleaned and regreased...its still perfect and the endbell has not spun.

Now the question. Is there anything worthwhile doing to this cheap endbell or to the entire setup to make it a bit more rugged? Brushes are at about 80% length compared to new. The 130uf cap tests at 124uf and is not bulged. Bearing is perfect and regreased. I have a spare set of brushes and a new replacement capacitor (220uf and not the 130uf that was in it). Not sure if any upgrades are available to the generator / endbell end, or if the original configuration is pretty much the best it can do. My guess is that its simply not worth it and continue to run it at or below its rated capacity, hence the question...everyone here and their combined experience is exactly why I am here, asking the right people. Fortunately, the electrical loads I have in my home are not too picky about power quality and the Coleman seems to power them just fine. I am monitoring the electrical output with a Fluke 117, so I can see voltage and frequency quite easily and watch the voltage / frequency sag with ever increasing loads, which is why at some point, I am considering getting a heavier duty genset. (Love the idea of a 7.5JB Onan if I can find one or a good condition MEP803A as my needs are now more dedicated to this home and not so much on portability). That is still some time out however.

Second question. I'd like to get a manual transfer switch set up now that will work with the existing Coleman, but more importantly, work with an MEP or Onan JB/JC in the future. I am NOT looking for an automatic transfer switch because I want to be physically present to start the genset and make the switch to backup power manually. Looking for some suggestions of a manual transfer switch that works with what I have now, and what I want to use going forward. The coleman is a floating neutral setup and not neutral bonded, but could be easily converted to bonded if needed.

Any and all comments welcome and appreciated. I've spent several days going through numerous posts on here...fantastic forum that is exactly up my alley.

Unrelated to the question but related to the Coleman, since my Coleman is working perfectly, I took the opportunity to take some resistance measurements of the stator and rotor windings, so I have those for future troubleshooting. Hopefully I wont need it, but if anyone has an old unit like this looking for ohm readings from a working unit for troubleshooting, I can help. I can also take closeup/sharp pictures if needed.

Long winded two questions, but I dont think you can be too long winded when you're talking details that require long term plans.

Thank you to all,
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:00:56 PM
Wayne 440 Wayne 440 is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

IMHO, you have done about all you can for that Coleman. Most of those lawn mower engine sets are good for about 80% of whatever they are rated for so pretend that it says "4000 watts" on the sticker instead of "5000", keep the oil full and changed, and you will probably get by OK until you can find a larger set you like better. You may want to get the correct value spare capacitor, since that is essentially the voltage regulation.

For a manual transfer switch, I like switches with blades I can see. They cost more than some other schemes, but I like seeing air between those contacts.
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:09:08 PM
AlanR AlanR is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

Depending on your present breaker panel, you MAY be able to get a generator interlock kit - basically, you install a breaker in the panel that is fed FROM the generator, and an interlock piece that will not let you turn that breaker on if the main breaker is on. For example,

Keep babying that Coleman while looking for something more appropriate - and DO get the correct value spare capacitor, most of your appliances wouldn't like the voltage they'd see with the one you have now.

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Old 11-03-2019, 12:41:42 AM
turtmaster turtmaster is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

Alan, the caps on the brushed Coleman sets, are just polarized electrolytics, used for filtering/smoothing the DC to the brushes, not for voltage control like the standard cap excited sets, these coleman sets are basically wired like a Chinese "ST" generator head.
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Old 11-03-2019, 02:04:24 AM
DesertRider DesertRider is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

If it does what you need keep running that Coleman while you look for a replacement. Generators are a real easy sell right now here in the land of public safety power shutoffs. It should last longer than you might think, but not if you try to run it 24/7 at a full 5kw.

I would have loved to get something like a 7.5JB. Talk about "lasts forever." I couldn't find anything like that or the MEP803A for a resonable price. Those things are way to heavy for me to deal with anyhow. I did find a Kohler 7000 RV until and paid $100 for it. It was bad enough loading in my truck solo and it's only about 340 pounds. Not being a stationary setup I'm building an enclosure and I'll do a natural gas conversion. All that makes the $100 purchase insignificant. I hope to get 6kw on natural gas and it should be able to deal with 24/7 for at least a few days at a time.

Here in California we tend to have combination meter and main panel setups. This makes any transfer switch a more expensive proposition. My building dept will not allow for the meter load wires to be run to a transfer switch and then back to the main breaker. That means any transfer switch requires a "critical loads" subpanel. This makes for more equipment and man hours to move the circuits to that subpanel. I don't know if that applies in Kern county or Tehachapi if you are in the city limits.

That makes the panel interlock kits much more attractive. It's the route I'll be pursuing. Much less expensive. If you will be having the work done by an electrician, its a few hundred vs a thousand or two. You just need a relatively modern panel that has an available interlock kit.
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Old 11-04-2019, 12:41:13 PM
dkamp dkamp is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

I'll second the motion on panel interlock kits - they're a low-cost, extreme-reliable solution for a person who's capable of managing manual operation of their backup power.

When you do this, if you continue using a 'portable' generator, it would be wise to consider using a 50A (RV-type) 'plug' receptacle, so that you can roll out one deceased generator, and roll in a replacement. When you go to a more serious machine, you can reconfigure it for direct feed as you see fit.

The key indicators of a 'durable' generator, start with engine speed. Most small, light duty units run at 3600rpm... synchronous speed of a single-pole generator to a 60cycle line. A heavier unit will slow that down to 1800rpm (4 pole) or even 1200rpm (6 pole).

I have some small portables at 3600, but the ones powering my house during long winter ice storms run slower. The 'small' one in my gen shed is a late '50's 6.5 Kohler, running the L600 4-cylinder liquid cooled. The 'medium' is an early '40's 12.5kw with a 140ci 4-cylinder Waukesha running 1200rpm. The 'big' one is a late '50's Kato twisted by a 338ci Hercules inline six at 1200rpm. They all run off a common gaseous propane feed from two 1000-gallon tanks.

The big one feeds an automatic transfer switch. If I'm not home, and something goes wrong, all the family needs to do is open the hand-valve, flip the switch, and push a button, and the whole farm comes up like nothing ever happened.

The two small ones feed a selector panel- contactors wired to interlock eachother out... and whichever one is live first, is connected to a backfeed breaker on my farm's main supply panel. Main power to the farm comes in through the main (which has interlock kit), and goes to individual breakers for each building. I have an additional breaker for backfeed, that's linked through the interlock, so when I'm running the small generators, I can shut off any buildings I don't need, throw the main, slide the interlock, throw the backfeed, and I'm running on smaller-generator power.

I generally run the 6.5 for most circumstances, but if there's cooking to be done, or laundry, etc., I'll switch on the 12kw... and if SHE wants both the stove and dryer, I go big.

What you choose, and how you choose to do it, should first and foremost be tailored to what you have available for fuel. If you have NG to your property, or you're rural enough to have propane, these two choices solve some critical logistical challenges. Carrying gas cans, and storing it, can be problematic. Having full gas cans sitting around, particularly when there's wild fires, is rather bad. Diesel stores better, and is less volatile, and if you're not in extreme cold, presents no cold-start problems... but still... a wildfire is a wildfire... and when power goes out, many gas stations can't accept fuel deliveries or dispense fuel...

Municipal natural gas is a good option, so long as the 'booster compressors' along the NG feeders are self-powered, rather than electric-utility powered. Natural gas in areas to the west of you are often challenged by tectonic shift- earthquakes and fault lines will often result in a line being shut down, merely out of safety precaution. IF you're rural enough to have bulk propane as an option, it never goes bad, and it burns really clean... and lack of power will never 'shut it off'. Getting a bulk tank MAY be complicated by municipal or county rules up there, but probably not as much as down in Bakersfield. IF you choose to go propane, and can run a 125 gallon tank, national gas code allows it to be closer to buildings than a 250+ tank... I'd advise you keep it farther away, and in an area barren of combustables, and either install it underground, or put a metal fence around it about 5 feet or so, to keep wind blown weeds and debris from getting packed up under it... a passing fire won't heat it enough to cause problems, but having combustible materials UNDER it would be very undesireable.

I always recommend that a real emergency generator be located inside a protective shelter so that it's protected from the elements, AND you can work on it in relative safety during inclement circumstances. It also helps contain noise...

but if you're on a small lot, with a 2-car attached garage, you have to make your system so it fits your circumstances AND does what it needs to do.

I have a buddy who lives in a place where grass and brush-fires pass through regularly. His house has a stucco exterior and steel roof. He's got a perforated stainless-steel pipe running across the peak of the house roof, and another on his horse barn and the detached shop where his emergency generator is, and a quartet of broadcast sprayers around his propane tank. He's got fire sensors placed at regular intervals on the fenceline surrounding his lot... When the fire alarms go off, the emergency generator starts, and drives a well pump that sprays everything down with water as the fires pass through. it leaves an untouched path around his buildings, horses, and shop.
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Old 11-11-2019, 05:41:20 PM
bsf bsf is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

I am not aware of anything simple that can be done to improve the endbell reliability. Just keep the bearing lubricated.

Coleman acquired Ag-Tronic to enter the portable generator market in ~1985 or ~1986. That is why the endbells look similar. I do not suggest putting much money into your Powermate. Sounds like you are on a good path already.

If you can snag a cheap endbell on ebay or from a locally-purchased “for parts” Powemate generator, consider doing that. Though there is a ton of endbell interchangeability among Ag-Tronic and Powermates, they are definitely not universal.

I know a bit about the older ones as I have a later (1985) Ag-Tronic 5kw unit w/ electric start I “upgraded” a bit w/ parts from a non-running Powermate and other sources. Some spare parts you did not mention that I stock include the following: push to reset breakers; fuel shutoff valve; fuel filters; carb rebuild kit; spark plug; diodes (rectifying). If your endbell has a rectifying board, ignore the diodes.

Concerning connection to premises wiring: as far as I know all older powermate and Ag-Tronic generators have bonded neutrals. For safety, please match your generator to your code-compliant connection equipment. Ag-Tronic and Powermate endbells can be rewired for floating neutral (I did), which is required for the budget, interlock connection options.

Good luck, and feel free to update us with additional info.
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Old 11-13-2019, 07:58:36 PM
SoCal Dave SoCal Dave is offline
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Default Re: Coleman Powermate (2006 vintage) upgrades?

First, thanks to all who have replied. I appreciate the comments and all duly noted. Sounds like the consensus is to not spend too much more money on the Coleman, which I feel is good advice.

In reading around on Smokstak the past few weeks, I've seen that these types of cheap generators are really made to a price point, without a lot of extras and goodies. This Coleman is very much in the same category. There is no easy way to see what the voltage the generator is producing much less the frequency. So instead of worrying about any endbell upgrades, what I have done is to spent a few dollars on metering.

First order was to put on a cheap "tinytach". Now I can see the RPM the engine is running at, which is a nice improvement over not knowing what the engine is doing. This particular version is a tach, hour meter, and a service reminder. I picked this one because it has the ability to do all of the above, plus the display can be turned off so its not wasting battery power while the unit is stored away. Pressing and holding the two buttons on the meter powers it off. On engine start, it automatically powers up and shows RPM. Purchased on Amazon for about 10 dollars, model RL-HM011F.

Second, I added a similar cheap volt/frequency meter so I can monitor voltage and frequency. Amazon LM YN Digital AC Voltmeter, was about 15 dollars. Note that not all of the meters I found on Amazon can read the actual frequency (in other words, the 50hz or 60hz indication on some meters is a "placeholder" and does not show actual frequency). This meter does show actual frequency. Read the user reviews and questions to be sure. The accuracy of this meter seems to be plenty good enough as compared to my Fluke 85 meter. Certainly good enough for this application.

Now that I can see RPM, frequency and voltage, I finally realized how much of a pain in the arse this genset is to adjust frequency. B&S has you bend the tab that the governor spring is attached to, one way or the other, to raise or lower engine speed and frequency. I know that fancier units have the ability to easily do this adjustment, just not this one. I spent about an hour sitting and staring at what could be done to make this easier and came up with a solution. I envisioned a simple threaded rod could be added to a movable lever that would allow me to make on the fly adjustments easily. I spent about an hour fabbing up the new governor adjustment arm and working on the geometry of the adjustment rod. Some scrap aluminum angle, a 10-24 piece of allthread rod and matching nuts and a knob are all that was required. I did have to move the low oil sensor to the underside of the governor plate as its current location was right were I wanted to put the adjustment rod. The oil sensor was relocated under the governor plate.

The adjustment arm pivots on the existing screw that holds down the governor plate. The new governor arm pivot hole is drilled slightly bigger than the diameter of the screw securing it, so it can rotate freely. The screw was coated with red locktite and snugged on the arm, then backed off a half turn to allow the arm to pivot. A 10-24 threaded rod screws into a brass nut that I brazed on the aluminum arm, which provides for adjustability. The rod is "secured" to the governor plate with nylock nuts on either side and as an added safety measure, I added jamnuts to prevent any possible backing out of the nylock nuts. This setup allows for as much or as little tension on the rod as necessary to prevent it from moving due to vibration, and to make it easier or harder to turn the knob for adjustments. The geometry of the arm, rod and spring is such that the governor spring is attached to the arm in the exact same location as would be if the factory tab were still in place. Once all the parts were ready, I finally bent down the original spring tab so it would not interfere with the travel of the new adjustment arm. If for any reason I want to put it back to original, I can easily remove the parts and bend the tab back up. After playing around with the new setup for about 20 minutes, I added nylon washers to the nylock nut stack as to allow for smooth turning of the rod, even if its under significant clamping pressure from the nylock nuts. This is working exactly as I had hoped it would and is actually quite nice to have and use. It works perfectly and does not vibrate. Engine speed and frequency are exactly as they should be, and very easy to adjust up or down as needed.

The last thing was to get a fuel filter on this unit as it has never had one. I cut a piece of aluminum angle and drilled appropriate mounting holes to agree with the screws on the engine. I added a inline fuel filter, new fuel rated tygon tubing and a hose clamp to secure the filter. Now it has a filter, and its in an easy spot to access and change.

I've had a ton of fun adding these simple things to the old Coleman. Its now more user friendly to use and I dont have to constantly drag out my Fluke to check things out when setting it up. Lots of fun.

Thanks for the comments!

Last edited by SoCal Dave; 11-13-2019 at 09:01:01 PM.
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