How to EASILY use your car as a generator
Updated: Jul 27
It's always seemed crazy to us that a generator is basically an engine that produces both propulsion energy to drive the wheels, but with the addition of an alternator, it can produce a lot of electricity, but nobody really uses it for this.
For 3 years, we have carried around and used the Westinghouse DF4500 Duel Fuel Generator. We haven't had to use it often, but it has been very useful a few times. Especially for charging our batteries (Actually, our single battleborn battery at that time) when boondocking and for making coffee in the morning.
It was great for those uses, but there are a few downsides:
1 - It's big! We only have a travel trailer with limited storage and it takes up a lot of space in the back of the truck.
2 - It uses propane or regular unleaded gas. Its more efficient on gas, so we also had to carry around a gas can for it, which we had to use regularly or it would go bad. We have a diesel truck, so the generator was the only place we could use it.
3 - We had to fire it up every now and then even if we didn't need it. You need to do this to ensure its running good for when you actually need it. Make sure the battery is charged, the oil level is good and the oil is being circulated regularly.
4 - It's really heavy. As we didn't use it often, we stored it in the bed of the truck right up by the cab. That was great until you had to pull it out. The generator was over 100lbs when full of gas. Yes, I know, my mom keeps telling me I've grown up to be a big strong boy, but lifting a 100+ lb generator in and out of the truck isn't one of my favorite things to do. Not to mention the added weight on the truck, reducing our payload capacity.
5 - The Generator and the gas smells. The back of the truck always smells like gas. It's not a nice smell first thing in the morning when you are prepping for travel day.
After our Battery and Inverter upgrade, I decided to ditch the generator. The batteries and inverters weigh about the same as the generator, so in theory, the weight cancelled each other out, but also, with 400AH of power, why would I need the generator? When finances allowed, I also planned to install a DC to DC charging system. This basically consists of a special unit installed into the truck and a special unit installed on the trailer that connect together to allow for high capacity charging from the truck to the trailer. This allows you to quickly charge your trailer battery bank while driving. However, this is a permanent thing and can be expensive to buy and install.
"Wait, you already have that with the 7-pin plug" I hear you say.....well, yes, but that is really just designed to power the lights and small things like a backup cam. It produces such a small amount of power, that it would take forever to charge the trailer. Especially with a 400AH battery bank.
So, I've ditched the generator and working on saving up for a DC-to-DC charger. A cool project for Next winter.
Out of the blue, we receive an email from CarGenerator.com asking if we might be interested in trying out their 1000w Car Generator. I did a quick google and watched a couple of their YouTube videos and immediately replied "Yes, perfect timing. Here is my address" (Or something to that affect that was probably slightly less desperate).
At this time, we were already on the road, so they kindly shipped it to a friend of ours in Virginia that we would be visiting in a few weeks right before a few days of Harvest Hosting, so the timing really was perfect.
On the 3rd day of harvest hosting, our battery bank was painfully low. We had been very careful with our power usage, so I was a bit confused as to what was pulling so much power. SPOILER ALERT! Turns out that (1) we had left the electric water heater on and (2) we had forgotten to turn the fridge from AC power to Propane. This was perfect timing to crack open the CarGenerator and test it.
It was so simple to setup. Connect the red lead to the positive side of the car battery and the black lead to the negative side (There is a bit of a spark when you do this, but that's completely normal and safe). Next, connect a 20amp to 50amp dogbone. Plug the 50 amp side into the rig and the 20 amp into the outlet on the CarGenerator.
I plugged it into the rig and .......... NOTHING!
After a bit of troubleshooting, I found that our Victron Inverters were trying to pull too much power to charge our batteries and tripping the CarGenerators GFCI. Long story short, I had to change a setting on the inverters to limit the pull to 20 amps, not 50 amps.
Once I figured that out, it worked perfectly as expected. So, there was only one thing to do. We left the truck running in the middle of the field behind the Harvest Host brewery we were staying at and went for a beer tasting session.
3 hours later, we return to the rig and we had a bunch of power in the battery bank. It didn't even move the fuel gauge of the truck. I disconnected the 50 amp power cable and stumbled to bed ready for travel day the next morning.
The next morning, we find that the battery bank is dead when Natalies attempts to make coffee. "No problem my love" I confidently say "I'll crack open the car generator again".
I connect up the 50 amp cable again, jump in the truck and hit the 'start button'........Nothing! It's as dead as a dodo (RIP Dodo's. We miss you!).
I quickly realize my drunken mistake. I hadn't turned off or disconnected the CarGenerator that was still pulling power from the truck battery. Not a lot of power, but enough the kill the batteries over night.
I also realized that I had left my PC running (As I was uploading a video to YouTube) and this is also where we found that we hadn't changed the fridge from AC power to Propane.
Luckily, there was a lovely chap who had just arrived at the brewery to fire up his smoker ready for a busy weekend smoking shrimp and pulled pork for the brewery patrons. He let me borrow his car to charge the truck battery that was literally stranded in the middle of a freshly cut hay field.
So, do I regret using the CarGenerator? Absolutely not. It worked as designed and if I was a normal un-inebriated grown-up, it would have been a perfect day. My only wish would be that the unit would auto turn-off if no devices were connected after a certain period of time.
A few days later, we found ourselves in a Campsite in Massachusetts's with a gaggle of girls tent camping in the site next to us. They had 1 tent and a compact car. They also had a pedestal where they had hooked up a portable electric grill. This made me remember the days when I raced motorcyles. We had a simple little car, a couple of disposable charcoal barbeques, a box of beer, a couple of tents and a motorcycle trailer. After a full day of racing motorcycles and celebrating with knock-off champagne for a win or a bunch of cheap Belgian beers for a DNF (Did not finish), nobody had the energy to cook over charcoal.
Imagine we had the CarGenerator? We could have taken a small microwave, electric grill or even a kettle to boil water for morning coffee. It would have taken 1 minute to hookup and you had an instant 1000w of power.
As RV'ers, we are lucky that our truck has a 400w power outlet already, but many vehicles don't have this. Imagine if you or your kids or grandkids were doing a cross country road trip and broke down in the middle of nowhere. Ok, it likely wouldn't be life threating with so many available breakdown companies and USB charge ports for phones, but it would be pretty comfortable knowing that they could use 1000w appliances for days. Whether that be for charging laptops, using a coffee maker, powering a light, etc etc. You could even use it to power the Starlink dish and router.
Whenever we find a product that we really like, we always ask them for a discount for our readers/viewers and CarGenerator agreed. So, they have offered BIG discounts for all the CarGenerator products especially for you at BrazenBrits.com/CarGenerator
You can also use these discount codes directly on their website:
BRAZENB400 - $400 off Home Integration Bundle
BRAZENB250 - $250 off Factory Refurbished AW 1000
BRAZENB150 - $150 off AW 1000