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New Harbor Freight 4000 Watt Predator Generator

January 4th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Generator
HFT 4KW Generator

Image from Harborfreight.com

A couple of years ago I bought a cheap 800 watt HFT generator. The whole $79 generator experiment didn’t work out so well. After the first one seized right out of the box and the second one died and wouldn’t start after only a few months I was ready to give up. Unfortunately, I had promised to have my generator available for some volunteer work the morning after the POS died, so I really didn’t have much time to think things through if I wanted to meet my commitment. Like a sucker, ran right back to my local Harbor Freight store and talked myself into a 4 kW peak / 3.2 kW running generator. I’ve had it for a year now and I have to say I’m impressed. This line of Predator generators might just be a winner for Harbor Freight.

First Impressions

I brought the generator home, opened the box, poured in some gas, and then something happened that I never expected. The thing started on the first pull. Seriously. One pull. My wife said the look of shock on my face was priceless. The Predator generators, and indeed all the engines Harbor Freight sells, are widely described in Internet forums as copies of Honda designs. If they are, they did a good job copying them, because first-pull starting has always been a Honda hallmark.

Once the generator was running everything else worked fine. It was reasonably quiet and seemed to handle the limited loads I gave it on its first run with no problem. I let it run for about thirty minutes and shut it down. The next day I took it to work and it started and ran fine while powering electric sanders, saws, and other tools.

Ongoing Performance

Over the last year I’ve used this generator for a variety of projects, from powering a vacuum in the driveway while cleaning cars to running an electric shredder for leaves and small branches. The shredder pushed the generator towards its limit, but the unit handled the sudden load without trouble. Although I didn’t break out an oscilloscope to look at the power, the basic measurements with my multimeter showed that the generator was holding voltage and frequency even as the load varied. Can’t really ask for more than that.

Other Notes

This generator, like most, provides a variety of outlets, including 4 110 V sockets. But it’s important to understand that these outlets are actually each providing one half of the generator’s center-tapped 220V output. So each 110V outlet bank can actually support only ½ of the total wattage of the generator. Thus one can only power 1600 watts per 110 V outlet, not the full 3200 watt rating.

Otherwise, this generator has continued to provide reliable service, easily handling the odd jobs and loads that I’ve thrown at it. It still starts on the first pull every time, even after sitting for a month or more between uses. I did buy the optional wheel and handle kit and find them pretty valuable, though the handle could be longer – I’m 5′ 10″ tall and when I drag the generator behind me I am often bumping the back of my feet into it. But they are sturdy and useful for moving the generator around.

Final Words

I am not using this generator to power a house or to run appliances during a power failure – I have a 12 kW Kohler for that – so I haven’t tested the total runtime of this unit. But for the odd jobs I need, it works great. Interestingly, Consumer Reports rated generators recently and the Predator line did pretty well in their tests. You need to be a member to see the review, but the overall ratings of the Predator model they tested were near the top of the rankings even if the price was well below the competition. I was impressed. Notably, the generator got high marks for power quality.

So after a year I am much more impressed with this little unit than I was with the 800 watt generator. I recommend you check it out if you’re looking for portable power.

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  1. March 10th, 2014 at 08:20 | #1

    “each providing one phase of a three-phase 220 V circuit. ”
    It is not three phases. The output of the generator is single phase center tapped 240V, so each leg is 120V and can supply half of the rated load.

  2. Dan
    November 14th, 2016 at 16:14 | #2

    I agree.I did much research on this generator from Harbor Freight.I know you have to be careful what you buy there.Got this for $279.99 with a 20% coupon & couldn’t be more please with this genset.Starts 1st or 2nd time,sips gas.Was expecting it to be noisy,but its reallt quiet to my ears.They could have designed the oil fill better by installing some sort of extension tube,but other than that,excellent buy.

  3. steve & dawn
    December 17th, 2016 at 14:57 | #3

    I had mine stored for a few months, gassed it up yesterday and it fired up on the second pull..

    It does sound like a Honda..

  4. Andri Rand
    January 29th, 2017 at 19:32 | #4

    My pully is locked how can u get it unstuck

  5. Paul
    September 21st, 2017 at 21:21 | #5

    I have the 4000 Harbor Freight generator and if if you buy these generators just be prepared as the advertised wattage is not what you can expect. I bought mine knowing this and its worth it for the price. Under $300. My 4000/3500 advertised continuous 3500 is in reality only 2700 watts if you want to run it for hours on end. It will do 3500 for about 20 minutes then it kicks the breaker. Is good for a work shop at the house but not for an emergency situation.

  6. Dave
    September 23rd, 2017 at 06:53 | #6

    I just got one of these after seeing the online description which stated it was 20 amp service, only to get out of the box and see the outlets are rated for 13 amps. Has anyone had this same problem?

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