- Easily portable
- Poor build quality
- Have to pre-mix fuel and 2 stroke oil
- Decent, cheap entry level generator if you don’t require a lot of power and don’t mind having to work on it
The 63cc Storm Cat Harbor Freight generator is a small, portable two-stroke generator that runs on a 50:1 mix of unleaded fuel and two-stroke oil. Rated at 900 peak/700 running watts, it features a single 120v outlet. I purchased this particular Harbor Freight generator – the 63cc Storm Cat recreational model, for a camping trip with my son. Unfortunately, it failed on its first outing.
The failure point on my particular generator was in the pull start recoil mechanism. The first failure, which occurred not fifteen minutes after initial startup was caused by a loose knot in the pull rope tied to the handle. It vibrated the handle off and sucked the rope into the mechanism. I removed the side cover by moonlight, fished the cord back through, double knotted the handle, and bolted it back together. After a few pulls it fired back up, but stalled after a few minutes of run time. I could not start it again because the spring loaded plastic catch inside the recoil mechanism that grabs the flywheel in order to turn and start the engine had sheared off. That ended any hope of us running fans in our tent on the hottest night of the summer. We fell asleep under the stars, sweat stinging our eyes, cursing Harbor Freight and their crappy equipment.
The 63CC Storm Cat generator is a clone of the Yamaha ET650, and several online sources I found suggested many parts interchange. I was able to purchase a new recoil start mechanism online for only fifteen bucks, which included shipping from Korea. The new piece looks rough, but bolted right on with no issue. I also retied and double knotted the recoil rope for peace of mind. Before starting the generator I also checked all accessible bolts for tightness and replaced the Chinese made “Torch” brand spark plug that came in the generator with a new Autolite 64. I topped the tank off with a fresh two-stroke mix, pulled the cord a few times, and the little Storm Cat shook to life, this time just in time to see Hurricane Matthew to blow an old oak down on our power lines. The generator ran well for about 18 hours running a flat screen TV, DVD player, and several lamps to keep our house lit and kids entertained until the power came back.
Despite initial frustrations, the 63cc Storm Cat Harbor Freight generator is a decent value for the money (I paid $88 for mine at a Harbor Freight Sidewalk Sale), provided you’re willing to put a little work into a brand new machine and are aware of its weak points. As mentioned, the catch in the recoil that grabs the flywheel is made of plastic or nylon. Manufacturers intentionally make these parts out of material that is softer than the flywheel, cast aluminum in this case, but it seems the existing part is too soft and fragile. Time will tell, but I think it will last a while if you take care when starting it to gently engage the catch with the flywheel before pulling the cord. My frantic, frustrated pulls on the cord made quick work of the catch though. At fifteen bucks it’s probably not a bad idea to keep a spare recoil cover around. My generator also ran much smoother with a new, higher quality spark plug. Your mileage may vary.