How to Ground a Generator When Camping (11 Easy Tips)

Being grounded is being safe. People often describe others as being well-grounded. That means that they have a good head on their shoulders and can handle life quite well. When you ground your RV’s generator you are simply adding another layer of safety and handling RV life quite well.

How to Ground a Generator When Camping: For most portable generators the frame will act as the ground, so you do not need to hammer in a metal rod when you set up the generator. If you want to be extra safe, a short metal rod is against code. You would need an 8 foot one to follow code.

To learn about grounding your RV’s generator just continue to read out article. It is filled with information and tips to make your time with your generator a lot better and a lot easier to do.

Tip 1: When grounding your generator you have to make sure it is completely dry. Do not try to do it under wet conditions at any time. Dry your hands, find a dry spot on the ground and shelter it from any moisture.

Tip 2: when you decide to ground your generator make sure to always use copper wire and an 8-foot metal rod. Lay the direction of the wire well away from your campsite as well.

What Does it Mean to Ground a Generator?

We are going to get a little bit technical here, so bear with us. Grounding is the intentional connection between an electrical circuit or equipment to a reference ground. The reference ground refers to a copper wire and a metal rod or the generator’s frame.

The word bonding means the intentional electrical connection of components, for example, a gas tank or engine, to the frame of the generator. When you take the time to do a separate ground, you must make sure that the grounding and bonding circuits are low resistance connection and must be able to conduct a surge of electrical power away from the device safely.

You want 0.2 ohms resistance or less in your ground wire and metal stake. Plus, you need to make sure the bonding connection can conduct a surge of electricity when a short occurs or lightening strikes.

Tip 3: All RV electrical systems are made to have their ground and neutral wires float or be unbonded. This is an NEC and RVIA code requirement. This is to make sure the safety ground wire never carries any load current and so that there is only one ground to neutral bonding point.

When to Ground a Generator?


One of the times that you should ground your generator is when you are using over 10 KW an hour. Most RV owners do not use this much power so most RV owners do not ground their generator nor have they seen other owners ground their generators.

If you are going to use extension cords that plug directly into your generator and then hook up your appliances, then you would NOT need to ground your generator. Also, if the components of your generator are not bonded to the frame, then you would need to ground your generator.

The bonding process helps remove the need for grounding. Also, if you plug your generator directly into your home’s circuit breaker system or via a transfer switch, then you would need to ground the generator.

If for some reason you are not sure about grounding your generator, then contact a licensed electrician and ask them about it. They will let you know when you need to do it and when you don’t.

Tip 4: When it comes to electricity generating equipment, it is always best to be safe than sorry. If you have any doubts about grounding, contact a good and honest electrical professional to make sure you get it right.

Is it Necessary to Ground a Portable Generator?


No, it is not always necessary to ground your portable generator. Because the generator manufacturers have bonded the components to the generator’s frame, the frame acts like a ground wire for you.

There will be those occasions where you may need to do it, for example, if you are plugging your generator directly into a wired circuit system. Or if you are plugging appliances directly into the generator.

These situations create a bond between the structure or the appliance which may conduct an electrical surge into your home of RV. You do not want to take that risk and have your property damaged by an electrical surge.

There will be those occasions where grounding is necessary and you should talk to the dealer or licensed electrician to find out all those situations. Being prepared is practicing good RV safety habits.

Tip 5: you do not need to ground your generator if all the parts, like gas tanks, engine, generator housing and all power outlets are bonded together to the generator’s frame.

What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Generator


In short, you could ruin it. What grounding does is direct unwanted voltage from wrecking havoc on your electrical equipment, including a generator. If the generator is not properly grounded then a surge of electricity could travel through the different connections and ruin more than just your generator.

Proper grounding protects you, your family and your possessions from being damaged by these unpredictable surges. If you set up your generator right, then you shouldn‘t have to worry. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to pound in a copper stake and attach a copper wire to your generator every time you set up camp.

What it means is that in certain situations, you need more than the bonded generator frame to conduct the harmful electrical surge away from your equipment, home and RV.

Tip 6: it is possible that your RV has a feature that tests for an open ground. It may refuse to accept any power if your generator is not grounded properly. You would have to use the copper wire and stake to do this or make an adapter plug that bonds the ground and neutral pins together providing the appearance of an open ground.

Earth Grounding a Portable Generator


This is not hard to do. What you will need is an 8 foot copper rod, 6 to 20 feet of copper wire and a hammer. You can wrap the copper wire around the metal handle of the generator then lead it out away from your RV.

Once you are far enough away from your RV, you will need to take the hammer and pound the 8-foot copper rod into the ground. That is all there is to it. Oh, and of course you need to attach the wire to the copper rod.

The only problem with earth grounding your generator is that you may not have the room to do it at RV parks or campgrounds. The owners might be a bit worried if they see you do it as well. In these and similar situations, earth grounding is not recommended.

Tip 7: Earth grounding may not be enough to keep your generator safe from electrical surges. You may also need to neutral ground bond for the output of the generator. An Edison plug with a ground and neutral screws and 12 gauge wire should handle this task.

How to Ground a Portable Gas Generator on Earth

The first step in grounding your gas generator is to check the owner’s manual. It will tell you if you need to ground the unit or not. It should also tell you how to ground your gas generator correctly.

If your manual doesn‘t tell you how to do it, here are some easy steps to follow:

Step one, pound your 8 foot copper rod into the ground. If you are in rocky terrain, do not exceed a 45-degree angle when pounding into the dirt.

Step two, attach the copper wire to the rod by wrapping it around the rod.

Step Three, attach the other side of the wire to the grounding bolt on your generator. You do not use bare copper wire for this. You will need to strip on those ends that connect to the rod and the generator. The rest of the wire can remain shielded.

Tip 8: When attaching the wire to both the copper rod and the generator make sure to wrap the wire tightly around both connections. Then tighten the ground bolt to make sure your connection is solid and will not come loose.

Does a Portable Generator Need a ground Rod?

The short answer to this question is no. Neither the NEC, OSHA or the RVIA state that you need to ground your portable generator to a ground rod. The thinking behind this is that most portable generators have their components bonded to the generator’s frame.

Because of this design, most RV owners do not ground their portable generators. It can be a waste of time and some RV situations may make grounding too inconvenient. Unless you directly plug your appliances into your portable generator, or you use a transfer switch there sis no need to ground your portable generator.

Tip 9: Why people ground their portable generator is for one simple reason. It helps their device operate better. It protects against malfunctions and protects your appliances.

How Deep Does a Ground Rod Need to be For a Generator?


In every resource we looked at for this article, the depth of the copper rod must be 4 feet at minimum or almost 8 feet. The length of the rod is to be 8 feet and you need to hammer it down until it is almost covered by the ground.

Anything shorter and you will not get a proper ground connection and the electrical surge may not be conducted away from your device safely or quickly. Unfortunately, ground conditions may not be ideal. If you are on hard dirt, use water to soften the ground up before hammering the rod into place.

If you are on rocky ground, then you need to drive the rod in at a 45-degree angle for best results. Make sure to strip the copper wire before attaching it to the copper rod and also make sure the connection is nice and tight.

You do not want the connection to come loose at any point during your camping trip.

Tip 10: the tools required to do a proper ground are: a pair of pliers, a socket wrench set, a hammer, and a pair of wire strippers. The right equipment makes sure you can ground your generator quickly and easily.

What Gauge Wire to Ground a Generator

There are several different gauges you can choose from. The size you would use depends on the size of your generator. But you can get a good copper ground wire in 6, 10 and 12 gauge sizes.

You do not need a lot either. As long as you can get the copper rod at least 4 feet away from your campsite, you should be good to go. You may want to go a bit further if your location allows you to.

Electricity is never anything to play with so always use the better safe than sorry watchword as your guide. This includes setting up the ground wire and selecting its gauge size.

Tip 11: do not try to ground a generator that uses an unseparated derived system. Grounding a unit that has this system requires knowledge of circuit breaker panels and connecting the power source through the transfer switch. A professional electrician needs to handle this task for you.

Generator Grounding Rod Kit


If you want to make your grounding time a lot easier, you can get a grounding rod kit. These kits come with all the components you need to make sure your RV and portable generator are safely grounded.

These kits can be found just about anywhere including Home Depot. We are sure you can find done at your RV parts outlets as they do come in handy. One set comes with 3 3-foot copper rods, 3 couplers, 6 feet of copper wire and 1 drive stud.

All you have to do is select the right one for you and your RV camping situation. Or you can create your own kit and pick up all the parts separately where their price is a lot cheaper than you would pay if you bought them in a kit.

Ground Wire For Portable Generator

Common copper wire is all you need to help ground your portable generator correctly. This wire can be found in a variety of gauges and you need to select the gauge that fits your size of generator.

Once you choose the gauge thickness you need, you will need between 6 and 10 feet to ensure that you have enough distance from your generator to your ground rod. The ground rod must be made of copper as well.

Then you do not have to have a bare copper wire. You can leave the majority of it covered and only strip the ends where the connections are made. The important part of grounding your generator is to make sure the connections are secure, tight and will not come loose even if a wild animal plays with it when you are not around.

How to Ground a Generator On a Trailer


To ground a generator to a trailer, you should hook up the negative pole of the battery to the trailer chassis. You can use 6 gauge automotive white wire to do this. Then you should follow the generator’s manufacturer’s instructions to connect the starter motor and the charger connections to the positive pole and converter charger.

Then you may need to connect the outer panel of the generator to a fuse board or what is normally called the circuit breaker panel inside the trailer. You may want to get the advice of a professional electrician to make sure you hook the ground up correctly.

There should be different methods for different trailers as well. If you are not skilled in electrical operations, it is best not to do it yourself. Electricity should not be taken lightly.

Predator Generator Grounding

For some reason the manufacturers of this model of generator state that you should ground their generator before using it. To do so you will need to purchase 6 AWG grounding wire and attach it to the grounding terminal on the control panel.

Then you need enough length to make sure the wire reaches the grounding rod, which is also not included, and attach it to the rod. You can use a brass rod if you want with this model of generator.

The instructions also state that you need to ground the generator according to all electrical codes that apply and that you should use a professional electrician if you are not qualified to do the task.

Check with the owners manual to make sure you do it properly or get qualified help. Electricity is the last thing you want to take lightly.

Grounding kit for Portable Generator


This is a way to get all the parts you need to ground your generator in one spot. These kits save you time and they usually have everything you need. They are convenient and not that hard to find.

But they may not be inexpensive either. Your cost will depend on the outlet you get them at. Some big-box stores may be a little cheaper than RV parts outlets so shop around and get the best price possible.

One thing is for sure, you know that once you pick up a grounding kit for your generator, you have all the parts inside. You just have to make sure you do not lose any when you open the package.

Safety Tips for Using a Generator

Properly grounding your portable generator is one of the many safety habits you need to follow when using a portable generator. While not all portable generators need to be grounded, and they have bonded frames, knowing how to ground is still essential for those times when you need to ground the unit.

Here are some other safety tips you should follow when using a portable generator:

  • Keep the generator outside and do not let it function in enclosed spaces.
  • Make sure the generator is far enough away from doors, windows and vents, etc.
  • ​Do not overfill the gas or fuel tank on a gas or diesel operated generator.
  • ​Watch that you do not spill any fuel on a hot engine.
  • ​Do not store a generator that has fuel in the tank near an open flame or heat source.
  • ​Do not smoke near a gas-operated generator.
  • ​Let a licensed electrician hook up your generator directly to your household wiring system.
  • ​Disconnect all power cords when starting or stopping your generator.
  • ​Do not overload your generator with a bunch of appliances or other electrical tools.
  • Use the proper extension cords with the correct wire gauge, etc. When connecting extension cords to your generator.

Some Final Words

Grounding your portable generator is unnecessary. The manufacturers have usually bonded all the key components to the generator’s frame making grounding unnecessary. This makes operating your generator a lot easier.

But there are some situations where you may need to ground the generator just to be on the safe side. Learn when those situations arise and make sure you know your stuff. If you don’t then let a qualified electrician show you how or do it for you.

Follow all safety rules as electricity is not something you want to experiment with. When in doubt, don’t do it.

Leave a Comment: