As a Floridian, we’re able to take our RV out throughout the year. I grew up RVing, and my wife joined the lifestyle through me. I didn’t realize how much of a monster I would create because she’s more eager about it than I am (of course I’m the one that handles the sewer line).
Now that our daughter is married and has children of her own, we’re heading out of state more often during the RV season. We enjoy the drive, but boondocking without electricity, especially in summer, is becoming a real problem. We finally decided to buy a portable generator we could use on our trips.
We decided on the Champion 3100 watt inverter generator 75537i. It checked off all of the boxes on what we had to have, and most of what we wanted. Even after using it for over six months, we’re still happy with our decision.
Shopping for a Generator
Our Needs and Want List
We have a 31 foot Heartland Mallard Ultra Lite. We chose it because it offers a lot of room for a trailer of this size. The king-size bed is great for our back problems, and the eight cubic foot refrigerator is more than enough room for the two of us. The 13,500 BTU air conditioner and 30,000 BTU furnace keep the coach comfortable no matter how bad the outdoor temperature is.
My wife and I had to sit down and write out a list of needs and wants. We knew this would be a big-ticket item price-wise. With our health issues, we wanted to make sure we covered all of our needs and most of our wants.
- Purpose: We’re primarily using the generator for boondocking. It must fit in our storage bays, and I must be able to move it without hurting myself. I also need to be able to chain it to the RV to prevent anyone from taking it.
- Fulfill our Power Needs: Our coach has 30 amp service. It would make our lives easier if we can plug it into the generator directly. We will be running the air conditioner overnight, but want to be able to run other things like the TV, and a couple of lights. I want enough power so I don’t have to pull out a calculator every time I want to turn something on.
- Handles AC and DC Power: Neither one of us are technically skilled. I know enough about inverters to know I don’t want to mess with them. I want a generator that supplies both AC and DC power. I know my RV handles that with the converter inside, but I also know I may need to plug into the generator directly for other things down the road.
- Noise Level: We don’t want a generator that’s so loud that it rivals a fleet of 18-wheelers at a truckstop overnight. We want to sleep, and I’m sure the people that may be around us do as well. I don’t want to be known as “those people with the loud generator.”
- Budget-Friendly: Before I did any real research, I knew generators weren’t cheap. I didn’t want to spend more than $1,000. We’re using it for boondocking, and aren’t the type that wants to run into the hills for that “roughing it dry camping” experience.
Why We Chose the Champion 3100 Generator
I started my research at my RV dealership. I had to go in and pick up a few things, so I struck up a conversation with one of the parts reps there. On my way home, I stopped at both big box hardware stores to see what they had. When I got home, I fired up the computer and started researching portable generators.
I narrowed down my search the following way:
- Price: $700- $1,000
- Powered: Gasoline
- Power Output: 2.3- 3.6 kW
- Features: For RVs
Based on what the dealer told me and what I learned the hardware stores, I found that this was the range I was looking for. The gas-powered versions are more fuel-efficient and produce more power than propane models. This power output range was what I needed and their sizes were manageable; especially the ones on wheels.
After reading all of the reviews, the one I kept coming back to was the Champion 3100 inverter generator. It had the price, power, connections, performance, and everything else we were looking for. I also loved the fact that the champion generator has a remote start kit.
Key Features of the Champion 3100 Generator 75537i
This champion inverter generator has a lot of great features. It had everything we needed, some features we didn’t even think of, and we’d work around the few issues it didn’t fulfill. Here are the features and specifications of the Champion 75537i:
- The engine is a 171cc 4-stroke, single-cylinder protected by a cast-iron sleeve
- The exhaust meets EPA and CARB standards
- It generates up to 3,100 watts at its peak and runs about 2,800 watts under normal conditions
- 24.4 inches long, 18.3 inches high, 14.3 inches wide. Weighs 84.5 pounds
- It has Cold Start Technology, so it will start up even on the coldest of days
- You can start it with the remote key fob up to 23 feet away, the electric turn knob, or the recoil pull
- It has a 1.6 gallon fuel tank
- It can run up to eight hours with a 25% electric load
- It has an economy mode that changes the engine speed based on how heavy the electric load is. The smaller the load the lower it runs. This saves fuel and increases the engine’s life.
- The noise level is about normal conversation level at 58 dBA
- It has a 12V DC, dual USB adapter, one 120V, 30 amp RV, and two 120V AC power outlets
- It will shut itself off when the oil is low or when it detects an electric overload.
- The generator has a spark arrestor to avoid anything catching fire around it
- The generator comes with a 3-year warranty and lifetime customer support
- Prices I found were between $750- $850
Setting It Up
I ended up ordering the Champion 75537i generator online based on price alone. Even with the shipping cost, it came out less than if I went to my local big box hardware store. It also saved me the problem of lifting it.
I decided to open it up at home and run through the initial setup. As I was waiting for it, I continued reading through other people’s experiences and watching some online videos about this generator. The last thing I wanted was to mess it up because of some rookie mistake.
The accessories that came with the generator amazed me because they’re useable items, not frivolous junk. It came with a USB adaptor, oil funnel, spark plug tool, and battery charging cables. Our favorite Champion 75537i part is the remote key fob, since it’ll save me from hurting my back on the recoil start system.
According to the Champion 3100 watt inverter generator manual, the unit requires a five-hour break-in period. This allows the pistons and rings to create grooves within the chamber walls correctly. It also allows the oil to thoroughly lubricate all of the parts and flush out any impurities that may still exist within the machinery.
Installing an Hour Meter
After 100 running hours, the generator requires an oil change. That’s difficult to determine since the unit doesn’t come with a meter. I decided to purchase an aftermarket hour meter after watching a few online videos and reading more about them.
I was pretty nervous about installing the hour meter, so I called my wife’s nephew. He’s the family handyman. After watching some online videos, it took him about a half-hour to wire it up.
To avoid warranty issues, I used some double stick tape to secure the digital meter to the generator’s outer casing. The video showed the guy drilling holed in the casing, but I didn’t want to take the risk.
The First Oil Change
When I bought the hour meter, I also had to buy oil, since the generator didn’t come with any. I also had to buy a fuel treatment stabilizer. The Champion 3100 Generator doesn’t like ethanol.
In my research, I learned that ethanol builds up gummy deposits in the carburetor. To avoid this, using a product like STABIL or other fuel treatments prevents this from happening. You just add it to the gas can you use to fill up your generator.
I bought enough 5w30 oil to perform multiple oil changes. I also kept the bottles so I wouldn’t forget which brand or weight I used before. Champion’s manual says you can use traditional oil, but they recommend synthetic.
I used traditional oil for the initial run. I ran the generator for a half hour and plugged in my TV. After an episode of my favorite sitcom was over, I turned it off and performed the oil change.
After that initial change, I ran it for another five hours. I did go over the recommended time period, but I’m the type that likes to be overly cautious. I took advantage of the situation by plugging in some cordless lawn equipment that needed a good charge.
I did one last oil change so we could start it fresh. It wasn’t necessary, but the oil was pretty gloomy. With something this important, I didn’t want anything going wrong on our first trip out.
First Days of Camping With the Generator
A few weeks later, we drove up to see the kids. We took it nice and easy, so it was a three-day trip. The generator performed beautifully.
I used two sheets of plyboard as a ramp to roll the generator in and out of our Mallard Ultra-Lite’s front storage bay to save my back. On our first night, we stayed at a Walmart, so I ran inside and bought a bicycle chain to lock the generator to the front hitch. It was the middle of July, so we turned on the generator and ran the air conditioner all night.
We like to keep the temperature at about 70° in the RV and we had the TV on until we fell asleep. I knew that the air conditioner eats up a lot of power, so I wasn’t expecting the generator to hold to the eight hour running time. After a little over six hours, it died out due to running out of fuel.
Even though it was the middle of the night, my wife hears everything. She woke me up to check out the generator. I refilled it, and it started right back up like nothing happened.
As we continued down the road, I mentally kept track of how long the generator lasted. Between six and six and a half hours was pretty consistent. To compensate, I topped off the generator’s tank before I went to sleep each night we used it.
We learned the hard way that we couldn’t run the A/C and the microwave at the same time. There are two breakers on the front plate of the generator. After my initial panic, thinking I broke it, I pushed the breaker back in and it started right up.
We’re Not the Noisy People
I had a chance to talk to the Class A diesel folks that pulled in next to us on the first night. With my generator still on, I asked him if it bothered him last night. He told me he couldn’t hear a thing over his own generator.
His generator was on the opposite side of us, so we didn’t hear it. That night, we barely heard it, and our bed is in the front of our trailer. As we continued down the road, I kept asking our fellow boondockers the same question, and we kept getting similar answers.
Six Months Down the Road
It’s been over six months since we bought the Champion 3100 watt Generator 75537i. It still runs great and we haven’t had any repair issues with it. We’ve even had some people come up to us and ask us about our experience.
Dead Internal Battery
Two issues did come up. I did accidentally leave the battery switch on. The Champion 75537i battery has a switch to turn it on and off.
Leaving it on when you’re using it on a daily basis isn’t a problem. If you don’t use the generator for a while, it runs down the battery. Hoping it would work, I used the recoil system to turn it on, and it worked.
I found out later that if the generator’s battery is dead, the electric start and the key fob starter won’t work. The recoil system will work, but make sure you leave it on for a while, so it can recharge its internal battery. So far I’ve only made this mistake once, and I was lucky enough not to wrench my back.
A Broken Wheel Leads to a Trailer Upgrade
Another issue that popped up was one of the wheels breaking off. I went to Home Depot to get a stronger rod to put the wheels on. My first mistake was taking my wife with me.
While we were there, we walked by the generator section and saw that Champion offers a clip-on kit that provides for 50 amp service.
This 50 amp bridge allows you to connect two of their generators together. In the middle of the bridge is an outlet for a 50 amp RV.
A Great Investment
Overall, we love our Champion Generator. We’ve been recommending it to everyone we talk too. I still wish it came with its own hour meter and they figured out the ethanol issue, but otherwise, it’s great. We haven’t had to adjust our power needs too much around it, and it continues to exceed our expectations.
Charles Joseph is one of the original authors of Camper Smarts from when it first started.
Product data was last updated on 2023-02-04 at 20:20.