Nearly everyone who has a home computer also includes a printer as part of their hardware configuration. Even with environmental concerns toward generating unnecessary paper documents and wasting ink or toner, there are times when a hardcopy is called for – a photo, legal documents, or even a recipe.
When printers are not used regularly – perhaps not even for months at a time – printing problems can arise when they’re started up and expected to produce crystal clear images again.
What Causes Printing Problems?
When leaving printers dormant for months with no printer maintenance or cleaning, dust can gather on print heads or nozzles, or cartridges can become clogged or dry, reducing or stopping ink flow.
How Can You Fix It?
Depending on the make and model of your printer, cartridges and print heads may be manufactured and configured in the printer differently. Consult the owner’s manual or website for specific instructions. Many manufacturers also include utilities for your computer that guide you through these steps:
Print Head Issues
Open the top of your printer, and identify the cartridges and their placement, as well as the print head
Remove the cartridges carefully, utilizing caution to not touch any chips that are used to communicate with the printer.
Remove printer heads that have become severely clogged (again, use care to not touch any terminal contacts) and soak their nozzles in water to clear them. Be extremely careful with print heads, not placing them against any hard surfaces that can damage them – they are fragile.
Let the head soak for a few hours or even overnight, then dry it carefully with a lint-free cloth such as a microfiber towel (there will likely be some ink residue, so use a disposable cloth).
Reinstall the print head and cartridges, then set the printer to clean the print head before using the printer. You should then have a working printer again.
Many printer owners are not aware that ink cartridges have expiration dates. They can dry out for several reasons:
- Lack of use for extended periods
- Passing expiration dates
- Storage in hot, humid areas (store in a cool, dry place)
When cartridges dry out, there’s a good chance they can be resurrected:
- Run your printer’s utility to clean print heads – it may require more than one cleaning.
- If that has not resolved the problem, remove the cartridge and soak it in warm water. Ink may stain surfaces or sinks – a bowl is a better option.
- In stubborn cases, use a cotton swab to lightly brush the ink nozzle until ink appears.
- Wipe the cartridge dry with a lint-free cloth, then replace the cartridge in the printer.
Avoiding the Problems with Regular Printer Use and Cleaning
Printing a couple of pages in color (assuming the use of a color printer) will be a good way to keep each cartridge and nozzle running cleanly.
Be certain that dust does not accumulate on the printer to interfere with operation. Printer cleaning should include using a small vacuum to extract excess dust. Do not use compressed air, as that will simply push dust farther into the printer.
It’s a good practice to cover your printer when not in use, to avoid dust contamination.
Keep your printer’s drivers and firmware updated to optimize performance.
Common Printer Problems – and Solutions
There are many different technical designs for home and small office printers, and therefore a variety of common printer issues and associated “fixes” to avoid them.
Failing Print Heads
Many printers use thermal print heads that heat the ink and adhere it to the paper. Ink flowing through serves to cool the print head. As ink gets low, the printer will warn users of the reduced level. While you can still print, the cartridge will eventually run dry, resulting in two conditions:
- Reduced image quality, including gaps in printed copy
- Overheating of the print head
While this is not a critical issue on occasion, frequent overheating will reduce the life of the print head.
Solution: when notified that ink is low, be sure to replace it soon, before it runs out completely.
Poor Image Quality
Most printer owners have experienced instances where printers do not print colors properly, print black or white lines across the page, or have gaps in the printing. This can result from dirty or misaligned print heads, clogged nozzles, or empty cartridges. Even an outdated printer driver can cause such printing problems.
Solution: Check to make sure you have the latest printer driver, and update it if needed. Then follow your printer manufacturer’s instructions to clean the print head and nozzles, including aligning the head.
Printer Does Not Recognize Ink Levels
At times the printer may display an empty cartridge level, even though the cartridge was just replaced. This could be due to the wrong cartridge being installed, or not being seated properly.
Solution: Verify that the cartridge fits properly and clicks firmly into place. Ensure that you have installed the exact cartridge for your printer. Also check that if the cartridge contains a chip, that it aligns correctly. It’s also a good idea to simply try turning the printer off and back on, to see if the reset allows it to detect the ink.
Avoiding Printer Problems
Cartridge World can help printer owners eliminate problems with professional printing solutions, including:
- Selling and maintaining high-quality printers and multifunction printers from leading manufacturers
- Providing reliable laser, inkjet, and extended yield cartridges
- Consulting with businesses of all sizes to maximize printing efficiency and boost office productivity
Contacting Cartridge World Quad Cities is your first step in eliminating time-consuming and costly printing problems.