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Troubleshoot different kinds of printers

Updated on June 27, 2012

Printers are used at nearly everywhere a PC is used. So much for the paperless office. Printers are easier to use than ever before, but can also be difficult to troubleshoot. A cheaper printer can usually be almost impossible to troubleshoot, as it has been built specifically to be cheap. Medium and larger sized printers are usually much more friendly for trouble shooting.

Basic troubleshooting procedures

The first step before you start diving in trying to fix your printer is just to gather information. If its not your pc, and someone else's you are trying to fix, then ask them questions find out exactly what they were doing just before the mistake happened.

Push for a specific answer, especially if they answer you with the word "nothing" Most people on a psychological level don't react very well if they have made a mistake. So most users reactions are total denial, but if you just stick to blaming it on the printer, then you can remove their fear, and find out exactly what happened.

You should also have a look at the errors page that can be sometimes generated from a printer. If you can print a test page directly from the pc too.

Sometimes a simple search on the printer name and the word problems, on a google search will bring up some forum questions and answers of the most popular problems that happen.

Troubleshooting inkjet printers

Paper jams

Paper jams are the result of obstructions or blocks in the path that the paper travels within the printer. Paper jams are caused mainly by reasons such as, worn out rollers in the paper movement parts, the Incorrect type of paper used, which can also be poor quality paper. Sometimes if sheets are not put into your printer correctly, then you find that they stick together, and jam on the rollers.

Poor printing quality

If your printer has started to print bad quality, then it can be due to the ink in the cartridge being too dry. The cartridge itself can sometimes be damaged especially just as your fitting it in for the first time. There can also be a mis-alignment of the print head, and this can happen naturally over time, and also from a bump. Its easy to tell if this is the problem, due to the alignment of the lines being incorrect. This is normally fixed by using a utility on the pc to help realign the printer.

Blank pages

If you find that the printer is just printing blank pages, then there is a good chance your ink has just ran out. Change the cartridge to a new one, and see if that makes a difference.

Patches on ink

If the inkjet printer is leaving big patches of ink scattered over different parts of paper, this can be caused from a recent lift of the printer, or an angle the printer was turned too. Its like turning a glass of liquid to the side, with a little pours out. This is what happens from the cartridges, so make sure that you let any cartridges that are turned time to settle. Some people will recommend replacing the cartridge right away, but this can be a waste. What i normally do is just to print a few draft pages, over and over, and it seems to most of the time clear the ink spill.

Troubleshooting laser printers

Paper jams

Paper jams are mainly created by poor paper quality or worn out pick-up rollers on laser printers. A broken gear on the roller mechanism can also cause this problem. The only solution is then to replace the gear or the roller. You can normally buy these parts from suppliers, as the laser printers are so popular that picking up spares is normally easy.

Blank pages

If your laser printer starts spitting out blank pages, then the toner will need possibly replaced. However it can be a range of other things that might be the problem including the transfer corona wire assembly being faulty. If this wire is broken or damaged, the image cannot be transferred from the EP drum to the paper, and so it looks like the cartridge toner is empty when its actually not. It is easy to replace a broken transfer corona wire. There are actually 2 types of corona wires, one has a larger voltage though, and its worth getting a technician to fix this.

Black pages

A faulty primary corona wire will causes black pages to be printed. If this wire is not working, it cannot remove the EP drum of high negative voltage that it has attached to it. The toner sticks to the entire surface of the EP drum, which is then transferred onto the paper.

Toner marks scattered across paper

Repeated toner marks scattered across the paper is a result of a problem with the toner cartridge. This is a common problem for refilled toner cartridges. The best way to fix this problem is to just remove the cartridge from the printer, and place it in a carrier bag, and give it a shake, make sure its an even shake, and a gentle horizontal shake. You don't need to shake it vigorously.

Vertical black or white lines or small dots

The problem is due to a defect or a chip on the surface of the EP drum. There might be a little scratch or even a small bit of dirt on the drum and so the printer can't get a voltage on to that area, and so attract the toner particles.

Image ghosting

Ghosted images will appear when the previous image that was printed is not completely discharged from the surface of the EP drum. A broken cleaning rubber blade, which wipes the remaining toner from the drum or sometimes a defect in the erasure lamp assembly causes the ghosted images on paper. Both of these parts can be replaced.

Garbage printing

This is normally caused by either a wrong printer driver, or a mistake on the software that is sending the document to the pc. It can also be due to the printer memory being filled, and starts to leak the data incorrectly. Try updating the printer driver, and if its a busy network printer, or larger documents you are printing, then you can change the printer settings to spool the documents in a different way, instead of completely to the printer in one go.

Troubleshooting dot matrix printers

Paper jams

Paper jam problems are the most common problems in dot matrix printers. This is because most of the paper that you will use has tear slip perforations on them. Also the paper is usually thin and not very good quality. If you can get some un-perforated paper, that is normally better, and you can just tear it off. Try to make sure that the rollers also don't have little bits of paper stuck to them which can then clog up for future bits of paper.

Poor printing quality

When you start to see a blank line across the width of the paper, it means that one of the pins on the printhead is broken. If the printer is printing junk text, the problem is with the printer driver software. If the print quality is fading then its the ribbon that has to be replaced.

If there is a problem with the full width of the paper, then its likely a problem with the gears not turning the ribbon correctly.

Stepper movement problems

Dot matrix printers require little stepper motors for the paper movement and also the movement of the print head. Problems with the stepper motor are easy to identify because it causes the irregular movement of the print head or the paper. The stepper motor is an expensive part to buy, and the only way to make it last is to perform regular preventive maintenance of the printer.


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