9 Common DIY Printer Repair Hacks

common diy printer repair hacks

Printers are awesome … when they’re functioning as they should. Most of the time, they speedily print off documents and photos without any problems. Sometimes, though, issues pop up. A malfunctioning printer can be extremely frustrating. The good news, though, is that most problems are easy to fix yourself. If your printer isn’t working how it should be, don’t rush out and buy a new one or call a professional repairperson just yet. Check out this list of common DIY printer repair hacks. You just might be able to fix it yourself and save yourself a lot of money!

Slow Printer Speed

Does it seem like it takes forever for your printer to actually print something? If so, you can speed things up (and save some ink in the process) by printing in draft mode. This mode is faster and uses less ink, so it may result in less vibrant text and images. For most everyday purposes, however, the quality is sufficient.

The process for switching into draft mode varies from one model to another. In many cases, though, you’ll be able to find this option by selecting “Print” the “Properties” or “Settings.” Look for a setting or option that reduces print quality. It may be labeled as “Draft,” “Fast Draft,” “Fast,” or something similar.

Your printer may also seem excessively slow when printing wirelessly. Wireless printing may be convenient but, the farther you are from your router, the longer it will take to print. Try moving your printer closer to the router to see if that speeds things up a bit. For best results, though, it’s best to connect your printer to your router with an Ethernet cable.

Prints with Spots or Horizontal Lines

If the quality of your prints has decreased drastically or you notice things like horizontal lines or spots, you may have a clogged print head. This problem is especially common if you do not use your device frequently. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. Use your printer’s utility program to clean out the dried ink that is clogging the print head. You can access the utility program by opening your computer’s “Devices and Printers” applications. From there, you should be able to locate tools for cleaning print heads, printing test pages, etc. If your device has a screen, you may be able to find an option for cleaning the print heads without even opening up your computer.

prints with spots or lines graphic

There are also ways to prevent print heads from clogging in the first place. Using your printer regularly keeps the ink flowing and prevents it front drying out on the heads. Printing at least once per week should keep clogs at bay. Using your printer’s cleaning cycle at least once each month helps too.

Printer Won’t Print

A device that refuses to print is one of the common—and most frustrating—printer problems. There are several reasons why your printer may not be printing. The reasons range from simple problems that take just seconds to fix to major issues that could mean that your printer has reached the end of its lifecycle. When your device isn’t printing, check for the most obvious causes first. See if there is a warning light or an error message on your printer. If there is, figure out what the message or light means and how to clear it. Make sure you have plenty of ink and paper, and make sure the device is plugged in securely. Check the plug at the outlet and at the back of your printer. Sometimes they can get knocked loose and cause all sorts of frustration.

If none of these things seem to be the problem, try restarting your printer. If that doesn’t work, unplug the device, wait a few moments, then plug it back in. You may also want to try restarting your computer. Sometimes, the communication between a computer and printer breaks down and results in the device not printing. If you are using a Wi-Fi printer, you may even want to try restarting your wireless router. Your printer may have a built-in troubleshooter. Open the device’s menu and look for troubleshooting options. Your computer may also have built-in troubleshooters that can help you identify certain types of issues. If you have exhausted all of these options and your printer still isn’t working, you may need to contact the manufacturer or a professional repair person.

Ink or Toner Is Too Expensive

The downside of using a printer is that you have to replace the ink or toner. And, sometimes, those replacement cartridges can be expensive! If you do a significant amount of printing, you can save yourself some cash by switching to high-yield ink or toner cartridges. They cost more upfront, of course, but they allow you to go a lot longer before needing to replace them. You can also save some money by switching to remanufactured cartridges. They are made from recycled OEM cartridges and, as long as you buy your replacement ink or toner from a reputable seller, they work great. They cost significantly less and deliver comparable results.

cmyk printer toners isolated

If you do a lot of printing and are currently using an inkjet printer, you may be better off upgrading to a laser printer. Laser printers cost more upfront, but toner cartridges are capable of printing thousands of pages before needing to be replaced. The cost savings are especially great if you only need to bring in black and white. Color laser printers are available, but they cost substantially more. Most businesses use laser printers for their everyday printing needs because replacement cartridges last so much longer.

Frequent Paper Jams

Paper jams are incredibly annoying. There are a few different reasons why they may occur. If you don’t determine the cause of your first jam, you’re likely to keep having them. One of the most common causes of paper jams is a foreign object loose inside the printer. Make sure you don’t have any random staples, paperclips, or even small bits of paper stuck inside the device. Even dust or dirt could cause paper jams, so keep the inside of your printer clean.

man dealing with printer jam in frustration

Jams can also occur when there is too much paper in the paper tray or the paper is inserted improperly. Open up your paper tray and check to ensure that the paper isn’t stuck. You may need to take it out and reinsert it. Sometimes, quickly flipping through all of the sheets in a stack of paper can prevent them from getting caught up in the machine as they are fed in. If you are using thicker paper, such as cardstock or photo paper, you may need to put each sheet in manually to avoid jams.

Printer Says Cartridge Is Empty When It Isn’t

This is another problem that is all too common. Unfortunately, printer “Out of Ink” messages tend to be pretty unreliable. They often come on long before a cartridge is actually running low and, if you listen to them, you could end up throwing plenty of good ink in the trash. For starters, don’t replace your cartridge as soon as the message pops up, you can safely continue using it until the quality starts to diminish, as long as your printer allows you to do so. If your printer is saying you are out of ink and won’t print as a result, there are certain hacks that can help you get around the controls. They may or may not work, but they are worth a try when you are trying to squeeze those last few drops out of an inkjet cartridge. Just don’t try anything that could result in damage to your printer.

out of ink messages graphic

Laser printers can prematurely have “Low Toner” messages pop up too. If you are convinced that you shouldn’t be running low yet, try removing your toner cartridge, gently shaking it, and putting it back in your printer. This will remove any toner that is stuck to the walls of the cartridge and could make that pesky “Low Toner” message go away. Even if the message is still there, continue printing until the quality begins to diminish. There’s no point in replacing the cartridge until you absolutely have to.

Unable to Remove or Install Toner Cartridges

If you are used to replacing the cartridges in an inkjet printer, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you try to replace a toner cartridge. They tend to be a bit trickier to remove and install and, if you fail to do so correctly, your printer may fail to function properly. For starters, always turn your laser printer off before attempting to replace the toner. Wait until the internal components cool down before getting to work. Open the cover and pull out the entire drum unit and toner cartridge together. Next, release the toner cartridge from the drum. You may need to use a button, switch, or lever. Never force the cartridge out, as doing so is a good way to damage the drum unit.

Carefully insert the new toner cartridge, taking care to ensure that it is lined up properly. Press it into place gently but firmly. You will usually hear a click when it is in place. Slide the drum unit and cartridge back into your printer. Take care to ensure that it is lined up as it should be and it is slid all the way into place. If the door on your printer won’t close, the drum unit and toner cartridge are not installed properly. If it doesn’t seem to fit, double check that you are using the right toner cartridge. A lot of them look very similar. When you’re finished, close the door and fire up your printer. You should be good to go!

woman opening printer

Computer Sending Print Job to the Wrong Printer

If you have more than one printer, having your computer send your print job to the wrong device can be frustrating. This is a random glitch that occurs quite commonly, but it’s one that is easy to fix. Typically, you just need to open your “Devices and Printers” folder, right click on the printer you want, and set it as your default printer. The exact steps may vary but selecting your default printer should solve this common problem.

Poor Quality Text

Different printers vary widely in terms of text quality. Just about any inkjet printer should, however, deliver sufficient text quality for most home and business applications. If the text you print suddenly looks worse than usual, it could be an issue with your settings. If you are in draft mode, try switching to a higher quality mode. This will slow down your printing and use more ink, but it could solve your problem.

poor quality text graphic

If you are using a laser printer, poor text quality could indicate that the toner has settled in the cartridge. Try removing the cartridge and gently shaking it to even out the toner. If you are using an inkjet printer, you could have a clogged print head or the nozzles may need to be aligned. Open your printer’s menu to access cleaning and alignment tools. If these options do not work, you may need to replace your ink or toner.


Many of the problems that plague inkjet and laser printers are easy to fix on your own. Before you rush out and buy a new printer or contact a professional repair person, try using the repair hacks listed above. You may find that your problem is as simple as a cable that has come loose or a printer that is installed too far away from the Wi-Fi router. In any case, trying to fix it yourself rather than paying someone else or buying a new printer can save you a significant amount of time and money.