Laser and inkjet printers have improved in recent years and are now more reliable than ever. However, like any electronics, they don’t always work as expected. Built-in troubleshooting software can usually help but, in some cases, the solution requires outside support.
The most common printer problems deal with ink and print quality, but connectivity and printer speed issues can also be a hassle. Here are nine common printer problems and solutions for fixing them with or without a professional’s help.
1. Printer Won’t Turn On
Like any electronic equipment, printers can turn on and off either with a button on the front or by unplugging them from the wall. If your printer won’t turn on, the first step is to check the power cord’s connection to the wall and the back of the printer. Push the plug in firmly to the back of the printer since it can be hard to tell visually if it is fully plugged in or not.
Try plugging another device into the same outlet to make sure the outlet itself is working. If that device won’t turn on either, that’s a sign you need to reset the breaker or call in an electrician.
Keep in mind that many printers have energy-saving modes and will go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity. If your printer often has trouble waking up when you send it a print job, check your printer driver settings to see if you can adjust its sleep mode settings.
2. Slow Printing Speed
Most printers have an advertised printing speed that indicates a certain number of pages per minute in black and white and in color. However, your printer settings may result in a much slower print speed.
Open your printer preferences and make sure your print quality settings are as low as possible. Most printers have a “draft” setting that works best for printing quickly. You can always increase the quality later when it’s time to print photos or a professional project.
If your printer is still slow after adjusting these settings, try running your printer software’s utilities or troubleshooting programs to see if there’s another problem. There could be an additional mechanical problem that requires professional attention, especially if your printer is more than a few years old.
It’s also possible that your printer is printing just fine, but a slow Wi-Fi connection is causing your documents to spool slowly. Consider moving your printer closer to the router, especially if you’re in a large office building with printers spread out over a wide area.
3. Streaky Prints
Some of the most common printing problems are long, thin streaks appearing in one or more colors. The streaks may run the length of the paper or may fade in and out. This problem has multiple potential sources, and they all tie back to the state of your ink.
Usually, these streaks are caused by ink or toner that is about to run out or expire. There may also be something clogging the inkjet nozzles, or the temperature of the room might be too cold or too hot for the printer to work properly. Although manufacturers may have a wide range of temperatures ink can be stored at, they tend to work best in printers when the room is between 65° and 75°F.
Laser printers can have similar problems if there is an issue with the drum. Like any piece of equipment, the drum can wear out in specific spots over time, causing white streaking, while black streaking may be a sign that the drum or another internal part needs cleaning. Replace a worn-out drum with a new one purchased from the manufacturer.
Also, keep in mind that your printer uses a particular ink brand and attempting to use another brand’s ink can cause problems. For example, using Epson ink in a printer that requires HP ink or toner will almost certainly cause it to print irregularly.
4. Missing or Faded Colors
Expired or dried-out ink is the likely culprit if an entire color is missing. Always keep bulk printer supplies on hand so you can replace the ink cartridge easily as soon as your printer tells you the ink is no longer working or you notice a drop in quality.
However, a poor connection inside the printer or an undiagnosed nozzle problem could be the issue in some cases. Newer printers are great at self-diagnosing nozzle problems, but older printers often need manual examinations. Manually running a special nozzle-checking utility from your printer software may also be an option.
If the source is still unclear, try replacing the ink cartridge for the affected color. Even if the cartridge still seems to have ink in it, the cartridge itself could be defective or starting to expire. Toner cartridges commonly see a decline in print quality as the toner settles, so try taking the toner out and shaking it before replacing it entirely.
You can clean the printheads for each color by soaking them in a water and ammonia mixture. However, some manufacturers strongly recommend only letting a professional clean the printheads and nozzles. Consult with the owner’s manual before attempting any cleaning of these sensitive parts.
5. Paper Jams
Paper jams occur between the paper tray and the ink nozzles, and the printer usually has to be at least partially open to remove the jam. Avoid pulling the paper out harshly through the front of the printer or back through the feeder tray, as this can damage the rollers and other sensitive parts.
Your printer status screen or user’s manual should be able to tell you the correct door to open for safe removal. Turn off and unplug the printer, before attempting to unjam it, and only use your fingers to free the jam to avoid causing damage. In the rare case that you can’t see or clear the jam with just your fingers, you may have to consult with a printer professional.
Paper jams commonly occur when the paper becomes misaligned or is in poor condition. You can avoid paper jams by always using new, clean paper in your printer and making sure the paper is loaded neatly into the tray. If you want to print photo-size or smaller paper, make sure your printer’s settings can handle the smaller size. You may need to manually adjust the paper feed tray to align the smaller-sized paper and hold it securely.
Make sure you are using the correct type of paper for your printer as well. Most modern printers accept a wide range of paper, including basic cardstock and recycled paper. However, some printers may struggle to feed very thin recycled paper or thicker cardstock correctly. Unusual coatings on paper may also cause problems.
6. Expired Ink
Even if your printer seems to be working fine, you may be due for an ink change sooner than expected if the ink has expired or is about to. Your printer will usually notify you if it detects your ink may be expired. Some models have a built-in chip in each ink or toner cartridge that tells the printer the expiration date, while other models give an estimate based on when you inserted the cartridge.
When putting each new ink cartridge in, make a note of the expiration date printed on the package in case the printer doesn’t track it. Some inks expire within a certain amount of time after being opened, but most have a certain shelf life even if they remain unopened. Inks can even expire sooner if they are kept in a too-cold or too-hot room.
Humidity can also be a culprit in ink expiring or drying out entirely. Although your instinct may be to keep the air conditioning as high as possible to keep the office cool, air conditioning can dry out the air, causing faded printing or other ink quality errors.
The best way to prevent ink from expiring prematurely is to store it in a room that’s temperature- and humidity-controlled. Avoid keeping it in basements, garages, or storage rooms that aren’t well-monitored. Although some manufacturers may claim that their ink can handle a wide range of temperatures, it’s best not to take any chances with extreme temperatures that can reduce the ink’s lifespan.
7. Blurry Quality
Blurry image quality can be caused by ink or nozzle problems, so running the printer software’s troubleshooter and replacing the ink may help. However, sometimes blurry picture quality has less to do with the printer itself and more to do with the quality of the file you’re using. Basic presentations will look fine printed at 150 or even fewer dots per inch (DPI), but photos need 300 DPI for better clarity.
You can determine if the photo file is an appropriate size for your print job by dividing the dimensions by 300. A photo that’s 1800 pixels wide and 1200 pixels tall appears clear when printed at 4” x 6” photo size but will start to look blurry if printed on a full letter-size sheet of paper.
Finally, double-check to make sure your printer settings and paper type match. Your printer makes tiny adjustments to how it prints, depending on the type of paper it senses in the tray, so a mismatch here can cause image quality issues. Canon ink cartridges may change between two different types of black ink, depending on whether you’re printing photos or text.
8. Wi-Fi Connection Problems
Wi-Fi printers are more common now than in years past. While they’re convenient for home and office use, they can be temperamental. The method for setting up the initial connection varies, depending on the brand and model, but reconnection may require running the troubleshooting software on the computer instead of just pushing buttons on the front of the printer.
Keep in mind that connecting the printer to an unsecured network is not suitable for long-term security, even if it does make connecting and reconnecting easier. Take the time to set up a strong password for your Wi-Fi and save it in your printer’s settings to make reconnection faster. If problems persist, resetting your Wi-Fi router often helps.
If you’re in a hurry and just need the printer to work, try connecting it with a USB cable. You may need to run the printer driver installation software to get it to recognize the printer, but it’s a more reliable option than constantly resetting the Wi-Fi and pressing buttons on the front of your printer.
9. Unresponsive Printer
Sometimes a printer’s print or scan features will stop functioning without explanation. Instead of being a Wi-Fi issue, sometimes the problem is with the printer software itself. Printer drivers depend on complex programming to print as many file types as possible, and the communication with the printer may become corrupted.
If your printer refuses to accept print jobs or send scanned documents to your computer, try reinstalling the printer software on the computer. Also, consult your printer’s manual to see if the printer needs manual firmware updates. When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website to see if a bug has been identified and a patch is in the works, especially if the printer is very new or there has been a major Mac or Windows operating system update.
Scanner units can be temperamental, especially if they’re low-budget scanners with scanner units that aren’t built to last. If your printer continues to print but won’t scan, investigate whether the scanner unit itself has a problem. Your scanner’s troubleshooting software may be able to identify the issue but, in some cases, only a professional can give you an accurate idea of whether it’s fixable.
Staying Ready for Any Print Job
Basic knowledge of printer maintenance and troubleshooting goes a long way toward protecting your investment. Although your printer’s computer software and built-in firmware detect and propose solutions to many problems, being able to use basic detective skills helps.
InkJetSuperStore provides a full range of high-quality printer cartridges to keep you stocked and ready to go. We carry HP, Epson, Canon, Brother and other ink and toner brands for various home, office and photo printers.
Our bulk discount starts at just three cartridges, making it more affordable for you to stock up at home and work. Whether you only use your printer occasionally or need it for daily office tasks, count on us for ink that gives you stellar results.