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Tips | Printing Trouble Shooter

Tips For Avoiding Problems With Your Inkjet Printer Cartridge and Other Printer Help....

The following information is provided to help you get the most from your printer and more specifically, your printer's cartridge. Naturally, we don't have all the answers but these are some of the more common ones. If you have a tip or other helpful information, please let us know so it can be added here. A "thank you" and your name will be posted. We all can benefit from sharing. E-mail us

Don't Let the Cartridge Dry Out!


The number one refilling problem is waiting too long to refill your cartridge. Inside just about all inkjet cartridges with a built-in print head, there is a foam sponge. When the cartridge runs out of ink, there is a tendency for the sponge to dry up and go hard. When you don't fill up your cartridge right away, the ink will dry and clog the micro holes at the outlet (jets) of the printer head. Once the sponge has hardened there is usually no real way to make it work again properly.

When this happens the symptoms are likely to be inconsistent light and dark print, as well as a reduced number of prints per refill. It is always better to fill up the cartridge before it runs out. It is strongly suggested that you fill up your empty cartridge as soon as it is out of ink, and do not wait. Better yet, it is always better to fill up the cartridge before it runs out. Topping up the cartridge every 200-250 sheets ensures that the cartridge always has ink in it to stop the sponge from drying out, and also that you never run out of ink in the middle of a job!

If you are out of refill ink supplies, wrap your cartridge in a moist paper towel or cloth and seal it in a plastic baggie. Remember to get as much air out of the baggie as possible. This will buy you time to get Resupplied.

** Note - It is often possible to unblock a cartridge which has a printhead that has blocked up (what have you got to loose at this point). Place the printhead part of the cartridge (just the nozzles where the ink comes out) in a saucer or shallow bowl containing 50% very hot tap water and 50% bleach (or ammonia), about 1/2 cup total. Hold it there for two or three minutes. This should hydrate and loosen any dried ink and allow the ink to flow through the printhead nozzles. You should see the ink bleed out (gently wipe it dry), repeat if needed. It is preferable to do this when the cartridge is empty and then put a small volume of ink into the cartridge to test the print quality. This should be followed by inserting the cartridge into the printer and running the printer through its printhead cleaning cycle (see your printer's manual).

Keep The Print Head Clean            
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Care needs to be taken to ensure that the print head is kept clean in order to stop ink clogging in the print head. Some machines, mostly the Hewlett Packard printers, have a tendency not to clean the print head properly as part of their normal cleaning cycles. Often deposits of ink will set up on the end of the print head causing the cartridge to function sub-optimally. This problem can be fixed by gently cleaning the print head with a soft cotton cloth or Q-tip dipped in water - don't use tissues. Snap the cartridge in and out a couple times to get a good connection after cleaning. Keeping the print head clean greatly increases the number of successful refills.

Preventing "Color Mixing" When Refilling


Preventing "Color Mixing" When Refilling When refilling a three color (or more) cartridge, there is a chance that you can have the cartridge turned the wrong way and get the colors on the ends backwards. In other words, you might put the magenta ink in the cyan chamber. To avoid this from happening and ruining your cartridge: use three tooth picks and insert one of them into each fill hole, deep enough to pick up some ink. Mark the cartridge with a marker or piece of tape to help you remember which chamber is which color. Pretty simple and helpful. (Thanks Sharon!)

Do Not Run Back to Back Cleaning Cycles.

(this applies to all printers)


It just makes things worse! Give the cartridge a chance to let some ink flow in between cleaning cycles! After running a cleaning cycle, Print 3 or 4 pages of a color pattern or a color balanced image. If the printing is still not looking good, run another cleaning cycle, then 3 or 4 pages of color pattern. Repeat the process until you have obtained a quality print. This will purge air bubbles or foamy ink that a cleaning cycle may not get.

Purge the Cartridge                        
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Purging the cartridge regularly is one of the most important steps in ensuring a long cartridge life. The purging cycle is NOT the same as the cleaning cycle. If you don't know how to do this, read your printer manual, It's all in there! The purge cycle consists of a process that heats all the jets in the cartridge and then cleans them from the inside out. All purge cycles produce a grid which consists of vertical and horizontal lines which represent all the jets in the cartridge.

Resistors


The only reason cartridges have a limited refill life is the resistors that control the current to each outlet jet. When a cartridge runs out of ink, the resistors can overheat (up to 500 degrees!) and burn out. Most printers will warn you of a low cartridge before it completely runs out of ink. These resistors wear out over time, and when they fail the result is wavy and slanted print. When the resistors in the cartridge fail, the only solution is to Buy Another Cartridge. At the first sign of low ink, refill or top off your cartridge to ensure a long refillable life!

Pressure Equalization


When certain cartridges (HP 51626A and 51629A) are refilled it changes the equilibrium inside and may need time to adjust. The best way to get optimum performance out of your printer cartridge is to let it the pressure stabilize properly. Some cartridges require you to re-pressurize them with a plastic squeeze bottle that you have to blow into the air hole (this is done 'automatically' with our special product, The Refill Station. Others simply require that you let them sit for a small amount of time before re-inserting them into the printer. This is often the case with some Epson cartridges which can take up to a day to equilibrate but are generally good to go in less than an hour. It is good idea to stand the cartridge on some newspaper to equalize (don't let the 'nozzle tip' touch the paper).
 
Detailed, Easy-To-Follow instructions and the proper tools will come with each refill kit we sell for your printer make, model and cartridge. Make sure you carefully follow the instructions that come with your refill kit and you'll have success!

Common Problems with New and Compatible Epson Cartridges


Sometimes a brand new cartridge from Epson or one of our compatibles may appear to not be working properly. There are three (3) reasons for this.

1) There may not be a pool of ink at the exit port (the pre-chamber) that the head can suck from. The solution to this is the "Centrifugal Force" tip below.

2) The vent grooves to one or more chambers may be blocked by adhesive. The adhesive from the tear away seal or the name plate sticker may have blocked up a vent groove. If air can't get into the cartridge, the ink will not flow. The solution to this is a straight pin. Use a straight pin to puncture the name plate foil and vent the cartridge. If you run your finger nail across the foil, you will find there is a hole under the foil for each chamber. This is where to stick the pin through the foil. After making the pin holes in each chamber, run a few cleaning cycles to reestablish solid ink in the head.

3) Printer stops printing after a few pages(or many) have printed. *After refilling your cartridge your printer "thinks" the "original" cartridge is empty. Simply unplug the printer and wait a couple of minutes before plugging it in again. This Should "clear" the memory so the printer recognizes your refilled cartridge as "full".

Elimination of Air Pockets Using Centrifugal Force


Some of the sponge filled cartridges can develop air pockets at the bottom of the cartridge that can block the flow of ink. HP color cartridges and Epson Stylus Color cartridges are best know for this problem. The solution is centrifugal force.

Wrap the cartridge in a towel or cloth. Place the cloth wrapped cartridge in a plastic bag, (a plastic "grocery" bag is good). Hold it in your hand with the head or exit ports pointing down. Extend your arm and swing the cartridge down towards the floor rapidly, sorta like you were going to throw it. Repeat a couple of times. Then remove the cloth wrapping. There should be a visible spot of ink from each of the chambers. If not, do it again. ** Note: Epson 400/600/800/1520 series cartridges must have a pool of ink at the exit port to work properly.

EPSON - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)


* How do I install my new cartridge?

Remove the yellow tape seal or plastic red tab from the ink cartridge you are going to install. Do not remove the tape or plastic caps covering the holes at bottom of cartridge. Do not remove the white label from the top of the ink cartridge. The ink in a cartridge missing the white label will be exposed to air and will thicken such that print head clogging and possible print head failure can occur. If the white label has been removed from the ink cartridge, the cartridge will not function correctly and it will need to be replaced. More importantly, to avoid potential damage to the printer, do not install the cartridge if the white label has been removed. If the black ink out light is flashing or solid, hold the black cleaning button until the print heads move to the left, and then install the black ink cartridge. If the color ink out light is flashing or solid, hold the color cleaning button until the print heads move to the left, and then install the color ink cartridge. After installing the cartridge, press the load/eject button to begin charging the ink delivery system.

* The quality of my printed output is unacceptable. What can I do?

Verify that you are using the correct printer driver for your printer model. Make sure that the printer's paper adjust lever is set to 0 for regular paper and + for envelopes or thicker media. If MicroWeave is off, turn this feature on. If High Speed is on, turn it off. Make sure the Media Type setting matches the paper or media loaded. Also, the Halftoning and Color Adjustment Mode options may be set incorrectly for your document type.

Let the printer driver automatically select the settings for the best quality. The paper you are using may be damaged, old, dirty or loaded incorrectly. Remove the paper and reload a new stack ensuring that the printable side is face up. If your output is faint, check the printer driver to make sure you have selected a print resolution other than Economy.

For vertical banding, rough or grainy images run the Print Head Alignment utility to align the print heads for precise vertical lines. If the image does not contain the colors you expected, the color settings on your application software may need adjustment. Refer to your software documentation for help on adjusting colors.

If the previous steps do not resolve the issue, the print head nozzles may be clogged. From the Utility section found in the EPSON printer driver, clean the print heads by performing a head cleaning followed by printing a nozzle check pattern. A head cleaning and nozzle check MUST be performed as a cycle. After printing a nozzle check, examine the printed dot pattern. Each staggered horizontal and straight vertical line should be complete, with no gaps in the dot pattern. If there are gaps in the dot pattern, continue with another cycle. Performing up to 6 cleaning cycles is not uncommon if the print heads are severly clogged.

If the nozzle check prints completely, and you're still experiencing a problem, make sure you are using the most current version of the printer driver. You can obtain the latest printer driver from the Epson web site. The resolution of your image may also be set too low. Increase the image resolution using your image-editing software, or decrease the size of the image.

Another troubleshooting test to try is moving the printer to another computer. This will eliminate the possibility of a defective printer cable, parallel port, or software issue.

* My printouts are missing color and/or black print. How can I fix this?

If the printer is printing blank pages, make sure you are using the correct printer driver and make sure the paper size is correctly selected in the driver. If the printer is printing black only, the Ink option in the printer driver may be set to Black instead of Color or a setting in the software may be set to print black only. Also, the print head nozzles may be clogged. From the Utility section found in the EPSON printer driver, clean the print heads by performing a head cleaning followed by printing a nozzle check pattern. A head cleaning and nozzle check must be performed as a cycle. After printing a nozzle check, examine the printed dot pattern. Each staggered horizontal and straight vertical line should be complete, with no gaps in the dot pattern. If there are gaps in the dot pattern, continue with another cycle. Performing up to 6 cleaning cycles is not uncommon if the print heads are severly clogged.

* The printed output is broken up and/or has white streaks running thru it. How can I fix this?

The print head nozzles may be clogged. From the Utility section found in the EPSON printer driver, clean the print heads by performing a head cleaning followed by printing a nozzle check pattern. A head cleaning and nozzle check must be performed as a cycle. After printing a nozzle check, examine the printed dot pattern. Each staggered horizontal and straight vertical line should be complete, with no gaps in the dot pattern. If there are gaps in the dot pattern, continue with another cycle. Perform up to 6 cycles if necessary.


Canon FAQ's                             
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* Why don't the colors displayed on the monitor match the printed colors?

Because your monitor and printer use different technologies to represent colors, your printed colors cannot exactly match the colors you see on your monitor screen. Try using the ICM (Windows 95or 98) or ColorSync (Macintosh) setting. Refer to your User's Guide for more information.

* The quality of my printed output is unacceptable. What can I do to improve this?

Verify that you are using the correct printer driver for your printer model. Let the printer driver automatically select the settings for the best quality. The paper you are using may be damaged, old, dirty or loaded incorrectly. Remove the paper and reload a new stack ensuring that the printable side is face up. Run the head cleaning utility. Perform up to 6 cycles if necessary. The resolution of your image may also be set too low. Increase the image resolution using your image-editing software, or decrease the size of the image. Another troubleshooting test to try is moving the printer to another computer. This will eliminate the possibility of a defective printer cable, parallel port, or software issue.

* My printouts are missing color and/or black print. How can I fix this?

If the printer is printing blank pages, make sure you are using the correct printer driver and make sure the paper size is correctly selected in the driver. If the printer is printing black only, the Ink option in the printer driver may be set to Black instead of Color or a setting in the software may be set to print black only. Also, the print head nozzles may be clogged. Perform a head cleaning If there are still gaps in the dot pattern, continue with another cycle. Perform up to 6 cycles if necessary.

For Printers which use the BCI21-B, BCI21-C or BCI21-E cartridges, replacing the BCI21E printhead and cartridge assembly is necessary after replacing the ink tanks a number of times (usually only after 4-5 tanks!). Over time the print head will wear out and must be replaced in order to continue producing acceptable print outs. This item is available from us Here. for a very reasonable price!

* The printed output is broken up and/or has white streaks running thru it. What's up?

The print head nozzles may be clogged. Perform a head cleaning and print a test print. If there are gaps in the dot pattern, continue with another cycle. Perform up to 6 cycles if necessary.

To prevent drying and possibly clogging of the printhead, it is recommended you print something in color once a week. Try this if the color print is 'light' or missing in spots:

Unplug the printer from the computer. Then locate the 'resume' button which is the button on the top right, push it until you hear 1 beep, do that 6-10 times, this shoots out some ink to clear the 'clogs'. Then plug the printer back up and try the print again.


If the printer is printing in streaks and 'smearing'; follow this procedure to remove any excess ink from the printer carriage area:
1. OPEN printer so the cartridges move to center of the carriage.
2. REMOVE all cartridges.
3. FOLD a letter size piece of paper in half, and then in half again the other way so it is quartered.
4. START with the long, folded edge and insert into front of printer where paper normally feeds out. (it will slip in a little over halfway)
5. MOVE the paper left and right to remove any excess ink under the carriage. When the excess ink is removed the printer should print streak-free.

Avoiding A Mess

When you are refilling an ink cartridge, you should do it over some newspapers, or better, an old rag or shirt. Cloth will soak up any excess ink immediately and is easier to clean up. Our refill kits are designed to minimize this. Once you get used to refilling, a mess will no longer be an issue.

Cleaning Up


The first time you refill a cartridge, you might get a little ink on your hands. To get the ink off, use a mild bleach and water solution then wash with soap and water.

MORE TIPS....                                     
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COLOR CARTRIDGES (with print heads)

Most color cartridges retain the ink using sponges. We have found that if you drip the ink into the sponge that you will get a better refill. Epson cartridges are the exception to this rule. The filling of Epson cartridges is from the bottom (complete and easy instructions with each kit). The best time to refill any color cartridge with a print head is when it is half empty. Lexmark, Compaq and some Xerox show how much ink is in the cartridge through their on screen software. After you refill the cartridge and are installing it back into your printer it will ask you if this is a new cartridge. Indicate yes and the ink level will usually return to full.


HP's most popular black cartridges are bladder cartridges. These cartridges are the most difficult to refill. Especially if you run them out of ink. We have found that using our unique HP-STATION-Refill System produces the best success. Actually, it is as easy as 1,2,3.

Lexmark, Compaq (with print heads & sponge)

These cartridges are some of the easiest to refill. They are very simple and easy when you follow the instructions. You can purchase a Lexmark printer for as little as $50 bucks. How can they make any money?.... You'll find out when you buy your first cartridge. Retail price for the color cartridge can run as high as $50.00 dollars!


Miscellaneous Information         
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Troubleshooting Printing Problems In Windows 95/98 -- The Following Topics Are Discussed In This Article: Check Your Printer Hardware; Verify Printer Properties; Windows 98/95 Print Troubleshooter; View the Printers.txt File; Try Printing A Test Document From Notepad Or WordPad; Try Printing From A Command Prompt And Lpt1.dos; You Can Print From A Command Prompt But Not Windows-Based Programs; Printing Issue Occurs Only In One Program; Remove And Reinstall The Printer Driver; Hard Disk Maintenance; Verify Your Printer Port Is Configured And Working Properly; Unable To Print From MS-DOS To A USB Printer; And Additional Troubleshooting Topics. NOTE: This Article Does Not Provide Information About Troubleshooting Printing Issues Over A Network, But Does Provide Many Important Basic Troubleshooting Steps You Can Use To Help Diagnose Your Printing Issues.


PRINTER DRIVERS:                           
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Check your printer manufacturer's Web site to verify that you have the latest print driver. Having the latest printer drivers installed will greatly improve your printer's performance! Please see our 'Driver Links' page.

OTHER TIPS....


Starch is used as a binder in the production of paper. It is the use of a starch coating that controls ink penetration when printing. Cheaper papers do not use as much starch, this is why your elbows get black when you are leaning over your morning paper.

Stick to plain paper when you're not generating high-quality color images. Most inkjets make fewer passes when printing on uncoated stock.

Use "draft" or "economy" mode when top quality isn't needed. Doing so shouldn't degrade text quality much, and it may even produce output good enough for all but the final versions of your jobs.

Turn off resource-hungry halftoning, color-matching, and image-enhancement options when you don't need them.

If you notice smeared printing the "wiper blade" inside the printer carriage might just be dirty. Wipe it off with a damp paper towel. This will usually fix the smearing problem.

One sure rule is that all ink jet cartridges will eventually wear out. They don't ever seem to wear out at the same time that your cartridge runs out of ink! Murphy's Law is still alive and well! You will eventually need to buy a new cartridge. We offer high quality replacement cartridges at great prices too, delivered right to your door!

Printing Short Cut


Say you're in a big hurry to print a saved file. Finding and firing up the originating program (your word processor, for example) and, in turn, calling up the file, navigating to the program's print function and working through the print dialogue box can seem to take forever when seconds count. By taking advantage of Windows 95/98's shortcuts, you can let your computer do all the work. Here's how:

Click on the Start button, go to the Settings menu and choose Printers. Single-click on the printer of your choice, to highlight it. Right-click the highlighted printer and select Create Shortcut. Windows will tell you it can't create the shortcut here and ask if you want it placed on your desktop. Say Yes. Then whenever you want to print in a hurry, just highlight the file you wish to output and drag it onto the printer shortcut on your desktop. Windows will look up the program, open the file and start outputting right away.

Add Your Printer to "SendTo" Menu

Print documents without opening them by adding your printer to the Win9x 'SendTo' menu (accessed when you highlight and right-click on any file in a Windows Explorer or My Computer window). Open C:\WINDOWS\SENDTO and create a shortcut there for your printer. Your printer will now appear the next time you access the 'SendTo' menu.

Change the Printing Order


When you have a number of documents in your printing pipeline, you can rearrange the print queue (except for the document currently being printed). Choose Start/Settings/Printers and double-click on the printer whose queue you want to manage. The "printer queue" with all the print jobs listed appears. If you want to cancel or pause the printing of any of the documents you have sent, click the document, and then use the commands on the Document menu.

Save Paper In MS Word 2000


If you want to create a reference copy of a long document, why not print several pages on a single sheet of paper? Here's how: Open the document in Word 2000 and select 'File', 'Print', just as you normally do. When the Print dialog box appears, drop down the 'Pages per sheet' in the bottom right corner, choose 4 pages, then cilck 'OK'. Your document will print with four pages on each sheet.

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