Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Sometimes we focus so much energy on examining laser printers, printer parts and toner cartridges that we forget to notice the deceptively simple things like paper.
Unfortunately, no sensible time frame exists to help you gauge when paper problems might occur. Some printers may function smoothly for 10 months straight, while others seem to flash error signals every other job.
Paper feed problems usually result from what I like to call “a poor fit.” It is important to store your media properly and make sure that it meets the printer’s specifications. Always use media recommended by the manufacturer, as deviating from these specifications may cause premature wear on the printer’s internal components.
Temperature rating, thickness and grain direction are just some of the factors that dictate how media will act during the printing process. This can be especially difficult to diagnose if you are repairing the printer in your shop and not at your client’s work site.
Ask them what their office temperature is like, as well as how long the paper was stored. Buying in bulk is a great convenience, but not worth the risk of housing yellowed curled paper with an abnormally high moisture index that may stall or paralyze output. I’ve identified some types of errors as well as solutions that will help you gain greater control over paper problems.
A jam is caused when the paper does not feed through the printer properly. The paper feed rollers may be worn or dirty which causes the rollers to slip on the paper.
A sensor flag may be in the wrong position or not moving freely, or the drive gears could be worn or jammed. Finally, there may be something blocking the paper, perhaps a cluster of cake sprinkles from an office party, a tuft of hair, a paper clip, etc.
If you’re tired of being surprised by the latest jam, try looking for clues, like multi-feeding, which occurs when two sheets of paper, instead of one, pass through the feed rollers. The end user is left with one accurately printed sheet and one or two blank sheets.
Multi-feeding often precedes a jam and is a good indicator that trouble lies ahead. Nobody wants to reckon with blank, curled paper, or dig through piles of documents to extract all the blank pages. If multi-feeding occurs, try the following steps:
Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the print roller. Pat with a dry, lint-free cloth.
Add large amounts to the paper tray. If you have only a few sheets, there’s a greater change that the rollers will mistake it for one sheet. Avoid mixing paper types in the same tray.
When you add paper to the existing stack in the Paper-Input bin you should realign all the paper.
Prepare the paper by gently folding the stack in half or lightly fanning it in order to separate the sheets. If you get a visible crease you’ve gone too far.
The printer self-test helps determine if everything functions as properly as the spec sheet promised. If the printer produces white pages from the PC and not from the self-test you could conclude that the problem is software related or an interface connection problem.
Check to see if your PCL (postscript language) is compatible with your printer’s settings. Components in the interface circuit of the printer will cause communication problems.
Recently, we upgraded a computer for one of our sales associates. Soon after the upgrade, we received several complaints about printed documents. His printer would print letters but not some spread sheet forms.
I assured him that the printer was not at fault. It turned out that his printer could not interpret some of the new software we had just installed in his computer. We quickly solved the problem by upgrading to a printer that was compatible with the new software.
Garbage or No-Print
Is your printer producing indecipherable garbage from the desktop PC? Some printers may require the drivers to be reinstalled or updated. A bad interface board in the printer or loose interface cable can also cause printing problems.
And finally, perhaps one of the most frustrating types of problems is the no-print. You created the job, sent it to the printer and even the familiar data light flashed and still the job does not print. A faulty interface board inside the printer or a loose cable interface is the most likely cause of this problem.
I often feel strange giving other technicians advice, because we all know how temperamental certain machines can be, and how easily factors like temperature and loose cables impede otherwise excellent performance. In any case, it’s always important to be logical when trying to find a solution for a paper problem.
Eliminate any possibilities that may cause doubt and always replace with new parts instead of trying to revive tired parts. Cleaning is just a temporary fix. Changing parts will save you time and frustration.