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Paper Jam Solutions for Laser Printers

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

Perhaps nothing is more frustrating for end users than seeing the blinking paper jam error button. They typically panic, harbor visions of spilling toner on their new shirt, and then either try to fix the snafu themselves or call a technician if it’s a recurring problem (or when they’ve made it worse after a bit of tinkering.

Lucky for us, paper jams are less mysterious in their origins than an untrained eye would think, as they can usually be classified into two areas: isolated incidents and festering problems.

While isolated incidents are traced to one placement error––like improper positioning of paper sensor flags–– festering problems are a bit trickier and typically rooted in various types of end user neglect, like worn or dirty paper feed rollers. In this article, I will explore both types of paper jams, what causes them, and propose some solutions on how to fix these jams on the LaserJet printers.

Helpful Resources

In an ideal world, paper will move from the printer's lower tray to the Registration Rollers and Feed/Separation Rollers without missing a beat, continuing on its “C” curve path until it emerges successfully from the printer. Yet, unfortunately, there are many factors preventing ideal situations.

In a busy office, this translates into several print jobs every hour, which causes faster wear of the feed rollers. In addition, these printers offer duplexing options which, although saves paper, means that the paper must spend more time in the printer by making more turns through different paths.

And you don’t need to be a certified technician to know that the longer paper remains in an active printer, the higher probability that HP’s blinking paper jam signal will appear. I like to call paper jams a “timeout.”

Not only does a timeout sound less threatening to an end user, but it’s exactly what happened because there are sensor flags that detect the paper as it moves through the printer. Once the print job begins, the media has a set amount of time to reach each area of the printing process. If the media fails to reach a location by a certain time, the printer displays a paper jam error signal.

Steps to Solve

1. Isolate the jam by determining where it is occurring. This sounds much easier than it looks because a jam can be caused by more than one thing, and some jams do not occur frequently enough to be isolated. Solid failures are easier to isolate. Is it happening as the paper goes in, while it’s coming out, or somewhere in between?

Turn off the printer’s power if the jam is far inside the printer. You can tell how far along the jam is by how much of the paper has already emerged onto the paper output tray. If you see only an inch of paper poking out––or none at all––chances are there’s some ugly stuff going on in the inside of the printer.

You don’t know until you look inside whether a part was merely out of place, constituting an isolated incident or whether internal wear and tear has been building up for a long time, which means you have a festering problem on your hands.

2. Once the jammed paper is discovered, grasp it firmly with both hands and pull straight so the paper doesn’t tear. It is very important to use both hands, leveraging your strength on both sides of the paper because you could create more problems if it tears inside the printer.

3. If the paper happens to rip, rotate the gears by hand to back the remainder of the paper out of the printer.

Now that you’ve discovered where the jam is occurring, you’ll most likely have to replace a few parts if it appears to be a festering problem. (If it appears that one function was offline, you can chalk it up to chance and possible misuse.)

1. With the LaserJet printer, replace the Tray 1 assembly if jams occur while the paper attempts to pass through this tray. The paper output assembly should be replaced if jams frequently emerge as paper exits the machine in the face down mode.

Replace the tray one assembly for all manual feed jam problems. Check the printer input feed mechanism which will solve most of your paper jam problems coming from trays 2 and 3.

2. Replace the fuser if the jam occurs as the paper comes out of the fuser.

3. The controller board should be the last part replaced when trying to isolate these jams.

If you are pressed for time, and need a “quick fix,” I recommend cleaning the printer feed rollers rather than replacing them. However, for longer lasting results, replacing the rollers is your best option. For most paper jam difficulties, reading HP’s information will help you troubleshoot the problem in about an hour, depending on your familiarity with the printer.

Most importantly, knowing the machine and isolating the problem will save you time and a lot of headaches, not to mention make your end users happy.

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