The most common printer problems and how to fix them

Updated: 2021-08-03

You buy new toner or a new cartridge, put it in your laser or inkjet printer, load the document on your computer and send a print command. Ideally, you should get paper with nicely printed text or images on it. It is easy to be optimistic, but what happens when things do not go as planned? Do you think that you bought a faulty cartridge, or is the printer at fault? There are several different printing issues that can occur, and I have included advice on how to put them right in the following article.

Problems when printing on a laser printer

I have already published a few articles detailing how to use a laser printer before. In a nutshell, a laser printer renders an image with a laser beam onto a metal cylinder with a light-reflecting semiconducting layer. After this, the toner inks are transferred onto paper, which only adheres to the page’s lit up (rendered) areas and are then printed on the paper.

Some of the most common issues you may encounter during this process include the following:

Ink smudges

The printed document has distinctive smudge marks as a result of the printing process.
In most cases, you will need to troubleshoot the printer to determine the cause of the error. This is possible due to some toner powder spilling out from the cartridge and getting onto the paper.
How to fix the smudges? If it is a single leak, it will disappear on its own after a few prints. However, you can prevent problems by having your printer cleaned regularly.

Horizontal stripes

Repeated stripes appear on your document.
A faulty optical or magnetic roller is likely to be the cause.
How to fix horizontal stripes when printing? Bad news – you will have to replace the cylinder.

Stripes running vertically

You can see stripes running along the paper’s length.
The wiper blade most likely causes the problem. The blade cleans the optical cylinder of powder residue every time you spin it. If the blade is broken somewhere, it won’t clean the roller at that point, and the residual powder gets on the paper.
How to fix vertical stripes? Have the wiper blade replaced by a professional or someone experienced.

The printing of part of the document is too weak

The print is substantially weaker along the sides or in the middle of the sheet of paper than it is the rest of the way through.
I think there are two possible reasons why some parts of a document have poor print. The cartridge is often running low on toner, or protective tape has been left on the cartridge that prevents spontaneous spillage of toner powder.

How to fix it? You can try shaking the cartridge lightly and putting it back in if you’ve had it in your printer for a long time and the toner is running low. In this way, the powder will be mixed. If the new toner cartridge is causing the problem, you may have forgotten to remove the protective tape mentioned above. Try printing the document again after removing it.

The print is too light

The document appears much lighter in its printed form than it does when it is viewed on your computer screen.
An optical cylinder defect is caused by an incorrectly functioning photosensitive layer on the optical cylinder. If it deposits less powder than it should, there is less powder on the printed document.
How to fix it? A defective optical roller should be inspected by a professional.

An image or a text that is repeated over and over again

The document appears to have ghosts, remnants of a previous print.
This occurs when the optical cylinder doesn’t discharge correctly, so it repeats the previous print. Most probably, the cylinder or the discharge panel is damaged.
How to fix it? You will have to replace the faulty part with the new one.

Black page

Instead of text or an image, the entire page comes out of the printer black.
Usually, black pages are caused by a poorly charged optical cylinder. During the rolling process, the toner adheres to the entire surface of the paper and then imprints itself on the paper.
How to fix the black page? The best way to fix this is to take your printer to a professional. They will inspect the roller, check its charge and take care of any component replacement.

Wrong colors

The printed image or text has a different color scheme than what is displayed on the screen or in the document.
This is a problem with the calibration. Calibration refers to the process of adjusting the toner cartridges so that they work together and print the right shades. Calibration is most often handled by printers automatically, but not always.
How to fix wrong colors? Run the printer calibration.

Error message

A window appears on your computer screen when you enter a print command with a message such as “Replace toner” or “No toner installed.”
There is something wrong with the chip.
How to fix it? If nothing happens when you click OK, or if you can’t acknowledge the message at all and you can’t print, you’ll need to replace the toner cartridge.

The cartridge was spilled

A little bit of powder is spilled when you unpack a new toner cartridge.
It is most likely that this toner defect occurred during the shipment process to you. It is a fact that some cartridges are more sensitive to shocks, and these can cause the joints to loosen over time. However, there is a possibility that the factory forgot to tighten one of the screws.
How to fix it? Don’t put the loose toner cartridge in the printer, but instead return it.

Printing problems on an inkjet printer

As I previously explained, printing on inkjet printers is done with the help of dozens of microscopic nozzles located in the printer’s print heads. These inject ink at tremendous speed from the cartridge onto the paper. A chip in the ink cartridge again handles communication between the printer and the computer.

During this process, you may encounter the following problems:

Poor print quality

The printed document contains skipped areas or the colors on the monitor are different from those on the printed copy.
There can be several causes for poor printing on an inkjet printer. One of the most common problems is a clogged print head, an empty cartridge, or a faulty tray.
How to fix it? Start cleaning the print heads. You can do this directly in the printer control panel. Try to print at least once a month to avoid clogged printheads.

Error message

After you enter a print command, an error message appears on your computer screen.
The error is most likely a bad chip, similar to a laser printer.
How to fix it? Confirm the message by clicking OK. If that doesn’t help, try cleaning the contacts on the cartridge (for example, with a microfiber cloth). They may be slightly rusted, preventing communication with the printer.

The ink spilt

As you are removing a new cartridge from the package, you will see some ink inside.
Like the spilt toner, the joints of the ink cartridge itself have, unfortunately, become loose over time.
How to fix it? Don’t insert the dirty cartridge into the printer at all; you’ll contaminate it. Send the cartridge in for a warranty claim.