End User Tips on Fixing Common Problems

Every printer is bound to have problems arise over its life time. Some problems will be easy enough to fix that your customer can handle it. Other problems, of course, require the skills of a professional service technician. In this article I will touch on some of the easy fixes that customers can mostly likely handle on their own.

Tip for Service Companies
There are many reasons why some of the easy problems most customers can handle on their own can effect a service company’s reputation. While it’s fun for us techs to go out to a customer’s office and tell them they just have a defective toner or clean white-out off a glass strip and charge a fee, our goal is to make our customers happy. One key to doing that is to make sure they don’t see us all the time to fix minor issues. If your customer’s Accounting Department sees constant billings from a service provider they start to wonder if they are doing a good job. It might not be the techs fault, but the customer paying the bills might not see it that way. While educating your customers with a few tips might, at first, seem like a bad idea from a financial point of view; it can go a long way toward promoting a trusting, honest relationship with your customers for a lasting relationship and a good reputation.

Of course not all customers care about fixing their own printers. Some just want the printer fixed and done whenever there is any kind of problem so, when attempting to give tips and advice, pay attention to your customer. If they seem uninterested, cut the conversation short and move on. Not everybody cares for free advice.

Fixing Common Problems

Image Defect Problems with Printers
Probably the most common problem that is easy to fix is image quality problems. If dealing with strictly a printer, just try a new toner cartridge. It’s probably the easiest thing you can try before spending $75 on a service call. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out on a call where the customer says they just installed a new toner a week ago so they know for sure it’s not a toner issue to find out it actually is a toner issue. For me, it’s pretty much a dead give away when you hear the toner was changed recently and now they have a problem. Especially if your customer is using refurbished or third party cartridges. It’s vital to try a different cartridge first before committing to a service call. Most cartridge manufactures have warranties and understand their product is not perfect. The best thing to do is print off a config page with the print defect, put it inside the box with the bad cartridge, call the place where you got it and send it back for replacement. Vendors like a usage report, if possible, to see how many pages where printed on the cartridge before the problem occurred.

Some printer brands, like Brother, and copiers too, have charge grids on the drums, which charge the drum before printing again. If the grid gets dirty it doesn’t charge the drum correctly, which can result in lines or sporadic toner drop. Brother printers have a blue tab on the drum that’s used to swipe back and forth to clean the corona wire inside the charge grid. Each time a new toner is installed, this should be done to prevent this problem. Some copiers have this same device and rarely do customers ever use them or know what they do. Directions can often be found in the user manual, side door, or on toner replacement instructions.

Note: HP’s use charge rollers, which are located inside the toner, so they’re not easy for customers to fix or clean themselves.

As a last resort, do a half test if you feel up to it. Print a test page and when it’s half way through the machine open the top cover and remove the toner. If the defect is present before the image is fused then you know you have a toner, drum, transfer, or laser issue. Try a new toner. If defect is not present before the fuser then a fuser issue is most likely the cause.  You might not be able to fix your issue with the results but doing this will help in relaying the issue when calling in for service and should help the tech to make sure and bring the right parts on the first trip to speed up the repair.

Lines on Copies and Faxes vs. Prints
If you have an All-in-one machine that’s producing lines on prints or copies and faxes you need to isolate the problem. First, send a print job. If the line is present try the procedure in the section above. If there are no lines on the print job, try making a copy. If a copy has lines on it but not a print job then we know we need to focus on the scan area.

Try a copy from the flatbed (large glass portion). If no line is present on the copy then try the document feeder section. If that copy has lines then we know we have a problem with that area. White lines or voids are usually a result of white-out on the thin glass strip next to the large glass. Black lines can either be white-out, pen, dirt, or other obstructions. Alcohol or glass cleaner like Windex can be used to clean the glass.  Glass cleaners usually have ammonia in them so only use on the glass; don’t use inside the machine or on feed rollers.

The scanner is very sensitive so the problem might not always be visibly apparent. Even if you don’t see anything obvious it doesn’t hurt to clean the glass anyway before calling in for service. You might be surprised in the difference.

Some copiers, like the HP 4345, don’t have a glass strip so cleaning the large glass portion or replacing the Mylar strip on the bottom of the flatbed might be necessary. Check the user manual for HP machines with this feature. I believe HP thought this feature might help with line problems by replacing the strip occasionally, but in reality caused more issues for end users.

Paper Jams
If you are experiencing paper jams from the cassette tray then try the multi-purpose (MP) tray. If the MP tray prints fine then we can focus on the cassette tray. Remove the paper from the tray and check for any paper that is bent or folded over. Sometimes when installing paper one of the pieces, usually on the bottom, can get folded forward causing the tray and paper not to lift properly. Another thing to check is that the paper stop and guides are aligned properly.

On old machines, people were always advised to make sure the paper stop was snug against the back of the paper to avoid jams. New machines need a little space for the tray to lift so if you move the stop too far forward it binds the paper and it will not feed properly and can result in service errors or broken pieces requiring more service expenses. Remove the paper and check that the line on the paper stop matches up with the mark on the tray, moved forward just slightly too far can cause problems.

Another thing to check on all the HP 4000 line of printers is the feed rollers in the trays that can be easily removed and replaced. Remove the tray and check the feed rollers. If they are smooth and shiny then they are worn and need to be replaced. They should have tread on them kind of like a tire on a car. There is one in the tray and one or two, depending on the model, above it inside the printer. Just unclip them on the end and slide them off. Replace the same way; just make sure they clip into place by trying to pull them back off. If they slide off without unclipping then it was installed improperly. I have several large customers that call every two to three months and order ten or more so that they can handle their own replacements.

If there is jamming inside the machine then remove the toner and check for any obstructions in the feed path. If there is nothing obvious I would recommend calling for service, as several parts inside the machines are delicate and if mishandled can result in additional charges when repair is necessary.

Most feed problems are located from the cassette. In the HP 4000, 4100, 4200, 4250, and 4015 series printers, feed tires are easy to replace but on models like the HP 2000 and 3000 series replacement usually requires a service technician.

Document Feed Issues
Because of the document feeder being located on the top of the machine it is more inclined to have feed issues related to dirty feed rollers. By opening the top access door on the document feeder you can usually see plainly the pick up feed tires. Using a damp cloth, gently clean off the surface of the feed tires and retest.

49 and 79.XXX Errors
These errors are usually a result of software, drivers, or firmware problems. Best thing to do is turn off the printer, unplug the communication cable and turn the printer back on. If the problem goes away then plug the cable back in. If, after a minute or so the printer starts to print again and you get the same error, then we know a print job is causing the issue. Have the person overseeing your network remove any print jobs in the server’s print queue. If none are present then check individual machines for unprinted print jobs that are stuck in the computer.  More and more print jobs are directly going to the printer bypassing print queues so it can be frustrating finding the offending job. After you have found the job causing the problem, take note of the document, delete it, reset the printer and try a test page from the properties menu in the print driver. If that prints fine then update the print driver with a different version or newer. If using aPCL6, switch toPCL5 or vice versa. Several driver and firmware updates have been released to fix these software related issues. New firmware versions have added commands to automatically restart the machine when 49 errors occur. Last week I had a customer assure me they had removed all print jobs and the error kept reoccurring. After more testing I found that they still had several jobs from a variety of employees waiting to be printed. One thing that I’ve done on more than one occasion like this is to turn the printer on and then constantly keep pressing the cancel job key over and over. When the offending job starts to print, if you catch it just right, it will delete the job and clear the error and then the rest of the jobs will print out.

Not Printing on Network
The first thing is to verify that you’re not the only one having the problem. If you are, contact your network or computer specialist to fix your isolated issue. However, if everybody can’t print, verify that all the cables are connected. Then check the back of printer — on newer equipment the network ports have lights on the back; green for activity and orange for receiving and sending data.  Both lights should be lit or blinking. If they aren’t lit then you have a communication problem. If both are lit:

  • print off a config page from the information menu or network menu to verify the IP address of the machine
  • go to your computer and check under the driver printer properties
  • once in the driver properties section check under the port settings
  • in the box next to the check mark for the port you should see the IP address. Sometimes you will have to highlight the box and click on the config port button to see the IP address.
  • Verify the IP address of the machine matches what is set on the computer by check the config page you already printed out. If it is not then the IP on your machine has accidentally been changed.

Check your user manual for network setup instructions or if you feel uncomfortable doing this call your printer repair provider.

Perform User Maintenance Message
If you see this message on a HP machine you have reached the page count designated for a regular preventive maintenance (PM). Maintenance kits usually include feed tires, transfer roller, and a fusing unit. On HP machines they are designed to be user replaceable without any tools needed. The kits typically come with instructions on parts replacement and how to reset the message. HP provides kits but companies like Market Point offer them at a drastically reduced cost and have tech support so if you run into any problems with installing them you can call and they will walk you through the process.  The idea of doing it yourself can seem scary at first but with the instructions it’s quite simple and worth saving your company the price mark up of parts and the standard labor rate.

Change Drum Soon Message
I’ll throw this in here for Brother users since this is one of the most common complaints I see. Over a third of the Brother machines I work on have this message and the customer has no idea how to fix it. Most people believe that when they put a new drum in the machine the message should clear, like the toner message does. However, that’s not the case. In order to reset the message you need to open the front door and press the clear button or the option button on smaller models like the 7000 series, which don’t have the clear button. Once the button is pressed with the door open it will ask you if you have a new drum. Press 1 for Yes or press 2 for No.  If you pressed 1 you should be good to go. Also, Brother machines are now having PM messages like HP’s but they are more complicated and typically need a service technician for parts replacement.

Hopefully that will help some end users fix a few minor issues they might run into with there office equipment. I’m sure there are more situations out there that are easily fixed but over the past 14 years these are the most common issues I have run into that the customers can fix themselves with a little basic knowledge. Feel free to comment below if you have run into any issues that you have easily resolved without the need for a service technician. It would be great to hear what some of you are seeing and doing out there.

Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. If you have a question for Kevin regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please send an email to maryp@marketpoint.com.

2 thoughts on “End User Tips on Fixing Common Problems

  1. I agree completely. I’ve said many times that I feel like it’s part of my job as a service tech to educate my customers on how their printer works and what they can do to avoid calling me. I tell them 2 things to make them laugh.
    1) If any service guy tells you he/she has to take the machine into the shop it’s because they don’t want the customer to hear us say “Oh!! That’s how that works!”
    2) If you know how many kids your service tech has, or where they live, where they took their last vacation, or how long he/she has been married… That customer has had to call that service tech waaaay too often.
    Educate them. They will thank you by calling you back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s