For Print Quality Issues Toner Cartridge is Suspect Number One

For any print quality issue the first check should be the toner cartridge, especially if the cartridge is compatible or refurbished in a Lexmark printer. Any cartridge other than a brand name Lexmark OEM or Lexmark re-manufactured cartridge is suspect number one, even for some jamming problems.

Be on the look out
When you open the bag the cartridge is shipped in, watch for excess toner in the bottom of the bag and on the cartridge. If you find loose toner in either of these places put the cartridge back in the bag and locate another because, if you use it in that condition it’s going to leak toner inside your printer. The toner will pile up on the inside causing smudges and streaks, pages folded at one or both leading corners, and eventually jamming at the entrance to the fuser. Not to mention the print quality issues you’ll experience.

Here’s what happens
Under the cartridge, the toner will coat the Transfer Roller and show up as grey on the back of prints, and/or inefficient image transfer to the paper from the image drum in the cartridge.

This appears as light print and/or skipped/missing toner on the front of the page. If the cartridge is leaking, toner will pile up on either end of the Transfer Roller which can affect electrical connection and/or get into the Main and Image Drive gears and High Voltage Power Supply.

Steps to take
I first print the Menus Page. Then take a fresh, unused page from a tray and compare. This makes it real easy to see grey background front and back. I take the cartridge out and look at the image drum for excess toner anywhere on the cartridge or burn marks where the high voltage is arcing through the image roller, that kind of thing. I push down on the top flap and look for the same thing.

Remove and inspect the Charge Roller. Look for excess toner, marking or scarring. These will cause spots and what looks like scratches on the printed page. Take a Q-tip with whatever cleaner you want to use and clean the electrical contacts for the charge and transfer rollers.

After the toner cartridge, transfer roller, and charge roller have been removed use a toner vacuum to clean up the inside of the printer. Using the vacuum keeps more toner from dropping down onto the High Voltage Power Supply below. With the right attachments you can get into the little nooks and crannies.

Reinstall the rollers and cartridge and print the menus page or whatever test page you like to use for comparison. Use the fresh page to see if there has been any improvement with the background. After the menus page I like to print PCL fonts for the images printed to the extreme right side of the page. I want to make sure those print clearly. And there are five pages to make sure multi-page documents will print correctly.

Good luck and keep that vacuum handy.


Brian Ude is a certified printer technician with years of experience. Brian serves Western Office ( in Billings, Montana.  If you have a question for Brian regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please post a comment on this blog or send an email to

3 thoughts on “For Print Quality Issues Toner Cartridge is Suspect Number One

  1. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on
    this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my
    end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


  2. I understand that using remanufactured or compatible toner cartridges can cause problems with my printer, but is there a difference between those two, or are the same cartridge with different names?. Here in Mexico, we understand that the compatible cartridge is a brand new cartridge but with different brand, and the remanufactured cartridges are used cartridges renewed or refurbished by third party suppliers.Is this correct?


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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