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HOW TO TROUBLESHOOT PRINTER PROBLEMS
Last updated: 6/13/00

10.  Does it have paper?  Be sure the paper is installed correctly and there is enough of it.  Most printers have a paper-out detector.  On most dot matrix printers it is a photo diode.  If form-fed paper is not aligned correctly (usually on the left side) the diode won't see it.  DOS may indicate it has lost communications with a printer which is out of paper instead issuing a paper-out error.

11.  Is it jammed?  Paper jams are frequently the reason my wife is able to fix many printers.  She's very good at it (and she has smaller fingers than mine).  Always read the manual on how to clear a jam.    Don't be a "gorilla" with your printer!  You can easily damage a printer (strip gear threads, etc.), or even get hurt, if you do not follow instructions and are not careful.  Turn the power off--unplug it.  You have 110 volts running around the inside many printers.  And print heads, gears, etc. like to nip fingers.

Laser printers have some very fine wires to remove static charges from the paper near the fuser mechanism which will break if you aren't very careful.  Also, the fuser itself can be very hot (it fuses/melts toner to the paper).

Don't move a print head unless the instructions direct it.  You can damage the belt, etc.

Address labels cause many paper jams and cannot always be seen.  The old shirt cardboard trick can be used to dislodge them from many printers.  Just feed a shirt cardboard (or cut a piece of like-sized cardboard form a file folder) through like a sheet of paper and wiggle the label loose and out.

Staples, paperclips, dog hair, and cookie crumbs are among the many things we have coaxed out of printers.  A staple will raise havoc with the drum in laser printers.  If you see vertical lines on pages printed by a laser printer (or copy machine), the drum is probably scratched.  Replacing it can be a very expensive repair, indeed.

If jams persist, or the printer won't feed paper, there is a good chance that gears are stripped or rollers are worn-down or have flat spots.   Fixing this sort of problem may require specialized tools and elaborate alignment procedures and is often best done at a printer repair depot.   It is not usually economically feasible to send low-end ink jet and dot matrix printers, etc. to a repair depot.  Sometimes roller problems can be fixed by cleaning the rollers.

Changing to a different kind of paper may help.  Refer to your user manual for guidance.

On humid days, slightly damp paper can cause jams by sticking together causing more than one sheet to be fed at a time.  Try removing the paper from its tray, etc. and fanning it.  Make sure the edges or corners aren't curled and the tray is either not too empty or too full.  Read the book...

Then there are those printers which no one can figure-out how to dissemble without damaging them...

12.  Is it wedged?  The printer memory could be full or there may my a glitch caused by a power spike.  Turn-off the printer, wait a few seconds and turn it back on.

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