4 handy printer tips and fixes

Your printer can't perform its job without basic maintenance. Here are a few tips for making sure everything runs smoothly.

4 handy printer tips and fixes

1. Keep printer ink flowing

  • The best way to avoid problems with your inkjet printer is to use it on a regular basis.
  • This keeps ink flowing through the print heads and prevents heads from drying out or getting clogged.
  • On average, experts recommend using your printer at least once a week to print both black text and colour patterns.

2. Avoid back-to-back printer cleaning cycles

  • If your printer has a print-head cleaning routine, it's a good idea to use it when you see streaky colours or broken text on your printouts. But don't overdo it; uninterrupted cleanings can actually make matters worse by gorging the print heads with ink — which will eventually wind up on the paper rollers or other mechanisms inside your printer.
  • After running a cleaning cycle, print out a nozzle-check pattern to gauge its effectiveness. (You can run the nozzle-check pattern from the dialogue box that comes up when you print or from the software you installed when you first got your printer.)
  • Wait a few minutes; then make two or three prints of a colour image. This will force out any air bubbles in the ink left behind after a cleaning cycle.

3. Fix a clogged print head

  • Occasionally, the print head on a cartridge may get clogged. If the printer's cleaning cycle does not correct the problem, you can usually fix it by removing the cartridge and gently wiping the print head with a soft cloth dipped in water.
  • Don't use facial tissue or alcohol. Certain types of printers employ fixed print heads.
  • If the print head gets clogged, don't try to clean it yourself, because you could permanently damage the printer.
  • Instead, pick up a special cleaning cartridge or kit specifically designed for your printer model.
  • They are reasonably priced and can be purchased in office-supply stores or online.

4. Extend the life of an ink cartridge

  • If you are like many people and refill your printer's ink cartridge to save the high price of buying a new one, you can get more life out of the cartridge by never letting it run completely dry. Cartridges use resistors to control the current to each outlet jet.
  • When a cartridge runs out of ink, the resistors can overheat and you'll need to buy a new cartridge.
  • Most printers will warn you before a cartridge runs out of ink. As soon as you see the ink is running low, refill or top off your cartridge to prevent it from burning out.
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