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How to solve office printer paper-jams, problems and faults

Unless your office is 100% paperless, you can’t escape running into an office copier problem now and then. Luckily, you can diagnose the most common printer issues yourself with some basic photocopier troubleshooting.

If you’re a KRL customer we recommend that you contact us for support, if not, here are simple solutions to some of the most common photocopier maintenance problems to help you keep your office equipment running reliably.

Warning! Copiers are complex machines, with plenty of non-user serviceable parts, high voltages and potentially toxic chemicals. You should not undertake repair unless you have appropriate training!

Fix Paper Jams

Paper jamming inside a photocopier is the most common problem people face with their machine. Fortunately, it is (usually) a simple problem to solve.

Specific causes vary, but usually, it is down to paper. Paper is either loaded incorrectly into the drawers (too much, too thick, not aligned correctly etc.) or exhibits some other problem, often relating to paper type. As the copier begins to pull the paper through, it encounters a problem, and the jam happens.

To solve the problem, you’re going to need to find and remove the stuck piece of paper, reset the machine and make sure the paper feed is clear from obstruction. Finally, check that the original problem with the paper does not re-occur. 

Each model has a different process for this; in essence, you will open the various access doors and look for the jammed paper.

When you find the offending sheet, you must then carefully remove it. The feed mechanisms use rollers and friction to move the paper along, pulling too hard will rip the paper and risk leaving bits behind – which is another paper jam waiting to happen. Once the paper is clear, close the doors, check trays to make sure your paper alignment is correct and that you’re using a proper paper size.

One other cause of paper jams is when a build-up of paper dust causes the device’s feeder to become clogged up. To avoid this, you need to ensure that the copier is regularly cleaned and properly maintained.

Fix common toner issues or problems with toner cartridges

Undoubtedly, running out of toner in the middle of a vital print run is a significant cause of office frustration and productivity drops. Worse still is a full toner cartridge that isn’t working as it should.

If it’s a case of running out of toner (you will see a suitable warning or error message on the printer’s display), it’s a sinch to fix – a simple replacement of the empty toner will allow you to carry on printing.

TIP: If your printer has a different cartridge for each colour, only replace the single empty colour. It’ll save you time, effort and money. Each colour is used at dramatically different rates, depending on what is being printed.

Other times, toner problems can occur due to the printer’s misconfiguration or if you’re using a toner that isn’t designed for your specific model. Most printers need specific toner cartridges, and most of the time manufacturers expect these cartridges to be originals, rather than OEM “compatibles”. It’s a common joke in the industry that these should be called “Incompatible Cartridges”.

People have argued back and forth on this point! The bottom line is that we’ve serviced tens of thousands of machines over nearly four decades. So-called compatible toner has resulted in machine blockages, defects and other problems with an incident rate around 4x higher than original toner. Make of that what you will!

If an original toner cartridge is causing problems, it is probably one of two things: It could be installed or seated incorrectly. It is worth shutting the machine down properly, removing the cartridge and double-checking that you have fitted it correctly. If everything looks good, then the toner is potentially faulty due to a manufacturer error. In which case, there is little you can do other than requesting a replacement.

Hopefully, you can contact your supplier and get a new cartridge within a couple of hours. If not, it would be prudent to keep a spare on hand.

Fix creased or wrinkled pages

Creased or wrinkled copies and printouts result from worn-out feed or exit rollers, which results in sticking/jamming. Though it seems like a trivial indicator, repeat creased pages are often a sign that your copier is getting to the point where economical repair is unlikely.

The potential fix is to replace paper trays, though they’re usually rated for the life of the machine – so even if you do, you’re likely to be heading for other problems soon.

If you’re experiencing other problems alongside creased paper, it’s worth considering a new machine – your technology has likely been superseded, and a better, cheaper option is out there. The ROI on a new copier may well be a better business decision at this stage in your device’s life.

Fix unwanted lines on paper

If your printout has terrible image quality, marred by unwanted lines or has an unexpected streak, you have a problem with the device that needs to be solved.

This issue is not a ‘one cause, one solution’ problem, you’ll need to do some tech troubleshooting – or ask your support company for help. 

Where to begin:

  1. Are there substances or debris on the mirrors or scanner glass?
  2. Do error codes, testing or diagnosis suggest a developer or drum unit malfunction?
  3. Are the long vertical lines on the page? Consider a drum-blade malfunction.
  4. Ghosting in the output; toner flaking off or smudging, is likely to be a fuser unit issue.

The first problem is solved by thoroughly cleaning the relevant component, please take care to use a suitable glass cleaner and the right materials to do this, or you will break your machine and void the warranty. If in doubt, call someone out.

For issues 2, 3 and 4 you’re going to need to source replacement parts, make the replacement and re-commission the device. Hopefully, your maintenance contract covers this, and your supplier will handle it all for you.

Fix spots and blemishes on the page

When you see repeated imperfections or an array of dots on an otherwise unaffected copy. In that case, your photocopier likely has debris, a smudge, grease or fingerprints on the copy mirror or scanner glass.

Simply cleaning the affected areas with an approved glass cleaner will solve the issue.

TIP: In general, you should expect perfect print quality on a modern copier. If you see inferior quality copies, early fault-finding may prolong the life of your hardware.

If the marks are not consistently in the same place, a random array of spots and blemishes suggest a problem with the drum malfunctioning, in which case replacing the drum should solve the problem.

Fix problems with colour, contrast or copies are too light/dark

If print-outs are too light/dark, saturated/unsaturated, the issue is typically a problem with the copier’s density levels. Density controls are usually found in the copiers system settings menu within the control panel.

Correcting density settings usually solves the problem, see your manual for instructions – or call your supplier for support.

If the density settings do not improve the problem, the toner may have deteriorated beyond a usable state (this often happens with aftermarket toner), in which case you’ll need to replace it.

Alternatively, the drum unit could be nearing its expiry date.

Fix printouts appearing on the wrong size or type of paper

If your printouts appear condensed on to a single page or enlarged on to A3 when you’re expecting an A4 document, your printer output settings need adjusting.

This is usually done from either the control panel or from your computer when you send the job to print.

Sometimes eco or power saving modes are configured to force documents to be printed differently to how you intended – in which case disable eco printing, or speak to your supplier.

Fix slow printouts and scans

Sometimes this can be local I.T. issues or device configuration issues, but it is unlikely to be a fault with the device.

Reasons for the device printing slowly can include:

  • The printer is processing files which are way bigger than they need to be (i.e. some PDFs or technical drawings are huge files, even if they look relatively uncomplex on-screen).
  • Under-spec’d hardware for the amount of demand being placed on it by users.
  • The printer could be processing the document in addition to printing it (i.e. OCR on a scan takes longer), quality settings could be configured higher than necessary.
  • WiFi connections may be unreliable, networks may be congested (typical), or your computer’s WiFi could be faulty (reasonably common in laptops). Our recommended test to rule out wireless issues is to test using a wired connection.
  • Wired networks could have faults; if there’s a printer server, it may be causing problems, etc.

Solve environmental issues

Overheating

Photocopiers generate a lot of heat, and you should attempt to locate them in a suitable location and allow for adequate airflow around heavily used machines. Look out for warnings on the control panel and make adjustments accordingly. You may find a device installed in one season has an issue as it gets warmer – consider this when choosing your copier’s location.

Humidity

High humidity areas cause issues with toner. If you’re noticing problems with your printer and operating in a high humidity environment, consider relocating it to a suitable location.

Cold Climate

Printers and toner don’t like temperature extremes. In a cold environment, allow the copier to heat up before using it in the morning, this allows for any internal condensation to burn off. Static can cause toner to clump, so use anti-static wipes when cleaning your device and don’t keep your spare toner in a damp environment.

General copier do’s and don’ts

DO

  • Check it’s plugged in.
  • Check it’s turned on.
  • Check it’s connected to the network.

DON’T

  • Don’t eat or drink over the copier.
  • Don’t allow foreign substances to fall into the copier.
  • Hit, kick, bang or drop the photocopier (you will hurt it, and it will hurt you!)
  • Press random buttons in frustration
  • Pull copies out mid-print / as they’re feeding through

Summary

Regular maintenance will help to keep your copier in great, working condition. Larger copiers (MFDs) are complicated and expensive, you should always make sure they are covered by a service contract to protect your investment.

You need to remember safety first – don’t fish around inside your printer if you don’t have appropriate safety training. Attempting self-repair risk voiding warranties, or breaching the terms of your service agreement.

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