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Troubleshooting Common Problems With Inkjet Printers


Not thrilled with your inkjet printer? Let's see what's really happening.

It can seem like inkjet printers are a dime a dozen. While seems true, if you don't choose one wisely or adequately maintain your printer, you could find yourself spending much more over the life of your device. In this piece, we're going to look at troubleshooting and remedying four common issues with inkjet printers to help you make the best purchasing decision going forward.

1. Inkjet Printers Easily Jam

There's nothing more infuriating than a paper jam when you're looking to hit a deadline. Inkjet printers are among a few of the worst offenders in terms of paper jams. Before you take out your aggression and make ink fly all over your office, the issue may have begun before you ever clicked "print."

Paper Overloading

Because many desktop inkjet printers are top-loading, it can be easy to overload the tray. When the top-loading tray is overloaded with paper, this can cause the printer to accidentally grab multiple pages that may have stuck together due to compression or humidity. 

Paper Quality

Another issue you may consider is the quality of your paper. Cheaper paper is not only more flimsy, but rough-cut edges can cause pages to stick together. Both of these issues can lead to a regularly jamming inkjet printer.

2. Inkjet Printers Can Have Low Print Quality

Don’t get us wrong—inkjet printers actually usually shine in the print-quality department in comparison to their laser companions. Where they may have trouble is print text-rich documents, especially if the ink is running low or the print heads are clogged. When you're printing a document for a client, the last things you want to see in the tray are streaky lines or smudged ink. Before you pitch your device into the street, the culprit may be easier to fix than you think. Inkjet printer heads are notorious for clogging up when not in use for an extended period. If your inkjet printer's cartridge unit has the print head attached (such as many desktop HP models), there's a simple way to clear it out and get the ink flowing smoothly. Disclaimer: This next tip mainly applies to clear the print heads on ink cartridges with attached print heads—not the sole ink tank reservoirs. 

  • Remove the cartridge from the printer.
  • Take a clean paper towel, fold it over a few times, and apply gentle pressure to the print head — about as much as you would to thoroughly apply a stamp.
  • You should see the three distinct color lines appearing — magenta, cyan, and yellow — on the paper towel. For a black ink cartridge, it should be a black rectangle with sharp edges.
  • If the colors do not appear as consistent, bright bars with sharp corners, wipe the heads gently with slight pressure. You should be able to do this until the colors appear brighter and unbroken on the paper towel.

3. Inkjet Printer Cartridges Are Expensive

Scrolling through the listings of desktop inkjet models reveals some seems like incredible deals. For under $100, you'll find a variety of extremely attractive inkjet printers available. Upon further investigation, you may soon find that the upfront cost of the printer is, perhaps, the least expensive aspect of owning an inkjet printer. There are a few ways to keep from getting bled dry on the ink.

  • Research cartridge costs before buying the printer. May make the mistake of letting the upfront cost of the printer dictate their buying decision. While shopping for an inkjet printer, find out what model of printer cartridge the printer takes. Use this price along with a little math to calculate the true price of the printer.
  • Research printer efficiency before buying. Even if the cartridge is cheaper, this may indicate that the printer is a lower volume cartridge. Combine this with an inefficient printer, and you may find yourself back in the cartridge aisle sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that printer ink of one of the most expensive fluids in the world.
  • Consider a commercial-level printer. If you’re looking for a reasonably affordable inkjet printer for your home office, a consumer-grade printer from a retail office supply store will likely suffice. If you’re looking for an inkjet printer to print photo-quality images for your company, you may want to consider a commercial quality inkjet printer. Though the upfront cost will likely be much higher, the overall cost of ownership may actually even be less than the expensive refills associated with a consumer-grade model. 

4. Inkjet Printers Are Slow

If you've ever printed with a laser printer, something is refreshing about the process. Seconds after pressing "print," a warm printed document shoots out of the other end. An inkjet printer, on the other hand, may take several minutes for just a few graphic-rich pages. What gives? Well, a few different variables may be to blame.

  • Check your connected device speeds. Low RAM computers, slow internet connection speeds, and overburdened print managers can stall the progression of print jobs.
  • Check out your printer tasks. One hurdle to getting your inkjet printer may be other print jobs or tasks clogging the system. Take a look to see if another print job is holding up the process.
  • Inkjet printers, by their nature, are slower due to quality. Good things come to those who wait. We don't mean to say that inkjet printers are of lower quality — their prints are actually of higher quality. Because inkjets printers are best at printing full-color, high-resolution images, this is going to take more time. Between mixing colors and covering more of the paper surface, this will naturally take more time.

"Should I get an inkjet printer or laser printer?"

One of the most frequently asked questions among print customers is that of choice — inkjet versus laser printers. The answer to which to get depends on several factors.

What kind of printing do you do?

If you mostly print large quantities of text documents where color is a nicety rather than a requirement, a laser printer will be more appropriate.

If you don't print very often, but when you do, it is mostly images, color graphics, and the like, a low-maintenance inkjet printer will be more of your speed.

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