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9 Most Common Causes of Printer Failures & how to spot them

Printer problems can be frustrating and time-consuming. If you are experiencing a common printer problem, you should know that there are some quick solutions to try. The most common causes of printer failure are ink clogs, paper jams, and head failures.

It would not be wrong to say that our personal and professional lives today sail smoothly only when there is fast transfer and retrieval of information. This age is rightly labeled as the information age. Thus, hassle-free transport of information is extremely vital to keep us going. The most basic requirement for achieving this is to make sure that our regular-use devices are always ready to run.

Common Printer Problems how to solve them

One such device that has a lot of utility in professional spheres is the printer. However, printers are quite fragile devices. This means that the chances of a printer malfunctioning are always high. So, everyone should know how to find and fix printer problems to avoid losing money because of downtime.

In this article, we shall discuss common printer issues in detail, and will tell you how to tackle these issues like a boss! Follow along.

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What are Common Printer Problems? & How to Recognize Them.

Printer problems can be frustrating when they happen, and they can also be difficult to diagnose. This article will help you understand the most common printer problems and how to fix them.

The most frustrating thing about printers is that they are not self-aware, so you can usually not tell when a problem is happening until it’s too late. The best way to avoid printer problems is to understand what could cause them and how to prevent them in the first place.

Common printer issues include: paper jams, ink cartridge failure, ink cartridge low on ink/spilled ink, paper jams in the machine itself or from the paper tray, color cartridge failure,

1.  Paper Jams

Paper jams are an issue with many old and new printers. Most problems can be resolved without a technician. Some older models still cause paper jams sometimes, but not as often as in the past. Even though it’s frustrating that technology hasn’t been able to get rid of the possibility of a jam, there are many reasons why this could be happening.

● Inserting Paper Incorrectly

The most basic cause of a jam is the incorrect insertion of paper. You won’t face this problem when you are dealing with only a few sheets at a time. It is when you do bulk printing that problems of wrong paper positioning become more frequent. Jamming can happen when papers are folded wrong, have uneven margins, stick to each other, are frayed, or when the tray is too full. So, it is important to check the sheets to make sure there are no paper jams.

However, it is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have to print a lot of stuff together. Paper jams are also common when the tray of the printer is broken. The slider of the printer needs to be in proper shape so that the paper can slip through the printer without any interruption.

● Check for Damaged Rollers

The roller of a printer can also be responsible for paper jamming. Usually, when you use printers that have been used a lot, the roller tends to give way. Careful use of printers prevents wear and tear, but mishandling a printer can definitely damage its roller in a way that can’t be fixed.

● Bad Paper Quality

Besides all the common user and printer-related errors, the paper itself can be responsible for a jam too. Low-quality paper, which is often used by commercial printing agencies to save money, starts flaking very soon. These flakes or paper bits get stuck inside the printer and may cause secondary problems too. Low-quality paper is thinner than regular paper. Therefore, even if it does not start fraying, it leaves behind a powdery substance, commonly called paper dust. This dust accumulates in different parts of the printer and causes damage.

● Leaking Cartridges

Lastly, the problem can also be with the cartridge. If you buy original cartridges from the company, there are fewer chances of straying. However, local and low-quality cartridges tend to leak a lot, and the ink strays can cause paper jams after drying.

2. Fading and Ghosting Problems

Many times, even after getting a cartridge replaced and the ink refilled, the printer still prints very light images. As a whole, the printer works fine, but the color toner isn’t as good as it could be. It can be frustrating because it’s hard to figure out why the color is fading. You have to check for all possible reasons to finally be able to diagnose and resolve the problem.

● Cartridge Status Issue

Our first instinct on noticing faded images is to think that the cartridge is running low on ink or the toner levels have gone down. It is the right thing to check because low ink is the most probable cause. To check the cartridge or the toner, simply go to the control panel of your computer, and in the printer properties, check the cartridge status.

● Clogged Nozzles

If you are using an inkjet printer, the nozzles of the cartridge can get blocked, causing fading of output. In general, you should try and clean the nozzles periodically because ink starts settling inside them over time, which ultimately causes a blockade and leads to “ghostly” prints. As far as the toner is concerned, people usually do not pay much heed to the ink accumulation inside it. When ink gets collected on one side of the toner, some parts of the page get printed perfectly while others are faded.

● Fuser and Toner Problems

Today, laser printers are used more commonly than other types of printers. These printers have a fuser that warms up the toner. On heating, the toner sticks to the sheet and then creates a print. However, the fuser has to be adequately attached to the toner for it to create ideal prints. Sometimes the toner sticks to the upper roller of a fuser, and this ultimately leads to ghosted prints.

The reason why this happens is that when your toner is attached to the upper rollers of a fuser, whenever a print gets completed, some toner particles get left behind. So, when you give any subsequent print command, the toner particles from the previous print get deposited over the new one. This appears as a strange image called a “ghost image.”

Therefore, besides fading, if you notice any amount of ghosting, you must get your fusers checked. Separating the toner from its upper rollers will solve the issue. Even if you can’t get the fuser and toner apart, you can easily buy a new fuser because they are so common these days.

● Low Ink Density

Lastly, you have to check your printer settings to ensure that fading does not happen. In many cases where the printer starts giving faded outputs, the ink/toner density ratio is set to very low values. All you need to do is go to the ‘Devices and Printers’ settings and increase the ink/toner density slightly. In some printers, the default ink/toner density is low. Therefore, as soon as you get the printer, you should increase the density slightly so that you do not experience any fading problems for a few years at least.

3.  Smearing Problems

Another common problem with printers is that, after some years of use, you might start seeing smears of ink spread over the output after every print. There can be several reasons for smearing. Also, you need to figure out what caused the smudging as soon as possible to stop any more damage and smudging.

● Contamination of Cartridges

The most common cause of ink smearing is the contamination of the cartridges. With time, different kinds of contaminants settle inside the ink cartridges. Contaminants like dust, hair, etc., are very commonly found inside them.

When these contaminants accumulate in large quantities, they get dragged across the sheet during every print. If the cartridges were not cleaned, the instances of misfeeds and misprints would keep increasing.

● Uneven Thickness of Sheets

If you do not use sheets of the right thickness for printing, you can sometimes see smearing over the paper. This happens because sheets that are thicker than the recommended values cannot bend while sliding through the printer. Due to this, the ink is unable to get evenly distributed on the sheet. Hence, it tends to spread haphazardly all over the paper, and you start getting smeared after every print. To avoid this problem, always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding paper thickness.

4.  Software and Connection Problems

While all of the above-mentioned causes are the most common reasons why printers do not work properly, there can also be a possibility that your printer’s software is not working well. Many times, the printer connection is not tight, or there are a lot of documents queued up for printing and not getting cleared.

Consequently, the printer is unable to give you any output. Problems with the drivers can also decrease the responsiveness of your printer. All these problems are not directly related to the printer or its hardware. You need to troubleshoot the issues with the software or the PC as a whole to get rid of them.

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How to Resolve Common Printer Problems?

If you have a printer that is not working, there are some easy ways to fix the problem yourself without having to call for help.

Resolve Common Printer Problems any printer
Resolve Common Printer Problems

Printer problems are a common issue for many people. The most common printer problems are related to paper jams and ink cartridge issues. You can fix these problems on your own, but you should not try it unless you know what you are doing.

A lot of people have had trouble resolving printer problems themselves, and they end up reaching out for the help of a professional technician. However, if you’re able to resolve the problem yourself, you will save yourself some money and some time.

To get started, start by checking all the obvious places where something could be stuck or jammed in the printer: inside the paper tray, inside the printer cover, inside any other openings in the printer itself that might lead to jamming issues.

1.  Preventing Paper Jams

As stated before, facing paper jam issues with printers is inevitable. However, there are certain things that you can keep in mind to avoid witnessing this problem frequently. Firstly, always pay attention to the loading process of the paper. Ensure that the paper is going in straight and does not get folded in any way. Moreover, any sheet that has frayed ends should not be used for printing.

Before loading sheets onto the printer’s tray, check whether the components of the tray are in proper shape or not. Moreover, always avoid overloading the tray. In this way, you will be able to check every sheet properly, and the chances of sheets getting stuck inside the printer will be very small.

Besides all these measures, making sure that you use decent-quality paper is also important. Moreover, you should try and use a single type of paper only. Mixing different kinds of paper creates confusion and results in jamming of the paper midway through the printing process.

2.  Dealing With Fading and Ghosting

To resolve any fading and ghosting problems, you should first check the cartridge status. If you do not see any noticeable changes in the cartridge, try cleaning its nozzles. To do so, simply turn off your printer and take the cartridge out. Then, gently wipe the nozzles with a damp cloth to get rid of any leftover ink. If you have a laser printer, try to spread the ink from the toner cartridge out as much as possible.

To do so, you’ll have to shake the toner gently in all directions. Make sure that you do not use vigorous force in doing so, because it can damage adjacent parts of the printer. Redistributing the toner powder in this way is a beneficial technique even when the ink levels are low. This technique will certainly help you get a few more prints before you get the ink refilled.

If you have ghosting problems all the time, the best thing to do is replace the fuser. Fusers are available quite readily and are not very expensive. Replacing a fuser is easy, and will solve your problem entirely. Alternatively, you can try to reposition the transfer roller of the printer. Bringing it to a flatter position can help prevent ghosting.

3.  Getting Rid of Smears

The best way to stop your prints from smearing is to clean the inside of your printer often. Every printer manual has instructions for cleaning the interior compartments of the cartridge. Using a thin cloth, you can remove contaminants like dust, hair, etc. A cleaner cartridge also ensures that the ink distribution is uniform and the output quality is good.

Another way of avoiding smearing is to use flexible sheets for printing. The flexibility of the paper will allow it to bend and not come in contact with the parts where ink leakage is prominent. Moreover, flexible sheets or not, try to avoid double-sided printing if smearing is happening frequently.

4.  Other Solutions

For other problems with software and connections, you should make sure that all the printer connections are tight and that the drivers are working well. Connection problems are often seen when you try connecting a printer cable to a point where several other peripherals are connected. You may need a lot of hit-and-trial in this case. Reconnecting the printer, using new cables, changing connection settings, etc., are some of the things that you should certainly try before contacting a technician.


So, as you can see, there are several sources of printer problems that are not very difficult to manage as well. The key here is to detect and diagnose the problem instantly and effectively. While we have discussed all common printing predicaments, there might be cases where seeking help from a technician or an expert will be the only way out.

However, for a majority of printing problems, thinking along these lines and trying out our troubleshooting methods will definitely help. As technology is advancing, special printer troubleshooting systems are also being developed.

Soon, there will be software that detects and manages printing issues on their own. But till then, we’re all by ourselves, and it will help if you learn how to resolve printer problems as soon as possible.


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Tony Hoffman

Tony Hoffman is a tech expert with over 10 years of experience in the printer and scanner industries. He has developed a keen eye for the latest innovations and trends in printing technology making him a go-to resource for consumers and professionals alike. His engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics make his articles and reviews accessible and informative for a wide range of readers. Outside of his work as a tech writer Tony enjoys tinkering with gadgets and exploring the outdoors.View Author posts

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