Things That Can Go Wrong With A Printer

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 3, 2010.

  1. Got called to a friend’s house a few days ago: black text printing from his
    Canon inkjet was getting faded patches through it. The “Status Monitor†was
    showing graphics that seemed to indicate the ink tanks were practically
    full, and he said he had recently changed ink cartridges. It was an i560,
    bought in 2004 and seen so little use that he has only recently started his
    second ream of paper.

    Tried the “Cleaning†function, which didn’t seem to help. So tried “Deep
    Cleaningâ€, and that made it worse; the black print practically disappeared.
    Though it came back to the original (patchy) quality after repeated (non-
    deep) “Cleaningâ€. Weird. Tried the “Deep Cleaning†a second time, same thing

    Called Harvey Norman (where he originally bought it), who gave us the Canon
    helpline number, 0800-222-666 if anyone else is interested. The nice lady
    listened to my description, and suggested one last thing to try before
    concluding that the print head was stuffed and would be too expensive to
    repair: given that the printer had seen so little use over its life, the
    head might be clogged with dried ink. So she suggested I take it out and
    rest it on a soft tissue soaked in isopropyl for 40 minutes, to dissolve the
    dried ink, and see if that helped.

    He didn’t have isopropyl, but I did. So I took it home and did as
    instructed. I saw deep-coloured patches on the tissue, so I thought I’d
    replace that and repeat the treatment with more isopropyl until all the ink
    had completely gone, just to make absolutely sure it was clean. In for a
    penny, in for a pound.

    It took two days before the last traces of ink were gone. Took the clean-as-
    a-whistle print head back, reinstalled it in the printer, tried a nozzle
    check, and—everything was faded. Did a few non-deep “Cleaning†cycles, and
    all the colours came back, but the black remained, if anything, even more
    patchy than before.

    Oh, and that ink-tank graphic in the Status Monitor was still showing
    exactly the same nearly-full levels as before. I started to suspect the
    levels were a lie.

    At this stage, I thought to examine the ink cartridges a little more
    closely. Looking at the cyan one for example, you could clearly see ink
    sloshing about in a transparent section at the back. However, in the black
    one, there just seemed to be a solid lump there.

    Suspicion: that black cartridge was either defective, or it had been in the
    printer so long that most of the ink had congealed. So off to get a new one.

    Put in the new cartridge ... and all the black print was gone. Do another
    “Cleaning†cycle, and ... success! No more patchiness in the black!

    Moral: it was a really thoughtful touch of Canon to make the ink cartridges
    transparent. Even a non-hardware type like me did eventually notice the
    difference between ink that was liquid and ink that wasn’t. My Epson’s
    cartridges are opaque.

    I still don’t understand where you’re supposed to look in the Windows XP
    “Printers & Faxes†control panel to check the ink level: presumably the
    separate “Status Monitor†window was part of the Canon-written code, but, as
    I said, it certainly wasn’t showing correct levels there.

    I’ve said this before: hardware vendors should stick to hardware, and just
    provide the specs so others can write the software. I don’t think I’m
    relying on any Epson-written code when using my R800 under CUPS, and while
    escputil may be a little inaccurate about showing the last few percent of
    ink level, it’s good enough to give me plenty of warning to have replacement
    cartridges ready well before then.
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 3, 2010
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