Possible Reasons Your Cartridges are Not Working

Having issues with your printer cartridge?

There are different scenarios to look at when troubleshooting your printing issues, whether the printer never accepts the cartridge when it is installed or the cartridge works for a while but then malfunctions or start producing sub-par quality.

Regardless of whether you use OEM cartridges or remanufactured cartridges made by third party vendors, problems occur occasionally.  It is always possible that your printer or cartridge is defective, but you should try a few troubleshooting tactics before calling the manufacturer.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem yourself:

Print Problems


Is the cartridge fully locked into place?

When you insert your new cartridge, you want to make sure it is fully locked into the designated slot.  Listen for a clicking sound and pull on the cartridge lightly to make sure it is securely locked in.

Did you remove the shipping seal?

There is a shipping seal on every new cartridge, whether it is purchased from a third party vendor or the original manufacturer of the printer.  This seal prevents the ink or toner from leaking out of the cartridge during shipping.  Removing the seal is as simple as pulling the tab at one end of the cartridge and pulling out the long piece of material.  In some cases, there may still be a part of the seal attached to the cartridge. Also, be sure to completely remove all other packing material.

Are the important components clean?

For laser printers, you must keep the imaging drum and fuser assembly as clean as possible.  Almost any part can be wiped down with a towel, which will eliminate dust and toner particles that will scratch the surface and cause lines on prints.  Inkjet printers use a nozzle technology, so it is important to keep the nozzles clean.  Most printers have an internal cleaning system, but you want to make sure the nozzles are unclogged so the ink can be ejected at the right size and amount. You can often manually run a nozzle cleaning process from the driver software or the unit’s control panel.

How old is your cartridge?

Cartridges do have a lifespan of a couple years and can go bad if kept on the shelf for too long.  The ink could dry up or the toner could get moist and clump.  If you buy cartridges in bulk, make sure you are rotating the oldest ones to the front so you can avoid potential expiration.

Have you done a cold start?

Often, the printer memory is not reading the new cartridge chip because it is remembering the old one.  To clear the memory, you must perform a cold start, which will allow your cartridge to be recognized if the memory is the issue.

The bottom line is that there are a number of reasons your replacement cartridge might not be working in your printer.  It is good to review this checklist to eliminate some of the most common issues. If the problem persists, call the manufacturer’s support line for more detailed troubleshooting techniques.

Robyn Warner
Robyn Warner has been writing since she learned how to hold a pen. She wrote her first book of poems before the age of 10. Though creative writing is her preference, she is enjoying life in the technical blog world. Robyn’s goal in her 30s is to use her writing to inspire fellow cancer survivors and have a job that gives her the flexibility to live anywhere and never wear shoes.

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