When you buy a home printer, and pricey ink cartridges to put in it, you’ll want it to work without any hassle. So what should you do if you have problems with the ink cartridges?
We've surveyed over 8,000 Which? members to find out more about the printers they use and the ink cartridges they top them up with. By crunching all this data we were able to uncover the three most common printer problems - and how to fix them.
Problem: the cartridge won’t work in the printer
It’s a familiar enough problem for most printer users. You put a new cartridge in and the printer says ‘not recognised’, or it thinks the cartridge is empty and won’t print.
Simply removing the cartridge and putting it back in may get it working. Otherwise, there could be a problem with your cartridge’s chip. In this case, and if all else fails, you should be able to get a refund or replacement from the retailer who sold you the cartridge - especially if it's a third-party ink sold as 'compatible' with your printet.
Problem: clogged print heads
Initiating a cleaning cycle on the printer is the best technique for clearing a blockage to the print heads. In most cases, this setting is easy to find in your printer's menu, but it's best to refer to the manual for exact steps for your own device.
It's worth noting, if you use third-party ink, then it doesn’t have the same formulation as printer-branded ink. If it’s a different consistency, it might clog the print head, resulting in printed dots or missing colours.
If your printer uses a combined colour cartridge, where you have three colours in one cartridge, it’s likely that the print head is in the cartridge. In this case, a clogged print head isn’t the end of the world – when you buy a new cartridge it will have a new print head in it.
However, if the print head is part of the printer and you can’t clean your way out of the issue, you might need to replace the print head. This means it may be cheaper to buy a new printer.
Problem: leaking ink cartridges
A cartridge leak doesn’t necessarily mean mess all over the place. You may find the printer isn’t working, open it up and see a little ink on the cartridge. This issue can be slightly more common with the third-party cartridge users in our survey than it is with printer-branded ink users.
If the cartridge doesn’t form a good seal when you insert it, air may get in and stop it from working properly, or the cartridge may leak.
Sometimes you can fix a poor seal by removing the cartridge and putting it back in again, but don’t press too hard, or this could damage your printer. Don’t despair – if the cartridge is claimed to be compatible with your printer, you may still have some recourse if it leaks.
Try a printer ‘reset’
We approached a number of cartridge retailers for more tips to remedy ink issues. Stinkyinkshop advised: ‘A whole host of errors can be fixed by taking the cartridges our, wiping the contact chip on the cartridge and installing it back into the printer (after turning it off at the plug). This clears the printer’s memory and ensures any dust or static that can cause mis-registering is removed. This fixes far more errors than you’d think.’
Pressing a sequence of buttons may also ‘reset’ certain printers, fixing the problem. For example, some Canon printers that use a tri-colour cartridge (three colour inks in one cartridge) can be made to work with refills by holding down the cancel button for six seconds.
Instructions on these kinds of fixes and overrides may be included in the cartridge packaging.
What are your rights if you buy a faulty cartridge?
If a cartridge fails to work, you shouldn’t be left out of pocket. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods must be ‘as described’, of ‘satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for purpose’. If a cartridge that claimed to be compatible with your printer fails to work when correctly installed, you can ask the retailer for a replacement or, if you are still within 30 days of purchase, a refund if you prefer.
Even if you bought the cartridge in advance of needing to use it, you can still go back to the retailer with your complaint. However, if you bought the cartridge more than six months before discovering the problem, the onus will be on you to prove the cartridge wasn’t as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose when you received it.