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How to Tell if an Ink Cartridge is Defective

How to Tell if an Ink Cartridge is Defective

Feb 6th 2020

How to Tell if an Ink Cartridge is Defective

There’s nothing more frustrating than running into printer problems when you’re in a time crunch. Let’s say you have to print a quarterly report, and your meeting is in five minutes. You grab your report only to find a stack of streaky pages. Your panic sets in and you have no idea what to do.

If your printer is spitting out streaks and smudges, you may have a defective cartridge. When you find yourself in this predicament, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. However, with little troubleshooting, you can get back to printing in no time.

How? Read on to discover.

Read the full article or jump to a specific section:

How to Tell if Ink Cartridge is Defective

The first sign that your ink cartridge may be defective is a decline in print quality. For example, you might find that:

  • Your pages are coming out with blotches, smudges, or streaks.
  • Your pages are coming out with the incorrect coloring.
  • Your pages are showing up totally blank.

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, the first step is to determine whether it’s due to the printer or the cartridge. After pinpointing the culprit, you can solve the problem more efficiently.

Is Your Printer the Problem?

Poor print quality can arise from a damaged cartridge or an issue with your printer. Before assuming it’s the cartridge, make sure your printer is working smoothly. Here are some common problems that can occur with inkjet printers:

  • A misaligned printhead.
  • A dirty or clogged printhead.
  • A loose printhead ribbon.
  • Accumulation of paper dust.
  • Communication failure with your computer.

Consult your inkjet printer’s manual for specifics on how to clean and align each piece properly. Next, make sure all cords are fully plugged in. Finally, reboot your printer and try to print again. If these steps don’t solve the problem, it’s time to turn your attention to your ink cartridge.

How to Discover if an Ink Cartridges is Defective

Once you’ve made sure your printer isn’t to blame, remove your ink cartridge for a quick inspection. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out if it’s defective. Simply run through the following list.

Review Error Codes

Error codes pop up on your computer to notify you of issues with your printing request. If you’ve ever had a paper jam or ran out of ink, you’re probably familiar with them.

Error codes can also offer insight into whether you have a defective cartridge. Some common cartridge errors to watch out for are:

  • The printer doesn’t recognize the cartridge.
  • The cartridge is misaligned.
  • The cartridge is damaged.

If you receive one of these errors, you’ll be one step closer to the solution. However, error codes don’t always show up. Fortunately, you can still figure out the problem on your own with a little more investigation.

Double Check Cartridge Compatibility

Not all ink cartridges are compatible with every inkjet printer. It’s always possible that you purchased the wrong cartridge by accident or received an incorrect one in the mail by mistake.

The first thing you want to confirm is that your printer and cartridge are compatible. Take a look at your cartridge’s model number to verify it’s compatibility.

Check Your Cartridge’s Ink Levels

Once you’ve confirmed that your cartridge and printer are compatible, make sure the cartridge has enough ink left inside of it. Most printers monitor ink levels and will notify you when ink is low. However, if yours fails to for some reason, you can check for yourself.

Many cartridges have a window where you can see the ink level. If yours doesn’t, simply compare the weight of your cartridge with another full one to see if they differ drastically. If the ink level seems low, try using a new cartridge. If this doesn’t solve the problem, continue troubleshooting.

Make Sure Your Cartridge’s Packaging is Removed

New cartridges come with a lot of packaging. It’s easy to overlook some small plastic pieces when putting one into the printer. Here are a few packaging pieces to watch out for:

  • The “breather tape” at the top of the cartridge, which usually causes incorrect colors.
  • The protective clip.
  • Any additional visible plastic packaging.

Check to See if the Cartridge is Broken

Cartridges are fragile and are vulnerable to physical damage, like cracked casings, broken clips, or damaged springs. If you notice any signs of damage, you may be eligible for a refund or a replacement, depending on your warranty. Reach out to your cartridge provider to find out.

Get Back To Printing ASAP

Inspecting a questionable cartridge is easier than you think. By following these steps, there’s a good chance you solve your problem on your own. However, if your printing problem persists, you may need to replace your ink cartridge. Additionally, see our guide on how to make printer ink last longer to save you money.

For affordable cartridges with lifetime warranties, check out Supplies Outlet’s selection of ink cartridges. With a wide range of high-quality remanufactured cartridges, you can find cartridges compatible with top printer brands, like HP, Dell, Brother, Canon, and many more.



TechRepublic. Troubleshooting common inkjet printer problems.