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by Phil Ball

Q. I've been having a lot of trouble with my printer lately. The colors will sometimes fade and even disappear entirely. The only solution I've found is to buy new ink but that is expensive.

A. It sounds to me like your ink is drying up inside your ink cartridges. I have two suggestions, neither of which should involve buying more expensive ink.

First, do you always turn off your printer using its built-in switch? Only by doing so can you protect those heads from drying out. It is convenient to cut off power to your computer accessories by flipping one switch on a power strip/surge protector but that does not let the printer run its normal shutdown cycle which would protect those heads. Having the power cut using the power strip switch leaves the nozzles of your ink cartridges exposed to the open air and the ink dries out and won’t let ink flow through any more.

Side note: Your desktop computer tower should never be turned off using a power strip switch either. Feel free to shut off the power to sound systems, your monitor, and other accessories using that power strip's switch, though, because they do not require a proper shutdown cycle like your printer and your computer. Shutting down your printer using its own switch should eliminate this problem from happening again.

Second, when your heads get clogged and print poorly or not at all, have you tried using your printer's cleaning cycles? Most every printer has a maintenance area in its software where you can tell it to clean its heads. It will then force ink through the nozzles in those clogged heads to try to clear the clog so it will print properly again. After cleaning the heads, most printers will offer to print a nozzle check that shows you whether cleaning is complete or needs to be repeated since bad clogs can sometimes take several cleaning cycles before they clear. If the print looks good, then you are done. Now you can get much better mileage on your ink cartridges.

Published: Courier 4/1/12 - Page 5C