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Old 5th July 2012
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Default HP printer smears

I'm having a non-software problem with a HP LaserJet 4ML printer, a picture of which is here. It was purchased in 1996 (for a whack of money because it has an Adobe PostScript processor in it). While it's old, it hasn't been used very much, I think I'm only on about the 3rd or 4th 500-page ream or so.

The problem started about a year ago, when a light gray vertical band began to appear along the left edge of pages. Over time the gray area got darker and spread out to the right. Now it covers the whole page. A scan of a test page showing the problem is here. The manual is no help.

I'm wondering if anyone here has encountered this kind of problem or has advice. Some obvious questions are:

* Is this likely to be a problem with the toner cartridge? I.e., easy to fix.

* If it's not the cartridge, is there any hope of fixing it oneself by cleaning something inside the printer?

* Is there a good, more targeted, forum to ask about this on?

I'd hate to throw the printer out, but suspect having it serviced, if even possible, would cost a lot more than buying a new one (i.e., $100 or less). If I buy a new cartridge to test that out, and it doesn't fix it, I'd be stuck with one-and-a-half good cartridges and a bad printer.

Thanks for any suggestions!
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Old 5th July 2012
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This might be improper print density or a cartridge malfunction. Both could cause "backgrounding".

http://www.clovertech.ca/download/do...ng-Generic.pdf
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Old 5th July 2012
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Thanks for the helpful link, jggimi.

Looking at the quality problems shown in that pdf, I'm not sure that 3. Backgrounding is the best description of the problem. Now that can be hard to tell based just on the image I gave! But the backgrounding example they show is kind of irregular blotches all over, whereas the problem has a more regular pattern. But let's not rule it out yet.

What I think matches better to the problem is 7. Dark, Fuzzy Vertical Streak(s). This is definitely the way the problem started, with one streak at the left edge (really beyond the printing area), then new vertical streaks began to form to the right (while the left ones got darker), and so on. Now the problem is on steroids of course, but you can still see that the left of the page is worse, and that there is a vertical component to the streaking. (There also is a horizontal aspect to how dark it is.)

Now if we come back to Backgrounding, one stated cause is incorrect print density. This one seems unlikely to me, that wouldn't worsen in a gradual continuous manner would it? Also, I've never changed the print density intentionally in, well, a decade maybe. The other possible cause is cartridge malfunction.

For Fuzzy Streaks, causes are again cartridge malfunction, or damaged/stained fuser. The latter particularly sounds like something that could get worse with time as stain builds up.

But in either case it could be the cartridge too.

I'll have to try to investigate this more and look in the printer again. Find out the costs involved. These are some good leads to get me started, thanks again.
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Old 6th July 2012
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I have a very early model of laser printer which improved the image somewhat with a new cartridge (ebay) that had a new fuser cable also. Howsoever, the left-vertical-band problem came ( and went ) on
one cartridge I have in another printer. What I may suggest...
1... remove the cartridge, check if it has a "cleaning slider" and give it several passes to-fro. Also shake the cartridge left-right
2... check carefully while it is removed for stains on the glass adjacent to the cartrige, and clean them lightly with something which will leave no residue.
Those did not solve the problem here; howsoever, it has gone away in the meantime. (It sometimes reappears for a few pages.) (I've read that it is a faulty cartridge and needs replacement).
That "fixed" cartridge problem may be irrelevant to yours though; sometimes they are so old
they need replacement. (And a few of those times, it is a problem in the printer and a new
cartridge does not help.)
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Old 6th July 2012
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Thanks jb_daefo, I'll look into those ideas too.

One problem is I'm not very familiar with the hardware inside the printer, but hopefully I can learn enough.

A minor correction to my initial post: The problem is more than one year old, it started perhaps 3 to 4 years ago. (How time flies when you ignore the problem ...)
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Old 29th July 2012
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Here's a follow-up about my investigations of this problem. Maybe it'll help a future reader, but mostly it's just rambling.

I looked for a cleaning slider on the cartridge, but didn't see one. I tried shaking it, with no effect. I think that is usually a trick used to coax a bit more toner out of a nearly empty cartridge, which is not the case here.

Looking at the cartridge, the drum turns out to be integrated into it (as for many HP cartridges, apparently). On top there's a long narrow opening through which a portion of something rounded and glass-like (the drum?) is visible. This had random bits and streaks of toner deposited onto it, moreso on the left side. "Aha" thought I "this fits the pattern of the page smears!" So I took a Q-Tip, wiped off the accessible smears, and printed a test page. Several iterations of this showed no improvement.

Then I looked inside the printer (cartridge removed). There's a long cylindrical roller there (I assume part of the fuser). I do recall, years ago when the problem was in its infancy, there had been some toner on this and I'd cleaned it off best I could, and that had helped, for a while. At that time the roller was more of a grayish black with some structure to the shading. Now, it was uniformly pitch black. Brushing it with a Q-Tip again showed it to be covered in a thick layer of toner. I tried to clean a small ring of it off at one end and that seemed to have some good effect. This I think is the end cause of the problem; this toner should not be there and some of it gets set onto the pages causing the smears.

So, this roller is very dirty and possibly corrupted beyond hope. And, toner can only come from the toner cartridge (doh), so the cartridge must be malfunctioning now too, as it releases toner copiously onto this roller. It seems then both the cartridge and the fuser may have to be replaced.

Looking into the costs of this, for cartridges it depends what you get. New OEM, rebuilt or just refilled. It varies from maybe $30 to over $100 depending. For the fuser, I didn't look thoroughly, but found some stuff available for $75 and well up. Taking into account two shippings, the cost of parts would likely run $150 ballpark. And there are risks to the repair: maybe more would need to be done, possible issues with customs/duty, and the fact I might just screw it up.

So I turned to the other option, a new printer, and was able to grab one on sale for $65 locally. Financially this was a no-brainer. It's an OKI B410d. Main drawback is it doesn't have Postscript, but there is software for that and after spending too much for PS on the HP, doing it on the cheap now seems worth a try. The printer is still in the box unpacked and can be returned within 30 days as I mull it all over.

Probably the HP 4ML will turn into a long-term back burner project. At best perhaps I can somehow clean the fuser and just get a cheap cartridge, but I'm not holding my breath.
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