What Causes Printhead Failure? Easy Tips to Avoid Them

A print head is one of the most critical components of your printer, which helps to transfer the ink onto the paper. 

It is a mechanism that transfers the ink onto the paper by dropping small dots of ink by various nozzles to create the printing effect.

If you do not use the printer often or use the printer infrequently, the print head will likely get clogged. 

This happens because the ink leftover on the nozzles becomes dry, which causes uneven ink distribution that results in a faded or streaky print out. 

Furthermore, the printout may not match the standards of printing if the print heads are clogged.

Common Reasons for Printhead failure

Residue Build-up: It is the most common reason for a print head failure. Residue build-up interferes with the heat transfer, which causes the printhead to overheat, resulting in a print head failure.

Solution: To avoid residue build-up, use your printer frequently. Also, make a routine to run the automatic cleaning cycle.

Dust Build-up: Dust build-up on the print heads can clog them. Further, dust can damage the printhead badly.

Solution: To remove the excessive dust off the printheads, use a cleaning brush and gently wipe off dust particles.

Air Blockage & Negative Air Pressure: Sometimes, your printer grabs air, and the printhead gets blocked due to air.

Solution: If air blockage occurs, you can automatically and manually clean the printhead to remove the air.

To remove the air automatically, you can use an automatic cleaning utility tool on your computer.

If you use the printer regularly, the printer is likely to get a negative air pressure, and it can also collect the dust inside, which can clog the printhead.

To avoid this situation, you have to keep the print shut when not in use.

Dried Ink Build-up: It is another most common reason why the printheads are failing. Dried ink can clog the printheads and affect the printing quality.

Solution: If dried ink build-up on the printhead, keep the printheads in a bowl full of water. Then use a paper towel or cleaning cloth to remove the ink leftover.

Tips to Keep Your Printer printhead Healthy

  • Shut down the Printer: When you are not using the printer, keep it shut as it can reduce the life of your printer. Keeping the printer always on can damage the components badly and reduce their life in the long run.
  • Routine Cleaning: You can use a brush to wipe out all the dust particles, then run the cleaning utility to clean the printheads. Check out How To Clean Print Head For Better Performance.
  • Store the printer: If you are not using the printer frequently or sitting idle for too long, it is advised to store your printer in its original packaging. Store the printer in a cool, dry, and dark place. Learn how to keep unused printers correctly.
  • Frequent Use: The easiest way to avoid any damage to the printheads is by using the printer frequently. You can take a couple of printouts every few weeks for a long life.

A clogged print head can take little effort and time, but it can be easily fixed or unclogged at home. 

Further, it is just a matter of routine, as if you print frequently, the printheads will not clog.

Related Questions

How Long a Printhead Last?

Usually, a standard inkjet printer printhead lasts around 2-3 years before giving any problem in printing. 

However, you have to replace them or get them repaired every 1-2 years if you use the printer often. 

Some brands also print the expiration date on the printheads, which inform you about the printhead life. 

In some cases, printhead failure occurs before the expiration date. To identify a printhead failure, here are some of the most common signs you can follow:

  • Faded printouts
  • Stripes on the paper sheets and the printouts
  • Uneven superbubbles on the printhead
  • Missing colors
  • Degraded print quality

Many brands like Canon provide detailed information in the user guide about the lifespan of the printheads. 

You can check the user guide, and it should tell you how many pages the printhead can print before it finally dies.

What Can Damage Printheads?

There are various possible reasons due to which your printhead gets damaged. Below, we have listed some of the most common reasons:

Clogged Print Head: If the printheads are clogged but you are still using them. In this case, the printhead gets damaged easily.

Leaving an Empty Cartridge: If you leave an empty ink cartridge in the printer, then it can end up causing more clogs. 

This can decrease the overall performance of your printer. Additionally, it can damage the print heads.

Infrequent Use: If you use the printer very infrequently, or if your printer sits idle for long periods without being used. 

There are very high possibilities that many components like printheads stop working as the ink residue and dust build-up can occur, which will damage the printheads in the long run.

Heat Damage: The thermal inkjet printer contains a heating element that acts as a coolant and provides the pigmentation for the printing. 

The heating element vaporizes the small amount of ink to make steam under the nozzle, which produces the pressure to push a droplet onto the paper sheet via a nozzle. 

If there is no ink left for coolant, then the heating element can burn and badly damage the entire print head.

Is It Worth Replacing a Printhead?

There is no proper answer to this question. This depends upon person to person, if they want to change or replace the printheads or not. 

If you have recently bought the printer printhead failure occurs, you can get a replacement for free or for a significantly less amount. 

However, if you have an old printer with many issues when you print, it is highly recommended that you get a new printer instead of changing the print heads. 

Furthermore, you should always replace the printheads if you have a commercial printer because buying a new commercial printer would be more expensive.

Most importantly, if you own a wide-format printer, you cannot quickly get the printheads replaced as it would require some research. 

You have to find and match the part no, which is not easy, and if you install the false printheads, it will most likely make your printer dead. 

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Tanmoy Misra found his love for tech early in life when he got his first Nintendo (NES) console. He spent many hours blowing into cartridges to no avail until inspiration struck and he started taking apart and rebuilding anything that didn’t work. After dropping console gaming at the end of high school, Tanmoy entered the world of PC online gaming. His love of gaming and problem-solving soon led him to build his computers. As per expertise, he is an ISF-certified video calibrator and covering AV for a number of publications since 2018.

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