Hewlett Packard has a great reputation for producing the best printers money can buy. Lately, Brother, Dell, Xerox, and Lexmark have given them a run for their money with low cost printers and ideal solutions. As a printer technician for many years, I’ve compiled a list of the most common flaws with printers developed by HP and how to get the problem solved quickly and accurately.
HP LaserJet 3015/3030/3050/3052/3055 Series Scanner
Symptoms: HP was looking to target the consumer with a small all-in-one machine. They look sharp, take a standard toner, and use very little desk space. Underneath the hood though is poor scanner design. The flatbed or scanning portion on these machines fails often resulting in garbled faxes or copies. It also reports strange errors not recorded for reference in the manual.
The fix: HP has released several firmware updates for these models. If you have one, be sure to update it to the latest release. You can check what release you have by printing a configuration page. The latest firmware as of this writing is 20070331. If the firmware doesn’t fix the printer (which happens half the time), a new shiny scanning assembly is required. The install is difficult and usually costs more then purchasing a new printer.
HP LaserJet 4101MFP Series Internal Hard Drive
Symptoms: This beastly machine is a true workhorse. Scanning, printing, faxing are all strong points in this model. Many 4101MFP and 4000MFP’s suffer from an error 49.FF81. When this happens the printer’s main functions are suspended.
Solution: The problem really means, “my hard drive died, and I can’t do anything without it!” If an unsuspecting tech looks up the required part from HP, he or she will see a huge price tag associated with it. Replacing the hard drive in the J6054 or J6054b hard drive enclosure will fix the problem and get you up and running again. Anyone can easily find an IDE 10GB 2.5″ hard drive on eBay and then remove the old drive and install the new hard drive, and then initialize it in the printer. It’s a shame that the entire printer rests on on the fact that there needs to be a hard drive working at all times.
Why did the hard drive fail in the first place? As most computer techs know, all hard drives are rated to fail at some point in time. If it never spins down, the motor will eventually die which caused the error in the first place. After replacing the hard be sure to download and install updated firmware which automatically spins down the hard drive when the printer is in standby/sleep mode.
HP LaserJet 1300/1150 Series Fuser
Symptoms: The HP LaserJet 1300 series printers offered faster speeds over its predecessor (the 1200). Along with the faster speeds came a plague of problems that rendered this printer obsolete a lot faster than it should have. After a random amount of printing, the end user may notice that the right or left side of the page looking really poor and ripped tan fragments coming out the paper output.
Solution: Unfortunately, these printers experience a common fuser problem (the part that seals or fuses the toner to the paper). The side bushing wears out prematurely causing the fuser sleeve to tear. The printer doesn’t know there’s a problem and continues to print mangled output. The only solution is to install a new fuser (which may fail again). It’s a tough process and usually the printer isn’t worth the cost of repairing it.
HP LaserJet 1000, 1012, 1200, and other “host based” printers
Symptoms: Recently upgrade to Windows Vista? You may notice that if you had any of these “host based” printers, you can no longer print since HP hasn’t (as of this writing) released any drivers. A host based printer is generally a cheaper printer where the computer does all the work, and then sends the information to the printer in a print ready format. Older or more expensive printers translate computer information to printer information. It’s much faster that way but requires more resources. Without proper drivers for your computer (or operating system), the printer just can’t print.
Solution: One of the tricks to getting any device working with a new operating system is used a generic or compatible driver. What you’ll need to do, is going onto HP.com find the XP driver for your printer, then download it, and install BEFORE you connect your USB printer. After installation, connect your printer, and select “have disk” when it prompts you for drivers. You should be able to select the driver for Windows XP. If that doesn’t work for your model, your only choice it to wait for HP to release new drivers.
HP LaserJet 4200 Series Fuser (again)
Symptoms: Users of the 4200 series will enjoy the fast printing speeds, increased paper capacity, and an intuitive new menu structure. Unfortunately, like the 1300 series printers, these puppies had a serious issue with the fuser. Users would notice unreadable printout and a plethora of fuser fibers or strips that would fall out of the printer.
Solution: Even after a brand new fuser is replaced in these machines, it still failed. HP sent a notice to its users about a recall (since expired) on these fusers. The only fix is ensuring that the replacement fuser is OEM and very recently manufactured. This is because of a bushing on the side that caused repetitive failure. HP should have extended the warranty on the fuser a bit longer since it’s such an expensive part to replace.
HP LaserJet 4600 Toner
Symptoms: The HP 4600 series printers introduced a revolutionary technology that enabled high speed color laser printing. Instead of a rotating carousel, the color cartridges are stacked on top of each other allowing the paper to quickly flow through the printer. There was a minor hickup with the toner cartridges in the 4600 series printers though. Some cartridges (especially the magenta) would fail and cause all future printouts to have a pinkish (or blue/yellow) hue on one side.
Solution: The problem would still return after a toner cartridge is replaced. The printouts would look great for the first hundred pages and then the valentine’s day themed printouts would return. The secret to correcting this issue is actually a firmware update. Head to HP.com and download the latest firmware and install it as soon as possible. If there is currently a toner issue with the printer, those also need to be replaced after the update. The sad fact, though, is that each one of those cartridges can almost buy a new consumer grade laser printer.
HP LaserJet 4si and weathering adhesive
Symptoms: The good old HP 4si was a monster of a machine that can really crank out the paper. It was a very expensive printer that was way ahead of its time in terms of printing technology. These beastly machines provided excellent performance and reliability for many years. Only recently have users noticed strange jams occurring that are hard to fix. When printing, the top of the text or images slowly moves down as the pages print. A one or two page document would print fine, but a five or more page document would result in poor quality prints and a “ghost” or “mystery” jam.
Solution: Out of the thousands of pages tested in HP quality labs, I assume this problem was overlooked because it requires a lot of time to produce these symptoms. The problem lies in the fact that the adhesive holding the felt pad which strikes a solenoid that is responsible for paper input gets a little too sticky and would cause a slight delay with each new piece of paper going in the printer. The problem would only effect larger print jobs and leave the on-site printer technician baffled. The fix is just to take some goo-gone and remove the adhesive and felt pad. The jams will disappear and the 4si will provide many more years of dedicated service.
HP LaserJet 2600 Transfer Belt
Symptoms: The HP LaserJet 2600 printer is a great machine that HP is currently selling. Although the toner cartridges are a bit small, the performance and small footprint make this printer an ideal solution for small businesses and homes. The major problem with these printers is not apparent right now, but will be in a few years. Color laser printers require certain parts to be changed out in various intervals. Toner is every 2,000 pages, rollers are every 20,000 pages, and a transfer belt is every 30,000 pages on most lower end models. The problem with the 2600 series printers is that the transfer belt is extremely hard to change and requires the service manual and a few hours of time for first timers. When the printer requires a new transfer belt, consumers will see the price tag associated with the repair and buy a new printer. I predict that we will see a load of these on ebay soon with no buyers.
Solution: Part of the solution is prevention. If you know you are going to print massive amounts of color laden pages, perhaps a bigger color laser printer may be a better option. The transfer belt is easier to change plus the toner lasts much longer. If you find yourself needing to change the transfer belt in a 2600 printer, checkout the weekly ads for Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot and pick up a new one.
HP LaserJet 3200 Firmware, Rollers, and more
Symptoms: The HP 3200 series multifunction printer was a great step up from its old brother the 3100. Speed was increased, memory bumped up, and it had potential to really shine. Unfortunately, this model has a plague of problems to this day. Users will starts to notice that paper will start to feed more than one at a time due to a separation failure. If that issue hasn’t started, the firmware on these models seem to deteriorate for some reason. Users will notice 69.X errors often and after a while, the machine will be inoperable. To top that off, the scanning separation pad also wears quickly.
Solution: Luckily these three problems can be solved. First, HP issued a firmware update to fix most of the 69 type errors. I’ve installed an updated firmware only to find that those errors continued depending on the model type, but it’s a good idea to update firmware. Second, most HP LaserJet part retailers carry separation kits for these printers. They include a feed roller, separation pad, and alignment pads. Getting them installed in the printer is not for the faint of heart. It takes some time, but can be fixed allowing you to squeeze a few more years out of the printer. Originally HP sent out these small kits that only included a separation pad. It was a piece of cardboard that you would stick in the paper input and essentially “glue” a new pad to the old one. This fix lasted a few hundred pages because the feed roller would soon thereafter wear out and the printer could no longer pick up paper. Lastly, a separation pad for the scanning portion of the printer can also be purchased and installed in minutes.
HP LaserJet 5L, 6L, 1100, 3100, and 3150 Series Printer’s Separation Pad
Symptoms: Out of all the repairs I’ve done in the last 5 years, this one has been the number one failure. As mentioned earlier in this article, gravity fed laser printers (not just limited to Hewett Packard) experience a failure of grabbing the paper and feeding more than one sheet through at a time. Most of the time, the printing area is off, jams occur, and the end user is forced to feed a sheet of paper at a time for all print jobs.
Solution: The real problem with these printers is the material in the separation pad. It just doesn’t hold up past 10-15,000 pages. I’m not sure how these printers made it through quality assurance, but truly fixing them involves replacing not only the separation pad, but the feed roller, and two guiding pads. It’s not an easy or fun fix, but many tutorials are available online and there are plenty of third party HP part resellers that know exactly what to include in the “sep-pad-kit”. Don’t fall for HP’s “fix” that involved sticking a cardboard square into the paper input and gluing an additional separation pad to the existing pad. It only lasts for a thousand pages and wears out the feed roller prematurely.