Fax machines

Fax Machines, Top Four Problems and How to Fix Them

If you have a problem with your fax machine, chances are it’s one that I mention in this article. Find the solution, read on…

There are many makes and models of fax machines, but they all have certain problems that come up that are easy to fix. I have listed four common problems and will explain the problem and the solution for each. I charge for this so this is a valuable article for anyone who has a fax machine. Keep it filed so you can retrieve it for another time or use it now to repair an existing problem.

Ricoh Fax Machine
Ricoh Fax Machine

Multi-feeding through the automatic document feeder
This is when you put a stack of papers into the automatic document feeder (ADF) and it pulls more than one in at a time. This is called multi-feeding. Most ADF’s have an item that separates the paper called a separation pad.  Its a rubber pad normally square in shape and it’s  held down by a screw or two.  This wears out after some use and needs to be replaced. Open the ADF cover and shine a flashlight up into this area. If it is worn out replace it. How you can tell it is worn out ,they will have a noticable worn spot like the rubber is gouged out.  You can call the manufacturer and speak with the parts department for a replacement ADF separation pad. Replace it and you will have your ADF working good again. While you are repairing this you should also clean or replace the ADF feed roller. See “Not pulling in originals.”

Note: A little modification I have done many times is flipping the pad over. Some models you can do this and actually get double the life on the pad.

Not pulling in originals
This is when your originals don’t pull in the papers when you insert them into the ADF. You can use WD-40 to clean the feed roller.  The roller that is on top of the separation pad is the one to clean. Take a strong cotton cloth that will not tear and saturate it with WD-40. Clean the roller all the way around the surface and then take the dry part and make sure you get the excess off of the roller. You will probably notice that the rag is very dirty and black from the ink, dirt and toner being removed from the roller. The roller should pick up the paper much better now. If not,  you will need to replace the roller with a new one. Use the steps above and order an ADF feed roller or a feed roller kit. A feed roller kit normally consists of a pre-feed roller, feed roller and a separation pad. Replacing this kit will make it feed like new.

Lines sending faxes or using the copy feature
This is when the faxes that you send or transmit have lines or streaks on them. This is often caused by something on the slit glass of the fax machine scanner. To test it, make a copy on your fax machine. Is there a line? If yes, print a journal. If there is only a line when you copy and no line when you print a journal, the problem is the slit glass. You will need to clean the slit glass. Lift up the ADF cover and shine a flashlight inside. Look for a small “one inch” by “eleven inch” glass. Inspect it for whiteout, ink or foreign matter stuck to it. Remove the stain by first scrapping it with your finger nail and remove as much as you can. Then use an alcohol swab to remove the rest.

Keeps ringing but never answers or receives faxes
If your fax machine keeps ringing without answering it probably has the auto answer function turned off. Look in your owners manual on how to turn on auto receive. If you don’t have an operator’s manual it is often located directly on the operation panel. Set it for “on” and test it.

If you want to save money, you can by fixing it yourself and use the money you saved to take a friend out to dinner instead!

Fax machines

A Quick History of Thermal to Plain Paper Fax Machines

Fax machines have gone through some changes but most would agree that the biggest change has been the change from thermal paper to plain paper.

Thermal Fax Machine
Thermal Fax Machine

Many years ago, businesses were leasing thermal fax machines that were priced at $1,500.00 to $2,500.00. Now you can buy a plain paper fax machine for under $150.00. Times sure have changed.

Thermal fax machines were the ones with the long roll of paper and each fax would be cut to the size that is transmitted. You could make some cool banners with those things because you could set them to not cut and it would continue to spit out the paper!  They were pretty much bullet proof. The major problem was the paper. It would curl and you had a hard time working with it. If it was exposed to the sun or heat it would turn a dark black and all of the information was lost. They were very economical compared to laser or ink jet fax machines. The only supply that you were required to purchase was rolls of paper.

At the time of transformation most people didn’t rush out and buy plain paper faxes. They waited until either there fax machines went on the blink or the prices came down quite a bit. Up until several years ago you could still find a few still chugging away but now I believe they have completely vanished.
Plain paper faxes now have saturated the market and the prices have dropped so low that anyone can afford one. With rebates you may even get one for free. The only problem may be that you may not be able to afford the supplies that go into them. Laser, inkjet, and thermal transfer rolls are the options that you have. The cost per page varies but believe me when I say that the money is not in selling machines, it is in selling supplies. You can shop smart though and look at the cost per page. This is the price of the toner or supply divided by the supply yield. Spending a little more on the machine for a lower CPP can save you a bundle of money.

Some of the younger people that read this probably can’t even imagine using thermal roll fax machines.  If fact right now many people do not even use fax machines.   They seem like a dying breed in the technology of today. What does the future hold for the fax machine?  Death perhaps or a re-emergence…Nah !


Copiers, Fax machines, printers, toner

Compatible versus Genuine Toner Cartridges

The term “Compatible”  in this case means that the toner cartridge can be used in your specific equipment and also that it is not the Genuine Brand. Refilling toner cartridges is big business in the US and the world. Many companies choose to purchase the compatible version instead of the Original Equipment Manufacturer, OEM.

Original HP Toner Cartridge
Original HP Toner Cartridge

In the beginning of refill cartridges there were not many options. Toner and internal replacement parts were not readily available, so the quality was not as high as one would like. In the recent years all that has changed. One of the most important components that should be replaced is the drum and the drum blade. These were designed to only last the life of the toner being used from the cartridge.

If you were to reuse the original drum it would cause many print defects such as light print, marks and several other image defects. The drum blade would also create streaking and line type image defects. Think of the drum blade as a windshield wiper. When it wears out certain areas are not being cleaned and it makes it hard to see through the window! In the same way certain areas are not being wiped off and you then have lines on the printed pages.

We now have access to not only drums and blades but many other components that wear out and need to be replaced inside the toner cartridge. When selecting a company that refills or sells compatible toner cartridges, I would make sure that they do in fact replace the drum and drum blade, or it will not last and you will have wasted your time and money on something that was supposed to save you money in the first place.

False assumptions: OEMs never Fail
It seems that most people believe that if it is the original (OEM) toner cartridge that it will never fail. This is just not true. I have seen many OEM cartridges fail. Some from defect and some from customer neglect.  Here is a list of causes induced by customer neglect or error. Staples paper clips, paper dust, sticky back labels and placing the cartridge down on an unsafe position causing damage to drum.

False Assumptions: Refills always leak
Here again we have an assumption that is just not true. In my experience, the number one cause for a leaking cartridge is paper or labels stuck up inside the drum area. This is caused by using inferior labels or dog-eared paper. There are some refilled cartridges that have not been refurbished in a correct manner. Inside the cartridge is a part that is called a recovery blade. It is a thin Mylar that does exactly what it is named for. It recovers the excess toner and keeps it in the waste toner tank. If the recovery blade is old and warped, toner will fall down into the paper path and some how end up on your brand new shirt.

If you run across a toner cartridge and the price is unbelievably low it may be because the company that refilled it didn’t replace all of the components that we mentioned earlier. Try and stay away from these kind of deals if you can help it. In this industry there are standards. One question to ask is if they are an ISO 9001 facility. An ISO 9001 facility has the highest standards and you can trust that they install all major components and are put together the right way. This is important, next time you are purchasing toner cartridges just ask them if they are. If they look at you kind of strange or if there is a long pause and they don’t know what you are talking about, stay away from buying from them. There may be some good rechargers out there that are not ISO 9001 but for the most part this will help weed out the bad ones.

Do Refilled Toner Cartridges stack up to the original brand?
Here are the pros and cons for both.

Compatible Pros:
 Cost, the average savings can be 50% to 70% from OEM retail prices. If you make several thousand prints, this can really add up. Recycling benefits our world because it reduces the amount that we put in our landfills.

Compatible Cons: You have to make sure you buy quality compatibles or you may get a bad cartridge.

OEM Pros:
 Consistency, toner yields, new parts, knowing were it came from and that it was created by the OEM.

OEM Cons: Cost, toner cartridges can be much more expensive.

Copiers, Fax machines, printers

Quick Fix for Paper Feed Problems on Copiers, Fax and Printers

So you need ten sets of a fifty page document for this mornings meeting. It’s 8:30AM and your meeting is at 9:00AM. You begin with your project and the copier jams. You clear the jam but it keeps jamming! It’s not pulling in the paper. Sure you can call the repair person, but you need the copies now! There’s nothing you can do, or is there?

Paper Path
Paper Path

All office equipment that feeds paper has a component inside that pulls the paper out of the paper tray and into the machine. Most are made out of rubber and just like the tires on your car they wear out. When a roller is worn and dirty they will cause paper jams. The purpose of this article is to show you how you can clean or rejuvenate the rollers long enough for you to complete your job and have your repair person come out and fix it properly.

Alternative solutions
When your machine is jamming, first locate where the paper is jamming. Which paper tray? Is it tray 1 or tray 2? Also which size is jamming? On machines that have more than one paper tray you can switch paper trays and then you can skip cleaning the rollers. Make sure when you change cassettes that the copier registers the correct size. The machine will think it is a different size and it will jam. The sensors are set for a specific timing and it will know the difference in length from letter size and legal size. I also would try using the bypass tray or manual feed tray if so equipped. This will get you up and running quicker than cleaning the rollers.

Determining if the rollers are the problem:
If you need the specific tray to be functional we will get busy with the repair.
First make a single copy in the tray that is jamming. By doing this you are determining where the paper is jamming. If it is jamming in the exit for instance, you have another problem. If it is jamming in the center of the machine, again it is a different problem. But if it jams at the cassette or paper tray area the next step is removing the paper tray. Shine your flashlight into the paper feed area and see if there are any pieces of paper torn off inside or something blocking the paper path. Now that you have ruled out a blocked paper path, you can clean the feed roller(s).

Tools Required:
Flashlight, strong cotton towel (so it will not rip off in the machine), WD-40 or Rubber roller rejuvenator.
Note: Never use alcohol to clean rollers. It dries out the tread and the remaining tread will get ripped off and then it still will not feed. Use WD-40 it works great!

Cleaning the rollers:
Shine your flashlight into the paper feed area and locate the rubber rollers that feed the paper in. Grab your towel and saturate it with cleaning fluid. This can be WD-40 or your favorite roller rejuvenator. Start by cleaning the roller and spinning it all the way around not missing any of the surfaces of the roller. Then go over it again with the dry part of the towel. As I said there are many different types. Some have a set of three rollers. One Pre-feed roller, this pushes the paper into the other rollers. One feed roller and one separation roller. Others have a half moon style. These are harder to clean because they have a clutch system that keeps it at home position when not feeding.

WARNING: If you try and turn these to clean them you will damage the clutch mechanism! There are two ways you can clean these types. First you can actuate the clutch by pushing down on the solenoid or release lever. This sometimes can be hard to get to. You can also start the copy process and shut off the machine exactly when the feed roller engages. This takes some patience and practice but it is better than damaging the clutch. Once you get it where you can clean the roller repeat the procedure above.

Some alternatives to replacing feed rollers:
There is a material called feed roller tape. I have used it when I didn’t have the right roller in my car stock. It works with some styles mainly half moon styles. Just peel off the adhesive and wrap it around the worn roller surface. They also have some that stretch over the old rollers. I have never used this but I have been told it will get you up and running. On old copiers or printers that you can no longer get parts for you can apply clear silicon on the feed surface and let it dry twenty four hours. It works but I am inclined to use the real thing. You can also use generic rollers manufactured for almost all equipment. I have mixed feeling about these because I have had to go back and change them again later. For the best repair I use genuine OEM feed rollers. They are still inexpensive and they will last you longer and you will have fewer headaches.

I hope this has helped you complete your print or copy job. Please remember that this article is just a quick fix and not a long term solution. Be sure and call your repair person to fix it correctly.

Copiers, Fax machines, printers

Managed Print Services


Managed Print Services or Total Cost Management.
There is an explosion of service companies providing this way of tracking all of the costs associated with your copiers and printers. It is called “Total Cost Management.” Most if not all copiers, MFP’s and printers can be monitored on your network with revolutionary print management software. You are able to track your total pages or copies. You can monitor toner low warnings, error codes, paper jams, and everything associated with your machine. This software can help you calculate how much you are paying for the total ownership of all of your equipment. This is very helpful when purchasing new equipment. The software will help you figure all the costs of your equipment, toner, parts, supplies and service.If you are shopping for a Managed Print Solution,  this article deals with the ins and the outs of MPS, read on…

Laser printer maintenance contracts are similar to copier service contracts. Most laser printer service contracts are billed by cost per print.  MPS takes it another step and will be responsible for an entire fleet of printers, fax machines and copiers. Each time you print a page the internal meter clicks.   This is how you are billed.  At the end of the billing cycle, be it monthly, quarterly or whatever, they tally the amount of clicks and multiply it by the “Cost Per Print”, ( CPP).  This is not always the way you are billed, but it is a general rule.  Each MPS provider is different and have their own  carefully protected formula. It could be by factoring in the amount of users or by the units in place.  Whatever it is, the CPP is the deciding factor because they aren’t providing you this service for free.

MPS normally has a software package that tracks page counts, order toner automatically, flags a printer for service if an error pops up and invoicing and many other things.  A big advantage  to MPS  is tracking of individual hardware.  Say a piece of equipment is under utilized or over utilized you can rearrange locations to suit your needs and become more effective by deploying the correct equipment in a specific location.  Tracking specific costs for supplies is another huge benefit.

Basically,  after the end of each month or quarter an invoice is generated by multiplying the cost per page by the total prints made. The cost per page is determined by monthly volume, age of machine and environment. Environment plays a big part because if it is in a dirty environment it will need possibly twice as much service than a machine in a clean environment.   The good part is that your costs are fixed, so you will know how much per year you will spend instead of hoping it won’t break down too much or have a serious or really expensive part break. There are many ways of paying for a service contract. It depends on the way you and your company would like to be billed. Most service companies offer monthly, quarterly and annual billing.

Understanding what is covered and what is not covered is very important to find out before you purchase a service contract. Does the contract include supplies? Some supply items are toner and maintenance kits. Find out what hours the service company is available and days of the week that they operate. Which holidays do they take off? What is their response time? Most service contracts do not cover abuse or neglect. So be cautious with those paper clips and staples as they can cause an expensive repair and it probably won’t be covered. Get all of this in writing then there will not be any surprises.