14 - 2009

How To Fix It Yourself – Laser Printer Edition

I was proud of myself today — I spent about 30 minutes to fix my old laser printer that has been sitting unused since November.

Sometime last fall, the printer made a loud crunching noise that signaled its retirement from pulling in paper. No paper equals no printing.

The matter wasn’t too urgent, as I had just purchased a new scanner/copier/fax all-in-one that also could print. But I hated to give up on my old printer for several reasons:

  1. I bought it about six years ago at Sam’s Club for around $100. What a deal — how could I beat that?
  2. According to this site, the energy consumed by the two printers is approximately the same — $94.68 per year for the laser printer and $94.40 per year for the inkjet. (Note that the inkjet MFC’s hours used are 9.16 times less than the laser printer’s hours used on the site’s list.) My laser printer is an EnergyStar model.
  3. The cost of toner cartridges is somewhat or a lot less than for the inkjet ink. If I buy full-price, name-brand cartridges for the laser printer, they cost $63.50 each or 1.8 cents per printed sheet. (If I buy knockoffs, as I have done in the past, the cost is half that.) Inkjet tanks cost $29 for two, coming out to 2.2 cents per page printed.
  4. The laser printer is much faster.
  5. The laser printer has more professional results (and the pages don’t feel all soggy).

But much as I didn’t want to discard the printer, I also didn’t want to pay someone $100 or more to come fix it.

What I did

I turned to my unknown, online experts, of course! Several sites can provide great information when you need to fix something. When it’s something mechanical you’re wondering about, I have found that Fixya has some good forums. A quick Web search will reveal other sites, too, like this one — Allsands’ “How to Repair a Computer Printer” page.

I usually try these steps:

  1. Do a search online, including your specific brand, model and problem.
  2. Scan several answers. If they suggest the same solution, you can assume you are likely on the right track.
  3. Read through the most detailed instructions (or the ones whose author has the best credentials).
  4. Give it a shot! Be careful. Be thorough. Concentrate.
  5. Unplug anything electric before messing with it.
  6. Pay attention to what you take apart. If necessary, draw yourself a diagram so you can put it back together.
  7. Be gentle so you don’t break irreparable plastic parts.

In my case today, the advice suggested that the rubber roller that pulls the paper in might be coated in paper dust. I unplugged the printer, unscrewed and removed the back of the printer, unscrewed and removed the top of the printer, gently and carefully unscrewed the laser component and lifted it up slightly so I could reach the roller. Then I wiped it with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. While I was in there, I used canned air to clean out the whole thing.

I re-assembled the printer (careful! Don’t drop the tiny screws into the mechanism! A magnetic screwdriver is fabulous for that kind of work, but I don’t have one, of course). Then I plugged it in, pressed “Demo,” and held my breath. Et voila! It worked!

Try the same thing around the house

If you’d like to attempt a repair on basic home appliances, Fixya might be able to help. Alternatively, look for sites like DoItYourself.com, BobVila.com, or my favorites, forums where skilled repairmen share their wisdom.

Do you have a favorite repair resource? Or a tale of proudly rescuing something from the scrap heap?

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