6 common copy machine & printer problems and the path to resolution
Paper Jam ? What could be the root causes ?

Although built to perform a simple task, the office copier/printer has an incredible knack for causing frustrations for office workers everywhere. Listed in this article are some of the most common copy machine problems and, better yet, some solution tips. Check it out if you are trying to solve any of the following:

  1. Paper jams
  2. Lines on paper
  3. Cartridge or toner issues
  4. Wrinkled pages
  5. Copies are too light or too dark
  6. Spots on the page

Anyone who has worked in an office knows the frustrations of copy machine and printer problems—and anyone who's seen the film Office Space likely remembers its dramatization of printer frustrations. If you haven't seen it, the film depicts a dramatization of typical copier problems for a good laugh. But anyone who's encountered a broken copy machine when they need it most knows there isn't as much humor in the real thing. Office copy machines have an incredible knack for causing frustrations.

Below are some of the most common printer problems and better yet, some tips for resolution.

6 common copy machine & printer problems and the path to resolution

1. Paper Jams

A paper jam is the most common copy machine error encountered. The reasons for occurrence vary from the wrong paper size to plain old improper paper loading. These issues cause copiers to pull paper through incorrectly, resulting in a jam. The resulting delay can cause employees to show up late to meetings or miss sensitive deadlines. Fixing these types of issues requires someone manually removing the jammed paper and reloading the proper paper size or correcting the paper alignment. There's also the issue of paper dust. While it might sound like something out of a fairy tale, paper dust is real and has a tendency to clog machines and cause paper jams. The best way to avoid paper dust is to periodically wipe the feed tires clean and vacuum away dust built up inside the copier. 

2. Lines on Paper

When you copy a piece of paper with simple text or images and your finished copy contains streaks, lines or other deformities, there's an issue with the copier. There are multiple reasons this issue can occur, so finding a solution can require a bit of photocopier troubleshooting.

Potential sources for this copy machine problem include:

  1. Foreign substances on the scanner glass or mirrors
  2. Drum or developer unit malfunction (only applies to multi-component copier systems)
  3. Drum-blade malfunction, resulting in large lines vertically down the page
  4. Issue with fusers

The first issue is resolved through removing interferences and cleaning the scanner glass and mirrors. See your device's user manual for proper cleaning instructions. The remaining issues can be remedied by replacing the unit causing the issue. These issues should be addressed by contacting your service provider. 

3. Cartridge or Toner Issues

Low, empty or malfunctioning toner cartridges can cause issues within your copy machine. If toner or cartridges are low or empty, replacement should repair the issue. If a cartridge is malfunctioning, it's likely due to one of two things:

  1. Manufacturer Error – bring a copy of the poor quality copies and the cartridge to the place of purchase and request a replacement.
  2. Incompatibility Issues – most copy machines require specific toner; if you try and use an incompatible cartridge, your print quality will suffer. 

4. Wrinkled Pages

There is nothing professional about copy pages that come out of the machine crinkled. It might sound like a minor issue, but what would it look like if employees showed up for meetings with wrinkly agendas, or submitted reports that look like they were dug out from the bottom of a student’s backpack? Wrinkled pages are often the result of worn-out feed and exit rollers that cause sticking or jamming. But, worn-out paper trays, moisture caused by humidity and fuser assemblies can also lead to wrinkled pages. If paper stock is noticeably damaged for any reason, do not use it. For issues with paper trays, you can purchase replacements. However, fixing the fuser assembly and feed rollers requires the assistance of a technician.

5. Copies are Too Light or Too Dark

The majority of the time, issues with lightness and darkness on copy pages is the result of an imbalance in the density controls on the copier. Someone may have inadvertently altered the settings previously, making subsequent images copied too light or too dark. In this case, resetting the density levels is the best solution. It's also possible, however, that the drum could be reaching the end of its work life, or that the toner in the machine has gone bad. Some aftermarket toners are not up to manufacturer codes and can result in light density issues. Replacements should be purchased and installed. 

6. Spots on the Page

As the name suggests, this copy machine problem consists of random arrays of dots marring an otherwise perfect copy. If you notice the dots in the same place every time, it is likely an issue of smudges or debris on the copy mirror or glass. Once again, this can be remedied by properly cleaning off the glass and mirrors.

A more random array of spots repeated throughout the document could be a defect in the drum. Replacing drums should fix the issue. 


In addition to the solutions mentioned above, there are a few steps you can take in your office to ensure these common copy machine problems are reduced. First and foremost, never use force when loading or unloading paper from the machine. Secondly, make sure to follow the replacement timelines for vital parts and fixtures on the copy machine to avoid wear and tear issues.

Last but not least, have the copy machine cleaned professionally from time to time. The buildup of dust and debris inside the machine can lead to many of the problems discussed above. 

As you can see, there are many elements that need monitoring to keep your copier or printer functioning efficiently. Often times, the best way to ensure continued performance is through a Managed Print Services Program.