Why Paper Jams Happen in Laser Printers

Why Laser Printers Get Paper Jams

It's the number one reason that printers fail. The dreaded paper jam! It may begin as an occasional annoyance. However, it's only going to get worse if neglected. Eventually, your printer will be completely useless. Luckily, most paper jams are easy to fix. So let's look at why printers jam and then look at things you can do to fix the problem.

Why do paper jams happen?

As your printer pulls the paper from the paper tray and moves it through the printing process, the paper passes various paper sensors. If the paper does not clear a paper sensor in the expected time, the printer will give a "paper jam" error. The paper jam error typically includes a numeric code that helps to identify where the paper jam occurred. For example, HP printers will show a Paper Jam 13.01.00 error message to let the user know that the paper jam is in the paper tray. Whereas Paper Jam 13.1C.00 means that the paper jam is in the fuser assembly.

So, now that we understand that paper jams happen when the paper fails to pass the paper sensor within the expected time. Let's look at why this may happen.

#1 Feed Rollers or Pick-up Rollers

Your printer has feed rollers or pick-up rollers. These rollers are responsible for picking up one sheet of paper at a time and feeding it into the printer. If these rollers become dirty, dusty, slick or worn, the printer will not pick up the paper.

You can think of these rollers like the tires on your car. The more you drive the car, the more the tires wear down and eventually lose their grip on the road. So likewise, with the rollers in your printer, the more you print, the more the rollers wear down and lose their ability to pick up the paper.

How to fix paper jams caused by pick-up or feed rollers:
If the pick-up or feed rollers cause your paper jam, you have a couple of options.

For the first option, you can do it yourself. Use a lint-free cloth and water to clean the rollers. You will want to remove the rollers from the printer to make sure you clean the entire rubber surface of the roller.

Your next option is replacing the worn rollers. For this option, we suggest contacting a local service provider to ensure you get the proper rollers for your printer. Once you have the new rollers, this repair goes pretty quickly. In addition, the rollers are typically inexpensive; therefore, you should replace all feed rollers simultaneously.

#2 Broken Paper Sensors

As mentioned above, paper jams occur when the paper doesn't pass a paper sensor within the expected time. Sometimes, this is because the rollers couldn't pick up the paper. While other times it's caused by an issue with the actual paper sensor.

How to fix paper jams caused by paper sensors:
To troubleshoot this problem, you first need to know where the paper sensors are within the printer. Once you know where to look, you can inspect the paper sensor to make sure it moves freely and doesn't have visible damage. If a paper sensor is not moving freely, you may be able to adjust it and fix the issue. However, if you see that a sensor is damaged, it will likely need replacing.

We do not recommend repairing paper sensor issues unless you have experience repairing printers. It is easy to cause further damage to your printer and create a more significant issue. Instead, please get in touch with a local repair company for help fixing paper sensor issues.

#3 Fuser Assembly

The fuser assembly can be one of the more costly paper jam repairs. The fuser assembly is responsible for fusing the toner onto the paper. The fuser assembly consists of two rollers, a heat roller and a pressure roller. When the pressure roller becomes worn, it will become difficult to turn. When the fuser assembly can't turn, it will cause a paper jam. Furthermore, this can break gears within the printer and cause even more problems in some cases.

How to fix paper jams caused by the fuser assembly:
The only way to fix this issue is to replace the fuser assembly. You'll want to contact a reputable printer repair company for this repair. Buying the part online can be risky, as you don't know if the part is new or rebuilt. Furthermore, you will want to go with a company that stands behind the repair.

#4 Your Paper

When thinking about why a printer has a paper jam, most people don't think about the paper itself. However, your printer paper is one of the easiest things to test before placing a service call. The printer paper can cause a paper jam if any of the following are true.

  • You stored your paper in an area with high humidity. Moisture in the paper will cause the printer to jam.
  • You are using recycled or low-quality paper with excessive paper dust. The dust from the paper can build up on the rollers and cause a paper jam.
  • You are using paper with bent corners or printed on before. Paper with bent corners can get stuck in the printer and cause a paper jam.
  • Your paper is the wrong size.
  • You didn't place the paper in the paper tray correctly. Check to ensure there isn't excessive wiggle room in the paper tray.

How to fix paper jams caused by the paper:
Try replacing your old paper with a freshly opened pack. When installing the new paper, ensure it fits in the paper tray correctly. Furthermore, check your printer's paper handling specifications and make sure you use paper designed to work in your printer.

#5 Paper Stuck in the Printer

We often see printers with paper jams that result from a small piece of paper that blocks the paper path. In most cases, someone tried to remove a previous paper jam and tore the paper in the process. If the printer's paper path is not clear, you will get a paper jam.

How to fix paper jams caused by paper stuck in the printer:
This repair requires locating and removing the paper from the printer. The repair may seem like a DIY repair. However, if you have to disassemble the printer to remove the paper, we recommend calling for help. Anytime you disassemble the printer, you risk causing more damage.

Hopefully, this article sheds some light on what causes paper jams in laser printers and what you can do to fix them. Let us know if you've seen other causes for paper jams in the comments below.

About the Author: Rick Pope

I am a technology expert with over 20-years of experience. I specialize in helping businesses leverage the latest technologies to increase their productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness. Whether you need to address an immediate business issue or design a long-term strategy for growth, my objective is always the same: To make your company more profitable by reducing cost and increasing revenue through better use of information technology tools.

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