Why is My Cartridge Not Printing?

Why is My Cartridge Not Printing?

Seeing no page output from your printer can quickly become frustrating. The question soon follows – why is my cartridge not printing? Before you despair, know that many common culprits like insufficient ink levels or clogged nozzles can be easily fixed yourself.

Armed with some fundamental troubleshooting techniques, you can tackle most cartridge problems and restore printing confidence. 

This comprehensive guide will cover how to fix non-printing cartridges as well as best practice cleaning and maintenance to minimize future malfunctions. 

Common Causes of Cartridge Printing Issues

There are several key potential causes behind print failures. We will examine cartridge problems affecting printing in-depth and provide actionable solutions:

Low Ink Levels

Why is My Cartridge Not Printing?

One prevalent reason your printer cartridge may not be depositing ink onto the page is the critically low levels of ink or toner in the cartridge. Over time and repeated use, the reservoir of liquid ink or dry toner powder will gradually diminish.

Once the cartridge ink levels reach extremely low percentages, often below 5-10% of the capacity remaining, the printer may need to release more ink or distribute enough toner to fully generate a printed page. 

This insufficient ink or toner volume can manifest as a variety of printing troubles – faint or incomplete prints, blank streaks in certain areas where ink coverage drops off, or certain colors disappearing entirely from mixed documents.

To identify and troubleshoot this issue, check your printer display, status menu, or companion software utility on your operating system to examine the estimated remaining ink or toner levels. 

When one or more cartridge shows critically low levels, you will need to refill the liquid ink tanks or replace the entire toner cartridge to resolve the deficiency. Follow your printer manufacturer’s guidance for the proper cartridge refill or replacement procedures. 

Misaligned Cartridge

Another potential cause of ink cartridge print problems arises when the cartridge itself becomes slightly misaligned inside the printer carriage. The cartridge relies on precise alignment within the printer to deposit ink droplets or toner particles onto the passing paper or media with accuracy.

However, over time and repeating cycling back and forth across the media, the cartridge can shift somewhat out of the ideal position within the printer carriage.

Even minor alignment issues of less than a millimeter can interfere with the cartridge’s ability to place ink or toner properly on the page as it moves through the printer mechanism. 

To troubleshoot and resolve a misaligned ink or toner cartridge, refer to your printer user manual or online documentation for the proper cartridge realignment procedure.

In most cases, you will need to open the printer, remove the problematic cartridge, visually inspect the alignment across the carriage, reseat the cartridge properly into the slot, lock it securely into place, and run a printer alignment check/calibration page.

Reseating and securing the cartridge into the locked position helps realign it with the printer components like the page feed and rollers to restore accurate printing ability. 

Clogged Nozzles

Clogged nozzles are another cause behind ink cartridge malfunction causing no prints. Over months or years of repeated use, the tiny nozzles of inkjet printer cartridges can gradually become clogged with dried ink residue or contaminant debris.

These incredibly small nozzle openings are essential for controlling the precise deposition of ink droplets onto the printing medium. 

However, as ink residue accumulates and paper dust or particles make their way into the print head, the openings can become partially or fully blocked. Much like a clogged showerhead, this impedes the atomized passage of ink, affecting print output.

Symptoms of clogged nozzles include streaks in prints, missing spots of color, distorted or blurred areas on letters or images, and dull quality with reduced sharpness. 

To clear or unclog a print head’s nozzles, you will need to perform cartridge cleaning procedures. Refer to your inkjet printer manufacturer’s guidance for the proper cartridge cleaning process.

Typically, this involves inkjet print head cleaning cycles actuated through the printer interface to force ink through the nozzles to dislodge obstructions.

Additionally, gently wiping the print head by hand using a soft lint-free cloth dampened with distilled water can help dissolve any dried ink and clear debris by lightly rubbing the cloth across the nozzles.

Avoid using tissues or paper towels, as the wood fibers can further clog the openings. Severe clogs may ultimately require the replacement of the cartridge, as extensive clogs can permanently damage the print head. But mild clogs often respond well to cleaning.

Outdated or Corrupted Printer Drivers  

The specialized software that coordinates communication and controls printing functions between your operating system and the printer itself can also be a source of errors when it is outdated or corrupted.

Printer drivers act like translators, converting print tasks initiated on your computer into the technical language understood by the printer. 

However, over time as operating systems update, or if errors develop in a printer driver’s code, the software can become glitched. These bugs lead to imprecise communication between the OS and printer, resulting in botched print jobs.

On-screen graphics or documents may preview correctly, but the translated instructions sent to the printer result in mistakes or failed prints.

To troubleshoot printer driver issues, first check that your OS has the latest printer driver version installed for your specific printer model.

Outdated drivers lead to compatibility issues. You can normally update drivers directly through your printer interface, OS device manager, or printer manufacturer’s software tools. 

If updating fails to resolve problems, try uninstalling the current drivers entirely using your OS add/remove programs control panel, rebooting your computer, and freshly downloading and reinstalling the latest printer drivers. This wipes out any corrupted code or settings.

Paper Jams

Paper Jam

Failing to feed paper smoothly through the printer mechanism can lead to paper jams inside the intricate machine. Paper jams physically obstruct the printer from laying down ink or toner properly.

The impact is straightforward – the jammed sheet blocks the paper path, which prevents additional pages from passing through to complete the print job.

Paper jams can happen sporadically if a single page gets snagged or repeatedly if a component like the pick rollers or feeder tray is damaged. To troubleshoot, inspect locations like the paper tray, feeder slot, internal rollers, fusers, and exit points for snagged pages stopping movement.

Gently remove the jammed paper, careful not to rip any pieces that could further block the route. Also, check for any small remnants left behind from prior jams.

Prevent paper jams by replacing worn parts like roller kits when recommended. Make sure guides align with media sizes, avoid overloading the trays, and only use printer-approved paper types.

Proper paper loading techniques aligned with tray guides can help minimize jams. Straighten curled sheets before loading as well.

Connectivity Issues

As modern printers have evolved into networked peripheral devices, the connectivity method between printer and computer has also expanded beyond physical cables.

Contemporary printers may interface using USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, or Ethernet. This allows flexible printer placement anywhere within range rather than right beside the computer.

However, this introduces more potential for connectivity issues to block communication between your operating system and the printer. Damaged cables, wireless interference, incorrect network settings, or losing paired Bluetooth connections are examples of connectivity problems that could cause printing to fail silently. 

Always check the basics first – try swapping USB cords, moving routers closer, rebooting router and printer, double checking configurations, and re-pairing Bluetooth to rule out loose connections or settings changes as easy fixes.

Updating WiFi and Ethernet drivers can also help strengthen connections and troubleshoot other intermittent issues.

For wired Ethernet or USB printers, examine the ports and cables to ensure a snug fit and no physical damage. If flaws are spotted, replace damaged cords and connectors.

Test for continuity or try a verified working cable for comparison. Firmly reseating connections often resolves elusive physically “loose” issues.

Cartridge-Specific Troubleshooting

If you have methodically addressed all common printer problems yet printing still fails, focus on troubleshooting cartridge printing issues efforts directly on the printer cartridge itself as the possible weak link:

Inkjet Cartridges

For inkjet printers specifically, the ink cartridge itself can be the root of trouble in the form of:

  • Clogged nozzles from infrequent printing drying out ink
  • Leaks from cartridges not inserted firmly or fully locked into place  
  • Smearing issues from long ink dry times on certain glossy or coated papers
  • Faded quality from expired water-based liquid ink formulations  

Refer to the previous tips on cleaning clogged nozzles if the print head openings appear obstructed. Check cartridge insertion and locking mechanisms if smearing or offset ink marks appear on prints as a sign of leaks. Avoid leaving cartridges unused for long periods which allows ink to dry prematurely. And replace expired cartridges that may no longer eject vibrant results.

Toner Cartridges

With laser printers utilizing dry toner ink, failures specific to toner cartridges include:

  • Light or faint pages from low toner levels not fully adhere to the drum
  • Black streaks or other defects from scratches or damage on the drum surface
  • Transfer issues from damaged, worn-out transfer rollers failing to affix toner to the page

Check toner level gauges on the cartridge to ensure ample amounts remain. Examine the drum surface and rollers for damage. Test components individually by swapping a known good drum or roller into the cartridge.

Redistribution processes can temporarily revive usable toner. But actual defects require replacing components or whole cartridges.

Compatibility Issues 

Using aftermarket generic, remanufactured, or refilled printer ink and toner cartridges can present technical compatibility issues leading to print failures, even if the cartridge matches your printer model. The reason is the proprietary cartridge chips.

Printer manufacturers embed custom smart chips containing programming and electronic contacts specific to that printer model. Aftermarket cartridges either lack chips entirely or do not have precise proprietary code and connections.

Always verify third-party or non-OEM cartridges list your printer as fully compatible before purchase. Or use authentic OEM cartridges to eliminate compatibility variables.

Refilled/Remanufactured Cartridges  

In some cases, printing troubles may arise when using discounted refilled and remanufactured cartridges, even when compatible with your printer.

The issue is reliability – refilled cartridges are often not reconditioned to the strict specifications and performance testing of OEM supplies. Low cost comes at the cost of higher failure rates.

If you have ruled out all other major printer issues, consider trying a new OEM cartridge known to be reliable. Refrain from using a third-party or refilled/remanufactured cartridge with questionable dependability.

While pricier, the OEM route eliminates the cartridge itself as the weak link in your troubleshooting equation. Purchase from reputable resellers and the savings over branded cartridges will outweigh the occasional dud.

Cleaning and Maintenance 

While not inherently cause of print failures, performing proper periodic printer cleaning and maintenance can prevent many cartridge issues:

Cleaning Print Heads

For inkjet printers specifically, gently cleaning print heads and nozzles clears any accumulated ink deposits that could slowly block the microscopic openings over time leading to clogs.

Use manufacturer-approved print head cleaning kits designed for your cartridge type. You can also use a lint-free cloth dampened with distilled water to wipe the nozzles free of residual ink buildup.

Avoid rough scrubbing and use gentle pressure to prevent damaging the delicate print head. Distilled water rinses ink away without introducing contaminants. Clean print heads allow optimal ink flow.

Routine Maintenance 

Beyond periodic print head cleaning, maintaining your overall printer and cartridges according to manufacturer-recommended schedules and procedures will minimize issues. This includes:

  • Running cleaning and calibration cycles regularly 
  • Producing test pages to cycle all cartridge colors and prevent ink drying
  • Keeping the printer and cartridges dust-free
  • Replacing cartridges based on printed page yield expirations before empty
  • Safeguarding your printer from extreme temperature fluctuations

Investing a little time upfront in basic maintenance helps sustain optimal printer performance. It can also head off many cryptic cartridge troubles before they arise down the road.

Also Read: How to Clean your Toner Cartridge


Struggling with an unresponsive printer that fails to produce prints can certainly be frustrating. Finding solutions often comes down to methodically troubleshooting the root causes behind why is my cartridge not printing. 

Combining preventative maintenance best practices with targeted troubleshooting of your printer model’s subsystems and potential cartridge problems can confidently tackle cryptic print failures and restore flawless function.


Why is my cartridge not printing properly?

Poor print quality may be due to low ink levels or a clogged printhead. Try cleaning or replacing the cartridge.

Can a dried-out cartridge be revived?

If your cartridge has dried out, soaking the printhead in warm water or using a cleaning kit may help.

Why is my new cartridge not working?

Ensure you removed the protective tape and properly installed it. If the issue persists, contact the manufacturer.

Is it normal for cartridges to expire?

Yes, cartridges can expire. Check the date and replace if needed to maintain print quality.

What could cause streaks or smudges on prints?

Streaks or smudges could result from a dirty printhead or misalignment. Clean or align as needed.


About Saif Ghori

I am Saif Ghori and I have always had a passion for working in the realm of printer cartridges. I have worked in this field for a long time and through my experience, I have learned many things including the importance of recycling unused printer cartridges. Through my experience, I have also learned how to address the common issues that one faces when trying to work with these cartridges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *