How to Know If Your Print Head Is Bad

by Louise Balle

A bad print head is bad news if you plan to print a document. The print head is the unit that moves back and forth inside of your ink-jet printer when you are producing a hard copy version of your file. Without it, there is no way for ink to transfer to paper. Sometimes the print head gets clogged and dirty and simply needs a thorough cleaning, but in other cases it may be irreparably damaged due to overuse, age, jamming, or other issues, and must be replaced.

Open your printer cover and check to see if it moves at all first. If not, the print head motor (what powers the unit) may be bad.

Attempt to clean your print head if it does move. This option is available on the "Service," "Cleaning" or similar tab of your printer options (click CTRL + P then "Properties" to find these options). Go through both the standard cleaning and the more advanced cleaning.

Repeat the cleaning process at least three times. If the print-outs are still blurry or the ink is not transferring to the page at all, then the print head may just be bad.

Try to clean the print head manually as an additional check to see if the print head is bad. Remove it from the printer (if possible--some print heads are not removable). Place the print head in a saucer full of isopropyl alcohol and let it soak overnight. If the printout is still spotty, has lines or doesn't print at all, then the head is bad. If it is not removable, you have to rely on Steps 1 through 3 to determine if it is permanently damaged.

Tip

  • Compare the cost of a replacement print head for your printer model with the cost of a whole new printer. You may find that it is more economical to simply buy a new machine.

Items you will need

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Bowl

About the Author

Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images