The non-printing printer

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Skeptical reader John Boyd puts greater faith in observation than information. He writes:

I am still using my venerable Epson 880 printer and the last time I put cartridges in, I used Office Max inks instead of Epson to save a few bucks. Well, I had nothing but trouble and now they’ve quickly run out of ink. Problem is, the printer still thinks they are half full. How do I go about changing out the cartridges and reset the levels back to full?

The printer thinks the printer cartridges are half full because, quite likely, they are. So why no print?

The nozzles are gunked up.

Although it would be easy enough to blame the non-Epson inks you used, it’s possible that the gunk was the result of not printing very often. I’ve owned a few Epson inkjets and have found that unless I print at least every three-to-five days, the print head gets funky. Obviously I haven’t owned every Epson inkjet made so your mileage could easily vary. (Though I will say that I don’t have this kind of problem on the HP photo printer I currently use.)

Epson recommends that you perform a head cleaning and a nozzle check test to try to blow the gunk out of the print nozzles. Give this a go for up to three cycles. If that doesn’t work, Epson suggests that you try a new cartridge. If that’s a no go as well, Epson recommends that you take the printer in for service.

Because such service can be expensive, I’ll suggest one other thing to try before sending it to the shop. offers cleaning kits for a wide variety of printers. For $10 plus shipping and handling, the company will sell you a bottle of printer head cleaning solution, which, the company claims, matches the formula used by Epson.

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