Can you fix my printer?

It used to be the joke that if you worked in IT, you somehow – perhaps magically – acquired the skills to fix printers. I for one have been asked to fix more than my fair share of printers over the years – and yet somewhere along the lines, all those requests dried up. Perhaps people finally understand that “people in IT” don’t have any idea about how to fix your printer – beyond reading through the manual and pressing a load of buttons, that is.

Recently though, I’ve wished that it was all a lie – that working in IT really does give you a special bond with hardware, and that merely gracing a problematic printer with a loving touch was enough to bring it back from the dead. For the last week, our printer – a Canon PIXMA MX870, for the record – has been spitting out error codes this way and that, most of which are useless. The most useful error message – and I use that term generously – was:

U052: The type of print head is incorrect. Install the correct print head.

Huh? I haven’t touched the print head, why is it suddenly incorrect? What’s more, until very recently, I didn’t even know what a print head was! The other super informative error message I received was:

5000: A printer error has occurred. Turn off power then back on again.

What?! That’s like the first thing you learn for troubleshooting in IT – try turning it off and back on again. Printer, I find your advice insulting!

Anyway – after a week of frustration, I called an authorised Canon service centre for support, where a lovely lady informed me that (sure enough) the print head probably needed to be replaced, and that I’d need to replace all of the ink cartridges with genuine ones, too. Here’s how that cost breakdown goes:

    Cost of new print head:         $120
    Cost of new ink cartridges:     $100 (approx)
    Labour cost:                    $ 80

Using my friend mathematics and some simple addition, I determined that I was looking at about $1,726 to repair the printer! It only cost $217 to buy new! Again, with the help of my friend mathematics, I came to the only logical conclusion: fixing the printer was totally not worth it! And hence, in retrospect, I believe that Canon should update the error codes in its troubleshooting guide to the following:

    U052:  Your printer is dead, throw it out and buy a new one.
    5000:  Your printer is dead, throw it out and buy a new one.
    Other: Your printer is dead, throw it out and buy a new one.


Using this newly reworded troubleshooting guide, I determined that the printer was dead, and that I should throw it out and buy a new one. This really irks me, because the old printer was only 18 months old, and we barely used the print function at all – we mainly used it for the scanner. And, even though its scanning unit is perfectly fine, since the print head has an error, the entire printer is unusable! How ridiculous!

Anyway – after far more research into printers than I ever thought would be required, we decided to go with the Epson WorkForce Pro 4530. It has all the features that we wanted – namely an ADF (auto document feeder) duplex scanner, plus the ability to do duplex printing automatically. And, the running costs (as reported by independent testers) are impressively low, which is a good thing given that printer ink is more expensive to buy than human blood.

Here’s hoping that our new printing/scanning/photocopying/faxing/latte-making friend will have a long and happy life on top of the filing cabinet in our office! (OK, it doesn’t really make lattes, but is anyone still reading?)

Posted in gripes, new stuff
8 comments on “Can you fix my printer?
  1. Louisa says:

    Im still here…although you did almost lose me at one point ;). But I’m wondering why you still need a scanner? I have downloaded a great scanner app for my phone so I just take photos of the doc, can choose whether it shows in black or white or color, add multiple pagess etc and then I can choose to have it pdf’d and emailed to me. Easy! (it’s called TurboScan)

  2. gerrod says:

    I have a similar app called HandyScanner or something, and it’s pretty great for scanning things on the fly… but it’s nowhere near as easy to use as an ADF scanner, and I’ve got an entire filing cabinet worth of stuff to get through!

  3. Squirrel says:

    I will never understand how an ink cartridge costs more than a printer + ink cartridge. I know people who buy a new printer every time the black cartridge runs out. Very eco friendly.

  4. Some manufacturers of printing device have refills that are less expensive to make non-genuines for than others. The refills are more expensive.

  5. sarah :) says:

    so I found your blog searching for solutions to the same error on google…. over a year later, are you happy with your new printer? Did this “solution” work? i am particularly miffed that, as you said, the scanning function is completely disabled by an error message that has nothing whatsoever to do with the printing. Does your Epson function the same way?

  6. gerrod says:

    Yes, the new printer is ace. Well, so far no problems anyway – though to be fair, we don’t print all that much. I’d say the scanner isn’t *quite* as nice as the Canon one was but the difference is marginal. And I’ve done a *lot* of scanning with it. We are still on our original batch of ink so so far all I can say its fairly economical!

  7. Janet says:

    Good luck, my Epson WP4530 is 18 months old and is giving me a paper jam error message. The paper isn’t out and there is no paper jam. I have spent 3 hours inspecting, cleaning and researching. Went thru all the google suggestions and Epson tech non support. At least Epson doesn’t make you look up the error code, but it should read “your printer is dead throw it away and buy a new one”. My last printer was a Cannon.

  8. Thank you for this. I just got the printer head error message on my Canon, so I’m preparing for the worst for my two year old lightly used printer. Maddening.

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