How to clear printer paper jam?

Printer Errors & Fixes Printer Troubleshooting

Paper jams on a printer are a frustrating thing. The most common reasons for a paper jam are:

  1. Incorrect size or bad quality of paper
  2. Paper that has absorbed a lot of moisture
  3. Dirt in the rollers

Now on the internet, there are hundreds of websites trying to preach ways to clear paper jam on a number of different printers. But, none of them are able to properly define the reasons or the steps to ensure that paper jams to not happen again. Here we will try to first explain how the printer processes the paper, why paper jams occur and what are the best ways to resolve these for good.

How does a printer handle paper?

A printer has a set of rollers and small lifting arms. The paper is pulled in by these lifting arms and it is then moved through the printer assembly by different rollers. While going through this assembly, the printer head, that is, the part that holds the ink cartridges or the toner in case of a laser jet, print the image, text or data on the paper. This paper is finally moved out onto the output tray.

Why do paper jams occur?

While processing the paper the following scenarios can result in a paper jam.

  1. Paper is moist: Moist sheets of paper tend to stick to each other. When the lifter mechanism lifts the top sheet of paper, another sheet sticks to it and tries to follow it inside. This sheet, if perfectly affixed to the top sheet passes through without any issues however, if there is any twist on the following sheet or if it is out of alignment, the paper gets stuck in the rollers as one side ends up pulling more than the other. Easiest way to get rid of this sort of paper jam is to dry the paper in the sun or just open a new pack of paper and use it instead.
  2. Incorrect paper size: The printer is designed to process a fixed set of paper dimensions which are generally the most common ones. Generally a printer will process any sheet of paper that is within the maximum and the minimum width the printer can process. However, issues arise when we use unevenly cut paper, differently sized paper than what is programmed on the printer to use. This sort of an issue can only be resolved by using the correctly sized paper. In fact, we should always use quality paper for printing especially on an inkjet printer. Laserjets are generally able to accept different kinds of papers more easily as they have less moving parts.
  3. Dirt in printer: Printer rollers that push the paper are set with really tight tolerances. Dirt from air settles on the paper and as a result gets deposited on the rollers. Over time, this dirt takes up all the space that the paper is supposed to move through. When the printer tries to push the paper through, it gets rolled and crushed inside the rollers thus causing a jam. If your printer is two to three years old, it makes sense to have it professionally cleaned and oiled, yes oiled, on the moving parts.This will give you another two to three years of uninterrupted service.

How to clear paper jam on inkjet printer?

  • Open the printer cartridge door.
  • Wait for the cartridges to move to the centre or their designated maintenance area.
  • Get a good grip of the stuck paper and slowly pull it out.
  • On most printers, the rear cover also opens up. Remove the rear cover as it will offer you flexibility in removing the jammed paper.
  • Once the paper is removed, take a flash light and shine it into the printer, ensure no bits on paper are left. If any pieces are left, remove them as they will cause a jam again.
  • Move your finger on the print rail and see if it is greasy. If the rail is greasy, the printer will need a cleanup. If you can manage, clean the rail with a lint free cloth and it should improve the performance of the printer.
  • Ensure that the pages you are using are of correct size and thickness. Cheaper, thin paper tends to cause a printer jam more often.
  • If there are recurrent paper jams, despite proper cleaning and maintenance, then there is some sort of a hardware issue in the printer. Most probably a roler that is a bit stiff to move.

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