How to Clear a Paper Jam—Without Damaging Your Printer

by Rich on March 24, 2009

Your fifty-page report is printing out beautifully one minute, and the next you’ve got a flashing light and an incomprehensible error message-and all progress stops. Paper jams can be a regular annoyance in the office-and rest assured if you own a printer, you’ll get one at least once or twice during the printer’s lifetime.  A paper jam could damage your printer, but lasting damage is more commonly caused by attempts to fix the problem.  Here are a few tips to fixing paper jams in any printer quickly and efficiently without causing any serious damage to the machine.

Turn your printer off. Most people don’t turn the printer off before attempting to clear a jam.  But many printers will automatically attempt to clear a paper jam as soon as you turn off the printer. Your first step in clearing a paper jam should be to turn off the power switch; this will give the printer a chance to try to fix the problem itself.  In some cases, this may be sufficient to clear the jam.

Remove the paper tray. Once your printer is turned off, open or remove your input paper tray and look at the paper inside.  Is any paper wrinkled, torn or half-loaded? This may be the source of your trouble. Often the paper tray is the best place to spot the source of a paper jam.

Inspect the paper path. The paper path is the route the paper travels to get from one end of your printer to the other.  Your printer’s paper output tray may also contain a ripped or wrinkled piece of paper; this should be the second place you look.  If you can’t see the paper either in the input or output trays, you’ll need to go inside.  Open any doors or access panels in your printer that provide access to the ink or toner cartridges and other areas of the printer.  Don’t force any doors and don’t unscrew anything.  For most consumer printer models, you should be able to see the entire printer path by simply opening the panel that gives you access to the ink and toner cartridges.

Keep the paper from tearing. Once you’ve spotted the problem paper, grasp it by both ends and tug gently.  The goal here is to keep the paper from tearing; if it does, you may have a more difficult time removing it and small pieces of paper may get stuck in the printer’s machinery, causing lasting damage.  Don’t force the paper-if it won’t come out on its own, try turning the rollers in the proper direction to get the paper out.  Never pull a stuck piece of paper in the opposite direction of the paper path-out the input tray, for instance-as this can damage your printer.

Check your manual. Your printer should provide you with an error code when the problem occurs. Don’t ignore the code-especially if you’re having trouble locating the source of the paper jam. Check your manual instead; it should contain a listing of error codes, their definitions and solutions.  If you can’t find the source of a paper jam anywhere in the printer, you may be dealing with a different kind of error.

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