A GUIDE TO REFILLING INK CARTRIDGES
There are lots of companies selling ink cartridge refill kits, but is there anything one should watch out for?
We come across lots of people who say they've tried refilling but the most common comment is
"It didn't work!"
As professional refillers, we know what works and what doesn't, but generally speaking you should expect a success rate of about 80% if you use refill correctly using a suitable refill kit.
The only cartridges you shouldn't even attempt to refill are Lexmark's "Probate / Rebate" cartridges No.'s 4/5/14/15/24/25/36/37
This is because once the ink meter has estimated that the ink must be empty, the non-resettable chip locks the cartridge.
(Your only solution with these is to buy the Non-Rebate types, which cost more and are harder to find.)
BEFORE WE GO FURTHER - WHAT TYPE OF CARTRIDGE ARE YOU INTENDING TO REFILL?
There are lots of different cartridge designs out there, but principally they break down into two main types:
* Cartridges with printhead built in - the cartridge delivers ink directly to the paper below it (Used in all Lexmark printers and most hp, plus some canon)
* Cartridges without printhead - the cartridge plugs into the printer and the ink gets delivered to the separate printhead (Used in all Epson printers, and most Canon)
REFILLING A CARTRIDGE WITHOUT PRINTHEAD
Generally this is simply a matter of piercing a label and syringing the ink into a sponge or cavity until it is full.
Sometimes you have drill a small hole. to gain access.
Any reputable refill kit will give you full instructions.
With Epson cartridges, and some Canons, you have to reset the chip with a chip resetter which you have to buy separately.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
In our opinion, very little, except it can be messy!
However, dont be tempted to use any old ink - use a reputable supplier or you could end up with with a blocked printhead.
REFILLING A CARTRIDGE WITH BUILT-IN PRINTHEAD
Again, this is generally simply a matter of piercing a label, and injecting ink into the sponge until it is full.
Detailed instructions will normally be given with the refill kit.
HOWEVER, the big difference is that the printhead will often be full of air, thus blocking the flow of ink.
Reputable refill kits include a priming tool, which enable you to draw a small amount of ink through the printhead, and thus allow the ink to flow.
Watch out for what is included in your refill kit.
Make sure the kit includes a priming tool.
Without a priming tool, you can only succeed if you refill BEFORE the cartridge has run out of ink.
When you have refilled your cartridge, gently pess the head onto some kitchen tissue, and you should see a distinct ink footpint of black or 3 colours, as appropriate.
We call this a DAB TEST
Sometimes ink drips from the head, especially if the cartridge wasn't completely empty when you refilled it, or if you refilled too quickly.
Stand it on an old plate or similar for half an hour or so, dabbing with tissue now and again until it settles down.
DONT stand it on anything absorbent, or it will draw all the ink out.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
A common problem is that if the cartridge has been left around for some time, the ink within the printhead can dry up and block the tiny nozzles within it.
The end result is a non-existent or weak dab test and a printout that is weak or non-existent, white horizontal lines, or one or more missing colours.
(If you have a black Lexmark or Dell, see the next section)
To rectify, try priming your cartridge again, pulling more ink through.
If the problem persists, try heating up a wad of damp tissue in the microwave, then stand your cartridge with its head on it for 10 minutes, which should draw warm water into the nozzles, and hopefully clear them.
You may need to use your priming tool again.
Alternatively, hold the cartridge head under a running hot tap for 30 seconds or so (water will not damage it - but obviously you will have to dry it before fitting in your printer)
Another method is to soak overnight with a drop or two of nozzle clean fluid dripped on the head.
As a last resort, hold over the steam from a boiling kettle. BUT DO BE CAREFUL!!
BLOCKED HEAD (Lexmark & Dell Blacks )
Applies to Lexmark No's 16,17,48,50,70,71,82
Applies to Dell No's TO529,N5878 and Sharp FX70B
Lexmark put an "additive" in the black ink in their cartridges, which they say is to help the ink flow better.
Conveniently for them, the result is that when the cartridge runs out, and the remaining ink comes into contact with the air, a chemical reaction occurs and the ink turns to a sticky goo which blocks the printhead.
No refill kit on the market is able to overcome this.
The only way to refill these cartridges successfully is to refill BEFORE the ink runs out.
Carry out a dab test and only consider refilling if you have a good ink footprint.
Incidentally, you won't need a priming tool if the ink has not run out.
Symptoms are similar to the above, but are caused by pockets of air trapped within the sponge.
Generally, this only affects the large hp colour cartridges, No 17, 23 44 and 78.
If you are refilling these cartridges, it is essental that you use a FOUR INCH LONG needle, and that you inject ink as slowly as possible.
Even then, air locks are a common result, and we wouldn't recommend you try refilling this type of cartridge.
If your dab test is OK, but your printout is unsatisfactory, there may be a problem with the contacts which electrically connect the cartridge to the printer.
To rectify, gently rub the copper contacts with a lighly damp tissue, and try again.
PRINTER SAYS CARTRIDGE IS EMPTY OR INCOMPATIBLE
Generally, you can just ignore these messages.
However, if your printer asks if the cartridge is OLD or NEW, select NEW and this will reset the ink meter.
ELECTRICAL FAULT / OUT OF DATE
There are a great many very delicate electrical circuits within each cartridge.
For a number of reasons, any one these can fail, and nothing can be done to get the cartridge working again.
Some cartridges also have a built in date code which will stop them working after a certain date.
However, this is usually a very long time after the expiry date printed on the cartridge.
When you refill your colur cartridge, excess ink may flow from the head and get drawn back and contaminate the other colours.
Watch out for this immediately after you have refilled, and keep dabbing the head with tissue until the cartridge settles down.
However, dont try standing on tissue, or this will make the problem worse.
A little contamination can be overcome by simply printing out a few sheets of the offending colour.
* Make sure your refill kit includes a priming tool if you are refilling the type of cartridge that includes the printhead.
* Always try to refill BEFORE the ink runs out.
I hope you found this guide useful.
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