Printer jams occur when the paper feeding through the printer goes awry. Sometimes the printer ignores the problem, soldiers onward, and extrudes a crumpled mess into the output tray; on other occasions, the printer stops in midjob, and the crumpled mess–or part of it–remains trapped somewhere inside the machine.
When a paper jam occurs, some printers flash lights at you and scream for help. Others sense where the jam is and provide guidance on clearing the blockage. If your printer offers diagnostic advice, follow it. Also, take time to check the printer’s documentation for help in clearing jams. Here are the basic steps you’ll follow to correct the problem:
Turn off the printer. If you’re going to be working inside the printer, you don’t want any trouble with electricity or moving parts. And if you’re dealing with a laser printer, you also don’t want the fuser to generate additional heat. If the paper is jammed in or near the fuser unit (you’ll feel the heat as you come near it), you’ll have to wait for the fuser to cool off before clearing the jam.
Open all doors leading to the paper path. If you can’t tell which door leads to the paper jam, start by removing or opening the input tray and following the paper path all the way to the output tray, opening every door or panel that you can find along the way.
Carefully pull out paper sheets and scraps. Check for paper sheets that are stuck or askew, as well as for paper scraps. Pull paper out of the path firmly but very carefully and slowly. When possible, pull paper in the direction it is supposed to go in under normal conditions–not backward, which could strain the printer’s mechanics.Take care to remove all of the paper: As any scraps that remain could cause further jamming. If you have the misfortune of breaking a mechanical piece in the printer, stop what you’re doing and call for service.
Close all doors and turn on the printer. Once switched on, the printer should reset itself automatically. If the printer reports that it is still jammed, double-check for stray paper scraps, and then close all the doors again. If the printer continues to complain, try turning it off and then back on. If the complaints continue, you’ll have to call for service–and hope that a deep-seated piece of paper–rather than a broken mechanical part–is the source of the problem.
To avoid a jam next time:
Use only one kind of paper at a time in your input tray.
Whether you have a single input tray in your printer’s driver or many input trays, tell the printer what kind of paper you have in the tray: Most printer controls include a section or drop-down list where you can pick a paper by name, type, thickness, or other quality.
If you aren’t sure whether your printer takes a certain kind of paper, check its documentation.
When you reload your input tray, pay attention to the tray’s needs, such as how the paper should be loaded and whether the length or width guides need adjusting.
They’re scary, they’re annoying, and they ruin your paper. Now what? Occasionally and unfortunately, paper jams do happen. Clear the jam quickly so it can get back to printing your job!
If you have ever operated a printer, you have experienced a paper jam. At some point, some piece of paper has loaded off-kilter or wadded up inside the rollers. In most cases, removing the jammed paper and getting the printer working again is relatively easy.
Step By Step
1. Verify that you have a paper jam. Sometimes the printer will send you a message that there’s a paper jam. Sometimes you get the message from the crinkling, squealing sound the printer makes as it jams.
2. For most consumer models there will be only one sheet of paper threading through the machine at a time and a straightforward path from the paper feed to the output tray. In that case, you will want to search visually. Look to see if there are pieces of paper sticking out where you can see them. For larger commercial printers, where the paper path is more convoluted, you will need to consult the paper jam status message for hints of where to look.
3. Remove any paper from the paper trays that you suspect might have caused the paper jam. If a sheath of paper might prevent you from getting at the jammed paper, then remove that too.
4. Most consumer printers have an access door in the front that you can open to get at the jammed paper. With laser printers there’s usually a toner and drum unit that slides out for improved access. If you still can’t see the jammed paper, check if there’s an access hatch in the back of the printer.
5. Gently remove any crumpled paper you might find. Gently tug on any pieces of paper that may be stuck or crumpled between rollers. It’s possible that yanking the paper too hard in the direction opposite the normal direction of travel could wreck the printer rotors or some other delicate part. Whenever possible, pull the jammed paper in the direction of normal motion through the printer and avoid using excessive force.
6. Avoid ripping the paper as you remove the jam. Pull the paper slowly with both hands. Any shredded piece of paper stuck in the rollers will cause yet another paper jam. While you’re at it, check for foreign objects that may have caused the paper jam in the first place, such as a paperclip or a pen cap.
7. Laser printers sometimes get the paper jammed so deep in the fuser unit that you can’t reach it with your fingers. In those cases you want to avoid poking at the paper with sharp metal objects. Scratching the rollers could permanently damage your print quality. Removing an accordioned paper jam may involve disassembly of the fuser unit by a trained professional.