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Author Topic: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!  (Read 17222 times)

CrazyPugLady

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Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« on: June 08, 2017, 04:17:37 am »

Hello folks,

I just signed up here because you are all truly fantastic with printer diagnostics and help. I learned a LOT from just reading here.

Now, talking about printers... I was given an Epson 4900 for cheaps. Working, but Matte Black was not printing. As I'm not needing matte black, I bought it for 200 bucks. (Little did I know back then that the both blacks share the same nozzles...)

Well, turns out matte black works fine, there was just air in the line. BUT, the blacks have a very bad nozzle check with about 1/3rd of the nozzle check pattern missing.

After carefully printing a little, the nozzle check pattern slightly improved which made me hopeful the head would not be fried. I got a cleaning cartridge yesterday, put it in and started the clean - print - clean - print cycle.
At the end of the day, most of the nozzles had come back and I was a happy camper. Only 2-3 lines were missing. I thought I'd just swiftly clean out the few missing spots today and have a great printer.

But... after making the first test print today, looking at the nozzle check, and... it's exactly back to where I started, missing 1/3rd of the pattern. Yay. Why??

It's very rainy here currently and also rather cold, so the humidity should be good for it. I don't think the cleaning fluid in the head dried over night and clogged it. But what could be the real culprit? Is it the pump? The dampers? Anything I could do myself? I'm just an all time broke freelance photographer, so I'm not able to shell out 800 Bucks for a new print head, or 1000 Bucks for a new printer. There is an Epson service in town but they want me to bring the printer over to them... It weights almost as much as I do, no way I can do this, so I thought I'd try my luck and ask here.

I have now tried nearly everything, except for a line charge. I don't have enough ink for a full line charge. But don't know if it's smart to spend 900 on new inks when I don't know if I can even revive the printer...

Any tips or hints for me?

Thank you!

Kind regards.

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Mark D Segal

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2017, 07:51:40 am »

MK and PK share a channel from the damper into the printhead, so if MK is working fine but PK isn't, it would suggest the problem is with the PK line leading to the damper, or perhaps with the PK cartridge. You don't say how many cleaning cycles you performed in the same day, or what strength of cleaning cycles, or what cleaning fluid you used and how you used it so it's hard to pinpoint what's going on with any precision. The cleaning procedures themselves may be the culprit, or you could have performed too much cleaning in one day, which can aggravate underlying issues, or the cartridge is defective. Perhaps if you could be more specific some kind of useful diagnostic may be feasible.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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CrazyPugLady

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2017, 08:10:32 am »

Hello Mark,

thank you very much for your answer.

You are right, I need to give more precise information, I'll try...

Initially, MK was not working at all but it turned out to be just air in the line. It was a new cartridge and it wasn't properly seated I guess. I just drew out the air with a syringe, saw that there was ink comming out the cartridge, put it back, voila, MK ink :-)

HOWEVER, this of course has no impact on the nozzle check pattern, which is equally bad with both MK and PK because they use the same nozzles. Right?

I did like 3 - 5 cleaning cycles and always print 3 A4 sheets in between. Mostly "normal" cleaning cycles, only 2 strong cycles and not immediately after each other. I let the printer rest 6 hours in between and then again over night.

The cleaning fluid I use is called "Clean:Red". I don't know much about it other than it's sold especially for cleaning epson pigment ink. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get any other cleaning fluid yet.

What baffles me, is, that the nozzle check pattern gradually got better and better. More lines appearing. The banding in the purge prints got less and less until it was very even. I went to bed and hoped that the night's rest might help clean the remaining "clots" but when I returned this morning, the nozzle check pattern was as bad as it was before I even started. All the improvement: gone. Like nothing had happened.

Now I just don't know how to proceed from here. Can this be clogs when the pattern improved and then snapped back to the original state? Can it be the head, because if the nozzles were dead, the pattern shouldn't have changed through my tries? Can it be a pump, or the damper unit? I am overwhelmed with all the possibilities...

I don't think it's the cartridge because it's the same results with MK or PK. The MK cartridge is almost full and it's OEM.

Kind regards


Edit: I did not power down the printer. I leave it always on. In case that is important.

« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 08:22:36 am by CrazyPugLady »
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2017, 08:29:10 am »

This adds a bit of clarity. So what you meant when you said the MK was OK wasn't really that it's OK, but that ink was flowing through the line as far as you could see it. But now you say the nozzle check pattern is poor for both MK and PK ink. That's a different story and would seem to suggest there could be an issue in the damper or the printhead. As well, your cleaning procedure seems OK, apart from the use of the cleaning fluid which remains an unknown factor (by that I mean there is no indication of what the chemical composition is and whether it could be harmful, especially if it isn't backed by an Epson authorized service facility or reseller). So the problem could be that (a) the cleaning fluid has left residues that need to be worked out, or (b) the damper needs to be changed, or (c) the head has a defective PK/MK channel.

The over-arching question is how you acquired the printer - when you bought it, did you have a chance to see whether all the channels were passing the nozzle check before buying? What is the usage history of this printer? What representations did the seller make to you about its condition? How was it transported to your residence? It could be that the printer was defective from the get-go, why you paid so little for it.

But reverting to points (a), (b), (c) above, if it's (a), spend more days (say up to a week) doing no more than three clean-print-clean print cycles on that LK/PK channel pair (use Power Clean) per day and see whether it settles out; make sure you are using a good PK carrtidge. If it's (b), you need to change the damper. The part costs somewhere in the 200 dollar range and you MAY be able to change it yourself if you are very technically adept and have detailed instructions, but I wouldn't recommend it. If it's (c), cut your losses and send the printer to recycling.

You said there is a service facility near you. If you could find someone to help you bring the printer to that place for a diagnosis, it may be a useful idea to do that.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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CrazyPugLady

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2017, 08:56:36 am »

Mark, thank you again.

Yes, you are right, I meant that MK is now getting ink to print, but the bad nozzle problem remains for both blacks.

I know about the risk of the cleaning fluid, however it seemed a bit more safe than using window or floor cleaner....

I bought the printer from a graphic design agency that gave up their offices and it was left over. I was told that it works fine except for the matte ink, that's why they printed everything with photo black. Indeed, the printer *IS* working, and the prints look "ok". But a photographer can see the very faint banding that the missing black nozzles produce. So while it does indeed print, it's not suitable for photo printing right now. I was stupid and didn't ask for a nozzle check print. They made a test print for me and it looked fine, but of course no nozzle check.

The machine has about 4000 prints done, but the majority of it was office printing and small packaging proofs. I don't know how old it is exactly but it looks very unused and is also quite clean on the inside (I did clean the wiper, the flush pad and the capping station when I got it home and it looked not very used).

Transportation was quite quick, 20 Minutes, and I drove very carefully. Printhead was fixed and I made sure the printer was not tilted when loading/transporting.

I am pretty sure the printer had the problem from the beginning when I bought it. And yes, you are totally right about a, b or c.

I found a damper assembly here in Germany for 100 incl. tax so I might give this a try. I think I can change it myself or with help of my husband. But this would also need an ink eject and then ink fill, which also means I have to buy new cartridges for a few hundred Euros....

If possible, I'd like to avoid the service facility. I called and before I even said more than "Epson 4900", they already came with "new print head!". Yep, the print head MAY be the culprit, but it sounded like they want to replace it before even trying anything else....

Kind regards
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2017, 09:05:58 am »

What the service facility told you is not best practice, not even correct procedure, based on the supposition that you told them exactly what you are reporting here. Like going to the doctor, the correct procedure, especially before even seeing the machine, is to rule out the simple things first, then progress to the more serious possibilities. They may be right, but how one gets there is important, just in case they aren't. Once you need to replace a printhead on that model the usual calculations suggest it just isn't worth it. If the printer was defective when you bought it, would be useful to know how much the previous owner put into trying to fix it and what they did in the process. That may be a clue about whether it is even worthwhile buying new cartridges and parts for either (a) or (b) approaches.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Nora_nor

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2017, 09:42:41 am »

The problem with the 4900 is often not using them enough, and thus keeping the installation ink cartridges in too long. ....They need to be used up as fast as possible and normal cartridges put in.   Just my opinion. (I gave up mine at last. ) Bought a p800
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Royce Howland

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2017, 10:40:30 am »

Can you post a scan (or close-up camera phone photo) of one of the nozzle checks showing the missing sections of the PK/MK channel? There are several possible reasons for a "clog", which Mark has covered. Some of these occasionally can be determined by a very close look at the nozzle check pattern, if one knows to look for something specific.

Epson x900 series heads are prone to failure, for example. It's a common issue and if you search these forums or on Google you'll find countless stories of people fighting to de-clog their x900 printers only to be forced into a head replacement in the end. Well, one of the common failure patterns of the x900 heads leaves a small but very distinctive tell-tale sign in the nozzle check pattern. Every single time I have seen that tell-tale, it has meant the head was blown and needed to be replaced. So I'd be looking for that, in particular...

Peter McLennan

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2017, 10:52:21 am »

When the head on my 9800 failed, the salient observation was that, despite frequent and varied attempts at unclogging, no changes were observed in the clogged channel.
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CrazyPugLady

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2017, 04:09:36 pm »

If the printer was defective when you bought it, would be useful to know how much the previous owner put into trying to fix it and what they did in the process. That may be a clue about whether it is even worthwhile buying new cartridges and parts for either (a) or (b) approaches.

Yes, you are right. However, the guys I got it from don't seem to be very interested in fixing it. They said they had a technician over for a half day who made a few powercleans and couldn't fix it. I don't know if they can tell me much more. I mean, they thought the matte ink would be "dead" and there was just a bit of air in the line... it was the first thing I checked and it was done in 10 seconds.

I have attached a nozzle check image, I was able to get an even better pattern yesterday evening but I couldn't find the print right now. As you can see, the middle where the pattern is broken has some dirt spots. This is where I think the printer might want to print but probably can't build enough pressure? After the print - clean - print -clean marathon yesterday there were only 2-3 rows of lines missing, the others were good. Even the bulging borders (deflections?) were straight. But then, after the night, back to square one.

So I am really not sure if the print head is dead, because it WAS able to print yesterday. If the head was fried, it wouldn't have changed the pattern, or am I wrong?

Kind regards and thanks for all of your answers. Helps me a lot!
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Farmer

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2017, 06:21:51 pm »

If the print head recovers, for even a single nozzle check, then it's not the culprit 99% of the time.  When the blocked nozzles are moving around, it's another sign that the head itself is fine.

I'd be looking at the ink supply path, all the way from the carts to the damper.  That might require a tech, but that's what needs to be inspected.
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Phil Brown

Mark D Segal

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2017, 06:30:50 pm »

If the print head recovers, for even a single nozzle check, then it's not the culprit 99% of the time.  When the blocked nozzles are moving around, it's another sign that the head itself is fine.

I'd be looking at the ink supply path, all the way from the carts to the damper.  That might require a tech, but that's what needs to be inspected.

Phil, given the cost of tech support and her unsatisfactory experience with it to date (as well as for the previous owner) - in Germany it seems - would it make sense for her to keep doing several cleaning cycles a day for the next week or so and see whether it improves? I'm wondering whether that cleaning fluid just aggravated the problem and its residues need to be displaced by ink before the nozzle checks will return to normal.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Farmer

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2017, 10:43:26 pm »

Phil, given the cost of tech support and her unsatisfactory experience with it to date (as well as for the previous owner) - in Germany it seems - would it make sense for her to keep doing several cleaning cycles a day for the next week or so and see whether it improves? I'm wondering whether that cleaning fluid just aggravated the problem and its residues need to be displaced by ink before the nozzle checks will return to normal.

It's entirely possible.  The cleaning fluid won't be visible if it prints out (short of checking with a very good / powerful loupe or microscope).  Some cleaning to properly purge and some time to allow it all to settle down isn't a bad idea at all.  If that fails, I still doubt it's the head and checking the ink path (and the cleaning assembly) would be the way to go.
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Phil Brown

CrazyPugLady

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2017, 02:28:16 am »

Good morning,

after sleeping over it, I decided that I want to invest in the printer. It looks like a solid machine and the built quality seems good. A new P800 with the roll attachment costs around 1300 and it doesn't even cut paper. The new P5000 is 2000 and out of my budget. They seem to be quite new, so no used or demo machines available. A new printhead for the Epson 4900 is around 800 and it still has roll printing, auto cutting etc...

So what would be the best way to go forward with it? Clean - Print - cycles again and see if it recovers or if it snaps back again?

A new ink supply unit is 100, a new pump is 50. That would be a small investment compared to the mainboards or the print head.

Is there a cleaning fluid you could recommend, that I would be able to get shipped to Germany? I could get the "Magic Bullet Head Cleaner" from the United Kingdom, but ordering from outside the EU is always slow and much hassle (customs). I eyeballed the cleaning fluid from AIS but not sure how much I need and if they would even send out small quantities overseas.

Another question about "tinting" the cleaning fluid... Would you recommend adding a very faint amount of ink to the cleaning fluid, so the nozzle check patterns would be easier to see? Or is this a big no no?

Farmer, you mentioned checking the cleaning assembly... Any hints what I need to check for? The capping station is pretty clean. The "borders" look good but I am not sure I am experienced enough to decide this. Would a picture help?
I cleaned the flush pad and the wiper blade. What else could I check the cleaning assembly for?

I have the service manual and I'll work my way through it this weekend.

Thank you very much again, with kind regards.
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Farmer

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2017, 03:24:43 am »

You know Brexit was only triggered, not yet completed - UK is still part of the EU ;-)

If the capping station looks clean it's probably OK.  I'd start by following as per Mark's suggestion. Some cleaning, some waiting, some cleaning, some waiting.  See if it comes good.  I wouldn't get too far ahead until you've tried that to get some ink flowing through.
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Phil Brown

CrazyPugLady

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2017, 04:12:47 am »

You know Brexit was only triggered, not yet completed - UK is still part of the EU ;-)

If the capping station looks clean it's probably OK.  I'd start by following as per Mark's suggestion. Some cleaning, some waiting, some cleaning, some waiting.  See if it comes good.  I wouldn't get too far ahead until you've tried that to get some ink flowing through.

Yes yes, I know :-)
Buying the Magic Bullet stuff from UK is not the problem - getting american or chinese products is ;-)

So the suggestion is cleaning, printing, waiting, not with the cleaning fluid but with a new full black ink cartridge, right?

I'll go ahead then. If there is no more progress or it reverts to the starting point once again, we know it's not the head but the ink supply, right?
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Farmer

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2017, 05:31:11 am »

Yeah, print/clean with some ink, but also give it time (over a couple of days) to settle in between.  So long as the blockages move or go away and then come back, it's not the head.  It's not the mainboard or the ribbon cables either based on the nozzle check pattern working.

If the blockages stay exactly the same, then you may have a head issue.  Without a trained tech actually looking at the machine and seeing how the ink is moving through the ink path and so on, there's some guess work doing this by remote over a message board, but a little cleaning and settling is the least expensive way to progress it and potentially completely effective.
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Phil Brown

Richard.Wills

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2017, 01:10:18 pm »

Yes yes, I know :-)
Buying the Magic Bullet stuff from UK is not the problem - getting american or chinese products is ;-)

So the suggestion is cleaning, printing, waiting, not with the cleaning fluid but with a new full black ink cartridge, right?

I'll go ahead then. If there is no more progress or it reverts to the starting point once again, we know it's not the head but the ink supply, right?

Piezoflush, from inkjetmall is a good, known product, and when I ordered, it arrived in the UK, in three days (along with the full piezography DN inkset :).
You'll need to pay import duties, but this stuff is a little short of miraculous. I've resurrected a 4800 that had sat in an airconditioned / heated room for the best part of five years, with this.
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Rand47

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2017, 02:31:47 pm »

This thread gives me an idea for a Luminous Landscape project / article / tutorial video.

How about a tutorial on "Fixing Seriously Clogged" Epson (and other?) printers?  Perhaps an interview with an Epson technician to discuss how the darn things work, and how to perform "user maintenance" properly.  Tech could discuss / demonstrate head, damper, wiper replacement also and "what to expect" when the tech shows up at the studio for a repair.  Then a "Part 2" where Piezoflush is used (and other magic techniques) to solve problems.  Obviously a disclaimer would precede "doing this yourself at home" - but having said that, this could be a really valuable contribution as opposed to tossing a printer on the trash heap as some have done.  I know there's a lot of stuff on YouTube, but who knows the quality / sanity of some of what is proposed?  The collective expertise of some of the LULA folk, combined with the clout to get Epson to speak to the issues, could provide at least a sound and comprehensive approach to raising the Epson "Lazarus Models" from the dead.  :-)

Maybe the grand finale could be Jeff Schewe, in appropriate flamboyant shirt, smashing the heck out of a printer that refuses the command to rise!  (Kinda kidding, but maybe not fully.)

Rand
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Rand Scott Adams

Deltona

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Re: Unclogging Epson 4900 - diving me nuts!
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2017, 03:51:43 pm »

My first post in here so a quick hello, great forums by the way. I bought  4800 stylus pro recently, we took it out of storage where it had been for a couple of years. Ran a couple of cleaning cycles and it was still 2 colours down. So I kept the head over window cleaner soaked kitchen towel, did this for 5 days. Ran a cleaning cycle a couple of times, and it worked perfectly. I also keep the maintenance tank quite damp spraying a little water in it. I've learned that the printer spiders not like high humidity.

I use mine every few days, I usually do a nozzle check the yellow tends to show a problem, a quick nozzle clean sorts it out. Fantastic printer when it's running well. Just thought I would give you my experience, hope your get sorted.
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