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Solving Epson cartridge problems
by Izzy Goodman

Note: This article assumes you are using our Low Cost Epson Ink Cartridges or genuine Epson. If you are using another brand, there may actually be a compatibility issue. Periodically, Epson changes the way their printers access the chip on the cartridge. Depending on the manufacture date of the printer, a cartridge may or may not work. Even though Epson T200XL cartridges will fit many printers, the same compatible cartridge may work on an XP-400 but not on an XP-410. The XP-410 was manufactured later and its programming has been updated to better detect a non-epson cartridge. Even within the same printer model, one may work with a compatible and another may not due to a more recent manufacture date. The Artisan 837 and Artisan 730 in particular are problematic. While compatible T098 ink cartridges will work with the other Artisans, they may fail to be recognized by the 837 and 730.

Sometimes mixing Epson ink cartridges and non Epson cartridges in the same printer will fail with a "cartridge not recognized" error. We have even heard of customers whose printers failed to recognize genuine Epson ink cartridges until all the cartridges were changed - even the ones which were not out of ink. It appears that the printers may mistake the "low ink" warning with the "cartridge not recognized" error. Even if the printer does recognize the cartridges, the resulting printout may not look great. This is because the Epson ink formula is different than compatible ink. Epson printers mix some color into the black ink to produce a richer black (which is why color ink is used even if you only print in black). Mixing the different formula inks might give poor results.

Why do ours work better than most compatibles?

A lot of time passes from when the manufacturer perfects and tests their chips, makes the cartridge, ships to the master wholesaler who ships to the smaller distributor who ships to the dealer. By the time the customer gets it months later, Epson may have changed the programming on their new printer and the older chip used in the cartridge is no longer compatible. We have found a way to cut that lag time considerably so you get the latest chip with your cartridges. Our manufacturer makes the chips as the final stage of the process, to ensure that the latest design has been incorporated. We get these cartridges direct from the cartridge manufacturer. They reach us within weeks of manufacture - not months like some other dealers. Cartridges purchased off ebay and Amazon are something of a hit-or-miss proposition. Some of the sellers buy out the unsold stock of dealers - cartridges which are being dumped because they contain older chips which don't work in the newer printers. Some even sell refilled and remanufactured cartridges. Using these is the best way to destroy your printer.

Our manufacturer of reusable and refillable cartridges has completely redesigned the cartridge and chip. In the reusable, a unique 2-piece system keeps the ink in a separate tank. When the ink runs out, just the tank is replaced and the same chip resets to full. The refillable uses the same chip but you refill the cartridge directly from a uniquely designed bottle. Since this chip has already been recognized by your printer, you know there can't be a compatibility issue and it will continue to work - unless you foolishly run a firmware upgrade. See Epson does it again below.

A word about compatibility:

Epson has released some new printers (Artisan 730 & 837, XP-310 and XP-410) which use the same T098 or T200XL cartridges as others in the same line. However, it appears not all these models are the same. While most people reported that our T098 cartridges worked with their 837, a few reported that they could not be recognized. We had similar issues with the XP-310 and XP-410.

With the older printers, while about 98% of customers had no issues, a few do but not with the same cartridges! Because of issues in the past where suppliers ran out of stock, we make sure we always have at least two suppliers. When we started selling the orange box brand, we had about 1% complaints. So we switched to the blue box and replaced the "bad" orange box cartridges with the blue box. Those who had problems with the orange brand reported that the blue brand worked. But then some people who had no problem with the orange brand reported issues with the blue brand. So we stocked both brands and tried to keep track of those customers who preferred one over the other. The problems were not connected to a specific printer. One customer with a CX8400 preferred the blue box, another with the same printer preferred the orange box.

For a while it appeared that the orange brand was having trouble getting cartridges into the US. So as a secondary source, we began buying these from the same company which supplies our refillable cartridges. The results have been identical. About 1% of our customers have issues. I wonder how many people have similar issues with genuine Epson cartridges. We have two customers whose printers will not work with genuine Epson but work with ours! If you find that one brand works better for you, remind us to supply that one when you place orders.

Epson does it again!
For a long time people have been asking me if Epson has a way to get into their printers through the Internet and make them stop recognizing compatible cartridges. The answer has always been no. Until now. Epson has been releasing what they call firmware upgrades. These are software files which Epson owners have to download and install to the printer. (Note these are NOT driver upgrades. These have to be copied to the printer via a process. This can not happen accidentally.) What exactly do they do? They can't make your printer run faster or print better. So why does Epson want you to reach into a working printer and change things? I got a clue as to what this does when a customer with an Artisan 730 contacted me. His printer suddenly stopped recognizing refillable cartridges after he ran the upgrade. Since then this has happened several times. So I suggest that you not run firmware upgrades on your printers. It appears that all this does is prevent third party cartridges from working. Some Epson printers let you set in the menu to never run driver or firmware upgrades. Check to see if yours does and turn off automatic upgrades. Here is an article about the update

Cartridge runs out of ink too quickly

There are several reasons for this problem. First, now that Epson has a near-monopoly on ink cartridges, they have drastically reduced the amount of ink supplied. It used to be about 24ml. Now it's as little as 7ml. Read where researchers measured the actual amount of ink in Epson ink cartridges. They ranged from 11ml for their so-called "high capacity" to 7 ml for the T069 to a miserable 3 ml for the T088. If you don't grasp how little 7 ml is, it's 7/1000ths of a liter. It takes over 130 of these to make a liter and about 500 to make a gallon. Yet Epson is charging $20 for this. This means printer ink is $20 x 500 or $10,000 a gallon! And you thought gas was high!

So you can understand why it seems your new cartridges are running out of ink too quickly. Our standard cartridges give you about 50% more ink than Epson (and at a price about 75% less). Our reusable and refillable cartridges give you about DOUBLE the ink of a genuine Epson. However, Epson printers do not accurately measure the remaining ink and use an estimate. To prevent having the printer operate on an empty cartridge (which would damage the head), the printer errs on the side of caution and reports the cartridge empty when it still contains ink. The fault lies with the printer, not the cartridge. (See How Much Ink Is Left In That Dead Cartridge?

When you run a printer head cleaning, it uses a signifcant amount of ink. Whenever you replace a cartridge, it automatically runs a cleaning on ALL the cartridges. So you should understand why a new cartridge can suddenly appear to have lost a good deal of ink. When you turn the printer on, it often runs a cleaning. That is why you should never turn your printer off. Printers don't use much power in idle mode and the electricity you save turning it off is less than the ink you lose turning it back on. Ink also has a tendency to coagulate. Otherwise, it would never dry on paper. If you don't print for several days, your print heads can get clogged by dry ink. So it's a good idea to leave the printer on. It forces out a minscule amount of ink every so often to prevent clogging. At the very least, turn it on every couple of days and print a test page just to keep the ink circulating and prevent your print heads from getting clogged.

Once the printer says a cartridge is completely out of ink, it is too late to solve the problem. The new cartridges manufactured after 2007 (T069, T078, T079, T098, T124, T125, T126, T127, T200XL, T252XL, T273XL, T277XL, T676) have chips which "self-destruct" when the cartridges report empty. They can not be reset by a chip resetter. This is done to prevent refilling, which is never a good idea. Read our article on the dangers of refilling. Our reusable and refillable cartridges use a completely redesigned chip which automatically resets to full. We also have chip resetters for the older cartridges.

Note: changing an ink tank or refilling the cartridge does not automatically reset the ink level. It gets reset when the printer says it's empty and you go through the replace procedure. So if you changed the tank or refilled and the ink level shows low, don't worry. Soon it will show empty and then reset to full.

Printer does not recognize the cartridge

If this happens with one cartridge, it might be a bad chip. If more than one with any of the earlier cartridges (T044, T048, T060), the problem is almost certainly with the printer. I say this because so far, in the very few times this happened, the cartridges have always worked in another printer. Earlier epson printers and their matching cartridges have not been changed. The chips they contain today are identical to the ones manufactured years ago. It usually means the wrong cartridge was inserted - such as a yellow in the blue slot. Each chip is matched to its color and putting the wrong cartridge in the wrong slot will cause the printer to report an unrecognized cartridge.

Another cause is a short within the printer itself. At one customer (fortunately a local one) I used a flashlight and spotted a tiny fragment of a cartridge chip stuck to the pins inside the printer. This was shorting out the connection and causing the printer to fail to recognize any cartridge in that slot. Removing the fragment solved the problem. At another client, the printer refused to recognize any cartridge - including genuine Epson. We even had 2 customers whose printers refused to recognize genuine Epson but worked with our reusables! I recently found an explanation for that here:

If it is a later cartridge, it becomes a little harder to diagnose. How old is your printer? If it is brand new, there is a chance that Epson recently changed the programming again, in which case it is possible the cartridges are outdated and you need new chips. If it is a few months old, this is highly unlikely. Are you sure it is reporting the correct cartridge? Sometimes after you replace the cyan, it suddenly reports a problem and you assume it's the cyan you just replaced but it's actually a different one which came loose or is now empty. Try reseating or replacing a different cartridge. Of course it's always possible that something happened to damage the chip on the cartridge. I have seen this happen with genuine epson as well. In this case the cartridge must be replaced.

Remember that it is possible that all the cartridges must be changed before the printer will recognize them. The printer's memory may need to be cleared. Remove all the cartridges, turn the printer on and off for each cartridge (4 times for a 4-color printer, 6 times for a 6-color printer) then insert all the cartridges. If that doesn't do it, try inserting the cartridges one at a time and testing as each is inserted. First put in one and see if it is recognized. Then add the second, then the third, etc. Often this will work. Here is an article about Epson cartridges not recognized

Turn off ink notifications
Some of the newer Epson printers have a choice on the menu called Notifications or Ink Notifications. By default these are turned on to warn you about everything including if the printer thinks the ink is low or if your cartridges are not genuine Epson. When these notifications are turned on, you may experience a lot of problems with third-party cartridges. A customer was having a difficult time getting his NX430 printer to recognize our reusable T126. He got three of them to work but upon inserting the fourth the printer would complain about all of them. Then he found the notification settings on the menu and turned off all three notifications. His printer then accepted the cartridges.

Error cycle - first one cartridge then the next reports an error

error cycle article

Cartridge doesn't print

The printer recognizes the cartridge and shows it as full but that color does not print: Did you take the tape off the top of the cartridge (or on the refillable cartridge, did you remove the plastic plug on top closest to the edge)? It covers a tiny air hole. Air has to get in for ink to flow out. If you did remove the tape, perhaps a tiny bit remains which is still covering the hole. Take a sharp object like a pin or scissors and carefully scrape the top of the cartridge to make sure the hole is uncovered. If that's not the problem, print a nozzle check pattern. Does ANY of that color print? If there is some showing, perhaps the print heads for that color are clogged. Run a head cleaning and try another nozzle check. Did it get better? If so, you have a head clog. You may have to run several cleanings, but not too many. If there is no improvement after 3 or 4, stop. Running more can damage the printer.

Since ink won't dissolve an ink clot, you really should have a head cleaning kit on hand. But here are some steps you can try if you are in a rush or can't afford the $7 to fix your printer.

leave the printer on for a day
run several head cleanings and print the nozzle check pattern
remove and reinsert the cartridges
run one head cleaning
wait about an hour then run some head cleanings.
if that still doesnt work, your heads may be clogged to the point where only the head cleaning kit will help or they may have burned out, in which case a repair will cost more than a new printer.

Cartridges are intermittently not recognized

Photos are intermittently no good

Symptoms: 1) At random times, the printer will complain about a different cartridge not being recognized. You take it out and put it back in and it works. Then some time later the printer will complain about a different cartridge. 2) You print a photo and it looks good. You print another photo and it looks washed out, with some color missing.

The printer does not print directly from the cartridge. It prints from a small reservoir of ink which is replenished by the cartridge. What is happening here is the the printer is using the ink faster than the reservoir is being replenished. Photos can take a lot of ink. When the printer doesn't get enough ink, it often reports 'cartridge not recognized' instead of 'low ink.' Set your printer to the slowest setting. Turn off high speed and bidirectional printing. Photos will take longer to print but the quality will be much better.

Special issues with reusable & refillable T125/T126/T127 cartridges

When the printer decides these cartridges are empty, it sends a signal which self-destructs the chip. These chips are designed to reset back to full. The chip can only take so many resets before it fails. A rule of thumb is to replace it after a year. If you made sure the cartridge contains ink and it is still not recognized after you turned the printer off and on as described above, the chip either needs a physical reset or needs to be replaced.

Newer chips have no battery and don't require resetting. Older chips sometimes needed to be reset. To reset the chip, take a look at it and find the two contacts at the top which are very close together. Short these contacts with something like a paper clip for a few seconds. This often resets the chip. If this doesn't work, the chip or battery should be replaced. We have replacement chips available for $1. Replacement batteries can be ordered off ebay for $1-$2 per 10 pack including shipping. They are called LR626/LR66/AG4. Here is a video showing how this is done on a refillable cartridge, where the chip easily pops out. Removing the chip on reusable cartridges is a little more difficult. Note that the video shows a lot of handling of the chip. You should avoid touching the chip. Wear disposable gloves or use a paper towel. The video appears to have no audio.

link to chip replacement if video doesn't show

None of these suggestions work. What next?

We have a full replacement or money-back guarantee on our cartridges as long as the customer behaves reasonably. We will replace or refund for a reasonable number of open cartridges and any number of sealed ones returned to us as long as you follow the simple guidelines. If you bought your cartridges elsewhere, good luck. Click here for warranty details