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John, Computer Science Engineer
Category: Printers
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Experience:  CompTIA A+ & Microsoft Certified Professional with 15 years of experience repairing computers and printers.
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My Epson Stylus Pro 3880 seems to have a weak yellow

Customer Question

My Epson Stylus Pro 3880 seems to have a weak yellow channel. On the test print the yellow pattern is unbroken, just weak. and similarly on prints, the yellow is there, just weak.
JA: Can you guesstimate how old your Epson is? And just to clarify, what's the exact model?
Customer: It's an Epson Stylus Pro 3880. I'm not aware of any model numbers beyond that. I think around 5 years old.
JA: What kind of computer are you printing from (Mac or PC)? What Operating System (OS) are you running?
Customer: It a PC with a calibrated NEC monitor. Window's 6, printing from Lightroom
JA: How long has this been an issue? What happened right before this popped up?
Customer: I hadn't been using the printer for about 3 months. So ran the test pattern and head cleaning before starting up again. I think I was seeing some of this before I stopped 3 mos ago.
JA: Anything else you want the printer expert to know before I connect you?
Customer: Only that I've been pretty comfortable/satisfied printing professional level art using Lightroom to this Epson printer in the past.
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Printers
Expert:  Russell H. replied 4 months ago.

Hi, thank you for contacting My name is Russell. I will do my best to provide the right answer to your question.

A period of disuse does that to inkjet printers: sometimes the ink nozzles, the fine pores the ink gets through, dry up and clog up when the printer is disused.

The solution for this is either to replace the yellow cartridge, or else to try first, this procedure, over several hours or overnight (it takes a little while to take effect - small wonder after 3 months disuse! I am surprised that your printer still largely works OK...):

In outline:

1. Clean the (yellow) printhead.

2. Wait 1/2 hour to several hours or overnight, leaving the printer On but unused (no print jobs, etc.)

This allows waste ink to soak into the printhead and hopefully dissolve dried ink etc.

3. Clean the printhead a second time.

4. Wait again (as in step 2 above) for 1/2 hr. to several hrs., printer On but unused.

5. Clean the printhead a third time.

Then test whether yellow ink is showing up better at this point. If it is, even faintly, then repeating this procedure will (eventually, at the cost of a certain amount of ink wasted in the process) clear up the clogged printhead.

After that fails, if it does fail, is to first try replacing the yellow cartridge, then if that still fails, what you would need to do is to decide whether replacing the printhead (which will cost something considerable, more than you would think usually) is better, given the printer's age, or whether it would be more preferable for you to replace the printer altogether with a new one (and hopefully recycle the old printer, always a good idea.)

So try the triple-cleaning-with-wait-times that I recommended, and get back to me if it doesn't work for you (so I can advise you further...)... or if it does help (- I always like to hear that something I recommended has worked!)

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Best way to manually clean the print head
Expert:  Russell H. replied 4 months ago.

Don't clean it manually. Run a 'cleaning cycle' from your printer's Maintenance controls, instead - either from the printer's Setup menu, under Maintenance... or by way of your printer's software on the computer.

Cleaning manually can damage the printhead irreversibly, or at least the cartridge. I advise against it.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
OK. I already did that. Can you do that too many times?
Expert:  Russell H. replied 4 months ago.

Can you do what too many times, please? Manual cleaning, or Head Cleaning cycles?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Head cleaning cycles. I've never attempted a manual clean
Expert:  Russell H. replied 4 months ago.

Good! You cannot do too many Head Cleaning cycles. They do flush away a bit of waste ink, though, so if you do a lot of them, a bit of ink is wasted.

Letting the waste ink soak in awhile, with the printer On but idle, helps with the efficiency of this RE ink wasting.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Great. I'll give that a try- run a head cleaning cycle and then just let it sit for a few hours while on, correct?
Expert:  Russell H. replied 4 months ago.

Yes, a few hours idle while On between cleanings.

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