What’s the best way to clear a paper jam?

Clear a paper jam
Keep your printer looking as serene as this one

“Come on, The Big Tech Question! I think I know how to clear a paper jam – I’ve been doing it since the 1980s/70s/60s/50s. In fact, I read Paper Jam Studies at Oxford and was voted Time magazine’s Clearer of the Year for ten years running. Bah!”

That may be the case, but we can guarantee that you still fall foul of a few common mistakes. One frustrated yank in the wrong place could cause irreparable damage.

Every printer is different, and your first resort should be to check the manual for manufacturer-approved instructions. While the advice here is given with the best intentions and based on manufacturers’ recommendations, you’re following it at your own risk.

Given that hefty caveat, here’s how to safely clear a paper jam in your inkjet or laser printer.

How to clear a paper jam: Inkjet printer

  1. If there’s a handy error message – or combination of flashing lights – check your manual and/or the internet. You may be able to press a button to make it all go away.
  2. If not, turn off the printer. It might be obvious, but trying to clear a paper jam with the printer on could make thing a lot worse – and potentially be dangerous.
  3. Open the cover.
  4. Gently – I repeat, gently – remove the paper by grasping it firmly with both hands and slowly pulling. You don’t want the paper to tear and cause more problems further down the line.
  5. If there are any loose pieces of paper, remove them with your fingers or, if they’re very small, tweezers.
  6. Close the cover and switch your printer back on.
  7. If the paper jams again, make sure that nothing’s stuck at the bottom of the feed slot (pens have a strange habit of crawling down there) and check that the output tray is aligned properly.
  8. If you’re still struggling, resist the temptation to completely deconstruct your printer (like a Corby Trouser Press, printers are very difficult to put back together) and have a read of the manual or call the manufacturer.

How to clear a paper jam: Laser printer

  1. See instruction 1 for inkjets above. If not…
  2. Turn off the printer – if you don’t, you’ll be vaporised by the lasers and end up as a pile of dust (okay, maybe not).
  3. Open the cover, but don’t touch anything yet!
  4. Wait for the printer rollers to cool down. Certain manufacturers recommend waiting for half an hour before clearing a jam, but you should use your common sense.
  5. Gently remove the paper by holding it with both hands and carefully pulling.
  6. If you can’t immediately see the blockage, check around the cartridges or remove them completely.
  7. Switch the printer back on.
  8. If the problem persists, check the feed slot for foreign objects such as pens, paper clips or that banana you lost last week.
  9. Again, check the manual or contact the manufacturers if the above steps don’t solve the problem.

READ NEXT: How do I print an image at a specific size?

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Max Figgett

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