What should I know before I try to repair my printer?

I have an Epson Stylus Color 400 printer. Inkjet, it would seem. I replaced the cartridges, and now it prints just fine in colour. But if I print in black, I get large gaps in the printout, and where it does print, there are many horizontal lines of unprinted space.

[Background Info]
Windows XP. Printer some years old, bought for $5 at a yard sale. Initially didn’t print at all.

New ink cartridges and the print head cleaning utility solved the problem for colour printing. The machine still refused to print in black. Printer disconnected, stored in box in bedroom for five months.

New printer (HP Deskjet 840C) acquired for $0 because my father’s workplace was throwing it out. Drivers were not on hand. When connected to a Win 98 system, printed jibberish endlessly, and had paper loading problems. Internal inspection, padding of paper tray and connection to Win XP system solved the problem. Printer entered service with the handicap that it only draws paper when the tray is nearly full. This printer is, judging by the print quality and new refusal to print in blue, about to run out of ink. Online quote for a new ink cartridge: $87 (Staples Online)

Epson-brand printer reinspected this weekend with aim of putting it into service to replace the HP. Colour printing works perfectly. Printng in black gives gaps and horizontal lines.

I’ve run the head cleaning utility so many times that the ‘Almost Out of Black Ink’ light is blinking. (keep in mind this is a black ink cartridge which has printed nothing but the very short test pages that contain a few black and coloured parallel lines).

The printer case says “Disconnect input power before servicing.”

Research began yesterday. I’ve read through most of the relevant threads (searching on “print*” in thread titles in GQ) and learnt:

Epson printers are known for this problem.

Soaking the print heads in Isopropyl alcohol may help.

Among many other things.
[/Background Info]

I now plan to run the cleaning utility a few more times, and if that doesn’t work, to open the printer up and see if I can fix the problem.

So, here’s what I want to know:

  1. Have I missed something that would save me dismantling the device?
  2. If I have to take it apart, is there anything I should know before I do? What to look for, what not to do, etc.

Thanks ahead, wolfStu.

You are unlikely to find a mechanical cause for the problem but you won’t be out anything for taking it apart. In the long run you’ll find it cheaper to buy a brand new printer than to buy just ink cartridges for this one.

Some printers have to be realigned after replacing the ink cartridge. Have you tried that?

[Additional backgorund info]
The printer is the same model as my parents have, so I’ve got the user guide and software and such.

The guide basically says to use the print head cleaning utility (In Chapter Four). If that doesn’t work, go to Chapter Five, it says. There, the book tells you to use the utility some more, and if it doens’t help, check out the suggestions in Chapter Four. : )
[/Additional background info]
To TheladyLion: Yeah… it probably would be cheaper… but I don’t have money for either, really. At some point, (before I need to print again) I’ve got to decide whether it’s best to buy the $87 HP cartridge, the Cheaper,-I-Think,-But-I-haven’t-checked-yet EPSON cartridge, or what.

To Joey G: I’ve run the print head alignment utility several times as well.

Our motto around the office: “It’s like taking a hampster to the vet”.

The EPSON STYLUS 400 problem: try cleaning the contacts in the printer that contact the black cartridge. Just wipe with an alcohol swab.

I consider these printers disposable! These models are no longer manufactured, and for good reason, the succeeding models represent almost quantum leaps in technology.

$87 seems very high for the color cart for the HP840c - although the printer is obsolete, the color cart is NOT.

I had one of those crappy models. Same problem. Went thru the diagnostic button sequences, etc. Died completely.

Never buying an Epson again.

But, to be a little helpful: to the right of the head’s motion, there’s a little foam pad where the heads are cleaned. Check to make sure it is there, not all gunked up or loaded with ink, etc.

My Lexmark was like that, turned out it was programmed to use a color and a black cartridge, set up fixed it.

On ebay a DESKJET 840C with no carts is $1.25 high bid right now. Carts there for it $10-20. I bet this is one model you can use a cart Refil kit for because most HPs can use them. Ebay has those kits too.

I’m about to take it apart now.
Thanks all. Particularly ftg, for that mention of the little foam pad.

What will I find inside…
:: curiosity smiley ::

For ink jets I boil some water, about a half inch, take it off the stove & soak the printhead for 5 minutes in it, just the part that has the metal contacts & ink pads.