What Are the Signs That a Printer Drum Needs to Be Replaced?

By Melissa King

Replace old drum units to keep printing quality high.
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Your business' laser printer uses a toner cartridge and a drum unit to print out documents and photos. The toner cartridge contains colored or black powder that the drum unit transfers onto paper during printing. Over time, the drum unit deteriorates and eventually needs to be replaced. Drum units typically last for 10,000 to 50,000 printed pages, depending on the quality of the printer and unit. Your printer will exhibit warning signs of the drum unit's deterioration so you can replace it before it stops working.

Printer Prompt or Error Message

Many laser printers contain a drum unit counter that monitors the number of pages the unit has printed. When the unit reaches a set number, the printer alerts you that it's time to replace the device. Check your printer's display for an error or warning message. The prompt may also appear on your computer's display when you try to print a document. You might also receive another prompt when the drum unit has completely deteriorated and cannot print any more pages.

Blurry Printouts or Black Spots

The drum unit may need replacing if you notice the printer producing blurry, low-quality images. Black or colored toner spots on printouts also indicates a failing drum unit. In some cases, horizontal lines may develop across the printout every time the paper passes the failing part of the drum.

Blank Printouts

As the drum unit fails, images and text might gradually start to fade. After that, blank or white patches will appear on your printed documents. Eventually, when the drum unit has failed completely, the entire printout will be blank. At this time, you must replace the drum unit to continue printing.

Changing the Drum Unit

The procedure for replacing the drum unit varies on your printer's brand and model. In general, look for a front or back door on the printer that opens to reveal the toner and drum unit. Typically, you'll need to press a button or flip a switch to release the toner and drum unit. When removing the toner cartridge, hold it only by its sides and don't touch the strip on the front or inside the cartridge. Doing so may cause printing problems. Put the toner cartridge and the old drum unit on paper towels to avoid staining any surfaces. Remove the new drum unit from its packaging only when you're ready to install it because exposure to light can damage the unit.

Once you've replaced the drum unit, you will need to reset the drum counter so the printer recognizes the new unit. If you don't do this, you might not be able to print, since the printer "thinks" you're still using the old unit. Check your printer's manual for the proper way to reset the drum unit.