Brother printer won't print black

Brother Inkjet Printers are renowned for having the problem of the black cartridge not printing. This has been a common issue with Brother Inkjet printers for as long as I can remember. No-one, (including Brother) seems to know exactly why this problem is so common and even why it has continued to plague Brother printers for so many years. In this article I want to first start with the main reasons that could cause this problem to occur followed by the solutions.

Overall Brother inkjet printers are very reliable and if used regularly and correctly then very few issues will occur. Brother printers work perfectly well with generic ink cartridges, in fact there should be absolutely no difference whatsoever in both operation and print quality using non genuine cartridges as long as they are good quality generic Brother cartridges.

What can cause a Brother printer to not print black?

There are quite a few scenarios that can stop your Brother printer from printing in black. Here are some of the main reasons, including a few things to check before getting too carried away with the situation. Remember that issues will almost always begin when a new cartridge is installed. DO NOT blame the cartridge as it is almost NEVER the cartridge which is at fault even though this is when the problem may have first appeared.

1. Check that the "Breather Tape" on the top of the cartridge is fully removed.
The breather tape or sometimes referred to as the shipping tape MUST be removed before installing the cartridge. If this is not removed then the ink remains vacuum sealed in the cartridge and it will not come out under any circumstances.

2. Make sure that you install a new cartridge well before it runs dry
When your printer starts warning you that the Black cartridge is getting Low and needs to be replaced it's OK to keep printing for a while but not for too long. I know that we all want the most from our cartridges but if you print too long and the ink runs very low then you will start introducing air into the print nozzle.

When air starts to get into to the nozzle or the lines going to the nozzle then the printer will stop printing in black. It may not fully stop and you may simply get lines through the printing. This indicates that some of the nozzles are blocked but not all of them.

Also when you print with a near empty black cartridge then the air going into the print nozzle will start to dry the ink that is already in the nozzle. If you continue to print like this for a long period of time then you may even permanently damage the printhead. It's kind of like running a car for too long without coolant in the radiator.

There have been many articles written about sticking electrical tape over the small window at the front of your Brother cartridges so that you can keep printing and the printer then cant tell if the cartridge is run out of ink. We've all don't this before but let me tell you it WILL eventually kill the printhead if you keep doing it long enough.

3. Using very low quality generic ink cartridges
Brother inkjet printers, like any other printer brand uses specific inks in their printers designed to perform correctly with their own machines. Due to the massive availability of generic cartridges there is a huge difference in quality between one generic ink and another.

If the viscosity of the ink is not correct and similar to the Brother inks then various issues can occur. The ink needs to flow at the correct rate and also needs to be formulated to NOT CONGEAL or dry too fast. Printer inks actually contain various chemicals which prevent the ink from drying. This doesn't effect them drying on the actual paper but it does prevent it from drying out in the printer itself.

At Ink Hub we have done stringent tests over the years to check the drying rates of various non genuine inks. This has enabled us to provide generic cartridges which we believe are the best on the market.

4. Weak or faulty Purge Pump
One other very common issue that can cause a printer to stop printing in Black or colour is a faulty purge pump or purge seals. The purge pump is the device that you hear whizzing around when you first install a new cartridge. It's entire purpose is to "prime" the newly installed cartridge by sucking the ink from the cartridge and out into the printhead and finally out the print nozzles and into the waste pad.

If the purge pump is working correctly then after the initial nozzle clean ( which is done automatically ) the printer should be ready to print. If however the pump or the pump seals are compromised or faulty then the printer will not be able to get the ink flowing as it should resulting in either nothing coming out onto the page or bits missing in your printed pages.

6. faulty purge seals
The purge seals are rubber grommet like devices that press hard up against the bottom surface of the printhead when it is in the rest or "docked" position. You can identify them when the printhead assembly is not docked as they are usually two mesh lined openings surrounded by the actual rubber seals. The smaller one is for the black cartridge only and the larger rectangular shaped section is for the colours. 

Not all purge pump assemblies look the same however they should be easily identifiable. I recommend that you first visually inspect the purge pump seals to see that they are not buckled or distorted as this will stop the vacuum seal from occurring and significantly lower the amount of vacuum pressure that the pump is able to assert on the ink system.

Next I recommend that you give the seals and the pump a clean with either Windex or another suitable, non residual, non oily cleaning fluid. There are several available inc Magic Bullet or even just Isopropyl Alcohol. Take a look at the link above which is quite a good overview of how to clean the purge pump and seals.

7. Faulty Data Cable
The data cable is usually a small, flat ribbon cable which connects the printers electronics to the actual printhead itself. Over the years these can also be compromised and cause print issues as data that is being sent to tell the printhead how to operate is either lost or interrupted. Often the data cable can be unplugged to allow the removal of the printhead. Occasionally unplugging them and the re-attaching them firmly can fix issues if the data cable is the cause.

8. Clogged or stuck intake nozzle valve
Another issue that can also cause the black or even a colour to not print is that the intake valve situated directly under or behind the cartridge ink outlet becomes clogged with dried ink or simply just jammed. Try removing the ink cartridge and using a cotton bud soaked in Windex gently dab the inlet valve and allow some of the windex to seep into the inlet valve itself. Make sure that none of the cotton from the bud comes off as that would cause even greater issues if it got into the valve. Do this until the inlet valve appears clear and free of ink. Often after doing this the printer may need to be left overnight and often the next day you find that the print quality will return to normal again.

9. Brother printers and CISS Systems
Brother printers which have a CISS fitted are also at risk of printhead clogging. This is due to several factors such as poor quality ink being used, tanks not being mixed often enough causing sediment to gather at the bottom of the tanks or not being used often enough. All of these factors can cause the black ink or the colours not to print.

Preventing the "Brother printer won't print black problem

We believe that prevention is better than cure so PLEASE try to abide by the following suggestions and avoid problems from occurring.

1. Print regularly
By printing regularly there is ink constantly flowing through the printhead which in turn helps to prevent ink from sitting in the nozzle and eventually drying out and blocking the fine print nozzles.

2. Use only high quality generic cartridges
As discussed previously a high quality generic cartridge will utilise a quality ink which is formulated to both produce high quality printouts and a correct viscosity and chemical formula which will not clog the print nozzles.

3. Make sure that the printer isnt in a hot position
If your printer is situated near a window or any other warm place then it is far more likely that ink may congeal inside the printhead when not in use. By moving the printer to a cooler location it may prevent issues from occurring.

What to do if your Brother printer stops printing black

If your printer suddenly stops printing black then check the following in this order.

1. Is the breather tape at the top of the cartridge fully removed?

2. Has the new cartridge been recognized correctly by the printer? If not then follow this procedure.

3. Run a maximum of 2 nozzle cleans on the black print nozzle from the LCD menu on the actuall printer itself. Follow this procedure to clean the offending nozzles. Note: Only use the nozzle cleaning procedure a couple of times as too many times can actually make the problem worse.

4. Try printing a few solid black images with the printer set to the highest quality photo mode. This ensures that ALL nozzles are printing and may help to push the ink out of the nozzle.

5. If none of the steps above help then you may need to use a printhead cleaning kit to break down the dried ink that is inside of the printhead. Below is a great video which shows the procedure in great detail. Our printhead cleaning kits are available here.

Checkout this great video on Cleaning a Brother printhead.

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