How to Fix a Paper Jam

If you have ever operated a printer, you have experienced a paper jam. At some point, some piece of paper has loaded off-kilter or wadded up inside the rollers. In most cases, removing the jammed paper and getting the printer working again is relatively easy.

Step By Step

1. Verify that you have a paper jam. Sometimes the printer will send you a message that there's a paper jam. Sometimes you get the message from the crinkling, squealing sound the printer makes as it jams.

2. For most consumer models there will be only one sheet of paper threading through the machine at a time and a straightforward path from the paper feed to the output tray. In that case, you will want to search visually. Look to see if there are pieces of paper sticking out where you can see them. For larger commercial printers, where the paper path is more convoluted, you will need to consult the paper jam status message for hints of where to look.

3. Remove any paper from the paper trays that you suspect might have caused the paper jam. If a sheath of paper might prevent you from getting at the jammed paper, then remove that too.

4. Most consumer printers have an access door in the front that you can open to get at the jammed paper. With laser printers there's usually a toner and drum unit that slides out for improved access. If you still can't see the jammed paper, check if there's an access hatch in the back of the printer.

5. Gently remove any crumpled paper you might find. Gently tug on any pieces of paper that may be stuck or crumpled between rollers. It's possible that yanking the paper too hard in the direction opposite the normal direction of travel could wreck the printer rotors or some other delicate part. Whenever possible, pull the jammed paper in the direction of normal motion through the printer and avoid using excessive force.

6. Avoid ripping the paper as you remove the jam. Pull the paper slowly with both hands. Any shredded piece of paper stuck in the rollers will cause yet another paper jam. While you're at it, check for foreign objects that may have caused the paper jam in the first place, such as a paperclip or a pen cap.

7. Laser printers sometimes get the paper jammed so deep in the fuser unit that you can't reach it with your fingers. In those cases you want to avoid poking at the paper with sharp metal objects. Scratching the rollers could permanently damage your print quality. Removing an accordioned paper jam may involve disassembly of the fuser unit by a trained professional.

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