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Epson: General Error Issues

While "Service Required" is the most common printer error I see from customers the unhelpful "General Error" is also one that crops up so this article is intended to give you a few pointers on places to look and things to try to help figure out what's going on.

The common causes of "General Error" are:

 

Printhead Path Blocked

As you can imagine this could be anything from paper fragments after a jam up to foreign objects inserted into the printer by small children or other "helpful" individuals.

Tip: It's worth using a strong light to shine into the printer so you can see clearly, as ink tends to soil and camoflage things a little too well, making them hard to spot.

Another potential problem (especially in some older models - eg: C84) is that the cleaning/resting pad can sometimes come adrift of its connector and pop up into the path of the printhead. It's generally easy to spot and can be re-sited properly with a lot of patience plus trial and error.

Incompatible Cartridges (Chips)

This is a another common issue and tends to come in three guises

  1. The chip on the cartridge is completely incompatible and won't work whatever you do
    Solution: Get a new cartridge that is compatible
     
  2. The chip on the cartridge has been soiled, damaged or is mis-aligned and can't be read properly by the printer
    Solution: Gently clean the chip surface and re-seat it properly (if possible). Damaged chips obviously should be replaced.
     
  3. The chip used to work but the printer is no longer recognising it.
    Causes for this one range from the printer firmware has been updated and now refuses to accept it, to the chip expiring.
    Solution are going to revolve around knowing what has changed and talking to your cartridge/chip supplier
     
  4. There are a mix of third party/OEM chips that won't work together.
    Sometimes you will find that using cartridges from different manufacturers or from different batches means that the chips on the cartridges are not programmed in the same way and refuse to work together.
    This is particularly common when one or two cartridges have been swapped and the printer immediately refuses to play ball.
    Solution: Install a full set of new cartridges from the same supplier/manufacturer (not ideal but, if this is the cause, it usually works)
     
  5. The printer requires a set of Epson original cartridges/chips.
    This situation came out of the way some enterprising individuals were buying in refurbished (or even new) printers then stripping the various consumables (ie: cartridges, photo paper) and parts (eg: CD trays) before selling everything off seperately at a much greater profit.
    Epsons response to this was to program some printers to require a full set of original cartridges to be installed before the printer could be used.
    Solution: Unfortunately this requirement can sometimes resurface when the waste counter(s) have been reset so if all else fails you may find that reinstalling your original cartridges or a new set  is required before you can get the printer running using your CIS or other cartridges again.

 

Autohead Cleaning & insufficient ink in cartridge(s)

This issue tends to crop up in printers that have an Auto Head cleaning function such as the Artisan 700, PX820FWD, etc...

The scenario is that the printer will have hit the "Service Required" point that requires a reset but once reset then gives the error "cannot recognize following cartridge".

The problem can sometimes be caused by the fact that the last thing the printer was doing before hitting the waste ink counter limit, was trying to clean the printhead. It does a double whammy of hitting the error while also emptying one or more cartridges past the point where sufficient ink is left in the cartridge to perform more head cleans.

In this scenario the only solution is to install new cartridges to replace those indicated as being unrecognised until the printer starts working again.

Note: It's worth disabling the autoprinthead cleaning functionality (check Epson support for your models instructions) to avoid part of this problem because it invariably wastes a considerable amount of ink without actualling clearing ink feeding issues. Particularly when the real problem is an air lock or poorly primed 3rd party cartridges.

 

Soiled Chips

This is the point 2. above... If the chips are dirty, the printer won't be able to read them... Clean gently and try again.

 

Something Broke

This is less likely unless you lost your temper or you have children who like to feed things to electronic boxes. The most common problems are:

  • The chip contact wires have been bent, damaged or broken by accident, force or other
    You can tell if this is the case by carefully examining the very delicate/thin wires located in the cartridge bay where the cartridge chips would sit. If these are damaged it's pretty much game over and time to get a new printer.
    In some limited cases you can re-align them but their delicate nature often results in a break so only to be attempted as an absolute last resort!
     
  • The wires/flat cables have come loose
    This was a common one in CIS equipped C84 - D88 printers when I was first working with those printers and systems. The CIS tubing would catch and disconnect the flat cable running to the printhead causing the printhead to lose its sensor data on location and start smacking back and forth in the printer. Worth checking for things like this as potential causes of problems.
    If you've disassembled the printer you'll have a much bigger range of potential wires/cables to check.
     
  • Cogs or other parts worn/damaged
    All of the cog parts in printers are plastic with an increase in the use of recycled plastic so they will wear over time and eventually break. This isn't a normal state of affairs but things like paper jams, foreign objects and general abuse all take their toll. Likewise the motors and circuit boards will not last forever so you may find that some critical part in your printer has simply given up.

...BUT...

Just because your printer may potentially have given up the ghost doesn't mean it's time to throw it in the bin, even if Epson support techs pretty much tell you to do that for almost any problem.

There are other options:

  • Use the AdjProg service utility (if one is available) to get more detailed diagnostic information about the problem
    Use the Particular Mode > Appendix > "Printer Information Check" > "Check" function to get "Fatal error" codes and summary information
     
  • Contact OctoInkjet with detailed information on what you're experiencing, error messages, noises, light indicators and other symptoms (Oh and your printer model). We may be able to provide some tips specific to your printer model or give you other avenues to check out.
     
  • If all else fails, put your printer on eBay or similar as a "Spares & Repair" item... You'll be amazed how many folks will pay a small amount to take it off your hands and make use of the parts to revive another model of the same type. It has to be better than it just going to the landfill

 

This guide is a rough overall article covering the general aspects of this error but other specific errors, tips and solutions are dotted around in the KB/FAQ as well so it's worth digging deeper to see if your problem is resolved elsewhere.

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