A Quick Guide on How to Know If You Need to Replace a Drum Unit

The drum unit in a laser printer is a consumable item that needs to be replaced after a certain period. It is the heart of a laser printer. Some manufacturers refer to it as Imaging Unit, OPC (Organic Photo Conductor) drum, or just drum.

Here in this post, we will discuss how you can know beforehand when you need to replace a drum unit.

Consider Overall Usage


In an ideal situation, a drum unit requires replacement after your laser printer has printed roughly around 12,000 letters or A4 size pages.

The number of pages that your drum unit will actually deliver will most likely be less than this estimate.

The reason is that the useful life of a drum unit is affected by several factors such as the type of paper, temperature, humanity, type of toner cartridge, type of print job, etc.

Printer users have no control over many of these factors.

Drum LED Lights On


In many laser printers, the drum LED starts blinking when the drum unit is near the end of its useful life. However, you can continue using the drum unit until you notice a drop in print quality. The LED lights on once the drum unit stops or is no longer functional.

In most laser printers, you need to reset the drum counter when you replace the drum unit to turn off the LED. In laser printers made by Brother, for instance, you need to open the front cover and long-press the button until all LEDs turn on and then release it.

Scan through your laser printer’s instruction manual to find the exact instructions on how to reset the drum.

Straight Vertical Lines across the Page


If you notice a thin straight line running vertically across the entire length of a page, it is probably due to a scratched drum unit.

Scratches are generally caused by foreign objects sticking onto the drum unit. Toner buildup on the wiper blade can also result in scratches when it rotates around the drum.

You need to replace the drum unit if you want to get rid of thin vertical lines in printouts.

Dots that Repeat Down the Page


Dots appearing evenly throughout the page are indicative of a chip in the drum surface. It’s referred to as a pinhole.

If the pinholes are caused by a buildup of foreign matter, the problem can be resolved by removing it with a piece of cotton and isopropyl alcohol.

However, if the dots appear with horizontal bands, it is likely caused by a short against the PCR (Primary Charge Roller).

Unless you are using a high-end laser printer, it makes sense to buy a new drum unit right away. Repairing an old drum unit can cost more than the money you’d spend on buying a new unit.

Damaged Drum Coating


When the drum coating/film is damaged due to prolonged exposure to direct light, you will notice smears of toner all over the print. The smears appear at equal distance from each other.

A worn-out drum unit will produce grey-colored tire tracks on either left or right side of the page. This laser printer issue is sometimes referred to as ‘wind-blown sand.’ It’s indicative of drum coating wearing thin.

On some occasions, it may be possible to coat and repair a worn-out OPC drum unit. However, as mentioned earlier, investing in a new drum unit is generally a better choice.

Flashing Message on Printer Display Screen


In some laser printers, users are alerted about a faulty or worn-out drum unit through error messages on their display screens. The prompt may also appear on your computer screen when you print a document.

In Canon printers, you will see a message in the Printer Status Window when a drum unit is nearing the end of its useful life.

In laser printers manufactured by Brother, you can learn about the remaining life of the drum unit by printing the Printer Settings page.

In laser printers made by
HP, the same information is made available on the Supplies Status page.

Final Words


Following standard instructions for different printer models to estimate the remaining life of a printer is helpful but if the drum unit is damaged due to some reason, you will have to rely on the potential signs discussed above to know if you need to replace a drum unit.

Reduction in quality may at times be due to a leaking toner cartridge.

If a cartridge is low on toner, you may get faded prints. Therefore, it is important to first verify if it is a toner cartridge that you need to replace or a drum unit.

If you are buying a replacement toner cartridge for the first time, make sure you avoid common toner purchase mistakes.

Printer manufacturers often warn consumers that third-party toners and drums (which are less expensive) can damage your printer but it doesn’t hold true if you shop with a reliable seller. Here at InkjetsClub.com, you can find high-quality toner cartridges as well as drum units for HP, Brother, Epson, and Canon printers that are priced at least 20% lower than their OEM counterparts.