Your Zebra label printer is not printing correctly. That’s the bad news.
The good news is, although these machines seem complicated, most issues they have are quite ordinary. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fix them. All you need is someone who’s been there before.
At Direct Barcode Printer Repair, we’ve been there for over 30 years. In that time, we’ve fixed all sorts of Zebra barcode printer issues and know these machines like the backs of our hands. People throughout the country still ship us their printers for repair every day.
So, whether your labels are coming out blurry, marred by white lines or even blank, we can help! In this post, we’ll walk you through the likely causes of eight of these issues. Then we’ll recommend practical steps to restore your Zebra printer to perfect health.
1. Why is My Zebra Thermal Printer Not Printing the Correct Size?
Sometimes Zebra label printers will get confused and start printing too big or too small for the media. Two likely causes for this are a confused printer or a mismatched printer driver.
For a Confused Zebra, Restart Your Printer
The simplest explanation for this issue is Zebra thermal printers are just like any other machines, including your smartphone. If you’re like most people, you rarely think to turn your company’s Zebra thermal printer or your personal smartphone off. Instead, we keep them running 24/7 because it’s easier and more convenient. But the longer the devices run without powering off, the more likely they are to start misbehaving.
For this reason, the first solution to try when this happens is to turn off your Zebra printer and turn it back on. Oftentimes, this will have a restorative effect on the printer and get it back to the right size settings.
For a Mismatched Printer Driver, Check the Host
If the printer turns back on and is still printing the incorrect size, the next most likely cause is a mismatched printer driver. This issue often develops when you move a Zebra barcode printer from one location to another. As a result, the printer may start communicating with a different printer driver and using the size parameters of that driver.
Therefore, fixing this problem requires checking with the host to find the driver with which the printer is communicating. Figuring this out may be tricky if you have a larger company with a lot of printers. So, we recommend consulting your IT department to get this clarified.
Once you reconnect the printer with the right driver, it should start printing the right size again. However, if the problem persists, then you’re likely dealing with a more advanced issue. In this case, we recommend sending your Zebra label printer to a service center, as this will be the quickest way to resolve the issue.
2. Why is It Not Printing a Test Page?
It’s always a good idea to print a test page to ensure your Zebra printer will deliver the high-quality barcode labels you need. But what do you do if the test page won’t even print?
In this case, you need to determine whether the printer or the host is causing the problem. You can do this by completing the following steps:
Step 1: Test the Printer Apart from the Host
First, we need to see if the Zebra printer itself is causing the problem. So, disconnect it from the host and run a self-test from the menu. If the self-test works, the printer is fine. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to inspect your printer to see if it’s set up correctly.
Here are a few things to check:
- For thermal transfer printers, verify that the ribbon is loaded correctly and inked on the right side.
- If you’re using a direct thermal printer, make sure your labels are heat sensitive.
- Make sure the printhead is clean and the print darkness is set high enough.
If all of these seem correct and your Zebra still won’t print a test page, then something more complex is wrong with it. In this instance, we recommend sending it in for repair.
Step 2: Check the Host
Hopefully, step one revealed that your Zebra thermal printer isn’t the problem since it ran a self-test with no issues. Once you’ve ruled out the printer, reconnect it with the host and try to print another test page. If it doesn’t work, then the host is having trouble communicating with your printer. Often this happens when someone makes changes to the printer without your knowledge or an electronic malfunction occurs because of a storm or unforeseen event.
You can fix it by checking the address to which the host is sending information. Make sure that the host is identifying the printer. If it is and things still aren’t working, then you’ll want to hire a pro.
3. Why is My Zebra Barcode Printer Not Printing Clearly?
Smeared or patchy labels occur when something goes wrong with your Zebra printer’s mechanics. The problem could be with the ribbon, drive belt or platen roller. So, you will need to inspect each of them. Here’s what to look for:
Your Zebra’s ribbon needs to move smoothly to avoid smearing the ink. Things go wrong when it starts hanging too loose or sticking to the spindle. Expert mechanical adjustments are necessary to fix either of these issues. You may also have a mechanical issue with your gears or drive belt that requires expert repair.
You should also check your platen roller to see if it has any cuts or grooves in it. A piece of a label could have also torn off and stuck to the roller. If the roller has cuts or grooves, you will need to replace it to fix the issue.
4. What are These Lines Doing on My Barcode Labels?
Another common example of Zebra label printers not printing correctly is when white lines start appearing on labels. This issue can either result from problems with the printhead or the ribbon.
When the printhead starts to fail and burn out, it will start leaving unprinted vertical white lines on your label. The best way to fix this problem is by replacing your printhead.
If the lines on your labels appear diagonal, then there’s probably a wrinkle in your printer ribbon. You can fix this issue by adjusting the ribbon strip plate so that the wrinkle smooths out again.
5. Why is My Zebra Barcode Label Printer Not Printing on One Side?
Sometimes Zebra thermal printers only print on one side so that they produce half labels. There are three possible causes for this:
- There’s unequal tension on the printhead.
- The platen roller is wearing out on one side.
- The printer’s size parameters have changed.
You can easily fix the first problem by adjusting the tensioners on top of the printer to make both sides even.
The second problem is also simple to diagnose. Examine your platen roller to see if it’s smooth and straight all the way across the top. If it’s starting to look conical or there are dents on it, then you should replace it with a new one to fix the problem.
Finally, you can check if your printer’s size parameters have changed by going into your device’s settings and seeing what they’re set at. Someone you work with may have changed the settings since you last used the machine without you knowing it.
6. What’s Making It Skip Labels and Spit Out Blank Labels?
When a Zebra barcode printer starts missing labels, multiple things could be wrong. One possible issue is you’re using the wrong type of labels for your printer. Remember, direct thermal printers require a special type of heat-sensitive paper to work. Conversely, thermal transfer printers can use a wider variety of media.
If the type of media you’re using isn’t the issue, you could also be using the wrong printer driver. In this case, it won’t print some labels because it’s confused about where it should print. The easiest way to fix this is by restarting the printer. You may also need to recalibrate your Zebra printer to get everything in order again.
7. Why is My Zebra Label Printer Printing So Light?
The simplest explanation for light printing is you don’t have the darkness setting turned up high enough. You can find this setting in the printing preferences on your device’s digital screen. However, be careful not to turn up the darkness setting too high because you can wind up melting the ribbon into the label.
Another way to darken the print on your labels is by slowing down the print speed. Making it print slower will give your Zebra more time to produce fuller, darker lines on the media.
You may also notice that the print looks lighter on one side than the other. An easy way to fix this is to adjust the tensioners to even out the pressure across the printhead. You may also need to replace the platen roller because it could be causing the problem by wearing down on one side.
8. Why is My Zebra Printer Not Calibrating Correctly?
Calibration is the trickiest process people must deal with when using Zebra thermal barcode printers. As we mentioned above, it’s one of the best ways to fix your printer when it starts skipping labels or only printing parts of labels. The reason for this is calibration ensures the printer will accurately measure the distance from the top to the bottom of each label.
Step 1: Perform a Visual Inspection
But what do you do when your Zebra printer won’t seem to calibrate? The first thing to do is open the printhead and perform a visual inspection of the printer components. It’s easy to accidentally move the guides that keep the labels and ribbon in their proper positions when replacing the ribbon and labels. So, check to make sure that those guides are properly positioned.
Once you’ve readjusted the label and ribbon guides, restart the printer and see if it advances to the next label. If it does, then the problem has resolved itself. However, if it tries to run multiple labels and won’t stop in the right spot, then you will need to run an internal printer calibration to try to resolve the issue.
Step 2: Run an Internal Calibration
Different Zebra printer models have different processes for internal calibration. So, we recommend consulting your instruction manual or searching for instruction videos on YouTube to find out how to calibrate yours.
Step 3: Clean or Replace Media Sensors
Hopefully, internal calibration fixes the problem, but if it doesn’t, then your machine probably has a bad media sensor. Over time, the sensor will get gummed up with dust and paper lint, which will prevent it from seeing the labels. So, check your sensor and gently clean any debris away with a canned air blower.
When you do this, there’s a chance you won’t be able to find your media sensor. In this case, you will need to have it replaced to get your printer working again.
Need More Assistance or Help with Another Problem?
We hope we were able to help you resolve one or more of these problems today. If your Zebra label printer is still not printing correctly, we’re here for you.
Direct Barcode Printer Repair is a family-owned national service center that specializes in fixing label printers from Zebra and other top brands. You can ship your printer to us from anywhere in the country, and we’ll fix it and get it back to you as quickly as possible. We can complete most repairs within one business day!
Please call us at 815-338-2600 or visit our contact page to schedule service.