Your Canon printer is capable of great quality images, with many reproducing photos as well as does the local drugstore. However, over time the print heads on Canon printers can fail, causing smeared images or none at all. Although you can sometimes clean the print heads with varying degrees of success, many times you cannot extract further service from the unit. In this case, you can replace the print head as opposed to disposing of your printer.
1Symptoms: Symptoms of a print head that needs replacement are poor print quality, no visible ink on the page after a printing sequence or a smeared mess on the page where clear printing should exist. Another sign may be the presence of a small amount of smoke caused by leaky electrical sealants. This is a result primarily from using third-party inks containing certain types of solvents. If the print head would otherwise be under warranty but these inks are detected by Canon during inspection, replacement cost is your responsibility.
2Check Your Warranty: Before purchasing a new print head, check if your existing one is under warranty. If the unit is one year old or less and you have not reached a certain number of print cycles, the unit should be covered. To check your warranty status, download or open the GARO Status Monitor software (link in Resources). This software enables advanced printer monitoring, letting you keep track of your print head's status. Locate your printer under the "Printers and Faxes" header in the Start menu. Double-click "Printer," then "Printer" | "Printing Preferences" | "Status Monitor" | "Information" | "Status Display." Allow a few seconds for the software to collect printer data. Scroll down to the "Head Lot Number" section. If the last character in the lot number is an "a" and the unit is one year old or less, you're still covered. If that character is a "b," then you are not.
3Getting a Replacement: Canon offers a wide variety of printers and accessories, so finding the model number of the right print head might initially seem challenging. Online resources like the website in the first resource below offer a database specifically for replacing print heads. Click on the series and then the name of your printer. A new page pops up informing you of the model number for the new printer. Use this information to locate the best deal on a new replacement. Remember that no retailer will accept the return of an opened print head unless the unit was damaged in shipping somehow, so make sure you perform your due diligence in selecting the right one.
4Leaky Cartridges: Canon print heads sometimes appear to fail based on the presence of a black or colored streak present on printed documents. This is not always the fault of the print head. A poor seal from one of the ink tanks where it meets the inside of the print head may cause ink to ooze out. If this is the case, swap the ink cartridge with a genuine Canon replacement. Remove the remaining ink tanks and print head from the printer. Place the print head in a shallow container with a 50/50 mix of distilled water and an ammonia-based cleaner. Use only enough to ensure the contacts on the bottom of the print head are covered. After 2 to 3 hours, gently brush the contacts with a soft-bristled brush. Return the print head to the mix for another few hours. Rinse the contacts until the water runs clear. Sit the print head on a clean, dry paper towel until it is thoroughly dry and then replace it and the cartridges back into the printer. Run a head cleaning sequence a few times through the printer until the test prints are streak-free.