What causes the 'Remove and check color cartridge' message?

Posted on 2005-03-21
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
What conditions give rise to the message "Remove and check color cartridge" on the screen of my HP T45 OfficeJet Printer/Scanner/FAX machine?  I.e., what sensors are being monitored by the printer's software?
Question by:EDC
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 13598947
it should be the ink level sensor in the cartridge

Expert Comment

ID: 13600607
Remember to check the contacts, both on the printer side and on the cartridge. Broken, missing or dirty contacts will results in all sorts of different error messages, as the software will not be able to query the cartridge status correctly.


Expert Comment

ID: 13601240
Try cleaning the contacts on both the cartidge and the carriage. Use warm distilled water and cotton swab. Distilled water gets rid of the pesky minierals that don't need to be on your contacts.

Are these new cartridges of refilled/refurbished?  There are also sensors internal to the cartridge to determine fluid level, for obvious reasons can't be checked. These may stop functioning properly after sitting for a time as the ink dries and does not dissolve. giving the indication ink at the top and bottom of the cartidge and nothing in the middle. Shake the cartidge vigorously  to over come the baffles. This may help clear the "clog" at the sensors.
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LVL 13

Accepted Solution

Watzman earned 2000 total points
ID: 13607521

Each nozzle of the printhead consists of a chamber with a hole in one side and a thin film resistor forming another side of the chamber.  To fire the ink from that nozzle, the resistor is heated so that it causes the ink to expand, forcing a droplet of ink through the tiny hole (the nozzle).  A modern inkjet printhead can have a couple hundred of these nozzles.  The firing rate is in the range of up to thousands of droplets per second.  The droplet size is as low as 4 picoliters.  The technology, when you really get down into the details, is really quite amazing.

The message that you are getting means that the printer is seeing some of nozzles as "open" -- as if the resistor has "blown out" and no longer completes an electrical circuit.

There are basically two likely causes:  First, the resistors ARE blown out, and the printhead is defective.  Or, second, the contacts between the printhead and the printer are dirty, breaking the circuit (but nothing irreversible has happened).

You need to clean the contacts.  Turn the printer off, and disconnect both power and the USB cable.  Remove the printhead.  Get a box of "alchohol wipes" (the kind diabetics use to clean their skin when they give themselves an insulin shot) at a drugstore and use one of those to clean the contacts on the printer.  Also clean the contacts on the printhead (keep the printhead in it's normal orientation while doing this).  Let the alcohol dry (just a minute or so) and then see if the problem is resolved.  The contacts do manage to get ink on them over time, sometimes invisible but you can see it on the wipe after you clean them (if you do see it, clean them again, you are not done until the wipe comes off clean).

If the problem persists, the cartridge itself may be bad.  People who refill cartridges need to know that the ink is a critical component in many ways, and that one thing it does is act as the "coolant" for the resistors in the individual print nozzles.  If you run an ink cartride completely dry, any subsequent printing WILL "burn out" the resistors in the individual nozzles, because they will have no "coolant" (ink).  The printer normally has ***NO*** way to monitor the ink level of a refilled cartridge, so you cannot depend on getting any message from the printer, and any messages that you do get, whether they suggest that the cartridge is full or empty, are meaningless.  So if you are using refilled cartridges, and plan to refill them more than once, you need to do it before they get completely empty, or ink supply not withstanding, the cartridge will be permanently destroyed anyway.

There is no ink level sensor in the cartridge.  Most commonly, on a new cartridge, the cartrige contains a fuse that is blow the instant that the printer is turned on with the new cartrige installed.  However, the fact that the fuse was present tells the printer "this is a new cartridge".  The printer knows how many "droplets" a new cartridge nominally can fire, and it "estimates" the remaining ink level by simply keeping track of and counting the number of times that it's fired the nozzles of that cartrige.  On some printers with changeable cartridges (for example those with swappable black and photo cartridges), the cartridge has a ROM that is "readable" by the printer, and that contains the cartridge serial number, and the printer "remembers" the count and estimated ink supply for the last several cartridges that it has seen by serial number (usually only the last 2 or 3).  There are a few other schemes used also, but none of them rely on a true ink level sensor in the cartridge that is readable by the printer.

Expert Comment

ID: 14305061
I have done all you suggested and and put a new HP cartridge in and I still get the message every couple of days on my HP 5510xi.  Opening and closing the door clears the message and it prints normally for another day or two.  Any other suggestions other than replacing the unit?
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 14305643
If you have not done so, I'd call HP.  It sounds like dirty contacts, but you have cleaned them.  The contact block could be defective.

Expert Comment

ID: 14417635
Eureka!!!!  I have stumbled onto the answer.

After a number of weeks of this happening and several troubleshooting sessions with HP techs, one additional solution for 'Remove and check the color cartridge' is .....  drumroll .... change the BLACK cartridge.  Silly me, I changed the color cartridge and got upset when it didn't make any difference.  Then, the black cartridge totally ran out of ink, so I changed it, and the problem is gone.


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