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tkerschenFlag for United States of America

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Oiling a Lexmark dot-matrix printer

We have a couple of old Lexmark 2500+ series dot-matrix printers still in service that are used to produced shipping labels, one or two or ten at a time. These printers have a horizontal metal shaft and the printhead slides back and forth on that shaft, driven by a motor and cogged belt. One of these printers has started to malfunction and as best I can tell it's because the printhead/shaft mechanism is in need of some lubrication. If you slide the printhead manually, you can feel resistance. Cleaning the shaft with rubbing alcohol seems to provide a temporary fix. Once upon a time, I was told that printers of this type should never be oiled as it would ruin the bearings in the printhead mechanism. However, according to the service manual on this Lexmark this one should be lubricated when certain parts are replaced, including the "oil felt (carrier block)". It further goes on to say that only mineral oil based lubricants should be used and gives a Lexmark part number 1280443 and these approved equivalents: Mobil DTE27, Shell Tellus 100, Fuchs Renolin MR30. My questions are, should I be lubricating this printer even though I'm not replacing any parts? Secondly, I'm having difficulty finding the specified lubricants in any size other than 5 gallon containers, costing over $100 each. These all appear to be "anti-wear hydraulic oils". Am I obsessing too much trying to find the exact spec oil or can I get by with something off the shelf, as long as it's mineral oil?
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Cleaning with Isopropyl Alcohol is fine to clean, but that removes lubricants.

Best to use what the manufacturer says, but you don't need gallons of it.

 "oil felt (carrier block)"   <--- This is probably what you need to oil so it can oil the shaft.

Mineral oil is OK, or machine oil (hardware stores have this) but never vegetable oil compounds.
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Dr. Klahn

I would be inclined to use WD-40 as that is a very light oil.  3-in-1 would also be a good choice if not overdone.

But the thing about lubricating printers is ... when it gets to the point where the printer needs lubrication then you have to start keeping an eye on it.  Lubricants love paper dust and any other kind of dust, and it does not take long for a buildup of gray crud to appear.  This has two effects -

a) It pulls lubricant away from the moving parts and into the crud
b) The wad of abrasive paper dust causes other problems

Paper dust is quite abrasive and it must be cleaned out regularly and diligently.  As it is getting harder to find replacement parts (and replacement printers) for these legacy dot-matrix printers, they should be nursed along with as much care as possible until you are finally forced to some other printer by lack of parts or replacement units.
Starting on page 6-1, the Service Manual tells you where and how to lubricate your printer. Use mineral oils, and only at the points shown in the manual. It also shows recommended lubricant brands.
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I gave up trying to find a small quantity of the recommended oils online and picked up some 3 in 1 oil at Home Depot and put some on this AM. It printed a string of 20 labels without a hiccup. We'll see how it does over time. The manual diagram seems to indicate that you can rotate the print-head on the shaft to access the "felt". This is not the case. I just tilted the printer up, put some oil on the carrier shaft and worked the print-head back and forth through the oil. Then tilted the other end of the printer up and repeated, in an effort to get oil on both sides of the print-head carrier.
Please keep us posted
actually, you could have looked up the kind of garage that uses this kind of oil, and buy a small quantity
No complaints since I oiled the printer, so I'm going with the 3 in 1 oil as the solution. Thank you everyone.
Thank you, everyone.

remember, you wont't see all effects until months later, if there are any