Monday, September 13, 2010

Toner ripoffs on the Brother HL-4040CDN

I bought a Brother HL-4040CDN color laser printer about two months ago. Knowing I had a whole book worth of proofreading to do, I knew a lot of printing was coming. And the way my publisher marks things up, I need to see some color on each sheet to confirm formatting is right; some words are highlighted in red or blue. We're talking a few words on each page, typically.

After exactly 2310 color pages printed, the printer declared that all three toner cartridges (CMK) were empty. This was of course nonsense; there's no way I burned through that much color toner, or that all three went on the same page. This model has three rounds of defense mechanisms against using cartridges longer than they want you to:

1) Page counters per toner cartridge. This what I ran into. To fix, open the bay where the toner is stored. Hold down the Cancel button and hit Reprint. This will bring up a maintenance menu. Scroll through all 8 entries there, selecting them with the right arrow to reset the counts. Close the front again, wait a bit for it to recalibrate, and you're past this problem. As I hadn't used even a tiny fraction of the real toner yet, this is all it took for me.

2) Optical sensors for the amount of toner left. Once toner gets low, these will trigger. You can likely still print for some time before it actually runs out though. To defeat, pull out each toner cartridge. On each side, there will be a clear, round plastic window that you can see the colored toner through. Cover these with something opaque, like black electrical or duct tape. Then run through the page count reset procedure. You should be able to print again. If you notice a color starting to print less accurately, you might get some more life out of it with the usual "shake the cartridge" trick. But you don't want to print too many pages with your printer in that state, once it really has run out.

3) Gears that advance forward as you use the toner, to set how much voltage the cartridge needs to provide to print with the remaining amount in there. You definitely need to reset these if are refilling the cartridge; see refill instructions for details. I'll have to see how many pages I've printed before I reach this point before I decide if I feel this is a good idea or not. I'm not going to refill the toner, but if I suspect there's still more in there I might try it. If I really am out of toner, I don't have a problem buying more; I just don't want to get blatantly ripped off.

There is an excellent albeit rambling forum discussion covering this issue for a number of Brother printers you may find useful for additional details here. Thanks to them and to Amazon reviewer Sang Joon Lee, who turned me onto this idea before I'd even bought the printer, while researching whether it was a good idea or not. If some playing with the service menu and electrical tape is all I need to make the unit economical, that doesn't bother me if everything else about it is OK. And that's been the case so far. This printer doesn't have great print quality like the old, dead QMS it's replacing did, but it's completely acceptable for the sort of general business printing I do in color. And it works great under Linux.


Jignesh Shah said...

I totally agree with your notes on Brother printer.. Recently I had done the similar things with my Brother printer. Also I figured when you are not using the printer switch it off since it seems to have a habit of starting itself up and clean the cartridges which uses a bit of ink in all of them and so even if you dont use the printer the inks will go away in few months.

Greg Smith said...

The model I have is a laser, so I don't have that problem at least. The QMS color laser I used to have here was pretty bad about taking a long time to warm up, and I got the impression it burned through some consumables while doing that. But the HL-4040CDN I've started leaving on most of the time, it comes out of sleep pretty fast without doing anything I believe is draining toner. Really no complaints other than this weird page count limiter thing, and the printer was not that expensive at all if caught on sale. You just have to know all these consumables tricks to keep it economical after that.

fox said...

Excellent information. I had no idea it was so easy or that it was safe to do it. .thanks for sharing. refill toner

Paul Howard said...


Thanks for your lifesaver post! My CMY color cartridges all had very little use - max of 254 copies on them, in about 9 months of service. Only about 10 pages were anything resembling a full color page. Your reset suggestion was the charm!

Many thanks,
Paul (Oak Hill, VA)

Greg Smith said...

Update on this after a few more months of moderate volume printing. After about 3800 pages, just resetting the page counters stopped being enough for me. It gets to where it will print a single page, and then stop saying it's out of black toner. This is about how many pages I expected to get out of this cartridge before it died, so I don't mind getting a replacement now. When I get more time I may play with the tape covering trick, mainly to turn the run-down toner into a potentially useful back-up. But just resetting the counters has been enough to push this out to a reasonable lifespan.

Joshua said...

Thanks for this update. I purchased a 4040CDN to print notes out for medical school, and this thing ran out of ink a lot faster than I thought possible. Will definitely be using the reset counter trick to keep my pocket a little more full.

Herb said...

I finally had success!

First, tried only the 'Cancel Reprint' button solution - no success.

Second, I taped up the TWO* windows - no success. I capitalized TWO because, it seems, many instructions don't specifically mention TWO windows - one on either side.One window is easy to get to but for the other window it was easier to take the two Phillips screws out to remove the cover (that's the cover with the plastic gears underneath it.Looks scary at first what with all the gears, if they fall off but don't worry, it's easy to put the gears back into their holders, especially with internet pictures showing you how they line up with each other. Having never done this before, out of the 3 color cartridges I 'revived' only one gear got loose, piece of cake to slide it back into it's plastic hub.

Third I set the spring in the other notch, the shallower of the TWO notches. This was frustrating at first, mainly because I did not find any description for the fact that one has to turn the gear BACKWARDS also known as COUNTER CLOCKWISE.Having been no at this, not being sure which way to turn this gear, was the hardest thing of the whole procedure as the gear isn't easy to turn. However, this also got very easy on the subsequent 2 color cartridges.

I finally succeeded in reviving all three color cartridges but it took all 3 steps.

In hindsight, this procedure was a piece of cake. The first cartridge probably took 5 minutes. the last two cartridges probably took a minute each.

Hope this helps those of us who get slightly intimated by reading the instructions.

I definitely want to thank the people who brought this knowledge to us in the first place.

Stefan Pettersson said...

Thank you! You "saved" my day...No it is "full" again....Brother HL4040-CN.

Stefan in Sweden

Anonymous said...

THIS WORKED!!! Toner Life End my butt!! THANK YOU!! Printing continues!

JPMorgan said...

Any experience or savings suggestions on DRUM life? I am just over 15,500 pages and I am down to 8% of drum life. Not sure if there is any work around or solution, but would love ideas, as the replacement cost is $100 for non-OEM. At that price, I can sell this and buy a excellent all-in-one color laser for $250.

Greg Smith said...

I wouldn't bother replacing a drum in this printer. If you got over 15K pages out of it, I wouldn't put another penny into one really. I have final tallies on mine. 12185 pages, 9889 color/2296 B&W. I went through 3 Black/Magenta toner cartridges, 2 Cyan/Yellow. Remaining drum life is 4815, which suggests the targeted drum life is 17,000 pages. That's probably another fake number, not a real service lifetime.

The biggest long-term issue with this model seem to be that the toner sometimes leaks out. I've had that happen on 3 cartridges so far. Right now it's such a mess that I can't get clean pages to print anymore, there's just too much colored dust inside to get it all out anymore.

Replacement printer is a Brother HL-4570CDW, so my cycle will begin again.