Ten important and simple maintenance tips to keep your Zebra thermal barcode printer operational.


Keep your Zebra thermal barcode printer operational


At MultiSystems, we receive many calls constantly to our service shop for repairs that could have been easily prevented with the correct and on time maintenance. As a Zebra Premier Partner and Certified Repair Service Center, we have put together what we consider are the most important, yet simple maintenance tips for Zebra thermal barcode printers.

Tip #1: Keep the printheads clean.

One of the first failures that occurs in thermal barcode printers is due to the printheads not being cleaned regularly. A good first principle, based on experience, is to clean your printhead every time you replace the ribbon or roll of labels. This easy step can take only a minute and could reduce your costs over the life of the printer.

Simply follow the instructions in the Zebra printer User’s Manual as to the type of cleaning solvent and materials to be used for your printer model. Specific printer cleaning kits are also available through our Service Department.


Tip #2: Check your recommended Heat and Darkness Settings

If you consider you are consuming too many printheads more than often, you may want to verify your printer’s User’s Manual for the recommended heat and darkness settings based on your application. An incorrect setting will reduce the printhead lifespan and could cost you more over the lifespan of the printer. If you are not sure of the setting you need, contact us, and one of our certified personnel will help you with the installation and setting.




Tip #3: Keep Clean the Media Sensor

The Media Sensor (commonly known also as the Label Sensor) is the component inside the thermal barcode printer that insures that the space between the label and the printhead is constant. Dust and particulate on the Media Sensor can disrupt and stop your printing operations.
It is recommended to use air dusters used to clean electronic equipment to give a couple of air blasts to the media sensor. This will help to remove any dust residue from the previous roll of label paper. This can be done just before you put your new roll.


See how to: 


Tip #4: Use good quality ribbons

Unfortunately, low quality ribbons from unknown sources are not manufactured to the exact wax or resin specifications for your printer and could cause wax build-up on the platen rollers and assembles. This build-up will lower your printing quality, which can cause barcode and label content compliance issues.
However, if you are using a direct thermal application, which don’t uses a thermal ribbon, and you keep having problems with a defective printhead, you may consider to re-evaluate your application by using a better quality label paper or changing a thermal transfer printer. Using a smooth material like the ribbon between the printhead and the label, the paper does not rub directly against the printhead, reducing the friction.


Read More: What To Look When Selecting a Thermal Barcode Printer

Tip #6: Use a slightly wider ribbon.

When using a thermal transfer application, a good barcode printing practice is to purchase a ribbon that is slightly wider, than the actual label. This extra width will help to lubricate the printhead, extending it’s life.
Contact us and a Media Specialist will help you select the best barcode materials suited for your application, guiding you through your layout and design specifications


Tip #7: Use only good quality label paper

Sometimes, low cost roll of labels and paper hide extra costs, as they are often with a rougher grain, causing unnecessary wear on the printheads, reducing the lifespan and requiring more often replacements. As printheads are moreexpensive, it is recommended to spend a few cents more in the paper rather than the printhead


Tip #8: Perform a PAUSE Test

If you notice missing content or information on your label, there is a chance that a print element in the printhead may be burnt. To check, this self-test can be used to provide the test labels required when making adjustments to the printer’s mechanical assemblies or to determine if any printhead elements are not working.

To perform a PAUSE self-test, complete these steps:

  1.  Turn Off (O) the printer
  2. Press and hold PAUSE while turning the power On (I). Hold PAUSE until the first control panel light turns off.
    • The initial self test prints 15 labels at the printer’s slowest speed, and then automatically pauses the printer. Each time PAUSE is pressed, an additional 15 labels print.
    • While the printer is paused, pressing CANCEL alters the self test. Each time PAUSE is pressed, 15 labels print at 6 in. (152 mm) per second.
    • While the printer is paused, pressing CANCEL again alters the self test a second time. Each time PAUSE is pressed, 50 labels print at the printer’s slowest speed.
    • While the printer is paused, pressing CANCEL again alters the self test a third time. Each time PAUSE is pressed, 50 labels print at 6 in. (152 mm) per second.
    • While the printer is paused, pressing CANCEL again alters the self test a fourth time. Each time PAUSE is pressed, 15 labels print at the printer’s maximum speed.
    • To exit this self test at any time, press and hold CANCEL.
Zebra Pause Test label

Zebra Pause Test Example


Keep in mind that printheads are considered a consumable part, and they must be replaced. This replacement is typically performed by a certified technician.


Tip #9: Keep an eye on Error Alerts

Remote alerts give you the ability to proactively manage your Zebra printer. Zebra provides several tools to monitor and manage your printers like ZebraNet Bridge and ZebraLink. These tools help you monitor and control your barcode printers and to document the alerts on a log file.


Tip #10: Keep your printer clean; inside and outside

Clean your Zebra printer often to keep your Zebra printer running optimally. By not cleaning it, your printer and sensitive components are exposed to getting debris and particulate, which can cause problems.

  • To clean the outside surfaces: Use a lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasives and harsh chemicals or solvents. A mild detergent can be used for external residues.
  • Always inspect and double check the interior of the printer after changing rolls. Remove and clean any particulate, dust or residue of the previous roll. This excess can be removed using a soft bristle, duster or even a vacumm cleaner.
  • Remember to clean the printhead and the platen roller:
      1. Open the printhead
      2. Remove the media and ribbon (if loaded).
      3. Moisten an applicator tip with solvent and wipe along the print elements from end to end. (The print elements are on the brown strip just behind the chrome strip on the printhead.) Allow a few seconds for the solvent to evaporate.
      4. Rotate the platen roller and clean thoroughly with solvent and an applicator.
      5. Brush/vacuum any accumulated paper lint and dust away from the rollers.
      6. Reload ribbon and/or media, and close the printhead.
  • Keep Clean the Sensors. All Media, Ribbon and Label Sensors should be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure proper operation of your Zebra printer. Please refer to your Zebra.
  • Keep clean other installed accessories like the optional cutter module. If you notice that labels are not being cut properly or it jams frequently, turn off the printer and unplug. Clean the cutter blade carefully, with a cleaning solvent to remove all excess of adhesive and label debris.


Using only manufacturer’s certified parts; our technicians will quickly return your equipment to original specifications and your operations to full productivity. All maintenance service contracts provide priority to customer over those without service contract coverage.

Contact us to learn more about life-cycle support contracts to optimize your equipment.



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