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Copiers are the bane and boon of all offices. Your love-hate relationship is based solely on the quality of its output. Sometimes, more often than not, a copy quality problem can be easily solved.

The first step is to understand the problem you are having. To do this you must ask yourself a number of questions. Run five copies of the same document, all in one sequence. Then line the copies up and take a good hard look at them.

Answer the following questions:

Is there a line running from one edge of the sheet to the other, either left to right or top to bottom?

If there is a spot, or number of spots on the copy, do they show up in the exact same position on every sheet or do they seem to move from sheet to sheet?

Is the copy shadowy where it should be clean?

Does it look like toner is being dropped randomly on the sheet, with little star patterns of apparent drips?

Now, having answered these questions, it is time for solutions.

If the copy has a thin line edge to edge you need to check what is called the fuser roller. Just before the paper exits the machine it goes through two rollers. The top one (at least) is heated. Look at these rollers, they look like long cylinders, and see if there is either a scratch or a bubble on the roller. If so, you need to call for service, and have the roller replaced. If not, then more than likely you need a new drum. Some machines have the drum in an easy to replace cartridge. If yours is like that, then replace the cartridge. If not, then you must call for service, and have the drum replaced.

If you have a moving spot on your copies, the above recommendations apply. If the spot is always in the same place, then there is something on the glass. I can't tell you how many times I've had clients swear the glass was clean, only to locate the spot once I got to the machine. Trust me, if the spot isn't moving, clean your glass. Use isopropyl alcohol to clean a particularly stubborn or seemingly invisible mark. It IS there. Trust me. This is a primary law of copier technicians. Spot doesn't move? Clean the glass. Every time. The only exception is if the original is smaller than normal causing the copier to take an image of the cover. Try using a number of blank sheets to completely cover the glass and see what happens. If the spot goes away, then you just need to be more careful of how you place your documents. The machine could also be out of adjustment. Call for service in this instance.

If the background of your copies is shadowy, then the machine needs a cleaning. Call for service. In the meantime, you can adjust the machine's brightness level manually. Check your service manual, some machines will allow a more permanent adjustment, giving you time to wait for a more convenient day to have the machine serviced.

If it appears that toner is spraying onto the copies, check the waste toner bottle. More than likely it is full, causing the toner to spill out onto the sheets as they go past. If the bottle isn't overfull, then you have a serious problem and need to call for service.

Fax machines have their own set of rules. If your incoming documents are fine, but you are getting complaints about sloppy looking outgoing faxes, then you need to look at what is called the scanner. The scanner will appear to you as a thin strip of glass with LEDs underneath. Simply take a soft cloth with some isopropyl alcohol on it, and wipe away the ink and white out that is stuck to the scanner. This will solve your problems. Most other problems concerning received document quality can be solved by replacing the cartridge.

Printer's are the simplest of all. I would first recommend using a can of high pressure air to blow out the interior of the printer. After that, take the inkjet cartridge out of the machine and gently clean the bottom, where the ink comes out, with, you guessed it, isopropyl alcohol on a soft cloth.

Laser printers are a bit different. They also have a fuser unit so you can apply the same procedures as mentioned above for copiers with edge to edge lines or moving spots.

A final point. Always follow use of isopropyl alcohol on any glass surface with glass cleaner. This will remove any streaks left behind by the alcohol.