The story

My Epson R3880 17 inch printer is approaching 3 years old and about 3 months ago I started to notice something strange happening whilst printing with Photo Black (PK) ink.

I was getting faint horizontal lines appearing which immediately made me run a nozzle check and to my surprise, the PK nozzle checks were showing broken lines. After three consecutive head cleans, nothing changed.

The status monitor on the printer lcd display was showing that the PK ink cartridge was 73% full. I decided to change the PK cartridge for a new one and I was shocked to see that when I removed the cart from the printer it was so light, it actually weighed 60g despite the status monitor showing 73% full.

Fast forward a few weeks and after quite a bit of printing for an exhibition, the same happened again, the status monitor was showing 72% but yet the cartridge was nearly empty.

Poking round online, I found at least three more people complaining of the same issue, some were saying faulty chips and some were saying faulty heads. After speaking at great lengths with Epson UK support, they came to the conclusion that the Ink switching mechanism was at fault and was in need of replacing at around £540.

As the printer was deemed  beyond economical to repair, I decided that I had nothing to lose by stripping the printer down and taking a look at this ink change mechanism.

Epson R3880 Strip down

The initial strip down of the Epson R3880 was fairly straight forward, the side panels, top assy came away pretty easy after figuring out which screws to remove.

After the top cover and side panels were removed, this gave me good access to the capping station, printer head manifold cover, and head wiper blade.

I had decided at this point that I was not going to remove the printer head because any misalignment upon fitting would cause even further issues. The head manifold cover was only fitted on with two screws and after this was removed I had full access to the ink change mechanism and removing a further two screws gave me access to the  ink ports on top of the head.

After removing the ink change unit and dampers, I was quite surprised to see just how clean everything appeared to be. I started to examine just how this ink change switch which Epson told me was at fault.

The Epson R3880 printer only has 8 ink ports despite the fact that it has 9 cartridges. The Matte Black and Photo Black share the same port and is switched via a mechanical cam device which is operated by a worm driven motor system.

The more I looked at the ink change switch, the more I was beginning to doubt the diagnosis about it been at fault.

I then proceeded to remove the damper assy from the top of the print head which gave me clear access to all 8 ports. I cleaned each port with a cotton bud which had been soaked in Windex. The next stage was to clean out the Black and yellow ports with Windex. The reason for attacking the yellow port was because I was also starting to see some contamination of black ink in the yellow channel.

Cleaning The Ink Ports With Windex

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I pushed about 1ml of Windex from a syringe through the yellow and black ports, pushing and pulling at the same time. I did this several times and as I was pulling from the yellow port, I was shocked to actually see black ink been sucked back up the syringe. I repeated the exercise until I no longer saw any black ink appearing in the syringe.

Cleaning The Capping Station

Whilst the printer was in this state, it seemed a good idea to clean other areas of the printer which was not easily accessible when the cover was in place. I injected Windex on to both capping station pads and left them to gradually drain away into the maintenance tank. I repeated this until both pads turned a white colour which told me they were fairly clean at this point.

I finished off by cleaning the rubber rim of the capping station which pushes up against the head when it is parked.

Cleaning The Wiper Blade

Adjacent to the capping station is a rubber wiper blade that periodically wipes excess ink from the head. This wiper blade was quite badly built up with ink so I cleaned it thoroughly with a cotton bud soaked in Windex.

Time To Test.

After putting the components back together, I attached the lcd control module and ran a nozzle check. Yikes, all the channels were more or less missing on the check, understandable I guess having removed the dampers and injecting Windex into the ink ports.

I folded up some kitchen paper, soaked it in Windex and left it under the head for about 30 minutes. The paper towel was saturated with ink after I removed it. I then proceeded to do a head clean through the printer software utility and after one clean, all channels were showing perfect.

Test Prints

I ran about 10 test prints through it, colour and black and white and all were 100% perfect. Although it;s still early days, compared to this morning its looking very promising, (touch wood and fingers crossed)


Although I appear to have no black ink in the yellow channel anymore, I still cannot explain how it got there in the first place. Also, why the status monitor was showing 73% full on the PK cart when in fact it was empty is still a mystery.

Only time will tell as to whether I have actually revived the printer 100% but the tests done so far indicate that I am once again back up and printing with the Epson R3880.

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1 thought on “Epson R3880 Leaking Black Ink”

  1. I have exactly the same problem on my epson r3000. After reading this article I will do the same strip down and clean. The underlying problem is still the epson design with the photo black and matt black change requirement.
    Keep up the good work.

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