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Budget monochrome laser printer, released in 1996.

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Why is my printed page gray with barely readable text?

My print looks like this:

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HP LaserJet 5M page

Note the background is gray and the text is barely readable. I have a new toner cartridge (does the same thing with my old toner cart too)

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Reference this: Wikipedia - Laser Printing

The problem you are encountering is the failure of the charged toner particles from jumping from the drum to your paper. This is where a positively charged "transfer roller’ or wire is used to alter the drums charge has failed.

The other possibility is the fuser roller is not heating up so the toner is not being melted to the paper. If you can smear the print then thats your problem.

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It's possible the transfer roller is going out, but that's usually only a problem once you get to the point it's a high page count example. The 4/5/4000 series run for years easily, but they end up with potentially costly repairs once you get to that point. Since these are all old it's more likely now but you need to use it in a commercial environment (and have multiple owners) to get there, typically.

I don't know if the OP has the JetDirect ethernet card (usually designated with MN on "Mac PostScript" models), so finding it may be a pain. Shouldn't be hard to locate one for the LJ 5, but it's not ideal if the OP can grab it locally. If the OP doesn't have the aforementioned card, it can probably be done with an M68K/early PPC Mac and OS8/9 (or even a Win9x system) locally. The problem is not everyone has an old Mac with classic MacOS around (or an old PC), which is almost certainly a must since Classic Mode may not work and Rosetta definitely won't (and on the PC side, it's almost certainly needed because the EWS may need a Win9x specific file). Either way, it needs to have Apple Serial or Parallel due to the age of the printer. On the Mac side, a G3 Wallstreet is probably the OP's best bet to grab it locally.

It isn't impossible, but it's not as likely as the fuser.

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Fuser is worn out or you’re using an old toner cartridge. Since you’ve already tried 2 carts, it is probably a bad fuser.

Sadly, this part was made obsolete many years ago so you need to buy a rebuilt one and it may be as much as a whole new printer :-(. Unless it’s one of the few low page count ones left, this may not be worth pursuing further. Since these are so old, find out how many pages it has logged and make the call yourself (this is more easily said then done without the Ethernet card. This will be a pain to do without an old Serial Mac with OS8/9). If it’s high mileage (200k+), expect to need to change out a *lot* more then just the fuser; this may total it out. Watch this video to see how to do the fuser swap.

If the printer is totaled out due to the page count or parts cost, find a LJ 4250/4300 (11x17 compatible 4200 series). It’s much newer and it carries the million page endurance of the 4000 series but you need to replace the plastic swing plate gear (or assembly) as it has a tendency to wear out earlier then the rest of the printer. If you don’t want to do that job, Printer Techs sells them with the replacement gear done for you but their repaired printers are pricey compared to others who ignore the problem. That said, these pre-2007 machines are so much better then the more modern ones because they don’t have as many electronic failures as the new ones. These old printers are the last of their kind.

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light さん、ありがとうございました!
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