Ink Jet Printer Cartridge Rip-Off? Brother 3820CN won't print without removing cartridge that still has ink

I was going to write something nice about Brother recently because I continue to find their 3820CN to be an eminently useful machine. It makes good copies and does printing, scanning, and faxing over my home network. It has a very reliable paper feed which is unusual at this price point. Furthermore, Brother recently repaired my 3820CN free of charge even though it was, strictly speaking, out of warranty. However, something happened today that needs to be addressed.

The control panel told me the Cyan cartridge was empty (the printer has cartridges for Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow). I took the Cyan cartridge out and found it was not empty. I put it back in but could not get the machine to accept that there was still ink to be used up. This means I paid for ink that was not used. Furthermore, when any one of the four cartridges is empty the 3820CN will not print. It won't even print in black, as far as I can tell, if a color cartridge is reported to be empty. This means faxing is impaired because the fax confirmation will not print (even though it is a black and white document).

Now, I am not accusing Brother of anything, not yet. I am prepared to think this was an isolated incident, not a devious corporate plot to sell more ink. I have used Brother printers since 1982 (yep, way back in the good ole daisy wheel days). I will hold off any sort of judgment until I get a response to the letter I am sending them. But I am blogging what happened in case anyone else has had the same problem. Please let me know.

Meanwhile I am sending the 'not empty' cartridge to Brother to ask for a refund. And I will update this post with some pictures as soon as I can.


  1. There is a lot of history here with the other printer manufacturers...

    Epson lost a class action suit on exactly this issue recently:

    "Among other things, Plaintiffs allege that Epson inkjet printers and inkjet cartridges indicate that cartridges are “empty” and suspend printer function, even though substantial ink remains."

    Details are here.

  2. I have the same problem with an MFC-210C. I'm wondering if this can be hacked, it's an outrage.

  3. Found this very interesting page: I tried it right away, and it works!

  4. I have a 420CN, which up until this point was the apple of my office...even with the occasional burps it is still easily the best printer I have ever had. Then it started lying to me about my ink. I learned about the reset codes from the fixyourownprinter link above, about to try another one...

  5. I have the same printer. 3820CN. Mine does the exact same thing. I found this link trying to find solutions to my problem. What's even more interesting thing is that this printer does some sort of automatic cleaning on its own when not in use. Sometimes they turn on on its own and start cleaning. As a result, even though I hardly use this machine, my ink runs out all the time. Wish there was some sort of disable code or something. frustrated... no more Brother printer in the future.

  6. We have a Brother IntelliFAX model 1940CN and it does the same thing. I was happy to find this site to add my complaint. This is a total rip off and I would like to help in any way to bring this to the publics attention. Let's use the law firm that nailed Epson.

  7. You already mention printer is an out of warranty,I think service people are cheated you. my suggestion is you better visit Authorized service center or buy a new printer.
    Social Media Marketing - 520857180.038154

  8. I have Brother DCP 350C all in one printer, as soon as one ink cartridge is empty the printer will not allow me to print even if I want to print in black or gray scale which still happens to be full. I believe this to be a money making scheme by Brother and I am very anoyed by this as I have plent of black ink which is all i need. Pure Robery. The slogan by Brother "at your side" is very accurate, at your side robbing your wallet!! OOO Brother!


    You SHOULD accuse BROTHER...there is absolutely NO GOOD REASON why one shouldn't be able to send a fax/scan to a memory card when it claims (out of ink -- which is another issue in/of itself). Try the great!

  10. I have a MFC-490CW that uses the LC61 cartridges. These cartridges seem to be designed specifically to foul us up on the black tape "fix," but I found a way to do it anyway. Please forgive the crudeness of the terminology I am going to use, because I can't think of a better way to describe the process.

    These LC61 cartridges have a rigid plastic "foreskin" that has to be pulled back in order to get at the spot where the black tape goes. When the cartridge is inserted into the printer, this "foreskin" is automatically pushed back on the cartridge; so to do the "fix," YOU pull it back and hold it back, or maybe use a strong enough rubber band to hold it back. This exposes a clear plastic section that appears inside a square "picture frame" when you view the cartridge from the side. Within this clear projection you can see a little black "flag" and/or the actual ink level that moves up and down when you tilt the cartridge forward and backward.

    You need to cut a little rectangle of black plastic tape to press onto one side of that clear projection so that the light sensor can't "see" through the clear projection. I cut the tape to size with scissors, then stick the little rectangle of tape to the tip of the scissors blade to make it easier to position the tape on the right spot. Then I use the scissors tip to help me press it down. Press it onto the clear projection firmly in such a way that the tape doesn't inhibit the sliding of the "foreskin." Then carefully re-insert the cartridge into the printer, close the ink cartridge door, and the ink level indicator will immediately show it as full. Hallelujah!

  11. Thank you for mdeke's comments. My 490CW had the exact same problem: cartridge still had ink, but the stupid printer kept telling me I need to have it replaced. After reading mdeke's comments, I took a closer look, then I realize that my 490CW was not on a "perfectly" horizontal service. That makes the stupid "ink level detecting" reader think the cartridge is empty because all inks are tilted to one side. After using two cabinet bumps to level up the front, all inks flow to "the other" side, and now all cartridges are showing 100% fulled.

    Thank you mdeke!

  12. Hello

    Make Money From Your Blog

    We offer you an opportunity to make some decent money from your website.
    - 5% - 25% Commission.
    - 10-90 Day Cookie Period.
    - 100,000+ Items
    - Average order value of $30.00

    It costs nothing to get started with the marketing program. In fact, as an partner affiliate, you will be paid commissions on ALL sales and accessory orders generated through your website.

    You can contact our account representative with any questions, comments, or concerns; Please sign up now and be a part of this wonderful, invite only program.

    Make Money From Your Blog

  13. Mdeke, You are the best, THANK YOU!

    At first, I loved my Brothers 490cw, great deal, great pictures, wireless and I got it for a fantastic price... a great machine for one's money BUT I started hating one huge problem, which seems to be the #1 issue; the printer will simply not work if you are low on one of the separate ink cartridges, even if you only want to print something in black, if one of the color inks are low, you're out of luck! On top of that, it will not even Fax, which is just insane! Low ink, you are sh@t out of options.

    Now that Mdeke was kind enough to solve this HUGE issue, I once again love my Brothers 490.

    Btw, you can hold back the slide on the ink cartridge with an elastic as was said or you can simply pry up each end and pop-off the slide (bit easier to fit the tape over the ink window)... try it out on an empty cartridge first, very easy once you understand how it is held together.

    Thanks again Mdeke, nice work.

  14. I bought 3 MFC490CW printers 2 failed after three months of use. Brothers solution was to replace with reconditioned printers all to my disapproval. I reported the matter to BBB who also failed to solicit a suitable solution. Now out of warranty the recommendation was to use a technician whos charge is almost twice the cost of the printer. The printer is a fully loaded all-in-one with good print quality and speed, however, the mechanism to drive these features (THE PRINTHEAD) is no good. The ink is also expensive and finished very fast because the printhead cleans itself with the ink regularly (MADNESS), and cartridges with ink are said to be empty and the printer will not print. I am, therefore forced to conclude that Brother is running a money making scam - sell a product cheap and milk the consumer for ink and replacement printheads. If you google 'BROTHER MFC490CW REVIEWS' you will be shocked at the number of persons with the same problems. PLEASE!! Include me in the lawsuit - email: These big business must learn to be honest in their dealings and stop enriching themselves by cheating the consumer. NVIDIA just settled to compensate for HP, Dell and some others laptop graphic card failured.


  15. the tape thing is a pain in the butt so I just grabbed my 2$ bottle of testors black plastic model paint and painted over the clear part. I guess nail polish would probably work too.