Saturday, 8 March 2008

Reusing Epson 4800 Pro inkjet printer maintenance tank

When I first bought my Epson 4800 I was warned by a dealer that there was a chip on the maintenance tank and that the printer would stop working when it reached 0%, regardless of whether there was any space left in the tank. Instead of keeping a spare in stock I resolved to reuse the tank as a small contribution to not wasting the world’s resources.

The maintenance tank is the drawer in the bottom right hand corner of the printer, just below the right hand bank of ink cartridges. Its only purpose (that I can determine) is to catch the ink that is expelled from the system when the machine does nozzle cleans or purges the lines during changeovers between photo and matt inks etc, and to catch any overflow from puddle cleaning. It is simply an oblong plastic tank, filled with absorbent material covered with a removable plastic grid; and it also has a chip on it which the printer uses to keep track of how much it thinks it has filled the tank up. When it reaches 0% you need a new tank or the printer stops working, regardless of whether everything else is fine – or so I am lead to believe as I have never run it down to 0%.

Now I resent having to pay out £20 or more for the privilege of pouring expensive ink into a tank which could easily be reused, but Epson decree should be thrown away, so I decided to find a way round the system and reuse the tank.

Since I had no idea when I bought the printer how long the tank would take to fill and I had noticed that some suppliers quite often ran out of spare tanks I decided to buy a chip re-setter to make sure that I could carry on printing if need be. The easiest place for me get one was on eBay.

I reset the chip when it arrived just to check that it worked and it did. I then reset the chip when the tank was about 75% full and recently decided to reuse the tank properly. I figured that all I needed to do was take off the grid, remove and throw away the ink soaked absorbent material in the tank and replace it with something else absorbent – while I suspect that this is not strictly necessary as all that is needed is a tank to catch the ink I wanted to avoid splashes etc both during use and at changeover. After a bit of thought I decided that the easiest thing to use was nappy material, so I bought the cheapest I could find at the supermarket.

Tools and materials needed:
  • Pair of surgical gloves
  • Blunt small screwdriver
  • Chip re-setter
  • Ink tight waste disposal bag
  • Long nosed pliers
  • Clean up cloth
  • Newspaper
  • 3 nappies
The photo below shows the tank when it was taken out. I was expecting the ink to look black, but for some reason it was dark green.

Here is the process I used to refurbish and reuse the maintenance tank.
  1. First carefully prise off the plastic grid from the top of the tank using the blunt small screwdriver – it unclips at various points all around the tank.

  2. The absorbent material in the tank is tightly packed, so use the long nosed pliers to pull it out and dump it into the waste disposal bag.

  3. Clean around the inside of the tank to remove any unabsorbed ink and you should end up with an empty tank and a clean grid (see photo below).

  4. Then peel the (hopefully) waterproof outer off the nappies, otherwise the tank will not absorb much (I found that three roughly filled the tank without packing them in too tightly, but sizes will vary) and pack them into the tank. Finish off with a layer of the permeable inside of the nappy upper most in the tank – for neatness and to make sure that the nappy material does not go anywhere it shouldn’t.

  5. Clip back on the plastic grid (see photo below).

  6. Then use the chip re-setter to re-set the tank chip to 100% - in my case the spring loaded prongs need to be aligned with the contacts on the chip and gently pressed against the chip (see photo below). The LED on the top of the re-setter flashes red for a 3 or 4 seconds then turns green.

  7. Reinstall the tank into the printer.

This worked fine for me and took about half an hour the first time I tried it.


Earl said...

I was wondering about this. The more I read your site, the more I am digging it!! Excellent content on your printer. I have a chip resetter for my inkjet cartridges. I'll have to do a little research. I'm wondering if it's the same resetter for the maintenance tank. I'm going to perform this procedure on my waste ink tank soon.

Again, thanks for the great info.

Mark said...

Thanks for posting about this, I am about to do the same. I have just ordered a resetter myself for my 4800. As I have just replaced my second ink tank, I decided no more.

I find it rather upsetting that Epson has this entire "environmental" section of their website, but by design, they suggest you throw this 2 lbs of plastic, ink, and padding into a landfill. I wrote to them to see what they say about changing this completely non-green design feature.

Churchill Photographer said...


The chip re-setter I bought was for both ink carts and the maintenance tank. I have not tried it on the ink carts but I think it they are the same and if it works on one then it will work on all of them.

Peter51 said...

Hello, there is no need to buy a chip resetter for the maintenance tank. Just do the following:

Turn off printer
Hold down the three leftmost arrow buttons:
[left-arrow] [down-arrow] [up-arrow]
Turn on printer
Release buttons
New menu appears
press up/down arrows to get to the "Clear Counters" menu
press RIGHT
press up/down arrows to get to the "Maintenance Tank" menu
Clear the counter
Turn off printer.
On restarting the maintenance tank should appear 'Empty'

That's all. The tip with the diaper is great. I used so far cat litter, which worked fine for me.

jukes42 said...

I tried what peter51 said about holding down the leftmost 3 arrow buttons and all I got were "self testing" and "view counters" menus. When I looked into the Maintenance tank under "view counters" I couldn't clear the counter. It's probably really simple, but what am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Hi jukes42! When you are in "self-testing" mode press the following buttons:

3 x down
1 x menu
11 x down
2 x menu

Exit the printer and restart normally: the maintenance tank indicator shows "full", meaning empty. Tell me if it works. Good luck!

Bouquet Pools said...

I'm having the same problem as jukes42 - The self testing menu only has (2) options so pressing down 3x doesn't get you any further than pressing it once. Anyone done this successfully first hand?

Leandro said...

I have also the same problem, only 2 options down (self testing) and (view counters), any help on how to get to the "Clear Counters"? Thanks

Mark said...

My understanding is that the printer based reset procedure does not work on the x800 series printers. It did on the earlier versions.

Don said...

had this problem - but our office has both printers (older 4000 and a newer 4800). I didn't have the chip resetter - but I the tanks are the same. So I reset the 4800 tank in the 4000 printer (which the special menu selections work to clear the chip).

Photo-Tec said...

Great tip, I used TP (toilet paper) instead of nappies, I used scissors to cut the roll from the center core out to the edge in layers, then cut long strip half the roll in width and as long as the M-tank, placing them in vertical groups starting at one long-side of the inside of the tank and squeezing the layers of TP together and stuffing in more rows towards the other long side. I did this because the original absorption pads were also in vertical rows, and this may help the wicking of the used ink, over just laying in layers from the bottom up. I was able to complete the refurbished maintenance tank in less than 30 minutes, used ONE roll of TP (packed in vertical rows very tightly), and used the regular ink cartridge chip re-setter to reset the maintenance tank chip. I have a Epson Pro 4800, and the keypad sequence to reset the maintenance tank back to empty did not work on my printer, there was no way to change the numbers to ZERO once I could view them!

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Sultan said...

Guys... i dont see any "Clear counters" in the Maintainance tank menu... all i see i the counters... but no option to clear them off.

Problem is that its not currently available in-house.. and things are really urgent.
btw is there any way of resetting it by software ???

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Christian Gleissner said...

Hi Sultan, there is apparently no way to reset the counters on the Epson 4800. It worked on the older Epson 4000 model, but Epson removed this option. I am actually quite glad they did, as it means you can rely on the number of printed pages when buying a used printer. Check eBay for a chip resetter.

Good luck

Steve said...

Very Cool! I had the chip restter from the refillable ink carts (all black for screen print film). Being t-shirt printers I used an old long sleeve t-shirt rolled up so it would semi fill the tank, reset the chip and it was yesterdays news.

Thanks for the killer tip!

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