In recent months, we’ve received a number of support requests for SmartSource check scanners in which users have reported “paper jams” or feeding issues that turned out to be something entirely different.

Of course, when your scanner gives you a warning message that looks like there’s a paper jam, in 99% of cases the cause is, in fact, simply a paper jam. Occasionally, though, it’s a different problem that can be solved with a simple cleaning.

SmartSource Pro Cleaning

More often than not, repeated “paper jams” are a false alarm caused by accumulated dirt or ink on the camera that cause the scanner to stop. Simply cleaning the scanner can solve this problem.

To the user who sees that message, it looks like the scanner is just “stuck” and won’t run. Often times, though, the root cause is that there’s ink smeared on the camera glass. That causes the scanner to think there’s something stuck in the track when there actually isn’t, and it won’t run.

This particular issue starts out looking like a ordinary jam – basically, the scanner keeps getting “stuck” – and the usual remedy is to hold down the power button for two seconds, which in turn runs the motors and expels most jammed documents. For especially stubborn jams, sometimes it’s necessary to open the side cover and pull out the document (or pieces of the document) by hand.

But what if you’ve tried both of these fixes, there’s no paper in the track, and the scanner is still acting like it’s jammed? In that case, a cleaning may be in order.

SmartSource scanners use four different sensors to figure out where the paper is during the feeding process – one in the input hopper, two right after the feeder intake mechanism, and the camera itself. To make a long story short, when any of these sensors become obscured with too much dust or debris, it can register as a document stuck in the track.

When this problem occurs, the most common error messages you’ll see are “LE (leading edge) arrived too early at rear image camera,” or “LE arrived too early at front image camera.” In plain English, this means that when the feed mechanism is supposed to be pulling a new document in, the camera is detecting a piece of paper already present toward the end of the track, so it shuts down to avoid feeding two pieces of paper on top of each other. When it’s not explained by an actual paper jam, try running a Digital Check cleaning card through the track several times as shown in our “Simple Cleaning” training videos. If the problem persists, you may try blowing out the scanner track with a can of compressed air, or as a final step, wipe down the camera glass itself with an alcohol wipe or a tissue damp with Windex, as shown in our “Detailed Cleaning” videos. Whatever you do, DON’T spray Windex directly on the camera glass; spray it on the tissue.

SmartSource Elite Cleaning

Blowing out the paper path with compressed air can be tried if the problem persists after a cleaning card is used.

It is possible for similar errors to occur when the other sensors are obscured, but this is uncommon. The input sensor does not tend to get much accumulated dirt because of its location outside the main paper path. The two feeder sensors do see some dust and debris like anything in the paper path, but they are infrared-optical sensors designed to compensate for dust buildup (the camera, on the other hand, still has to do its primary job as a camera). In either case, the solution would be the same: Run a cleaning card through the track to remove the buildup.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve been stumped by this problem – even our own support team was caught off guard the first few times it happened. Just remember: When in doubt, try cleaning the scanner first. It is perhaps the single most important piece of maintenance you can do, and this is another example of the old saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”