Epson 3800 - Service or Replace?

My Epson Stylus Pro 3800 is old but relatively lightly used. I’ve been having trouble for the last year to 18 months. I live in a smaller city so will need to send the printer to a service depot 800 km away – the nearest Epson Canada recognized service dealers are in Calgary or Vancouver. I’ve sent inquires to those service centres but thought I’d see what advice I can get here. The question is … repair or replace. And what sort of repair to expect.

I’d like to keep the printer going. I’ve just bought a set of ConeColor carts and inks and a second set of carts for Piezoflush. (I probably wouldn’t have done that had I understood better what was happening with the printer!)

I am unable to print using Photo Black. I first noticed a problem perhaps a year to 18 months ago when the printer ran out of Photo Black ink (PK) although the printer utility reported that the PK cartridge was nearly full. A check of the cartridge showed that it was indeed empty (I weighed it and compared the weight to cartridges that I knew were full and empty). I replaced the PK cartridge. The same thing occured roughly a month later. I replaced the cartridge again. The printer seemed to be going through PK much faster than it should given the amount of printing that that I did at that time. I also followed instructions to reset the internal software but this did not change anything — the printer was still going through PK rapidly yet showing the cartridge to be full. (This was true for only the PK cartridge, not the other cartridges). I ran through several Epson PK carts quite quickly. I also began to have print failures. A nozzle check showed that the PK nozzle was clogged and also showed contamination in some of the other colours, especially yellow. I’d get a couple prints after a cleaning but the problem would return quickly. I bought Piezoflush (from Inkjet Mall) and did a thorough flush using the power clean cycle times three. I let the Piezoflush sit in the printer for several days before putting ink back in. This gave me a few good 8 x 10s but the problem returned within a week. I’ve concluded that this is not an issue that can be addressed with head cleaning. The printer still produces acceptable prints using Mat Black but, of course, I can’t use photo papers that require photo black.

Some of you know these printers a lot better than do I. Any suggestions or advice?

These cartridges will always show 100% full. This is talked about in the instruction set for the cartridges. They require periodic checking and topping off. The first step is to top them all off and do three maintenance cleaning to get new ink through the lines and into the head. This may fix all your issues entirely.

That said, if you are getting cross contamination I think you may be having a damper issue. This is a documented failure of this printer where the K damper goes funky.

This is the thing that goes funky: ink system assembly for Epson Stylus Pro 3880

The part is $172.00 but it not exactly easy to replace by just anyone.

The service repair guide can be found at if you have a friend who is handy at repair.

hope this helps,

Thanks for the reply. My comment about PK levels not being reported properly applied to Epson carts – I do know that the refillable carts don’t report ink level. I’ve also corresponded with a repair tech who likewise suggestion a damper issue. Looks like the printer will go in for a repair. I’m not going to try that myself.

Sounds like a plan. These printers last forever except for that one part.


Based on what I’ve read about 38x0 printers that have had either PK or MK carts mysteriously, drain I’d have come to a different conclusion to Walker and the tech about the likely cause. The one Achilles heel of these printers is the MK/PK switch. It can jam or fail. If you Google on this you’ll find plenty of such reports, although the symptoms vary slightly. The cause is not entirely clear. One theory is that infrequent MK/PK switching can cause sedimentation in the switch, but there’s no proof. It could just be a faulty part. The reports that I’ve read suggest that it’s probably not economical to repair. I’d strongly suggest that you research this phenomenon before sending your printer off.

Thanks for the caution. I’ve already shipped the printer off. We’ll see how things go.

The part listed above is the PK/MK switcher.

It comes all in one part along with where the cartridges go. I just don’t want you to be confused Bob.

All the best,

And not the same part as the damper assembly … correct?

Apologies. I didn’t check the part you linked to. The text only mentioned dampers.

Reading Walker’s reply again, I think he’s talking about two funky things. I think he’s linking the cross-contamination to funky dampers, and the leaking to a funky switch. I think if you install the part he linked to you’ll get both replaced, but my understanding is that it won’t be cheap. A new P800 may make more sense long-term, but a repair may be better if you want to use refillables, since last I heard there aren’t any for the P800.