Epson R380 Printer: Resetting the Waste Ink Counters

So a few days after topping off the continuous ink tanks on my Epson R380 printer, we had a series of thunderstorms that prompted me to turn everything off. Upon turning the printer back on, its fancy LCD panel showed a message along the lines of

Service is required. Contact Epson Customer Service.

Oddly, it continued to print perfectly with no further complaints. The error message appeared only at power-on, then politely went away when I pressed the OK button.

Well, that puppy is long out of warranty, even if I wasn’t using a continuous ink system, soooo… what to do? The printer produces absolutely no diagnostic codes other than that error message.

A bit of searching gave me the Maintenance Manual for that family of printers. That message isn’t among the ones listed.

Further searching suggests that at least one of the two waste ink pads / tanks is nearly full and that ignoring the problem will cause the printer to shut itself down, lest it dribble ink. The listed messages warn that the printer is approaching the “end of its service life”, which isn’t the message I saw, but it’s close enough.

The Maintenance Manual suggests that it’ll be cheaper and better to simply buy a new printer, as replacing the waste ink tanks may cost more than the printer is worth. The website points out that providing a customer-replaceable tank would drive up the cost of the printer, because most customers would buy a new printer before filling the tank.

In order to get to the waste ink tank, you must remove:

  • Paper Support
  • Printer Cover
  • Front Cover
  • Right Housing
  • Left Housing
  • USB Housing
  • Upper Housing
  • Panel Unit
  • EMI Frame

I can see why it might take a trained tech a few hours to get all that done… and then reassemble in reverse order.

The Epson website has a link to a program that will reset the waste ink counters for one of the tanks. Downloaded & ran it on the Token Windows Laptop; it tells me there’s no problem.


So I ordered an external waste ink tank from the usual eBay supplier. The hardware is grossly overpriced ($20 delivered) for what it is (large tube with sealed endcaps, some tubing & barb fittings, a syringe), but the deal includes links to programs that will reset the counters. I found several of those programs by myself, so it’s not as if you must actually spend money to reset the printer’s counters. I figured this was in the nature of a learning experience.

Turns out that the programs are provided by parties having, shall we say, long-term interests that may not coincide with mine. To wit, I’d be batshit crazy to run those programs on a PC I cared about.

[Update: Something like that.]

The various program files all passed a ClamAV virus scan, but that doesn’t mean anything these days.

So, during the next hour:

  • Boot System Rescue CD on my oldest Token Windows Laptop
  • Run partimage to back up the Windows partition to another partition
  • Disconnect from the house LAN
  • Reboot in Windows, which evidently hasn’t seen the light of day in about a year
  • Stifle bleating requests for updates
  • Copy the programs from a USB stick, install as needed
  • Reset one of the ink counters (more on this below)
  • Reboot in SRC
  • Restore the partition from the backup

All that is straightforward and I’ve written about it earlier. Search the blog for more info using the obvious keywords.

I attempted to restore the drive’s Master Boot Record from the partition backup file, but partimage complained that the drive size in the backed-up MBR did not match the existing drive size, which suggests something tinkered with the drive’s MBR between the backup and the restore.


You might want to do a bit of reading on Boot Sector Viruses at this point. I have no other evidence to suggest that’s what’s going on, other than to remind you that programs need not do only what they say they’ll do.

Given all that, I figured this was a great time to update the Token Windows Laptop to Xubuntu 10.04, which installed Grub2 in the MBR and wiped away anything placed therein. The box is heavily multi-booted: Dell Diags, XP, Puppy, and now Xubuntu 10.04.

Without naming names or providing links:

  • The Russian program seems to not include the R380, but it does include others in that family. I elected to not reset the counters using that program.
  • The Chinese program seems to be a bootleg copy of the Official Epson Adjustment Program, although it’s rife with misspellings and grammatical errors. I told it to reset the “Main Pad” counter and give me a dump of the EEPROM.

The Main Pad had 16008 counts of the maximum 16200, while the Platen Pad had only 3019 of 54513. Those names do not correspond to anything in the Maintenance Manual, but I suspect the Main Pad is the Waste Ink Tray at the head-cleaning station and the Platen Pad is the Waste Ink Pad running across the printer to catch the overspray from borderless prints.

Resetting the Main Pad counter to zero cleared the error message; the printer is perfectly happy now. I’ll install the external waste ink tank when I clear the workbench after building the next GPS interface for our HTs.

The program reported 9922 pages printed. Figuring 7 bottles of ink at 250 ml each, that’s 0.18 ml per page. That’s a slight overestimate because the ≈50 ml tanks were just topped off, but it’s close enough. I’m guessing head cleaning consumed much of that ink, as the printer does plenty of that, and the number of pages seems close to half the number of counts.

Perhaps it performs a cleaning when more than X minutes has elapsed since the previous print job? That would account for the high number of cleanings; most print jobs are a few pages, at most.

En passant, I found some totally unofficial ink cartridge capacity numbers:

  • Standard T078x: 7 ml @ $13 = $1857 / liter
  • Large T077x: 11 ml @ $20 = $1818 / liter

[Update: corrected typo from ml to liter]

Ain’t that impressive? I love the savings they give you with higher-capacity cartridges …