Clean the timing (encoder) strip - TC-20 / TC-20M

Article ID: ART181538 | Date published: 02/23/2023 | Date last updated: 02/20/2024


Learn how to clean the timing strip inside your imagePROGRAF TC-20 / TC-20M printer. Includes symptoms of a dirty timing strip and how it might get dirty.


About the timing strip

The timing strip is a clear, plastic strip approximately 1/4" in height positioned horizontally across the center of the unit, just in front of the carriage drive belt. The timing strip contains many thin black vertical lines that help determine the carriage position during operation.

                         Select to see a larger image.

How it can get dirty
During certain uncommon tasks such as the removal of a paper jam, it is possible to inadvertently touch a lubricated area on the printer's chassis causing a small amount of grease to be deposited onto the timing strip.

Symptoms of a dirty timing strip
Grease on the timing strip may result in poor print quality including; mis-aligned or distorted characters, vertical lines or, in some cases, an inoperable error condition (such as 5100) or knocking / grinding noise.

Clean the timing strip

In most cases, it is easy to remove the grease from the timing strip using common household items. If you wish, you may follow the steps below to remove the grease from the timing strip.

Items needed:
  • Clean, unused cotton swab
  • Small amount of Isopropyl Alcohol or window cleaner
  • Flashlight or other light source


  1. With the printer powered off, open the access covers.
  2. The timing strip is in front of the drive belt. It is outlined in yellow in the image below.

    The timing strip is outlined in yellow

  3. Using a flashlight, carefully inspect the timing strip for grease and dirt. It is helpful to view the timing strip from several angles as even a small amount of grease can impact print quality.

    The timing strip is a clear strip located in front of the drive belt.

  4. Moisten the cotton swab with Isopropyl alcohol (or window cleaner), and carefully remove the grease from the timing strip.

    Note: do not touch or remove grease from the chassis (metal rail).

  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for inspecting the right side of the timing strip until is completely free of grease and dirt.

  6. Close the access covers.

    Close the access covers

  7. Reconnect the power cord and power on the printer.
    (The indicator light blinks steadily while the printer initializes.)

  8. Print a test document and photograph. If print quality is still poor, repeat the above steps.

If your product issue was not resolved after following the steps above, or if you require additional help, please create or log in to your Canon Account to see your technical support options.

Or if you still need help, visit our Canon Community by clicking the button below to get answers:

Link to Canon Community Forum




Rate this Article
Was this article helpful?
Yes, This document is helpful
No, This document needs a clearer explanation
Please provide your comments