Replacing Brother Toners and Drums

Brother HL-5070n, TN-560, DR-500 drum unit

The Brother HL-5070N

The reason I decided to write this post is to hopefully save someone from needlessly buying a Drum and a Toner when all they really needed was the toner. I’ve had to many customers come to my store with the Drum unit and toner in hand telling me their getting poor quality prints and they have to replace the toner. When I ask them how many toners have they used in this particular drum unit they will either say “I don’t know” or “I thought this whole assembly was the toner”. Can you believe that many of these customers told me that when they brought this unit to a big box store the customer rep never told them the difference between the two and proceeded to sell them both the toner and the drum without ever asking them some very important questions. We’ll attempt to make replacing Brother toners and drums an easy procedure.

What is a Drum unit and a Toner cartridge anyways?

First, let’s start with a little bit of information so all of this makes sense, no technical jargon here, just plain talk that everyone can understand. In many of the Brother printers there is a toner cartridge and a Drum unit and they are two separate units. The toner itself sits inside of the Drum unit and can be pulled out via a small blue lever on the top of the drum unit. In many of the other brands like HP, these two units are one, they don’t come apart, the toner and the drum are housed together, not so in a Brother laser printer. In the Brother type of setup, the toner cartridge is just that, it holds the toner or the medium that will be deposited onto your paper to produce the text and images you see. The Drum really does all the work. These machines are called laser printers because they use a laser beam to produce an image on the drum. The light of the laser alters the electrical charge on the drum wherever it hits. The drum is then rolled through the reservoir of toner which is picked up by the charged portions of the drum. Finally, the toner is transferred to the paper through a combination of heat and pressure and presto, you have a printed page.

Brother TN-560 Toner, Brother toners

Brother TN-560 Toner Cartridge

What is the Page Yield?

Now, the important thing to know here is what is the page yield of the toner and the drum you are using and knowing when to replace what. Let’s use the Brother TN-560 toner and the Brother DR-500 drum unit as an example. The TN-560 toner is rated at 6,500 pages and the DR-500 drum is rated for 20,000 pages. So there is enough toner powder in the toner cartridge to theoretically get 6,500 pages depending on page coverage. The drum will wear out eventually due to the fact it can only receive so many laser light impressions before it can’t hold the negative charge anymore, hopefully around the 20,000 page mark. When that happens your print quality deteriorates.

Print Quality

So in both cases when one of these units starts to fail your print quality is going to suffer, how do you know which to replace? On most of the Brother machines you will get a warning that the drum unit needs to be replaced or the toner. Problem is, most owners don’t ever read the manual, so even if they do get this type of message they will take the entire unit out and bring it to the store for replacement. Understanding the difference between the two units and what function each unit performs is critical. So if you happen to own a Brother printer that does not give you a message saying your drum unit needs replacing, always buy the toner first. It usually cost much less than the drum. If that does not solve the problem, then buy the drum unit.

Brother DR-500 Drum Unit, Brother Drum units

Brother DR-500 Drum Unit

If you have one of the Brothers that do not give you the message that your drum needs replacing do what many of my customers have done. Tape a piece of paper to the side of the machine and write down the date you replaced the drum. So let’s use the example above to demonstrate. The TN-560 toner is rated for 6,500 pages and the DR-500 is rated for 20,000. It’s simply a matter of dividing one into the other to see how many toners you can use before replacing that drum. In this case the drum unit is good for approximately three toners. So if you know that you have only used one toner in the drum unit you have installed you now know that you have to buy the toner, not the drum. Why is this important?

Give the Customer the Information they need!

Let’s get back to the reason I’m writing this, as I mentioned above, there have been to many times a customer has come into my store with both units in hand and say’s he needs to buy a new toner. The first thing I’ll ask them is how many toners have they put through the drum? Most times they have no idea they are holding a two piece unit and that each part has a different function and a different page yield. Here’s the sad part, when they have brought this unit to Staples, the customer service rep never asked them the questions that needed to be asked, never took the time to explain to them what they were holding or that it may very well be that all they need is the toner. The only reason I’m using Staples as an example is this is the big box store in our area and that is the store always mentioned by my customers when this comes up. I know the reps get commissions on how much they sell but this is just plain dishonest. The TN-560 goes for $114.99 and the DR-500 goes for $188.99. In my store after explaining what’s going on, even if the customer is not sure how many toners have gone through the drum, which is the case most of the time, I will tell them to buy only the toner for now. Install it and if the problem goes away it’s all good. If it’s still there buy the drum.

With Staples the customer just dropped $303.99 and at Ink & Toner Solutions they paid $114.99 and got all of the information they needed so next time they can make an informed decision as to what they really need. Sure the sales rep sold twice as much as I did, got his commission but lost a customer. Once I take the time to explain the difference between a toner and a drum, what they do and what to look for, who do you think that customer will go back to next time they need a cartridge? I can’t begin to tell you how many loyal customers my staff has brought into my company just by being honest and taking the time to explain things. I can’t tell you how many times customer have told my staff that no one has taken the amount of time we have taken to explain whatever it is we are explaining to them. It’s very simply to me, when I go to a store and the sales rep takes the time to explain something to me, I appreciate it and will go back to that store before I go back to a store that treats me like I’m bothering them or taking up to much of their time. Just treat people like you want to be treated and be honest, simple!






31 thoughts on “Replacing Brother Toners and Drums

  1. This is narrow strip of glass to the left of the large glass that you put your sheet face down on. Clean this glass, it is where the pages are scanned that you put in the auto feed tray.

  2. I bought a new drum, I cleaned the top glass, I also changed the toner but there are strikes on the copies. It's much better but I can still see lines. Not sure what else to do. Any suggestions.

    • Gina, if the streaks appear on the copies but not on a page printed from the computer, then the cause is a dirty platen glass OR (although less likely) a problem with the CCD scanning assembly (the light bar that captures the copied image). If the issue only occurs when using the ADF (Auto document feeder), then there may be a small spot or some dirt on the little glass bar usually right next to the large piece of platen glass on the scanning bed. If all glass surfaces are clear and clean as possible (even a VERY small spot on the glass can cause a large streak on copies) and the streak still appears, the issue may be with the CCD assembly. This would be a repair that a technician should perform if this is the case. Also, try swapping out your toner cartridge, occasionally the developer roller can cause streaks, though it’s less common than dirty imaging glass or the drum unit as the cause.

  3. I replaced my toner and drum on my Brother HL-2280dw laser printer, but the print quality is still bad. We've had the machine for several years (4?) and print +/-175pgs per month. Has my machine reached is life expectancy?

  4. WOW!! I wish I had read this prior to mailing all 4 of my toner cartridges with the drum units attached to Amazon and now i have no drum units!!!

    • Oooooh, I am so sorry about that, I do hope you can get them back, they are the most costly parts in the printer (depending on the model)

  5. Wish I had seen this before yes staples was my store I took both in and they showed me the toner at $79 but never mentioned the drum I went home and bought on line 3 toner for $89 which I had done before. but was ignorant of the drum I have about 4 laying around and have tried all of them and no go so now need to order. $111 at stapesl I see online from $32 -$69 not sure which I should do. but thanks for sharing your info.

  6. I have a Brother MFC 7840W. I had a drum in it and for at least 5 months, I was getting a "drum end soon" message. I also knew my ink cartridge was new. I started getting pages that were unevenly printed, so I went ahead an install a new drum because I knew it had to be full. So now I have a new drum and ink cartridge, and still have an area down the left hand side of the page that is not printing evenly. What should I do?

  7. I have Brother MFC 9970cdw .I changed the cyan toner with a compatible brand with no problem. Now, I replaced the black toner with a compatible brand but keeps saying change the black toner. I haven't changed the other colors yet. This is the first time we are changing toner so we were using the original what was in the machine when we bought it. Please help. Thanks. Erlinda Reyes

    • Erlinda, it seems as though you may have received a defective toner (black). Installing a new cartridge will prompt the printer to stop telling you the toner is empty, so there may be something wrong with the toner cartridge itself. All toner cartridges for this printer need a small gear (reset gear) replaced when remanufacturing them in order for the printer to see them as “new” full cartridges. If the reset gear wasn’t replaced, any printer will see it as empty still, even if it has a full chamber of toner. We see many remanufactured and compatible supplies which do not have the reset gear properly replaced. The only option is to try to return the cartridge or replace the reset gear yourself (NOT very simple to do).

  8. Hello Sir,
    I found your blog very informing.Thanks a lot for all the details.
    I have a Brother 7065 DN Printer at my cafe and its been troubling me a lot.
    I need some help sir.
    At first prints were fine but after 6000 pages, lines started to appear on the page.
    I went to a repair shop..they cleaned the blade in the toner cartidge and the prints were clear again. but after a week the same problem started. i bought a new toner and it cost was about 2500Rs here in India..
    It gave the same problem in about 100 pages.same lines on the printed pages.
    I own a new business and honestly can’t affor to buy a wrong part again.

    is it the drum that’s faulty or toner again??
    i see lines on drum and toner (on black roller ) too.
    I hope to hear from you.
    Thank you Sir.
    Manish Singh
    Gorakhpur, India

    • Can you tell me, are the lines horizontal or vertical? Are they thick and greyish or solid black? Or are they fine, thin lines? I suspect the drum based on your replacement of the cartridge already and the problem coming back right after, but the fuser is also a possibility. If you’d installed the new cartridge and the same lines showed immediately, it would indicate the drum or cartridge still for sure, but a gradually developing defect like that may indicate toner contamination or worn rollers in the fuser. Try cleaning the corona wire on the drum too, to rule that out

      • Thank you sir for your response.
        I took my printer to Brother Service Center.
        Drum unit’s wire was damaged plus the blade was slightly bent. I knew the owner so he changed it from a printer that was to be sold in scrap. The Final print was mind blowing. I didn’t knew before that toner could create problems. There was a Brother 7055 printer too , they just changed the toner..n it worked perfectly.
        I was so happy to see the print.
        Thank you sir for your time
        Mk Singh

  9. I have a Brother HL 4140CN laser jet printer. The LCD said replace CYAN which I have done with a genuine new brother toner, but the printer is still telling me to replace the CYAN toner???

    • Hi Sarah, Here is an instructional video showing how to perform a machine-based reset for the toner count, just choose the CYAN toner option when selecting the toner color to reset. The video is for an HL-4150, but the HL-4140 is essentially the same machine with a lower monthly duty cycle. I hope this helps!

  10. After reading all this, I still don’w know whether I need a new drum unit or whether something else is wrong with the computer. I just got a new toner, which I needed, but all printed pages are completely black.
    My computer has three warnings: toner, drum, error. When “drum” lights up, does that mean I need a new drum unit or did I not put it in right? I used about 10 toners.

    • Hi Jane, if the drum light is on on your Brother printer, it either needs a drum or there is a problem with the drum. Now, if the printer is printing all black from edge to edge, there is a problem with a toner-contaminated or faulty high-voltage power supply contact either on the drum, cartridge, or inside the printer, typically. First thing to check is that all metal tabs and contact pads (basically anything metal) on both the drum and cartridge are free of any toner dust or dirt/debris and none look damaged or broken off. If any of those points are contaminated, wipe them clean with a dry, lint-free cloth. If they all look good, the problem may be with the contacts inside the machine, at which point I would recommend having a technician look at it, or at least somebody who has a solid theory of how laser printers work and has repaired a Brother printer before.

  11. In spite of the fact that we seldom print with color our printer demands that we change the color toner every two years. Is there a chance that the toner is getting hard or settling because we don't use it enough?

    • It is possible. Toner can “brick” together after the airtight seals are broken and they get installed. Typically shaking them breaks up the cakiness. Some manufacturers have actually built in expiration dates on the microchips installed on their cartridges which would require the cartridge to be replaced at a set interval after its’ first installation. This may seem annoying, but it is actually a good idea as toner has a limited shelf-life and the longer toner sits unused, especially after breaking shipping and factory seals, the worse it gets. You’ll notice toner not bonding to the pages, occasional gaps of very light printing, then dark again, and in the worst case, may damage other critical parts inside the machine. While most printers won’t have problems like that (realistically), in our experience, 2 years is the LONGEST you should leave a toner cartridge in your machine if you want to ensure the best print quality and proper long-term functioning of the printer.

  12. I have been getting the “replace drum unit” message for a while but the print quality has not diminished. Should I still replace the drum unit now or wait until the quality goes down? I print a lot and usually at 1/2 the regular resolution so that I can save toner, so the number of pages printed may not be accurate, because I get more pages out of the toner cartridge. Am I damaging the printer by continuing to print with the old drum unit? I don’t change the toner cartridge until the print quality goes bad, because otherwise I am just wasting expensive toner. Is the same true for the drum unit? I do not want to change it sooner than need be and help Brother increase their profits unnecessarily. Thanks in advance for your input on this.

    • I always recommend to customers, replace it when the warning light goes off. The printer manufacturer’s set the duty intervals for these parts to ensure optimal performance over the long-term. replacing the consumables when the printer tells you to is always the best course to ensure the longest life possible from your machine. That said, on my own Brother printers, I use those drums until the print defects start… we’ve never seen any major problems with running Brother drums for longer, and in some cases it goes for double its rated life expectancy! Literally the only part that could be damaged from running your drum past recommendation is the drum itself (of course unless catastrophic failure of plastic parts on the drum assembly occurs) or, in extreme cases of wear, the rollers on the toner cartridge can be damaged. But those are both replaceable consumable parts, so it’s not usually a problem to do this.

  13. That’s why I like Samsung color laser printers, you can change each color’s drum when it life is near its end. Brother use one drum for all colors, so you need to change the whole unit :(

    • Except some of the newest Brother Color laserjets, which have a drum for every color. Of course, now you have to buy 4 drums every 30,000 pages or so instead of just one. With an average drum cost of 2x each cartridge, that adds up to a TON of $!

      • i actually just purchased the HL-317CDW brother printer. i thought it would be a good investment because i started printing out coupons but if i decide to give it up, I would at least have ink in there for 1-2 yrs without me having to replace it I thought… since it does have like 4-5 drums don’t recall, would that be costly? would i have to replace every drum if there’s a problem? or how can i figure out which one has the problem? my issue with inkjets was before i finish a whole pack of paper of 500 sheet my ink would either expire or dry up.. :( now im starting to get scared of the cost of the printer. it’s also a plus because i can print two sided which i can print catalogs or stuff in that nature….

        • Hi Angela,
          Most Brother ink cartridges won’t even get you a full ream of 500 pages printed before being empty, ink is VERY low-yield compared to toner, which is what your machine takes. The toner is different from the drum, and some Brother laser printers have only one large drum, but unfortunately yours has 4 different drums and 4 different toners you will eventually need to replace. We’ve done some comparisons and your model has one of the highest cost of ownership (in supplies) than any other Brother laser printer model. BUT, the TN-221/225 series carts have a high yield version which is a better cost-per-page than the standard yield, and the high yield is rated to give you 2,500 pages (Black) and 2,200 pages (color). Compare that to an average yield of 400-500 pages for most of their ink cartridges and it’s clear toner gives you a better deal. Toner is also a dry powder which doesn’t evaporate and is much more resilient to sitting for long periods of no use, like 1-2 years, as long as it’s kept in a dry environment. Usually it just takes a little shake of the cartridge to clear up printing defects after a long period of no use.

          Now for replacing the drums, they only need to be replaced when you start to notice print quality issues like streaking, or at 15,000 pages when the machine will prompt you. If you use the high-yield carts, that means you’ll be looking at replacing the drums after you’ve used approx. 7 toner cartridges, which is probably a long way down the road for you. And many home users who do very little printing with their Brother Lasers (think 100 pages/month) never have to change the drums. I’ve had one I’ve been using not often for 8 years now and have never changed the drum, and it’s rated to about as long as yours are.

          The printer will also indicate which toners or drums need replacing by indicating the specific color of the toner or drum that has reached its end. These are C=Cyan (Blue), M=Magenta (Pink), Y=Yellow (Yellow :), and K=Black. They will most likely not run out at the same time, so at least that will help spread out the cost of supplies more.

          Hopefully this helps, if it has, feel free to share our article with anyone else you think it might help!

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