It’s always frustrating when a fax won’t go through—the good news is, there are plenty of simple troubleshooting steps you can try to get things working. Whether you’re using an analog fax machine or an online fax service, these tips can help you solve some of the most common issues.
Why Is My Fax Not Going Through?
It’s helpful to understand the basics of how faxes work if you’re trying to troubleshoot a fax issue. Long story short, a fax machine takes some kind of visual input and converts it into an analog or digital signal to send somewhere else. The kind of signal it sends generally depends if you’re using an analog fax machine (which takes scans of documents) or an online fax service (which uses image files).
Those signals are then sent to a recipient via phone lines or over the internet, where they are translated back into their original visual form—be it a printed document or an image file.
Note: There’s typically no crossover between analog and digital systems here, but there is a way to use an analog fax machine for sending faxes over the internet. This requires something called an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA), which converts signals from analog fax machines into digital ones that can be sent via the internet. Essentially, this just adds one more step to the process.
In any case, if you’re having trouble sending faxes, you’ll want to start with the following actions.
Tip 1: Clean the Fax Machine
If you’re working with an analog fax machine, this is far and away the most common reason that faxes don’t send right. Despite their age, fax machines are complex pieces of equipment with dozens of moving parts. If something goes wrong with any of them, it could cause an issue.
Using a fax machine that has accumulated dust and grime can interfere with its operation, so if you’re hearing clicks or grinding sounds—or if you’re experiencing frequent paper jams—you’ve probably got a cleanliness issue.
Start by checking the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), aka the roller that feeds paper through, and then the corona wire, aka the thing that draws the ink toner off the drum and onto the paper. Both of these parts tend to develop issues over time, and both will stop a fax from sending right, so make sure they’re clean and functioning properly. Otherwise, you may need to replace them.
You should also remember to turn off and/or unplug the machine before cleaning just in case something absolutely crazy happens and you end up like Marv from Home Alone 2 when he nearly gets electrocuted.
Tip 2: Check the Settings
This is applicable to both online fax services and analog fax machines, as configuration issues are very common reasons for faxes of all kinds not to go through. If you’re not getting a confirmation page after a fax looks to be sent, or if the fax machine or service won’t initiate sending in the first place, this is likely the issue.
If you’re using an online fax service, make sure you’ve configured the service properly. Most services walk you through the setup process, but you can always go back and restart.
Similarly, if you’re using an analog fax machine, make sure it’s set up according to the manual for your particular model. If you don’t have the manual, look for one online, as most manufacturers publish PDFs for easy reference.
Tip 3: Check Your Connection
A fax can’t be sent if the connection is unstable or unusable, so if it seems like everything is working fine, but the fax just won’t send, check your phone or internet connection. If you’re using an analog fax machine, check all the cables and make sure they’re plugged in properly. If you don’t hear a dial tone when you pick up the phone on the fax machine, chances are something’s wrong with the phone cord or your phone service.
If you’re using an online fax service or an analog fax machine with an ATA, double-check your network. If you’re having issues with your internet, the fax won’t be able to send, so make sure your router is set up and your internet is working properly. It doesn’t have to be super fast to send a fax; it just has to be showing up with a reliable signal.
Tip 4: Make Sure the Other Side Doesn’t Have Voicemail On
It might sound strange, but if the person you’re trying to send a fax to has their voicemail turned on—or any other setting on their phone that prevents the fax machine from handling the call before their phone interferes with it—this can cause issues.
This is especially common if you’re trying to send a fax machine to a person or business that uses the same phone line for phone calls and for faxes, so if the fax is not showing up even though it seems to be going through fine on your side, have them check this out.
Common culprits are voicemail settings, answering machines, and sometimes modems. Basically, if anything can get to the phone before the fax machine does, the fax can’t send—and this includes humans answering the phone, so make sure the other side knows you’re sending a fax and knows not to pick up the phone.
Tip 5: Check for Privacy Settings
Issues with privacy settings will often cause trouble if you’re trying to send something via a highly secure online service or if the person you’re sending the fax to has extra privacy settings on their phone line. Remember that this is applicable to both online and analog fax services.
In the case of an online service, review your settings and make sure that you haven’t accidentally changed a privacy setting that could prevent a fax from going out. You may want to double-check to see if there are any extra steps you need to take before sending your fax. For instance, some services may make you check a box or add an acknowledgment that the information you’re sending is protected by HIPAA or a similar industry standard.
Similarly, make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes and signed all the privacy acknowledgments with your online service when you were setting it up. Sometimes an issue with this can prevent your fax service from functioning until you complete the set-up.
If you’re using an analog fax machine, make sure the person on the other end doesn’t have call waiting or anonymous call screening set up on their end. Extra services like this can cause the fax to be rejected on their end, mostly in cases where your fax will be viewed as coming from an anonymous or automatically blocked number.
Similarly, if the person you’re sending the fax to has a calling menu that requires extra navigation, a fax machine won’t be able to work with that. This is also why it’s important to make sure that you’ve added all the applicable country codes or extensions to your fax number. The fax needs to be sent from one number to another without any extra clicks or beeps involved.
Tip 6: Check Your ATA
If you’re using an ATA to send analog faxes via the internet, it’s worth double-checking all your connections and device setups to make sure that everything is working as it should.
First, check your cables for any damage or wear, and then make sure everything’s plugged in both securely and in the right place. The ethernet cable should go in the WAN or LAN socket on one end and in your router on the other. Meanwhile, the phone cable—also called an RJ11 cable—should be in the fax socket on one end and your fax machine on the other.
Finally, make sure your power cable is plugged in. If you’re not seeing lights or hearing a dial tone, this is likely the issue.
Tip 7: Check for VoIP Issues
Finally, if you’re using VoIP to send your faxes, you’ll need to make sure that your machine is actually configured for that. If you try to connect an analog fax machine to a VoIP line without using an ATA, you might be able to get a test page to go through, but you probably won’t be able to send actual faxes. This might be because the two signals are incompatible—you have to have an ATA to “translate” the signal so the fax machine on the other end can understand it.
VoIP issues with online fax services are rare, mostly because the best VoIP phone services offer fax services as a built-in function. Nevertheless, if you’ve tried everything else and you’re still having issues, it’s probably a good idea to get in touch with your VoIP service provider and troubleshoot with them. More often than not, it’ll be a simple configuration or settings issue that’s easily resolvable.