How to Fix the Toner Life End Message on a Brother Intellifax 2820 Fax Machine

The Toner Life End seems a popular problem on the Brother Intellifax 2820 fax machine.

Brother Intellifax 2820 Fax Machine

It seems like a lot of people run into this message on the Brother fax machines. I’ve run into it on the Intellifax 2820, but from what I’ve read, the solution works on a variety of their fax machines. I’ve even heard of someone trying it on a color machine and they said it worked for the black toner, not the rest.

At best, it’s a waste of toner. At worst, it’s a complete headache to deal with. Here are two solutions that will probably work for you, depending on your model.


Brother Intellifax 2820 (and some other Brother fax machine models) displays the message “Toner Life End” even though pages are printing clearly and cleanly and the toner doesn’t seem to be out. Shaking the toner may or may not work, or only works for a short period of time. Some have also advised to tell the fax machine you’ve replaced the drum, then shake the toner and put it back. This is only a temporary solution and may not work at all.


On the drum of the Brother Intellifax 2820, you’ll find a small, circular hole on each side of the gray plastic. The toner is rested in the drum unit and the whole thing slides into the machine as one piece. The fax machine has a little sensor on one of the inside walls. This sensor shines a light through the gray circular hole. If there is enough toner in the cartridge, the light is absorbed by the toner and tells the fax machine that there is plenty of toner. As the toner runs out, the light eventually manages to shine through the hole and out the other side and this indicates to the machine that you are out of toner.


Place a small piece of opaque tape or a sticker, or tape a piece of paper, over the hole on each side. This will allow you to run the toner until it is actually out rather than when it claims to be out. It does this by fooling the sensor into thinking that it has a full toner.

Depending on how fast you typically go through toner, this could buy you an extra few days or an extra week or two. It all depends on how many faxes you normally receive and what types of faxes you get (see below).

Note: when you are actually out of toner, the machine will not tell you since you are tricking it into thinking it’s full. When your pages start printing messy or starting to fade, it’s a good sign it’s really time to replace the toner. If you have a Brother Intellifax 2820 or even some of the other Brother fax machine models, this should buy you some time and resolve an issue that seems to frustrate many Brother fax machine owners.


You put a fresh toner in, with or without using the trick mentioned above, and the machine still displays “Toner Life End”.


The machine is tracking the toner level based on pages as well, and by page count you should be out of toner.


Leave the toner and drum in the machine, but open the front cover. Press Options, then:
* 0 0
This will reset the count on the machine.

How Did It Run Out of Toner So Fast?

Toner life expectancy is based on an industry standard of “5% pages”. 5% of a page doesn’t sound like much, and it’s roughly between a 5th and a half of a page of straight text (depending on font, font size, etc). This doesn’t take in to account bold fonts, pictures, or a page crammed full of tiny text.

The brand-new, brand-name Brother toner, fresh out of the box, is estimated at 2,500 pages, but at 5%. If you regularly receive full page faxes or faxed images, you can expect to burn through it a lot faster.

To learn more about the toner industry’s 5% page standard, see: Toner Cartridge DepotWhat a 5% Coverage Page Looks Like? or check out Stinky Ink ShopWhat Does 5% Page Coverage Look Like? There is a discrepancy between the sites as to what 5% of a page really looks like. The Stinky Ink Shop has posted what 5% of a page looks like based on font, font size, and word count. The Toner Cartridge Depot posted a PDF example of 5% of a page covered in text. To me, the example posted by the Toner Cartridge Depot looks like it would be more accurate, but the Stinky Ink Shop provides a much more detailed explanation.

No matter what 5% of a page really is, it’s definitely not a lot. The next time you’re out toner shopping, take a look at the estimated page yield and remember, it’s just a number. To the average fax recipient, it probably isn’t worth a hill of beans.

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7 Responses to How to Fix the Toner Life End Message on a Brother Intellifax 2820 Fax Machine

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  2. Michael says:

    Resetting the machine count worked for me!

  3. RD says:

    Thanks for the tip, it worked after resetting the machine count.. But one tip – maybe point out that it’s *00 (STAR ZERO ZERO)? I glanced over the page and just kept doing 0 0 without the star, thinking your advice didn’t work. It was only until I reviewed the page again that I noticed there was a star in front of the two zeros.

  4. Sandra says:

    Thank you!! You saved me from taking my out-of-warranty machine in for repairs or replacement with this simple fix. Very happy that I decided to do a Google search on this error message.

  5. Thank you so much for the posting I have been pulling my hair out over this. I have reset the cogs, tried replacing this that and the other and the *00 worked like a charm. I even tried Options 1 when placing the cartridge back in. I run a business from home and this machine was given to me after my HP was struck by lightning. You just saved several orders from being behind.

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