How to fix the most common rollerball pen issues

A rollerball pen sat on a personal organiser which is open on a to-do list page.

Rollerball pens are popular writing instruments that offer a smooth and effortless writing experience. However, as with all pens, rollerballs can occasionally encounter issues that affect their performance.

Let’s look at how to rectify issues like skipping, limited ink flow, leaking and bleeding with your rollerball pen so that you can enjoy a seamless writing experience.

Issue: The ink has stopped flowing

Ink can stop flowing in a rollerball pen for several reasons, so there are various checks you can do to solve the issue.

Check the refill

When your rollerball pen runs dry, the first thing to check is if the refill is empty. If the refill is empty, replace it with a fresh rollerball refill and get writing.

Heat the ink up

If there’s still ink in your refill and your pen is stored at a cool temperature, the ink may have dried up and clogged the nib.

Try running the nib of your pen under some warm running water for a few seconds. Wipe the nib with a clean, dry cloth and test the pen.

Unstick the ball mechanism

If your ink hasn’t dried up, the ball in the mechanism may be stuck in place, so draw circles repeatedly on a high-friction surface like a shoe sole.

This action will loosen a stuck ball, allowing ink to flow again.

Shake the pen

Shaking the pen up and down may seem basic, but it can get the ink flowing again in rollerballs that are mysteriously not writing, so don’t dismiss this tip.

Replace the refill

If none of the previous suggestions has worked, there may be an unfixable problem with your pen’s refill —  your best bet is to replace it.

If the pen doesn’t write with a fresh refill, consult the seller or manufacturer for further advice.

A luxury rollerball pen sat on a carbon background with a sheet of paper.

A luxury rollerball pen

Issue: Skipping

Skipping is when the pen fails to lay down a continuous ink line on the paper. Unplanned breaks in your writing are incredibly frustrating.

There can be several causes for a skipping rollerball pen, but don’t worry — every fix is quick and easy.

Check for dryness

First, using the tips you’ve just learned, check that your rollerball ink hasn’t dried up. If it has, try all the fixes we suggested for a dry pen.

Revise the way you use the pen

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be the writer causing a skipping pen. If the pen has always skipped, this is a signal that you need to adjust how you use your rollerball.

Test out different writing positions with your hand and apply varying amounts of pressure until you create a continuous line as you write.

Alternatively, swapping a fine nib for a medium could deliver the extra wetness and surface area you require from the pen for your writing style.

Issue: The pen’s ink is bleeding through the paper

It’s frustrating when a pen’s ink bleeds through the paper to the other side, as it makes the back of the page unusable and can ruin other pages in a notebook, too.

Change your paper

Before considering the pen, ensure you use high-quality paper with the correct GSM — 80, 90, or 100 GSM is ideal. This paper will absorb the pen’s ink quickly, giving it less opportunity to spread elsewhere.

Switch to a fine nib

If changing the paper hasn’t solved the issue, consider switching to a finer nib. The narrower the nib, the more control you have over ink flow and the less chance of your rollerball pen’s ink bleeding through the paper.

Change the ink

A final option is to switch to a refill with drier ink but do your research, as rollerball pens operate best with wetter ink, and not all refills are universal.

Issue: The pen is leaking ink

Rollerball pens don’t leak often — however, they are more prone to leaks than ballpoint pens due to their water-based ink.

Remember to cap or retract your rollerball pens and store them away from heat sources, and you shouldn’t have any issues with leaking.

Issue: The pen’s cap won’t stay on

When a rollerball pen’s cap doesn’t stay on, it’s usually the result of wear and tear that makes the cap looser over time.

Sometimes the cap becomes loose when the owner chews and deforms it.

You can replace the cap or aim to ‘tighten’ it by applying a small piece of masking tape inside to give it extra grip on the pen’s barrel.

Issue: The pen won’t click or retract

If your pen doesn’t click or retract, you have an issue with the spring mechanism inside the barrel.

Dust and debris is usually the culprit with this type of problem, so carefully disassemble your rollerball pen and gently clean the spring and gears.

Alternatively, your gear shaft may be damaged from the pen being dropped — in which case, it’s time to buy a new pen.

Prevention of rollerball pen issues

You can prevent most problems with your rollerball pens by taking good care of them, replacing refills when required, cleaning them regularly, and storing them correctly.

Always store your rollerball pens horizontally and at room temperature — not too hot or cold.

Ensure you buy the correct refills, too.

Now you know how to prevent and fix rollerball pen issues, head over to our rollerball pen guide to fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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