Ballpoint pens are as much a part of modern life as the act of writing itself. We use them constantly, from signing delivery slips to making grocery lists to taking notes in chemistry class. When a ballpoint pen gives you trouble, there are many potential reasons. But knowing how to properly troubleshoot the issue is the most effective way to get you writing again in no time.

Things You Will Need
  • Hard, glass surface

  • Paper

  • Heat source

Check the ink cartridge. Remove the small cap on the back of the ballpoint pen. Pull out the ink cartridge and make sure there is ink in it. If the cartridge is completely out of ink, you can't fix the pen. Look at where the cartridge connects to the tip of the pen. Ensure the ink cartridge is fully connected to the point.

Inspect the point of the pen. If the pen hasn't been used in a while, the ball might be stuck. Make several quick circular strokes on a glass surface. Try to get the ball moving so ink will flow again.

Suck on the tip of the pen. All modern ballpoints are made with non-toxic ink, so this is completely safe. Sometimes air pockets develop in the ink cartridge. Place the pen in your mouth and suck in the same way you suck on a straw. Test the pen on a piece of paper. Repeat the process at least three or four times to see if the pen works again.

Tap the tip of the pen on a hard surface several times. This helps bring the ink down into the point and helps loosen a ball that is stuck. Repeat the process several times as you alternate tapping and testing the pen.

Apply heat to the tip of the pen. Use a lighter or boiling water. Place the tip inside the heat source for several seconds. Test the pen on paper to see if it works. Repeat the process a few times and re-test.


Inspect the pen with a jeweler's loupe if you have one. This may allow you to see damage you couldn't see with your naked eye.

Store your pens upside down to prevent gravity from pulling ink away from the ball.