Here’s Why Ballpoint Pens Skip!

Ballpoint pens are part of our daily lives. Everyone has a love-hate relationship with the simple ballpoint pen, and many of us have become so accustomed to them skipping or not working well that we keep plenty of extras for when the current pen fails. Why do ballpoint pens skip and not work well, and what can be done to fix it?

Ballpoint pens skip due to dried ink or air bubbles within the ink cartridge or pen nib. Break dried ink from the nib by scribbling on paper or an eraser. Pop air bubbles by tapping the pen or by exposing the cartridge to heat. Blockages can be released by using the pen while pressing firmly.

A partially functioning ballpoint pen is almost worse than a completely non-functioning ballpoint pen, and there is almost nothing more frustrating than a ballpoint pen that skips. Let’s find out why ballpoint pens skip and what to do when this happens to you.

Why Do Ballpoint Pens Skip?

Ballpoint pens are among the most commonly used pen types in the world. These pens typically use oil-based inks that are designed to last for a very long time without hardening or drying out. 

The mechanism within the pen that transfers the ink from the pen to the page is a ball that acts as a stopper to prevent air from reaching the ink, and when it is rolled along, the page transfers ink to paper.

This mechanism is clever and well thought out, but unfortunately, it is not perfect. Regardless of how well a ballpoint pen is designed, there are often flaws in the execution of the design, which allow air to reach the inside of the ink cartridge.

When this happens, several issues occur, most of which are the reason why a ballpoint pen may skip when writing.

Ballpoint pens usually skip when writing because the ink within the pen is not flowing. This can be frustrating when there is clearly plenty of ink left in the pen to use. 

The main cause of this problem is bubbling within the ink cartridge, or some of the ink has been exposed to air and has dried, causing a small plug or blockage within the pen cartridge or nib.

These issues usually occur when the pen has been left vertical with the nib pointed up, if the pen has not been unused for a long while, if the pen has been left in the sun, or if the pen has manufacturing defects that have exposed the ink to air while within the pen.

Bubbles within the cartridge will form a pressure seal within the cartridge and prevent the ink from flowing to the nib, and dried ink within the cartridge or the nib of the pen will either block the ink or stop the ball from rolling, thus inhibiting the pen from depositing ink onto the page, or causing inconsistent lines when writing.

How To Fix An Inconsistent Ballpoint Pen

A ballpoint pen that works intermittently is frustrating. There is almost nothing more frustrating in those moments when you need to have a reliable pen. Fortunately, however, there are several ways that may get your ballpoint pen writing perfectly again, and all of them are very easy to perform.

The most likely cause of a skipping ballpoint pen is dry ink or air bubbles within the ink cartridge. To overcome this problem, the most straightforward solution is to break the dried ink loose or to expel the bubbles from within the pen.

Breaking dried ink loose from the nib of a ballpoint pen is as simple as scribbling with the pen as fast as possible while pressing down firmly. 

This motion will roll the ball around vigorously, breaking loose any dried ink within the nib, allowing ink to flow smoothly once again.

Sometimes rolling the ball on paper does not cause enough friction to properly loosen the ink, so it is often helpful to scribble on the bottom of a shoe, an eraser, or some other type of rubber or grippy plastic material. The heat generated by doing this will also help to loosen the dried ink more quickly.

This method also works if the ink is dried within the pen itself because the act of rolling the ballpoint around will actively dray inky down form within the pen, moistening the dried ink and reintroducing the flow of ink through the pen.

Removing airlocks in the form of bubbles from within the pen is more challenging. Scribbling with the pen may work, but if it does not, one must find another way of popping the bubbles. 

In most cases, violently shaking the pen or tapping it firmly against a firm surface will do the trick. If this does not work, remove the ink cartridge from the pen and carefully expose the length of the cartridge to an open flame, either from a stovetop or from a cigarette lighter.

The heat from the flame should pop the bubble, removing the obstruction and allowing ink to flow, smoothing through the pen.

Do All Ballpoint Pens Fail?

The truth is, not all ballpoint pens suffer from this frustrating problem. Most of them do not. The ballpoint pens that are likely to have this issue are the cheaper versions that are mass-produced, where manufacturing defects are likely to occur.

Higher-end, high-quality ballpoint pens typically do not ever suffer from skipping, failure, dried ink, or blockages at all.

Very few good quality ballpoint pens fail, and these pens are likely to work for a long time without running out of ink or skipping at all.

The best way to ensure that your ballpoint pen always works is to invest a little more money into it and purchase a better-quality pen. Otherwise, buy as many cheap pens as you can and throw away the duds in favor of the ones that work well.


Ballpoint pens are useful everyday tools that are a staple in the lives of many people internationally. However, when these pens do not work as well as they should, it can be highly frustrating. 

Skipping in ballpoint pens is simply caused by a lack of ink flow. Identify the issue that is causing the lack of flow, take steps to resolve it, and your pen should work again in no time, saving you much frustration and allowing you to continue to use the pen without throwing it away!

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