yes, I'm out of warranty so I'm on my own. I had little hope for unit fill but tried it anyway - no luck. Also tried contacting epson but their answer is "try power/ss cleaning if it doesn't help call service"... Like you say - I think my best chance now is the encoder strip but if it doesn't help I'm pretty much out of ideas.
When I recommended having epson tech come out to service, it goes without saying that they would replace the printhead for you under warranty. Which was the reason for the recommendation. Out of warranty though, you'll have to foot the bill at around 2k. Sorry.
I still believe the nozzles are deflecting due to either debris on the printhead, or debris inside the nozzle chambers. Your printhead worked perfectly before. The only way the nozzles themselves could be damaged, and cause the deflections, if the head has crashed on the media (or some other object that was in it's path), or if the printhead wasn't seated properly on the capping station. If that is the case, then your printhead is unrecoverable due to a mechanical deflection.
You might still be able to get away with printing on the bad head using channel redirects. Depending on your print needs. Basically you have the control to turn off the bad channel and/or redirect it to one of the good channels. I'm certain there is software that has this feature.
One last thing you could try perhaps. Unplug the printer and discharge all power in the capacitors. Remove the right side cover, and find the two hoses that travel to the maintenance tank. Reconnect the control panel and turn on the printer. Use a hemostat on one of the hoses to shut it off, and use a syringe to draw ink out of the other hose. Then do the same process again with the opposite hose. Make sure the printer is on and in the Ready position when you do this, so the printer is able to keep pressure in the lines. Reconnect the hoses to the maintenance tank, run a standard power cleaning then nozzle check. I wouldn't try this at all if you're not comfortable working on the printer...
That procedure is basically a manual power cleaning, but uses more power through the nozzles than any of the printer's automated functions. It will also draw ink from all nozzles instead of only one channel, which is safe. Don't try to pull ink with a lot of muscle, it doesn't take much pressure with the syringe.
Whatever you do, don't remove the printhead and try to flush fluid directly in the nipples of the channels. You'll turn the printhead into a paperweight.
The easiest solution is to buy a new printhead. The alternative is to redirect the channels (if your printed products can allow it).