8 Ways How to Fix a Clicking/Slipping Extruder on a 3D Printer

There are so many stories of clicking and grinding noises coming from extruders on a 3D printer, however, not so many stories on how to get them fixed. This is a problem.

That is why we are here. Is your extruder clicking or grinding? Is it driving you up the walls? Don’t worry, we have the answers to fix this problem, whatever the cause.

Take a look at the facts below to help you find out what is causing this problem, and how you can fix it. 

Why does this happen, and how can I fix it?

The best way you can fix a clicking, skipping sound on your 3D printer extruder, is to make some checks.

See if your nozzle is too close to the printer bed, check the extrusion temperature, make sure that the set-up is fully calibrated to the speed, check for blockages and dust or debris.

Doing some simple checks will help you to identify the problem, and once you have the problem identified, you can get on fixing that.

The fix is generally pretty simple once you have identified the cause of the problem.

That clicking noise you are hearing is generally down to the extruder trying to push out the filament, but it can’t and so it starts to click or skip.

There are a whole array of reasons that this can happen, it can be due to many parts of the printer being jammed or uncalibrated, so let’s take a look at a few of the primary causes of this problem. And, find out how to fix them.

The Nozzle is Too Close to the Print Bed

PROBLEM

One of the first issues we are going to look at is if the nozzle is too close to the print bed. This means, that the nozzle is too close to the printer bed on the first few extruded layers.

The hard metal material of your nozzle scraping along your printing surface could easily be a very painstaking cause of the grinding noise from your 3D printer. The fix for this is pretty easy if this is the cause of your problem.

The reason that this causes your extruder to make a clicking sound, is also what will cause it to skip. This can happen as a result of not having enough pressure to build up to pass the filament through the nozzle successfully.

You should make sure that your 3D printer’s z-stop is also in the correct place to prevent it from going too low on your printer.

RESOLUTION

To solve this issue, you should simply lower the bed using the paper/card under the nozzle tactic, providing it with a slight give.

Once you have done this with all four corners, you will want to redo the four corners and make sure that the levels are not off from the previous leveling. Then also do this in the center to ensure that the print bed level is ideal and good to go.

It is ideal to level the printer bed when it is preheated as a pre-heated bed can slightly warp when heat is applied. You could also run leveling print tests, these are quick prints that will point out any leveling issues, and will therefore help you identify if your extrusion is good enough, or if things need changing.

This is a problem that is also more likely to happen if you have a manual leveling bed. If you have a manual leveling bed and this is a pain for you, you can let the 3D printer do the work by implementing an Auto Bed Leveling Sensor which you can buy easily online, and this will then end up saving a tonne of time and frustration for you as you set up your 3D printer.

It will help to improve your overall print quality and it will give you faith in your machine, which is worth more than you think.

The Extrusion Temperature is Too Low

PROBLEM

Next, if you find that the clicking happens in the layers beyond the first few extruded ones, then this means that the extrusion temperature is too low.

If the material doesn’t melt fast enough because of a low extrusion temperature then it can end up resulting in a clicking noise. This is because the printer is having trouble advancing the filament.

Sometimes when the seed settings are too fast this can make it hard for your extruder to keep up.

Also, when the extrusion temperatures are too low, it can mean that the materials are not melting evenly, and therefore, the thermoplastic that is being extruded is thicker than it should be and has a less-than-satisfactory rate of flow through the nozzle.

If you have an Ender 3, Prusa Mini, Prusa MK3s, or any other FDM 3D printer then the fix for this issue is pretty easy.

RESOLVE

Quite simply, this is the simplest issue to fix, you need to increase the temperature of the printer, and once this is done, the printer should return to running adequately once more.

The Extruder Can’t Keep Up with the Printer Speed

PROBLEM

It is very possible that the printing speed may be set up too fast, and then the extruder will have trouble keeping up with the feed rates, which, in turn, causes that annoying clicking and skipping in the extruder.

Like the previous issue, this is another one that is easy to fix.

RESOLVE

If this is a problem that you face then you need to lower your printer speed to 35mm per second, and then slowly work your way up in speeds of 5mm/s.

This works because in some cases a higher print speed may work fine when going in simple angles, such as a straight line. However, when faced with sharp turns, different degrees, or other motions, the printer may have issues extruding at these faster speeds.

Simply having a higher quality extruder can be the answer to the problem long-term, especially if you want to print multiple complex prints.

You can get Bondtech, or Bondtech clones, for this and you should see an improvement not long after, these have been highly recommended by people who have bought them for this exact reason.

There is a Blockage in the Nozzle, or there is a PTFE Tubing Failure

PROBLEM

Sometimes your printer may give you this clicking noise as a result of a blockage in the nozzle. This is because the printer realizes it isn’t printing as much plastic as it thinks it should.

When your nozzle becomes blocked up the extrusion and pressure will build up and this will cause the extruder to be offset and start to slip.

A similar issue that causes a similar issue is a thermal break between the heater block and the heat sink, where the heat works its way up to the heat sink and if it is not fully functional then this can cause the plastics to become slightly deformed.

This will end up resulting in the plastic forming a plug or a blockage on the colder side and this can sadly happen at any random point throughout the print process.

RESOLVE

The best way to fix this issue is simply to give your nozzle a good cleaning. You may have to do a cold pull if the blockage is excessive.

Then the solution for a thermal break and bad quality heat sink is to lower your temperature or simply, get a more efficient heat sink.

A faulty PTFE tube can go unnoticed, way too easy for way too long before you realize that it is having a negative effect on your prints.

For those who are dedicated to their 3D printing, there is the option of purchasing the Capricorn PTFE tube, this is an efficient tubing that has an extremely low friction so that filament can travel more freely, it is also more responsive, which leads to more accuracy in your prints. 

There is also a lesser need for retraction settings in this, which can then save you time. You will get less slippage, as well as less wear and tear on the extruder.

But, the most beneficial is the higher level of temperature resistance, which will help you in many ways.

Dust/ Debris is Trapped in the Extruder and Gears

PROBLEM

Your extruder and your gears are constantly working and applying consistent pressure to your filament as it gets extruded.

While this happens your extruder and gear bite down on your filament which then, over time leaves behind dust and debris in these parts. This is not uncommon.

RESOLUTION

The easiest quick-fix here is just to give the extruder an exhale, this works best if the build-up is not too excessive. Do be careful when you do this though, you do not want to be breathing in dust.

That being said, this will not always work, sometimes you may also need to wipe the extruder down from the outside as well.

Use a damp paper towel and this should give it a good clean, getting a majority of the debris off of it without pushing it about.

The best solution we can give you though is to simply take it apart and give it a hearty wipe down, getting all bits, to make sure that you get any and all of the offending dust and debris that is trapped inside and causing your problems.

The best way to do this is to follow these steps;

  1. Switch off your printer.
  2. Undo the screws for the extruder and place them somewhere safe.
  3. Remove the fan and the feeder assembly.
  4. Clean out the debris carefully and with a keen eye.
  5. Refit the fan and the feeder, put the screws back in, and turn the printer on, maybe do a test run.

The type and quality of the filament you use could also be an affecting factor in this, so try out a few different brands if you find that this is a recurring offending problem that you face. Be aware that filaments that are prone to brittleness, such as PLA, are more likely to result in these types of problems, unlike the more hardy TPU.

There are Gear Slip Issues from Idler Axles Sliding Out of the Axle Support

PROBLEM

This issue has been known to happen for a user or two of the Prusa MK3S, and this resulted in clicking as well as the idler gear slipping.

This is an issue that would cause an under-extrusion and would be the villain at fault for many failed prints. However, there is a fantastic solution to this!

RESOLUTION

There is an Idle Gear Axle Stabilizer that one of the users who experienced this issue made, it can be found on ‘Thingiverse’. This creation removes the holes from the axle support so there is no room for the axle to slip about.

The idle gear axle should snap firmly into place and still leave the gear free to move as it was intended to do. This can fix up the problem easily, letting your print for hundreds of hours over months with no further issues like this.

The Extrude Motor is Improperly Calibrated, or There is a Low Stepper Voltage

PROBLEM

This reason for issues is not as common as the aforementioned reasons, but it is still possible and has happened to people before.

So, if you have tried and tested some of the other possible issues and solutions and have not yet yielded any possible results, this could be what is causing you all that trouble.

A loose or broken power connection can cause your printer’s motor to run somewhat sporadically, this will cause a slow feed to the print head, this cause, in turn, creates a clicking noise as it prints.

After you have identified this as the cause of the issue you can figure if it is due to weak or shoddy cables.

Manufacturers are occasionally at fault here but issuing power accessories that do not do the job as well as they should. You should double-check the wheel on your extruder is fitted well and if not slipping over the feeder motor.

RESOLUTION

You should ensure that power connections are well-fitted and do not have snags or damage to the cables.

Then check that your power cable is strong enough to handle your printer and has the correct voltage to give your printer sufficient power.

You could always purchase a new power cable or power supply if you suspect that this is the issue.

There are Filament Feeder Issues Due to a Bad Filament Spring Tension

PROBLEM

Finally, the last possible cause of this could be high spring tensions. High spring tension can grind away at your material, which will leave it deformed and slower moving, this will, as expected often result in that unpleasant clicking noise.

If your filament is not feeding through properly then you will get an uneven extrusion that is similar to having a printing temperature that is too low. You can get these filament feeder issues from having an improper spring tension to your printer’s extruder as well.

If the spring tension is too low then the wheel that grips ahold of the material will not be capable of generating enough pressure to constantly move the material through the printer.

However, if it is too high then the wheel will grip your material with an overabundance of force and this will then cause it to deform and change shape.

The printing material you use will have tolerances set for how wide it can usually be, often within the range of 0.02mm for a 1.75mm filament. You can see the problem that can occur this way if the material is squeezed and deformed.

Printing materials will find it hard to pass through the tubing when it gets further down the print and it will not feed through as well as it needs to create a smooth print.

RESOLUTION

The solution for this cause is simply to loosen or tighten the spring tension as needed by adjusting the screw or just buy a completely new feeder.

If you have a cheaper printer, it is probably better recommended to just buy a new feeder, but for higher quality printers, that do not often have these types of spring tension issues, there should be no requirement to purchase a new feeder.

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