While less common than software-related problems, issues related to hardware still make up for a significant portion of 3D printer troubleshooting, as 3D printing is a process where both the hardware and the software need to work together to create a successful product.
Unfortunately, issues related to hardware are usually more challenging to solve, especially for those who don’t have a lot of experience with mechanical parts; since they require physical intervention rather than the more straightforward process of changing values on software.
In today’s article, we will be analyzing a vital hardware problem that can cause trouble for your Ender 3 at times, where the extruder starts making clicking sounds and skipping, which disrupts the flow of the filament during the printing process.
So, what can cause the Ender 3’s extruder to skip and make clicking sounds?
As there can be a few distinct culprits behind your Ender 3’s extruder skipping and clicking, we have listed the most common ones below:
- The extruder stepper drivers are failing.
- The extruder stepper motor is failing.
- The extruder gears are worn-out.
- The extruder tension is too high.
- The Bowden tube is clogged or damaged.
- The nozzle is clogged or damaged.
- The space between the nozzle and the build plate is insufficient.
- The print speed is too high.
- The print temperature is too low.
- The filament or the nozzle diameter is incorrect.
- The flow rate is too high.
Next up, we will go into the potential reasons behind the Ender 3 extruder making skipping and clicking sounds in more detail, find out how to fix the problem as quickly as possible, and go through the signs that you can use to identify the problem.
Why Is My Ender 3’s (Pro/V2) Extruder Clicking and Skipping?
The extruder making clicking and skipping sounds is never a good sign, as it suggests that something is causing the extruder to be under more pressure than it should be.
As there are many different factors that can cause the extruder to click and skip, we will go into each one individually and in detail in this section to make it easier to pinpoint the one that’s giving you trouble.
- Failing extruder stepper drivers – The extruder stepper drivers are responsible for the operation of the stepper motor, and their failure due to reasons such as overheating, wire problems, incorrect tuning, and more can cause these drivers to send erroneous signals to the stepper motor.
- Failing extruder stepper motor – Clicking and skipping can be a sign of the extruder stepper motor itself failing due to numerous reasons ranging from wear and tear to damage to the wiring.
- Worn-out extruder gears – When the extruder gears are worn-out, they can get harder to turn, and the force provided by the extruder stepper motor may not be enough to get the gears to turn as a result. This scenario will end up with the extruder motor skipping and making clicking sounds.
- Overly high extruder tension – An excessively high extruder tension will cause the extruder gears to grip the filament too harshly, leaving no room for the filament to move freely in the extruder. As a result, the extruder motor will eventually start skipping and clicking due to not being able to move more plastic down.
- Clogged or damaged PTFE tube – A clogged or damaged PTFE (Bowden) tube can restrict the movement of the filament at a certain point and prevent the extruder motor from being able to push more filament out as a result, which will cause skipping and clicking.
- Clogged or damaged nozzle – A clogged or damaged nozzle can prevent the plastic from escaping it, which will eventually cause a scenario where the extruder can’t push more filament due to the lack of space, causing it to skip and click.
- Insufficient distance between the nozzle and the build plate – Insufficient distance for the extruded plastic to fit between the nozzle and the build plate due to reasons such as an incorrectly leveled bed or a misconfigured Z offset can cause the extruder to skip and click as it won’t be able to push the plastic into a space that doesn’t exist.
- Excessively high print speed – A print speed that is too high will prevent the plastic from reaching the optimal temperature to melt due to the flow of the plastic being too much, causing clogs and extruder skipping as a result.
- Too low print temperature – A print temperature that is too low will prevent the plastic from reaching a point where it melts and flows freely, which can end up with the clogging of the nozzle, causing the extruder to click and skip.
- Incorrect filament or nozzle diameter – Both an incorrectly set filament diameter (too low) and an incorrectly set nozzle diameter (too high) can cause the Ender 3 to attempt to push out more filament that can fit into the system, causing a clog and making the extruder stepper click and skip.
- Too high flow rate – A too high flow rate value can cause the amount of filament the Ender 3 is trying to push out to be more than what the extruder can handle, causing clogs in the system and prompting the extruder stepper to click and skip.
How to Fix the Issue of Ender 3 Extruder Clicking and Skipping?
Since the issue of the extruder clicking and skipping can be a product of many different problems, there is no single solution that will get the extruder back into working condition.
Below, we have prepared a checklist of solutions for all the possible issues that can cause the Ender 3’s extruder to click and skip, which we recommend following one by one and conducting test prints after each solution:
- Maintain the extruder stepper drivers – We recommend re-tuning the extruder stepper drivers, replacing their wiring, and finally replacing the drivers (which means you will need to replace the motherboard).
- Maintain the extruder stepper motor – We recommend starting with replacing the wiring of the extruder stepper motor and replacing the motor altogether if that does not help.
- Maintain the extruder gears – Since the extruder gears are made of relatively cheap material, replacing them if they aren’t correctly turning due to wear and tear is the best way to move forward.
- Reduce the extruder tension – Slightly turning the extruder tensioner knob to loosen the extruder tension will allow the filament to have more room to move in the extruder assembly and prevent the gears from chewing the filament.
- Maintain the PTFE tube – We recommend observing the PTFE tube and seeing whether the filament is flowing freely through it. If the filament does not move after a specific region of the PTFE tube, we recommend cleaning it, ensuring that it’s not bent, or replacing it if necessary.
- Maintain the nozzle – We recommend removing the nozzle from the extruder, thoroughly inspecting it for any damage or clogging, and cleaning or replacing it based on the result.
- Correct the bed leveling – With a correctly leveled bed, the space between the build plate and the nozzle is always the same (equal to the thickness of a standard paper) at each corner. We highly recommend using an auto bed leveling sensor, such as the BLTouch, to prevent bed leveling from being a problem.
- Correct the Z offset value – The Z offset value should be configured so that the space between the nozzle and the build plate equals the thickness of a standard paper when the nozzle is at the home position.
- Decrease the print speed – Decreasing the print speed value in increments of 5 mm/s and running test prints is the best way to move forward here, which will allow you to find out whether the print speed is really the problem.
- Increase the print temperature – Increasing the print temperature value to the higher end of the range provided by the filament manufacturer should give the plastic a better flow and reduce the chance of clogging the nozzle. We recommend increasing the print temperature in increments of 5 degrees and testing.
- Correct the filament diameter – The filament diameter value in the material profile section for the filament setting you have activated should match the filament diameter value of the filament you’re using, which you can find in the manufacturer’s specifications. In most cases, this value is 1.75 mm.
- Correct the nozzle diameter – The nozzle diameter value in the settings of the slicer should be equal to the actual size of the nozzle you’re using, which is 0.4 mm for a default Ender 3.
- Decrease the flow rate – While we recommend using the default flow rate value of 100%, reducing the flow rate value in increments of 1 percent and testing after each change can be helpful to solve the extruder clicking and skipping problem.
How to Identify the Issue of Ender 3 Extruder Clicking and Skipping?
If you are under the suspicion that something is wrong with your 3D printer’s extruder, identifying and confirming whether the problem you’re facing is the clicking and skipping of the extruder or not is the first step to going down the correct solution path.
The primary sign of an Ender 3 extruder that is clicking and skipping is the Ender 3 either under-extruding or not extruding filament at all, which is accompanied by clicking sounds that arise as a result of the extruder struggling to move the filament down through the nozzle.
While other things can also prevent the filament from coming out of the nozzle, the clicking sounds that the extruder motor makes due to its force not being enough to move the filament is especially the sign to watch out for as it practically confirms the problem at hand.
Clicking and skipping sounds coming out of the extruder is definitely a problem that requires fixing immediately, as the excess pressure going into the extruder will both cause your prints to fail and possibly damage the extruder in the long-term scenario.
To quickly recap, the issue of Ender 3 extruder clicking and skipping comes down to problems primarily with the extruder assembly, incorrect spacing between the nozzle and the build plate, and misconfigured slicer settings in vital parameters such as the print speed, print temperature, flow rate, and more.
While we can consider this problem a somewhat complex one since there is a long checklist of factors to go through, especially with some points being pretty technical, carefully going through each of these points will most likely solve your problem and get your Ender 3 extruder functioning.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.