Why Is My Ender 3 Not Feeding Filament? (How to Fix?)

From a technological standpoint, 3D printing is a dream come true for many of us, as it’s nothing short of astonishing that we can manufacture anything from figurines to customized mechanical parts in the comfort of our own homes.

On the other hand, we can all agree that the 3D printer technology isn’t perfect in terms of user-friendliness just yet, with hardware and software errors frequently appearing no matter the printer you use and requiring a decent amount of time and effort for troubleshooting.

Today, we will be covering the issue of the Ender 3 not being able to feed filament into the extruder, which is a rare but critical problem that entirely prevents you from using your 3D printer until you resolve it.

So, what can cause your Ender 3 not to feed filament?

Here are the most common issues that can cause your Ender 3 not to feed filament:

  • Obstructions in the extruder assembly
  • Blockage in the PTFE tube
  • Problems with the extruder stepper motor
  • Issues with the extruder gears
  • Misconfigured extruder tension
  • Misconfigured retraction settings

In the upcoming section, we will further analyze the possible reasons behind your Ender 3 not feeding filament, find out how to fix this issue, and finally, look at ways to identify the problem to ensure the application of the correct solution.

Why Is My Ender 3 Not Feeding Filament?

As the Ender 3 not feeding any filament means that you won’t be able to print anything with your 3D printer, finding out what causes the problem is the first step to get your printer back in working order and get it back to printing.

Since a fair few factors can prevent your Ender 3 from feeding filament, we believe that going into each one individually in detail is the best way forward.

Obstructions in the Extruder Assembly

As it’s impossible to see what’s happening in the extruder, an obstruction in the extruder assembly can easily prevent the Ender 3 from feeding filament without notice.

While the most common point of blockage in the extruder assembly is the nozzle, practically any part of the extruder can have an obstruction that prevents the filament from moving freely. 

Such obstructions usually take place due to a piece of filament stuck in the assembly, as it’s unlikely for anything else to get in the extruder and cause such a problem.

Blockage in the PTFE Tube

Since the filament has to move through the PTFE tube to make its way into the extruder, there is no wonder that the PTFE tube is one of the most common factors that can cause the problem.

When there is a blockage in the PTFE tube, the filament cannot make its way to the hotend at all, meaning that the printer won’t be able to feed the filament.

Fortunately, you can quickly notice such a scenario as you can see that the filament is stuck at a certain point of the tube without having to dismantle anything.

Extruder Stepper Motor Problems

As the stepper motor is directly responsible for facilitating the movement of the filament, it’s one of the first things that come to mind when the Ender 3 doesn’t feed filament.

When the extruder motor cannot provide enough power to turn the extruder gears, the mechanism that allows the filament to move down to the nozzle comes to a halt, resulting in the Ender 3 not feeding the filament.

Clicking sounds coming from the motor is a primary sign to look out for in this scenario, signifying that the motor cannot keep up.

Extruder Gear Issues

The extruder gears are one of the primary parts responsible for the movement of the filament within the extruder, which makes them one of the potential culprits that can cause the issue.

When the extruder gears are worn out, they won’t be able to grip the filament correctly and move it down to the nozzle, which will end up with the Ender 3 not being able to feed the filament.

Aside from the filament not being fed at all, you can also observe the filament not coming out correctly due to the gears grinding parts of the filament off in some cases.

Misconfigured Extruder Tension

A misconfigured extruder tension is another problem that can prevent your Ender 3 from feeding filament.

When the extruder tension is way too tight, the extruder gears end up gripping the filament very firmly, to the point where the filament may not be able to move through the gears at all and get entirely stuck in there.

On the other hand, when the extrusion tension is way too loose, the extruder gears cannot push the filament down due to not being able to grip the filament at all.

In some cases, the extruder tension being too tight can also result in the filament coming out much thinner than it should be due to the extruder gears grinding the filament down due to the tightness, which is a sign to keep in mind.

Misconfigured Retraction Settings

Last but not least, misconfigured retraction settings can cause your Ender 3 not to feed any filament.

While a long retraction distance is the main culprit here, frequent and unnecessary retractions due to misconfigured retraction minimum travel, minimum extrusion distance window, and maximum retraction count values can also contribute to the issue by grinding the filament.

As the retraction settings technically don’t stop the Ender 3 from feeding the filament but rather hold the filament back, you may notice that the filament comes out now and then between retractions.

How to Fix the Issue of Ender 3 Not Feeding Filament?

Fixing the issue of your Ender 3 not feeding any filament can be tricky due to the possibility of a few different things causing it, especially if you can’t narrow the culprits down and pinpoint the issue to apply the most optimal solution directly.

Here is a list of fixes for the most common issues that can prevent your Ender 3 from feeding filament:

  • Disassemble the extruder assembly of your Ender 3 and check for obstructions. While the blockage is often at the nozzle, it’s worth cleaning all the parts that come into contact with the filament to ensure that the extruder is not responsible for the blockage. You can use a needle or a wire brush to clean the extruder and the nozzle and ensure that the path is clear.
  • Inspect the PTFE tube of your Ender 3 for any possible blockages. You can quickly clean the PTFE tube by attaching a small piece of sponge or paper to the end of a piece of filament and pushing the filament through the tube.
  • Observe the Ender 3 extruder stepper motor for signs of malfunction, such as clicking and skipping. In this scenario, our recommendation would be to tighten the cables, replace the wiring and replace the extruder stepper motor, respectively – until you resolve the issue.
  • Check the extruder gears of your Ender 3 for signs of wear and tear. Replacing the extruder gears is the best course of action in this scenario, but lubricating them can also yield successful results in some cases.
  • Re-configure the extruder tension of your Ender 3. By using the knob next to the extruder spring, you can loosen or tighten the extruder tension to create the optimal amount of space for the gears to move the filament freely.
  • Re-configure the retraction settings in your slicer. We recommend using a retraction distance of 5 mm, a retraction speed of 45 mm/s, and a retraction minimum travel value of 1.5 mm to avoid problems.

If you don’t know what the exact issue is, we recommend applying all fixes in the order of easiness and running a test print after each one to see whether you have resolved the problem or not.

Wrapping Up

Even though it’s not a very common issue, the fact that you can’t 3D print anything if your Ender 3 is not feeding filament makes it a problem that requires resolving as soon as possible.

To quickly recap, here are the most common culprits behind the issue of your Ender 3 not feeding filament:

  • Clogging within the extruder
  • PTFE tube obstruction
  • Malfunctioning extruder stepper
  • Worn out extruder gears
  • Wrongly calibrated extruder tension
  • Incorrect retraction settings

Unless you’re dealing with a fringe case, going through this list of common issues and applying the appropriate fixes wherever necessary should get your Ender 3 to feed filament and operate as intended once again.

Happy printing!