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


Stop Clicking Slipping of Extruder 3D Printer

I’ve heard many stories of clicking and grinding noises coming from an extruder, but not many stories on getting them fixed. This is why I decided to make a simple to follow post on how to fix this noise.

The best way to fix a clicking/skipping sound on your 3D printer is to do a series of checks such as seeing if your nozzle is too close to the print bed, extrusion temperature is too low, printer can’t keep up with the speed, there’s a blockage in your nozzle or tube and if dust/debris is trapped in your extruder/gears.

Once you identify the issue, the fix is generally quite simple.

Clicking noises on your 3D printer usually means that it’s trying to push out filament but it can’t.

This can be due to many different reasons such as your nozzle is too close to the print bed, your stepper motor is losing steps, your extruder gears aren’t gripping the filament tightly enough, or you have issues with your bearings which hold pressure on the filament.

These are the main reasons but there are a few others which affect some people which I’ve detailed below.

Pro Tip: Get yourself one of the best metal hotend kits to improve your extrusion flow. The Micro Swiss All-Metal Hotend is a drop-in hotend that melts filament efficiently so the pressure doesn’t build up and contribute to a clicking/slipping extruder.

1. Nozzle too Close to Print Bed

It could be from your nozzle being too close to the printer bed on the first few extruded layers.

The hard metal material of your nozzle scraping on your printing surface can easily cause a grinding noise from your 3D printer. If this is a problem you are experiencing, the fix is pretty easy.

How this causes your extruder to skip, which in turns causes the clicking sound, is by not having enough pressure build up to pass your filament through successfully.

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

Solution

Simply level your bed using the paper/card under the nozzle technique so there is a slight ‘give’. Once you’ve done all four corners, you’ll want to redo the four corners to make sure the levels aren’t off from the previous levelling, then also do the centre to ensure your print bed level is good to go.

I wrote a useful post on How to Level Your 3D Printer Bed Properly which you can check out.

It’s a good idea to level your printer bed when it’s preheated because beds can slightly warp when heat is applied.

You can also run levelling print tests which are quick prints that show any levelling issues so you know if your extrusion is good enough or not.

The video below shows a more accurate, in-depth levelling method.

If you have a manual leveling bed, this is a lot more likely to occur.

Instead of always manually leveling your bed, you can let your 3D printer do the work for you, by implementing the popular BLTouch Auto Bed Leveling Sensor from Amazon, which saves a bunch of time and frustration in setting up your 3D printer.

It works on any bed material and several users have described a significant increase in overall print quality and reliability. Being able to trust that your 3D printer is level every time gives you a genuine feeling of confidence in your machine, that is worth every penny.

2. Extrusion Temperature Too Low

Nozzle Temperature Too Low

When the clicking happens in layers past the first few extruded layers, it means your extrusion temperature is too low.

If your material isn’t melting fast enough because of a low extrusion temperature it can result in a clicking noise because your printer is having trouble advancing your filament.

Sometimes when speed settings are too fast, your extruder can find it hard to keep up.

When extrusion temperatures are too low, it can mean that your materials aren’t melting evenly. What happens in this case is the thermoplastic that is being extruded is thicker than it should be and doesn’t have good flow rates through to the nozzle.

If the cause of your extruder clicking is happening on your Ender 3, Prusa, Anet, or other FDM 3D printer the fix is fairly simple as shown below.

Solution

If this is your issue, the simple fix here is of course, to increase your printer’s temperature and things should be back to running properly.

3. Extruder Can’t Keep up with Printer Speed

If your printing speed is set too fast, your extruder can have trouble keeping up with the feed rates which can cause this clicking/slipping of the extruder. If this is your issue it’s a pretty easy fix.

Solution

Lower your print speed to 35mm/s then slowly work your way up in 5mm/s increments.

The reason this works is because in some cases, higher printer speeds works fine going at simple angles like a straight line, but when it comes to sharp turns and different degrees, your printer can have trouble extruding accurately at higher speeds.

Getting a higher quality extruder can definitely help out in this regard. I recently ordered a BMG Dual Drive Extruder from Amazon which works wonders.

Now you can either get the genuine Bontech, or the Bondtech clone, you check the the price difference and decide which to go for. One user who tried both did really ‘feel’ and see the difference in print quality with the more defined teeth and detail on the machined parts.

4. A Blockage in Your Nozzle or PTFE Tubing Failure

Many times, your printer will give you this clicking noise when your nozzle is blocked. It’s because your printer isn’t printing as much plastic out as it thinks it should. When your nozzle is blocked up, the extrusion and pressure builds up which sets off your extruder to start slipping.

Another issue that’s related is the thermal break between the heater block and the heat sink, where heat works its way up to the heat sink and if not fully functional, can cause plastic to deform slightly.

This can result in the plastic forming a plug, or small blockage on the cold side and can happen at random points throughout the print.

Solution

Give your nozzle a good cleaning, maybe even a cold pull if the blockage is bad enough. I’ve done a pretty detailed post about Unclogging a Jammed Nozzle which many have found useful.

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

A faulty PTFE tube can easily go unnoticed for a while before you realize it is messing with your prints.

For the serious 3D printer hobbyists out there, we have access to a premium PTFE tube called the Creality Capricorn PTFE Bowden Tube from Amazon. The reason this tubing is so popular is just how well it works and it’s long-term durability.

The Capricorn PTFE tube has extremely low friction so filament can travel freely. It’s more responsive, leading to more accuracy in prints along with having a lesser need for retraction settings which saves you time.

You’re getting less slippage, wear and tear on your extruder, and most beneficial is the significantly higher level of temperature resistance.

It comes with a cool tube cutter too!

5. Dust/Debris Trapped in the Extruder and Gears

Extruder+Gears with Dust & Debris (1)

Your extruder and gears are constantly working and apply constant pressure to your filament as it gets extruded. While this is happening, your extruder and gears will be biting down on your filament which, over time, can leave dust and debris within these parts.

Solution

If you wanted to do a quick-fix, you could just give the extruder a hearty exhale and if it’s not built up too bad, should do the trick.

It might not be enough doing this or just wiping down the extruder from the outside. The most effective solution here would be taking it apart and giving it a thorough wipe down to make sure you get the offending dust and debris trapped inside.

The simple fix here would be to:

  • Switch off your printer
  • Undo the screws for your extruder
  • Remove the fan and feeder assembly
  • Clean out the debris
  • Refit the fan and feeder and it should work smoothly again.

The type and quality of your filament could also affect this, so try out a few different filament brands and see which one works best for you. Filament that tends to get brittle like PLA are more likely to result in this issue, as opposed to TPU.

6. Gear Slip Issues From Idler Axle Sliding Out of Axle Support

This issue happened to a Prusa MK3S user and it resulted in a clicking as well as the idler gear slipping. It would cause under-extrusion and be responsible for many failed prints, but he came up with a great solution.

Solution

He designed an Idle Gear Axle Stabilizer which can be found on Thingiverse and it removes the holes from the axle support so there isn’t any room for the axle to slip around.

The idle gear axle should snap firmly into place and still leave the gear free to move as it was intended. The user has now been printing for hundreds of hours over many months with this stabilizer in place and it’s working great.

7. Extruder Motor is Improperly Calibrated Or Low Stepper Voltage

This reason is more of a rare one but it’s still possible and has happened to some users out there. If you’ve tried many of the other solutions and they aren’t working, this may be your problem.

A loose or broken power connection can cause your printer’s motor to run sporadically, causing a slow feed to the print head. If you experience this issue you could also experience this clicking noise in the printing process.

Whether it’s due to bad or weak cables it’s an issue that can be solved once you identify this problem.

Manufacturers can sometimes be at fault here by issuing power accessories that don’t get the job done as well as they should over time.

You want to double check the wheel on your extruder is fitted well and isn’t slipping on the feeder motor.

Solution

Make sure power connections are well-fitted and don’t have snags or damage to the cables. Check that your power cable is strong enough to handle your printer and has the correct voltage to give proper power.

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

8. Filament Feeder Issues Due to Bad Filament Spring Tension

High spring tension can grind away at your material, leaving a deformed shape and slower movement. This can result in a clicking noise, as detailed previously.

When your filament isn’t fed through properly, you’ll get uneven extrusion similar to having a printing temperature that’s too low. You can get these filament feeder issues from having an improper spring tension on your printer’s extruder.

If your printer’s spring tension is too low, the wheel that grips the material won’t be able to generate enough pressure to consistently move the material through the printer.

If your printer’s spring tension is too high, the wheel will grip your material with too much force and cause it to deform and change shape. You’re printing material has tolerances set for how wide it can be usually in the 0.02mm range for 1.75mm filament.

You can see the problem that can occur if the material is squeezed and deformed.

Printing materials will find it hard to pass through the tube and when it gets further down the printer, it won’t feed through as good as it needs to print smoothly.

Solution

Your solution here is tighten or loosen the spring tension by adjusting the screw, or to buy a completely new feeder.

If you have a cheaper printer, I would recommend buying a new feeder, but if you have a higher quality printer that doesn’t usually have spring tension issues, you shouldn’t have to purchase a new feeder.

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