How to Fix Ender 3 Bed Leveling Problems – Troubleshooting
Plenty of people out there with the Ender 3 experience problems with things like bed leveling, whether it’s leveling the bed, the bed being too high or low, the middle of the bed being high, and figuring out how to level a glass bed. This article will walk you through some Ender 3 bed leveling problems.
To fix Ender 3 bed leveling problems, make sure your Z-axis limit switch is in the correct position. Your springs shouldn’t be fully compressed or too loose. Make sure your print bed is stable and doesn’t have much of a wobble. Sometimes your frame might be misaligned and causing bed leveling issues.
This is the basic answer, but keep reading for more details to finally solve these bed leveling problems on your Ender 3.
How to Fix Ender 3 Bed Not Staying Level or Unleveling
One of the common print bed problems on the Ender 3 is that the print bed does not stay level during, or in between prints. This can cause print defects like ghosting, ringing, layer shifts, ripples, etc.
It can also result in poor first layer adhesion and the nozzle digging into the print bed. Your Ender 3’s bed not staying level can be due to several issues with the printer’s hardware.
Here are some of them:
- Worn or loose bed springs
- Wobbly print bed
- Loose build plate screws
- Worn and dented POM wheels
- Misaligned frame and sagging X gantry
- Loose Z endstop
- Loose X gantry components
- Z-axis binding leading to skipped steps
- Warped build plate
You can fix these hardware issues by upgrading your printer’s stock parts or re-aligning them correctly. Let’s go through how you can do this.
- Replace the stock bed springs on your printer
- Tighten the eccentric nuts and POM wheels on your print bed
- Replace any worn POM wheels
- Check the screws on the print bed for wear
- Make sure your frame and X gantry are square
- Tighten the screws in the Z endstop
- Tighten the components on the X gantry
- Resolve Z-axis binding
- Replace the print bed
- Install an automatic bed leveling system
Replace the Stock Bed Springs on Your Printer
Replacing the stock springs on the Ender 3 is usually the first advice experts often give to solve the issue of your bed not staying level or unleveling. This is because the stock springs on the Ender 3 aren’t sufficiently stiff enough to hold the bed in place during printing.
As a result, they can come loose due to the printer’s vibration. So, for a better printing experience and a more stable bed, you can replace the stock springs with stronger, stiffer springs.
A great replacement is the 8mm Yellow Compression Springs set on Amazon. These springs are made of higher quality material than the stock springs, which will produce better performance.
Users who’ve purchased these springs have raved about their stability. They’re saying the difference between this and the stock springs are like night and day.
Another option you can go for are Silicon Leveling Solid Bed Mounts. These mounts offer great stability to your bed, and they also cut down bed vibrations keeping the bed level for longer.
Most users who bought the mounts have reported that it has reduced the number of times they have to level the print bed. However, they also said you might have to adjust your Z endstop after you install it for proper leveling.
Here’s how you can install the springs and the mounts.
Note: Be careful around the bed’s wiring when installing new springs. Avoid touching the heating element and the thermistor so as not to cut or disconnect it.
Tighten the Eccentric Nuts and POM Wheels
A print bed wobbling on its carriage may have trouble staying level during printing. As the bed moves back and forth, it can gradually move out of its level position.
You can fix this wobbling by tightening the eccentric nuts and the POM wheels. The POM wheels are the little black wheels on the bed’s bottom that grip the rails on the carriages.
To tighten them, follow this video.
Most users report that this fix solves their bed leveling problems. In addition, some users also recommend marking one edge on each eccentric nut to make sure they are parallel.
Replace Worn POM Wheels
A worn-down or pitted POM wheel cannot provide smooth movement while moving along the carriage. As the wheel moves, the height of the build plate may keep on changing thanks to the worn-down sections.
As a result, the bed may not stay level.
To avoid this, inspect the POM wheels while they are moving along the carriage for any signs of wear. If you notice any section that is chipped, flat, or worn down on any wheel, replace the wheel immediately.
You can get a pack of SIMAX3D 3D Printer POM Wheels relatively cheaply from Amazon. Just unscrew the defective wheel and replace it with a new one.
Check the Screws on The Print Bed for Wear
There are screws that connect your print bed to the carriage underneath, as well as to the four bed springs on each corner. When these screws are loose, your bed may have trouble staying level through multiple prints.
These M4 screws aren’t meant to move once they are screwed into the holes in the print bed. However, due to wear, tear, and vibration, they can come loose, ruining your bed’s adhesion.
If they are loose, you’ll even be able to see them moving in the holes when you turn the knobs on the bed springs. One user who checked out the screws on their print bed found them to be loose and moving around in the hole.
They noticed the screw was worn so they ended up changing their screws and it helped to solve their problem of the bed not staying level A nylon lock nut also prevents the screws from moving once they’re already tightened.
To install it, screw in the lock nut between the print bed and the spring. Viola, your print bed is secure.
Make Sure Your Frame and X Gantry Are Square
Misaligned frames come about due to mistakes most people make when assembling an Ender 3. When assembling your Ender 3, you should always make sure all the parts are level and square with each other.
If all the parts aren’t at the same level, then one part of the X gantry may be higher than the other. This will lead to the nozzle being higher on one side of the build plate than the other which can result in errors.
You can fix this in one of two ways:
Check If the Frame is Square
To do this, you’ll need either a machinist’s square like the Taytools Machinist’s Engineer Solid Square or a spirit level like the CRAFTSMAN Torpedo Level, both from Amazon.
Use these tools to check if your printer’s frame is square – perfectly perpendicular to the build plate. If it isn’t, you’ll want to remove the crossbeam and align the vertical frames properly with a machinist square before screwing them in.
Make Sure the X Gantry Is Level
Check if the X gantry is perfectly level and parallel with the build plate using a spirit level. You’ll need to loosen up the gantry and align it properly if it isn’t.
Check the bracket that holds the extruder motor assembly. That bracket should be flush with the X gantry’s carriage arm. If it isn’t, undo the screws connecting them and make sure it is properly flush.
The video below is a great method to make sure your frame is properly aligned.
Tighten the Z Endstop Nuts
The Z endstop lets the machine know when it has reached the surface of the print bed, which the 3D printer identifies as “home” or the point where the Z-height = 0. If there is play or movement on the limit switch’s bracket, then the home position might keep on changing.
To avoid this, make sure the nuts on the bracket are well tightened. You should not experience any play at all on the endstop when you move it with your fingers.
Tighten the X Gantry Components
X gantry components like the nozzle and hotend assembly play a big role in bed leveling. If their positions keep changing, then regardless of if you have a leveled bed, it might seem as though it keeps not staying level
So, tighten the eccentric nuts holding your extruder assembly to the gantry to ensure there’s no play on it. Also, check your belt tensioner to ensure that the belt isn’t slack and it’s under the correct amount of tension.
Check out my article on How to Tension the Belts on Your 3D Printer.
Resolve The Z-Axis Binding
If the X-axis carriage has difficulties moving along the Z-axis due to binding, it can lead to skipped steps. Z-axis binding occurs when the leadscrew cannot turn smoothly to move the X gantry due to friction, poor alignment, etc.
The lead screw or the threaded rod is the long metal bar in a cylinder shape that the 3D printer travels up and down on. It connects the X gantry with the round metal coupler near the Z motor.
Many things can cause Z-axis binding, but the most common among them is a stiff lead screw.
To fix this, check if your threaded rod goes into its coupler smoothly. If it doesn’t, try loosening the couplers screws and see if it turns smoothly.
You can also loosen the screws on the rod holder in the X-axis gantry’s bracket to see if it solves the problem. If this doesn’t work, you can print a shim (Thingiverse) to stay between the motor and the frame for better alignment.
You can read my article for more information called How to Fix Ender 3 Z-Axis Issues.
Replace The Print Bed
If your print bed has pretty bad warping, you’ll have trouble leveling it and keeping it level. Certain sections will always be higher than others leading to poor bed leveling.
If your print bed has bad warping, you might be better off replacing it to get better results. You can invest in a Tempered Glass Build Plate for better smoothness and printing.
These plates provide a better bottom finish for your prints. In addition, they’re also more resistant to warping, and it’s also easier to remove prints from them.
Ender 3 users have reported better build plate adhesion and first layer adhesion when using the glass. in addition, they’re also saying it’s far easier to clean than other bed surfaces.
Install an Automatic Bed Leveling System
An automatic bed leveling system measures the distance between your nozzle and the bed at different locations on the bed. It does this using a probe, which gauges the exact distance of the nozzle from the bed.
With this, the printer can account for inconsistencies on the bed’s surface when printing. As a result, you can get a great first layer on each position on the bed even if it isn’t perfectly level.
A good one to get is the Creality BL Touch V3.1 Auto Bed Leveling Sensor Kit from Amazon. Many users describe it as the best upgrade for their 3D printer. One user said it worked perfectly and they only have to check their bed once and week, along with having no Z-axis issues.
It does take time to install but there are plenty of online guides to help you out.
Bonus – Check the Screws on the Bottom of Your Printer
In some printers, the nuts that hold the bottom of the print bed to the Y carriage are not equal in height. This results in an unbalanced print bed that has trouble staying level.
A Redditor discovered this defect, and a few users have also backed up their claim, which makes this worth checking. So, check the screws holding the bed to the XY carriage and see if there’s any discrepancy in their height.
If there is, you can follow this guide on Thingiverse to print and install a spacer to level them.
How to Fix Ender 3 Bed Too High or Low
If your print bed is too high or too low, you can have several problems. For example, the filament may have trouble adhering to the bed if it’s too low.
On the other hand, if it’s too high, the nozzle won’t be able to lay down filament properly, and it may dig into the print bed. This issue can either affect the bed as a whole or vary from corner to corner within the build plate.
Some common causes of this issue include:
- Improperly placed Z endstop
- Over-tightened or uneven bed springs
- Warped print bed
Let’s look at how you can fix these issues:
- Adjust the Z endstop
- Loosen your bed springs a little
- Replace the warped print bed
Adjust the Z Endstop
The Z end stop is a sensor on the vertical metal frame that tells your printer when the nozzle reaches the print bed. This tells the printer to stop when it reaches the lowest point of its travel path.
If placed too high, the printhead will not reach the print bed before stopping. Conversely, the nozzle will get to the bed before it hits the end stop if it is too low.
Most users often find out they have to do this after changing the print bed on their machines. In these cases, the height different between the two beds can make leveling hard.
Check out the video below to see how you can adjust your Z-axis limit switch.
Note: Some users say that in newer printers, limit switch holders can have a little protrusion that limits their motion. You can cut this off using flush cutters if it interferes.
Loosen the Tension on Your Bed Springs
Overtightening the thumbscrews at the bottom of your 3D printer, results in the springs being fully compressed. On a machine like the Ender 3, it lowers the print bed to a position much lower than you need for printing.
So, simply put, the tighter or more compressed the springs are below your bed, the lower your bed will be.
Some users make the mistake of tightening the springs all the way. You want to avoid doing that, especially if you’ve upgraded to the new, stiffer yellow springs.
If your bed springs are fully compressed, you want to loosen them up then level each corner of your bed. Another thing to check is whether your Z stop is in the correct position. If it’s not, then you might want to lower it down.
The screws should be at around 50% of their maximum tightness as a rule of thumb. Anything beyond that and you should lower your limit switch.
Replace Your Warped Bed
Another thing that might cause your Ender 3 bed to be too high or low is a warped bed surface. The flatness of your bed surface can reduce over time due to heat and pressure, so you might just have to replace your warped bed.
It may be possible to alleviate the issues from a warped bed by placing aluminum foil or sticky notes in the lower areas to balance out the uneven surfaces, though it doesn’t work all the time.
In this situation, I’d recommend again, going with a Creality Tempered Glass Bed from Amazon. It’s a highly popular 3D printer bed surface that provides users with a nice flat surface that has amazing durability. Another highlight is how smooth it makes the bottom of your 3D prints.
Adhesion can be difficult if you don’t clean up the glass surface, but using adhesives like glue sticks or hairspray can help out a lot.
Should You Level an Ender 3 Hot or Cold?
You should always level your Ender 3’s bed while it’s heated up. The print bed’s material expands when it is heated up. This moves the bed closer to the nozzle. So, if you do not account for this during leveling, it can cause problems while leveling.
For some build plate materials, this expansion can be considered minimal. Nevertheless, you should always heat your build plate before leveling it.
How Often Should You Level Your Ender 3 Bed?
You should level your print bed once every 5-10 prints depending on how stable your print bed setup is. If your print bed is very stable, you will only need to make minute adjustments when leveling the bed. With upgraded firm springs or silicone leveling columns, your bed should stay level a lot longer.
During printing, some other activities which can throw your bed out of alignment may occur, requiring it to be re-levelled. Some of these include; changing the nozzle or bed, removing the extruder, bumping the printer, removing a print from the bed roughly, etc.
In addition, if you’re prepping your printer for a long print (>10 hours), it can be a good idea to make sure make to level your bed again.
With experience and practice, you’ll know when your bed needs leveling. You can usually tell just by looking at how the first layer is laying down material.
How to Level a Glass Bed on an Ender 3
To level a glass bed on an Ender 3, simply adjust your Z-endstop so that the nozzle is fairly close to the glass bed surface. Now, you want to level your bed as you normally would using the paper leveling method with each corner and the middle of the glass bed.
The thickness of a glass build surface is going to be a lot more than standard bed surfaces, so raising your Z-endstop is necessary. If you forget to do this, it’s likely that your nozzle will grind into your new glass surface, potentially scraping and damaging it.
I’ve accidentally done this before myself and it isn’t pretty!
The video below by CHEP is a great tutorial on how to install a new glass bed on an Ender 3.
Does the Ender 3 Have Auto Bed Leveling?
No, stock Ender 3 printers do not have Auto bed leveling capabilities installed. If you want Auto bed leveling on your printer, you’ll have to buy the kit and install it yourself. The most popular bed leveling kit is the BL Touch Auto Leveling Sensor Kit, which helps plenty of users create great 3D prints.
It uses a sensor to determine the height of your print bed at different positions and uses that to level the bed. Also, unlike some other kits on the market, you can use it with non-metal print bed materials like glass, BuildTak, etc.
Best Ender 3 Bed Leveling G-Code – Test
The best Ender 3 bed leveling G-Code comes from a YouTuber named CHEP. He provides a G-Code that moves your printhead to the different corners of the Ender 3 bed so you can quickly level it.
A Redditor has modified the G-Code to heat the print bed and the nozzle to make this even better. This way, you can level the bed while it’s hot.
Here’s how you can use it.
- Tighten all the springs on your build plate to their maximum stiffness.
- Turn the adjustment knobs for about two revolutions to loosen them slightly.
- Download the bed leveling G-Code and save it on your SD card.
- Insert your SD card into the printer and turn it on
- Select the file and wait for the build plate to heat up and move to the first position.
- At the first position, insert a piece of paper between the nozzle and the print bed.
- Adjust the bed until there is friction between the paper and the nozzle. You should feel some tension when moving the paper
- Press the knob to move to the next position and repeat the same procedure for all corners.
After this, you can also live-level the build plate while printing a test print to achieve a better level.
- Download the square leveling print
- Load it up on your printer and start printing
- Watch the print as it goes around the print bed
- Rub the printed corners lightly with your finger
- If a particular corner of the print isn’t sticking well to the bed, the bed is too far away from the nozzle.
- Adjust the springs in that corner to bring the bed closer to the nozzle.
- If the print is coming out dull or thin, the nozzle is too close to the bed. Reduce the distance by tightening your springs.
A steady, level print bed is the first and arguably the most crucial requirement for a great first layer. So, if you’re having trouble achieving this, try out all the tips we’ve mentioned and see if that fixes your Ender 3 print bed issues.
Good Luck and happy printing!