How to Fix Ender 3 Y-Axis Problems & Upgrade It
There are many problems that the Ender 3 can experience on the Y axis, so I decided to write an article about some of those problems, as well as the solutions.
Keep reading through this article to get these problems solved finally.
How to Fix Y-Axis Getting Stuck or Not Smooth
One Y-axis issue that occurs in 3D printers is when the movements in the Y-axis aren’t smooth or they get stuck while trying to move from one end to the other.
Some reasons why this might happen include:
- Tight Y-axis bed rollers
- Damaged rollers
- Loose or worn belt
- Bad motor wiring
- Failing or Bad Y-axis motor
You can try some of the following fixes to try and resolve these issues.
- Loosen the eccentric nuts on the Y-axis rollers
- Inspect and change the POM wheels if necessary
- Tighten the Y-axis belt properly
- Inspect the belt for wear and broken teeth
- Check the Y motor’s wiring
- Check the Y motor
Loosen The Eccentric Nuts on The Y-Axis Rollers
This is the most common cause of stiff or stuck Y-axis carriages. If the rollers grip the carriage too tightly, the bed will experience binding and have trouble moving across the build volume.
According to most users, it’s usually a problem from the factory assembly. Fixing this issue is relatively easy.
First, disable your stepper motors via the Ender 3’s display or you can switch off your 3D printer. After this, try and move your printer’s bed manually with your hands and see if it moves freely without getting stuck or having much resistance.
If you find that it doesn’t move smoothly, you want to loosen the eccentric nut that is attached to the rollers on the Y axis.
Check out the video below by The Edge of Tech to see how this is done.
Basically, you first expose the bottom of the 3D printer by turning it on its side. Next, you use the included spanner to loosen the nuts on the wheel.
If you can turn the wheel with your fingers, then you’ve loosened it a bit too much. Tighten it just until you can’t turn the wheel freely without moving the bed carriage.
Inspect and Change the Damaged Bed Rollers
Again, we look at the rollers or the wheels on the bed. Have a close look at them and see if they are defective, meaning they need a change. A few users experienced having defective bed rollers that caused Y-axis issues, so this might be happening to you as well.
The POM wheels on a 3D printer can actually become deformed on one side due to spending long times sitting in storage before being shipped out. One person did say that their 3D printer had a catch from a flat spot on the POM wheel but it smoothed out eventually with use.
They did have to loosen the eccentric nut a little to get it smooth again after a few prints.
One user who took his bed apart said that the four rollers seemed pretty worn out and damaged, leading to the hot bed not moving smoothly. In some cases, you can clean up the POM wheels with a lint-free cloth and water, but if the damage is extensive, then you can replace the bed rollers.
I’d recommend going with the SIMAX3D 13 Pcs POM Wheels from Amazon. They are made with high precision machining and have passed wear resistance tests. One reviewer said it was a great upgrade and their bed now moves smooth and is quieter, as well as solving a layer shifting issue.
As a result, these wheels are highly durable and offer quiet, friction-free operation. This makes them a favorite of any 3D print enthusiasts.
Clean the Rails on Your 3D Printer
One user said that he tried several fixes such as turning the eccentric nuts, replacing the POM wheels and the issue was still happening. He then ended up cleaning the rail and it actually fixed the issue for some reason.
He figured that it could’ve happened due to grease from the factory causing the movement issue, so you can try this basic fix to see if it works for you.
Tighten Your Y-Axis Belt Properly
The Y-axis belt is responsible for taking the movement from the motor and turning it into the bed’s movement. If the belt isn’t properly tightened, it can skip some steps leading to an irregular bed motion.
This can happen if the belt is overtightened or under-tightened so you need to get the tension just right.
Your 3D printed belt should be relatively tight, so there is a good amount of resistance, but not so tight that you can barely push it down.
You don’t want to over-tighten your 3D printer belt because it can cause the belt to wear out a lot quicker than it would have otherwise. The belts on your 3D printer can be pretty tight, to the point where getting underneath it with an object is fairly difficult.
On the Ender 3 V2, you can easily tighten the belt by turning the automatic belt tensioner. However, if you’re using an Ender 3 or an Ender 3 Pro, you’ll have to use another method.
- Loosen the T-nuts holding the belt tensioner in place
- Wedge an Allen key between the tensioner and the rail. Drag the tensioner back until you have the proper tension in the belt.
- Tighten the T-nuts back in this position
Check out the video below to see how to tension your Ender 3 belt.
In a later section, I’ll show you how you can upgrade the belt tensioning system in your Ender 3 to simply turn a wheel to tension it.
Inspect Your Belt For Wear and Broken Teeth
Another way to fix your Y-axis not moving smoothly or getting stuck is to inspect your belt for wear and broken parts. This can contribute to bad movements since the belt system is what provides the movement in the first place.
One user noticed that when they moved the belt back and forth over the teeth on the Y motor, at certain points, the belt would jump when it hit a snag. After inspecting the belt with a flashlight, they noticed worn spots which showed damage.
In this case, they had to replace their belt and it fixed the issue.
Check out the video below to see the effects of an over tightened belt.
The belt got warped, and some of the teeth got stripped off.
If you do find issues with your belt, I’d recommend replacing it with the HICTOP 3D Printer GT2 Belt from Amazon. It’s a great replacement for a 3D printer like the Ender 3 and features metal reinforcements and high-quality rubber, which help increase its service life.
Many users say it’s pretty easy to install and provides excellent prints.
Check Your Motor’s Wiring
The printer’s motors might have trouble moving if their wire connectors aren’t correctly plugged in. A great example is this video below of an Ender 5 which is having trouble going through its Y-axis due to a bad motor cable.
To check this, remove your wire’s connectors and check if any pins are bent inside the motor’s port. If you find any bent pins, you can try straightening them with a needle nose pliers.
Reconnect the cable back to the motor and try moving the Y-axis again.
You can also open up the printer’s mainboard to troubleshoot it and see if there are any issues with the connection to the mainboard.
The Creality official YouTube Channel provides a great video that you can use to troubleshoot your printer’s Y-axis motors.
It shows you how to test your motor’s wiring by swapping the cable for motors on different axes. If the motor repeats the same problem when connected to another axis’ cable, it might be faulty.
Check Your Motors
Some people have experienced this issue due to a failing stepper motor. In these cases, it might be due to the motor overheating or not getting enough current to operate well.
One user who had an issue with their Y-axis not moving inspected their motor for continuity and found a missing connection. They were able to solder and fix the motor. I’d only recommend this if you have experience soldering or have a good guide you can learn from.
The smart thing to do might be to replace the motor. You can replace it with a Creality Stepper Motor from Amazon. It’s the same motor as the original, and it’ll offer the same performance you’ll get from the stock motor.
How to Fix Y-Axis Not Level
A stable, level bed is necessary for a good first layer and a successful print. However, it can be difficult to get this if the Y-axis carriage holding the bed isn’t level.
Here are some reasons why the Y-axis might not be level:
- Poor 3D printer assembly
- Out of position POM wheels
- A warped Y-axis carriage
Here’s how you can address these issue:
- Make sure the printer’s frame is square
- Place the POM wheels in the proper slots and tighten them
- Replace the warped Y-axis carriage
Make Sure the Printer’s Frame Is Square
One way to fix your 3D printer’s Y-axis not being level is to make sure the frame is square and not off at an angle. The front Y-beam holding the carriage and the print bed rests on a cross-beam.
This cross-beam is connected to the frame of the printer with about eight screws, depending on your printer.
If this beam isn’t straight and level, the Y-axis may not be level. Also, if the screws on the crossbar aren’t properly tightened, then the Y crossbar may rotate about the Y-axis, causing the bed not to be level.
Try the following steps to fix this:
- Loosen the four screws on the left and four on the right sides of the crossbeam.
- Tighten two screws on the crossbeam’s left until they’re snug. Do the same for the right.
- Gently rotate the Y beam until it is perpendicular to the Z-uprights. Check if it’s perpendicular against the uprights with a Try Square.
- Once perpendicular, tighten up two screws on both sides until they are snug, then tighten them all down after (but not too tight since they go into soft aluminum).
Place Your POM Wheels in The Proper Channel
The POM wheels are the main components that keep the bed on the Y-axis stable and moving in its slot. If they are loose or out of their grooved slots, the bed can experience play, causing it to lose its level.
Ensure the POM wheels are squarely seated inside their grooved slots. After that, tighten the eccentric nuts if they are loose to ensure that the nuts stay in place.
You can follow the earlier video from The Edge of Tech’s YouTube Channel to learn how to tighten them.
Replace The Y-Axis Extrusion
The carriage, the bed, and the Y-axis extrusion must all be perfectly straight and flat for the Y-axis to be level. If you still are experiencing issues, you can try to take them apart and inspect them to identify and fix any defects in the assembly.
In the video below, you can see what a warped carriage looks like on an Ender 3 V2, along with tilted screws. This most likely happened due to damage during transit because the user said other parts were also damaged.
This type of carriage is already bent, causing the screws that attach the bed to it to be misaligned. As a result, the bed and the Y-axis carriage won’t be level.
You can get an aftermarket Befenbay Y-Axis Carriage Plate to replace the warped carriage. It comes packed with everything you need to install it on the Ender 3’s 20 x 40 extrusion.
For the bed, you can try to place a ruler on its surface and shine a light under the ruler. If you can see the light under the ruler, the bed is probably warped.
If the warping isn’t significant, there are several ways you can get it back to a level, smooth plane. You can Learn How To Fix A Warped Bed In this article I wrote.
Next, disassemble both the bed carriage and the Y-axis extrusions. Place them on a flat surface and check for any signs of warping.
If the Y-axis extrusion is warped significantly, you will need to replace it. In this case, no amount of DIY tricks will be able to fix the manufacturing defect.
If your printer was shipped like that, you can return it to the manufacturer if it is still under warranty. The manufacturer or reseller should help replace the defective components with little or no extra cost.
How to Fix Y-Axis Grinding
The Ender 3 is not a quiet printer by any means, but if you are hearing a grinding noise while the Y-axis is moving, it can be due to various mechanical issues.
- Obstructed Y-axis rails or snagged belt
- Tight Y-axis bed rollers
- Bed is too low
- Broken Y axis limit switch
- Faulty Y-axis motors
Here are some solutions to resolve this issue:
- Check the Y-axis carriage for obstructions
- Loosen the bed’s rollers
- Make sure your print bed is at the proper height
- Check your limit switch for damage
- Check your Y-axis motor
Check The Y-Axis Carriage for Obstructions
One reason for grinding noises in your 3D printer’s Y-axis could be due to obstructions in the Y-axis. An example could be from your Y-axis belt snagging on the rail or even fraying. Inspect the belt along its axis and check if it is snagging on any other component.
A user who experienced grinding noises tried many things to fix this issue but it ended up simply being a small piece of plastic being stuck in the back of their rail. He simply pulled it out with a pair of pliers and it fixed the issue.
You can see it in the video below.
If the POM wheels are wearing down, you may also notice some worn rubber bits in the Y carriage. Using a flashlight, go through and clean the carriage to ensure no debris is hiding inside it.
Loosen The Bed’s Rollers
Another reason for a grinding noise in 3D printers is from having your bed’s rollers be too tight along the Y axis carriage. You want to ensure that your wheels aren’t too snug against the Y-axis carriage to ensure smooth motion.
Check out the example below of tight wheels wearing out and causing a grinding noise.
These wheels were too tight to the Aluminum extrusion, so they wore out faster than usual. Although some people say this wheel wear is normal for new printer, the grinding noise is definitely not normal.
I’d recommend you disable the stepper motors and see if you can move the bed freely on the carriage. If you can’t move it freely, you’ll want to loosen the rollers on the bed by using a wrench.
You can watch the video below as mentioned previously to adjust the tension of your eccentric nut until they just about grip the carriage and can roll smoothly.
Make Sure Your Bed Is At The Proper Height
One user discovered that he experienced a grinding noise due to the bed being too low and catching the top of the stepper motor. This meant that his Y-axis couldn’t reach the limit switch and tell the 3D printer to stop moving.
The simple fix here was to adjust the height of his bed so it cleared the top of the stepper motor at the end of the Y-axis carriage.
Another user experienced this same thing, but due to added components like bed clips, while another had it caused by motor dampers.
Check Your Y-Axis Travel Path
Similar to some of the fixes above, one key fix is to check the Y-axis travel path so that it actually hits the Y limit switch without issue. You can do this by manually moving your print bed to touch the limit switch.
If it doesn’t hit the switch, you’ll hear the grinding noise. I even experienced this when I had my 3D printer too close to the wall, meaning the bed couldn’t reach the Y limit switch, causing the loud grinding noise.
Check Your Limit Switch for Damage
Your bed might be hitting the limit switch just fine, but the limit switch might be damaged. In this situation, check the limit switch for any apparent signs of damage like a broken lever arm.
In the video below, this user experienced a grinding noise from the Z-axis limit switch not working, which can similarly happen in the Y axis. He accidentally had the limit switch wire underneath the vertical frame which broke the wire, so he required a replacement wire to fix this issue.
ext, check if the limit switch’s connectors are seated correctly in the ports on the switch and the board. You can also test the limit switch by switching it to another axis and seeing if it works.
If the limit switch is faulty, you can replace it with some Comgrow Limit Switches from Amazon. The replacement switches come with wires long enough to reach your Y axis.
According to user reviews, they work well with not only the Ender 3 but also with the Ender 5, CR-10, and other machines.
Check Your Y-Axis Motor
Sometimes, a grinding noise can be a precursor to motor failure. It can also mean the motor isn’t getting enough power from the board.
Try swapping the motor with another one of your motors to see if the issue persists. If it stops after changing motors, you might need a new motor.
For example, see this user’s Y-axis motor that kept grinding and moving irregularly.
In order to narrow down what the issue was, they removed the belt and moved the stepper to see if it was a mechanical problem, but the problem persisted. This means it was a stepper problem, so they tried plugging the Y-axis motor cable into the Z axis and it worked fine.
This means the motor was the issue so they replaced it under warranty with Creality and ended up fixing the issue.
How to Fix Y-Axis Tension
Getting the correct tension in your Y-axis belts can help prevent or fix many of the issues that occur on the Y-axis. So, you need to tighten the belts properly.
To fix Y-axis tension, follow these steps:
- Grab an Allen key and slightly loosen the bolts holding the Y-axis tensioner in place.
- Take another hex key and place it between the tensioner and the Y-axis rail.
- Pull the belt to your desired tension and tighten the bolts back in place to hold it.
The video below takes you through the steps visually.
There is a much simpler way to tighten your 3D printer’s belt by just modifying the tensioner on the Y-axis rail. I’ll describe how to do this Y-axis upgrade in a section further in this article.
How to Fix Y-Axis Not Homing
Homing is how the printer discovers the zero positions of the 3D printer’s build volume. It does this by moving the X, Y, and Z carriages until they hit the limit switches placed at the end of the axes and stops.
Some reasons why your Y-axis might not home properly are:
- Shifted limit switch
- Loose limit switch wiring
- Motor cables aren’t inserted properly
- Firmware issues
You can use these tips to resolve this issue:
- Make sure your Y-axis carriage is hitting the limit switch
- Check your limit switch connections
- Make sure your motor’s cables are seated correctly
- Revert to the stock firmware
Make Sure Your Y-Axis Carriage Is Hitting The Y Limit Switch
The main reason why your Y-axis doesn’t home properly is because your Y-axis carriage is not actually hitting the Y limit switch. As previously mentioned, there can be obstructions that get in the way of the limit switch being hit such as debris in the rails, or the Y-axis motor being hit by the bed.
You want to manually move your bed to see if it reaches the Y limit switch to ensure it can home properly.
One user added a stepper damper to their 3D printer and it caused an obstruction for the 3D printer to hit the limit switch. They solved it by 3D printing this Limit Switch Mount to bring the limit switch forward.
Check the Connections of the Limit Switch
Another reason why your Y-axis isn’t homing properly is because of a faulty connection on the limit switch. You simply want to check the wiring of the limit switch and its connections at both the mainboard and the switch.
One user found out that after opening up the 3D printer and checking the mainboard, the hot glue that the factory used to secure the switch connector to the mainboard came loose, causing this issue.
They simply removed the glue, inserted the cable back in and it worked properly again.
Another user had an issue with their limit switch actually being broken off, with the metal lever not being attached to the switch so they just had to replace it.
You can check out this video Creality put out on how you can test your limit switch.
Make Sure Your Stepper Motor’s Cables Are Seated Properly
One user said he was having a weird issue with his Y-axis not auto homing which you can see in the video below. The fix for them was a simple one, just unplugging and replugging the Y stepper motor.
Revert To Stock Firmware
When you change the board or add a new component like an automatic bed leveling system, you may have to modify the firmware. Sometimes, this modification can bring about homing issues.
Many users have talked about how they have trouble after upgrading their firmware and solved the issue by downgrading the firmware version.
One user said he had just built his 3D printer and flashed it to a 1.3.1 version, but after powering it up, none of the motors worked. He flashed it down to 1.0.2 and everything started working again.
How to Upgrade Y-Axis
You can add several upgrades to your Y-axis to obtain better performance from it. Let’s look at them below.
One upgrade you can do for your Ender 3 is to install some belt tensioners that make adjusting the tension of your belt easier. The Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro have a standard pulley variant, while the Ender 3 V2 has a belt tensioner that can be manually adjusted easily by twisting a wheel.
If you want to upgrade the Ender 3 and Pro to the newer easily adjustable version, you can either purchase the metal belt tensioner from Amazon or 3D print one from Thingiverse,
You can get the Creality X & Y Axis Belt Tensioner upgrade from Amazon.
You have the 20 x 20 pulley for the X-axis and the 40 x 40 pulley for the Y-axis. It is made of high-quality steel and very easy to assemble.
However, the 40 x 40 Y-axis pulley is only suitable for the Ender 3 Pro and V2. For the 20 x 40 extrusion on the Ender 3, you’ll have to buy the UniTak3D Belt Tensioner.
Although it is made of a different material – anodized Aluminum, the UniTak3D is another great option. Almost all user reviews rave about how easy it is to install and use.
This great video from 3DPrintscape shows how you can install tensioners on your printer.
If you do not want to purchase them from Amazon, you can print a tensioner on your 3D printer. You can download the STL files for the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro tensioners from Thingiverse.
Make sure you print the tensioner out of a strong material like PETG or Nylon. Also, you’ll need additional components like screws and nuts to install these tensioners as mentioned on the Thingiverse page.
Linear rails are an upgrade to the standard V-slot extrusions that carry both the hotend and the printer’s bed. Instead of the POM wheels in the slots, linear railings have a steel rail that a carriage slides along.
The carriage contains several ball bearings which slide along the steel rail. This can give the hotend and the bed smoother, more precise movements.
It can also help with the play and other directional shifts that come with V-slot extrusions and POM wheels. Additionally, the rail doesn’t need to be loosened, tightened, or adjusted.
All you have to do is to lubricate it from time to time to keep its motion smooth.
You can get a full Creality3D Linear Rail Kit for your Ender 3 from BangGood. It is highly recommended by many users who call its motions extremely smooth compared to the traditional Y carriage.
Here’s how you can install it.
For the best results, you’ll also want to buy the Super Lube 31110 Multi-Purpose Spray and the Super Lube 92003 Grease to use for maintenance. You can spray the inside of the rail’s blocks with the 31110 for smooth movement.
Also, add a little bit of the 92003 grease to the bearings and the tracks to keep them rotating smoothly. Wipe down any excess grease with a cloth.
If the complete kit is too expensive, you can buy just the rails and print the bracket for yourself. You can buy the Iverntech MGN12 400mm Linear Rail Guide from Amazon.
They come with high-quality smooth, steel bearings and blocks. The rail also has a smooth surface protected against corrosion with a nickel plating.
Some users have complained that the rails come covered with a ton of grease from the factory. However, you can wipe them down with alcohol or brake fluid to get rid of the grease.
For the bracket, you can download and print the Ender 3 Pro Dual Y Axis Linear Rail Mount for the Ender 3 Pro. You can also print the Creality Ender 3 Y Axis Linear Rail Mod V2 for the Ender 3.
The video below is a nice concise video on installing linear rails on an Ender 3.
You should know that that guide is for the X-axis. However, it still provides useful information and pointers for installing the rails on the Y-axis.
Y-axis problems can cause severe defects like layer shifts if not taken care of quickly. So, follow these tips to get a smooth-moving, level bed for your prints.
Good luck and happy printing!