Key Takeaways

  • Extruder clicking causes: Extruder clicking or slipping is a common 3D printing issue that can have various causes, such as nozzle clogs, low temperature, or high speed.
  • Extruder clicking symptoms: Extruder clicking can result in poor print quality, such as lumpy extrusion, blobs and zits, or inconsistent layers.
  • Extruder clicking solutions: Extruder clicking can be solved by adjusting the print settings, cleaning the nozzle and the Bowden tube, replacing the extruder gear or motor, or using high-quality filament.
  • Extruder clicking prevention: Extruder clicking can be prevented by using cleaning filament regularly, storing filament properly, leveling the bed correctly, and installing a heatsink on the motor.

Extruder clicking or slipping can be one of the most frustrating 3D printing issues to troubleshoot.

The key is to pay close attention to any other symptoms happening alongside the clicking or slipping.

This will allow you to quickly identify the root cause – whether it’s a nozzle too close to the bed, low printing temperature, or a clogged nozzle, for example.

In this article, I’ll draw on my 5 years of 3D printing experience to help you diagnose your problem and resolve it with actionable solutions to get your printer extruding like new again.

So read on to get rid of extruder clicking and slipping for good!

Extruder Clicking/Slipping Common Causes

Here are some key symptoms to look out for to quickly narrow down the issue.

Why Your Extruder Is Clicking/Slipping and How To Fix It

1. Nozzle Too Close To Print Bed

If the nozzle is too close to the print bed, filament flow becomes obstructed. This increased pressure can overload the extruder motor, causing it to click and slip.

paper test to check print bed level
Paper inserted between nozzle and print bed for checking level. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Filament extrudes only after the print bed lowers
  • First layer appears squished with a rough texture

How To Fix

  1. Level the print bed to ensure even nozzle-to-bed distance across the surface.
    • Enable auto bed leveling if your printer supports it. ABL uses a sensor to map unevenness and adjust nozzle height.
    • If your printer does not support ABL, use a sheet of paper, sliding it between the nozzle and bed. 0.1mm is a good starting thickness. Adjust the Z-offset until the paper moves with slight friction at all points.
  2. After leveling, run a test print to check the first layer quality, and fine-tune the distance as required.

Tips:

  • If your print bed is warped, consider replacing it with a glass platform for flatness.
  • Ensure firmware is up to date for optimal ABL performance.

2. Fast Printing Speed

When print speed is too high, the filament may not have time to properly melt before reaching the nozzle.

This can cause partial nozzle clogs that put strain on the extruder motor, leading to clicking and slipping.

high printing speeds affect 3D print quality
Quality difference between the same and different infill and wall speed values. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Filament grinding sound during printing
  • Extruder motor skipping steps
  • Poor print quality with artifacts

How To Fix

  • Reduce print speed to allow better filament melting. Start at 35 mm/s and slowly increase until optimal quality is reached without clicking.
  • Follow the recommended speed guidelines for your filament type. For example:
    • PLA/ABS: 40-60 mm/s
    • PETG: 50-60 mm/s
    • TPU: 15-30 mm/s

Tips

  • I find it helps to nozzle temperature slightly (5-10°C) to melt the filament faster, allowing for better flow without overworking the extruder.
  • If the steps above don’t work, consider upgrading to an all-metal extruder for improved flow.

3. Printing Temperature Too Low

Low extrusion temperatures can cause incomplete filament melting, leading to lumpy extrusion and resulting in models with blobs and zits.

This can clog the nozzle, overwork the extruder, cause it to skip steps, and produce clicking noises.

incorrect temp affects extruder function
Stringing issue with silk PLA likely caused by incorrect temperature. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Blobs, zits, or lumpy extrusion
  • Filament grinding sound
  • Poor layer adhesion

How To Fix

  • The optimal temp varies by filament type. Typical ranges:
    • PLA: 190°C – 200°C
    • ABS: 210°C – 250°C
    • PETG: 220°C – 250°C
    • TPU: 210°C – 230°C
  • Increase nozzle temperature to the filament manufacturer’s recommended level.
  • Starting at the filament manufacturer’s recommended level, adjust the temperature in 5°C increments during test prints until extrusion is smooth.

Tips

  • If the temperature is already in the recommended range, check for partial clog requiring cleaning.

4. Blocked Nozzle

A clogged nozzle prevents proper filament flow, causing pressure buildup that strains the extruder motor and leads to clicking noises.

clogged 3D printer nozzle da vinci
Clogged nozzle of a Da Vinci. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Under-extrusion (of no filament extrusion at all)
  • Missing layers in prints

How To Fix

  • If clogged, do a cold pull:
    1. Reverse feed filament and detach Bowden tube if applicable.
    2. Heat nozzle to last used printing temp.
    3. Insert cold filament into nozzle under pressure.
    4. Lower temp (PLA 90°C, ABS 110°C).
    5. Pull out the filament to remove debris.

Additional Tips

  • The best way to prevent a clogged nozzle is frequently using cleaning filament.
  • Avoid setting your printer to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time without extrusion, as this can cause charred plastic to build up on or inside the nozzle.
  • Keep filament rolls free of dust, debris, and other dirt as these can cause blockages in the filament pathway through the nozzle.

5. Friction in Bowden Tube

In printers with a Bowden setup, debris buildup inside the tube can restrict filament flow. This added friction strains the extruder motor, causing clicking and slipping.

filament stuck in bowden tube
Filament clogging up the Bowden tube. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Filament grinding sound
  • Extruder slipping/missing steps
  • Poor quality prints with under-extrusion

How To Fix

  • Release the coupler where the tube connects with the extruder to release your Bowden tube
  • Visually inspect the tube for damage and debris
  • You can clear debris using a thin rod, guitar string, or fresh filament.
  • If your Bowden tube is damaged, it needs to be replaced.
    • Line your new tube up against the old tube and cut it to the same length.
    • Fit the new tubing in the extruder and hotend, making sure the couplers are properly attached to the tube.

Tips

  • I recommend Capricorn Bowden tubes. They typically last much longer than the stock ones found on many new 3D printers.
  • Ensure the filament is dry before printing to prevent breakage inside the tube. This is especially important for highly hygroscopic materials, notably PVA and PVOH.

6. Extruder Tension Too High

In the extruder, a spring-loaded gear grips and feeds the filament.

The gear’s teeth can wear down over time, preventing them from gripping the filament securely, which causes slipping.

The extruder spring is responsible for creating tension, allowing the gears to grip the filament. If the spring is too tight, the filament won’t move, leading to clicking in the filament feeder.

tight extruder leaving marks on the filament
This is where filament passes through your extruder gear. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Filament grinding sound
  • Deformed or crushed filament
  • Motor skipping steps

How To Fix

  • Adjust the idler screw until the filament extrudes without deformities.
    • Your idler wheel tension is just right when you can see small gear tooth marks on the filament’s surface. However, if you observe crushed or deformed filament, your idler wheel is too tight.
  • If the gears are visibly worn down, replace them.
  • For daily use, consider a steel gear, which is less wear-prone.

Tips

  • Clean your extruder gear and shaft regularly to prevent the buildup of plastic debris.
  • You can to a dual-drive extruder, which grips filament on both sides, for more even filament feeding.

7. Faulty Extruder Motor

The extruder is powered by a stepper motor that manages how fast and with what level of force the extruder feeds filament into the hot end.

If the motor isn’t providing enough power, then the extruder won’t provide enough filament to the nozzle, which can result in inconsistencies and clicking noises.

Filament clicking and skipping
Ender 3 filament feed is clicking and skipping. Source: Reddit

Symptoms

  • Motor overheating
  • Loose/damaged motor wires
  • Jerky movements from your device

How To Fix

  • Check the wiring and reconnect any loose wires. Replace frayed wires.
  • If wires are intact, the motor may be defective and require replacement.
  • Ensure there is a stable power supply to the motor by testing with other devices – ideally a voltmeter.

Tips

  • Some stepper motors are also prone to overheating, something you can check by carefully touching the motor during a print.
  • When overheating, the motor won’t function to its full capabilities, which results in the extruder not receiving enough power. If this is the case, you’ll want to install a heatsink on the matter to mitigate the build-up of heat and extend the motor’s lifespan.

8. Poor Quality Filament

Low-quality filament prone to issues like inconsistent diameter, brittleness, and tangling can cause extruder problems and clicking.

Inconsistent Extrusion
Inconsistent Extrusion. Source: Github

Symptoms

  • Brittle filament snapping/breaking
  • Visible filament tangles
  • Uneven extrusion and missing layers

How To Fix

  • Use reputable filament brands/manufacturers that meet quality standards.
  • Avoid old, brittle filaments and store them properly to prevent moisture absorption.
  • Buy uniformly wound spools to prevent tangled filament.

Tips

  • Print a filament clip to keep spool end tight when not printing to avoid unspooling tangles.
  • Check your filament diameter consistency using a set of calipers if you suspect it to have absorbed moisture. Inconsistency strains extruder.

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