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Guide: How to Upgrade the Y-Carriage Plate (Ender-3)

In contrast to most budget 3D Printers, the Ender-3 doesn’t require an aftermarket Y-Carriage Plate to fix problems. Considering this machine is among the cheapest on the market, Creality3D did an excellent job on the build quality and the stock carriage is perfectly sufficient. There is always room for improvement though and the traditional 4-point leveling is not just inferior, it can be problematic as well.

That is where the new Aluminum Y-Carriage Plate Kit becomes a direct upgrade. Featuring a unique bar design, it creates an additional mounting point that supports both 3-point and 4-point bed leveling configurations. If we go back to geometry class for a second, remember that 3 points are all we need to create a plane, that 4th point just creates trouble.

So why is this still being used on almost every 3D Printer? No clue. Compared to the hassle of tweaking 4 corners while thrusting a sheet of paper, 3-point leveling is a almost a miracle. You only have to level one side with the nozzle, then adjust the 3rd point on the parallel side to bring it into alignment. It makes complete sense but thus far, manufacturers just started supporting it.

Purchased Parts List

Ender-3 Y Carriage Plate - $25.99

Instructions

To access the Y-Carriage Plate, we need to first remove the heated bed. Since this is held in place by thumb wheels in each corner, we can just loosen each of them (turning clockwise) until they spin free and fall off. The upwards pressure pulls them against the carriage, so you may need to press down gently on the corner of the bed to give it some slack.

Carefully lift the build plate until the screws in each corner slide out of the carriage. Once separated, turn it upside down and place it behind the machine to clear some space, making sure not to stress the wires when doing so. Collect the springs & thumb wheels and set them aside for reassembly.

Using an 8mm socket wrench, loosen the nuts on top of the Y-Carriage Plate. We only need to remove (2) v-wheels on one side for now, the rest can be done once it is taken off the machine.

The carriage is still held in place by tension from the belt, so we also need to loosen the belt tensioner to create slack. Using a hex wrench, unscrew the 3 bolts on the side of the tensioner bracket until it can slide inwards, then slip the gold belt ends out of the Y-Carriage Plate grooves. Take the carriage plate of the Y axis and finish removing the other (2) v-wheels.

Go ahead and grab the new aluminum Y-Carriage Plate and start assembling it with the original v-wheels. It’s important to pay attention to the design of this plate as it isn’t symmetrical, the left side is curved and the right side is straight. There is also a hole in one corner, which will be located in the back right of the Ender-3 after we have reassembled the machine.

Since the belt tensioner is already loose from the previous steps, I opted to just go ahead and remove it for now. Doing so will allow you to roll the v-wheels in to the extrusion channels and push the carriage on from the front, which is quite a bit easier than trying to reassemble it on the frame. If the v-wheels are too tight, use the spanner wrench and loosen the eccentric nuts.

When installing the v-wheels on the new Y-Carriage Plate, the eccentric nuts go on the right of the plate. If you are unfamiliar with eccentric nuts, look at the second picture below and compare the right side to the left. These can be turned either direction to tighten/loosen the wheels as needed, where they will clamp in to the channel on the metal extrusion.

With the new Y-Carriage Plate installed, go ahead and adjust the eccentric nuts until they are tight. Make sure there is absolutely no wiggle in the carriage when you push down on the corners, it should be locked firmly in place but still able to roll forwards and backwards with a smooth motion.

Once finished, the last step is to reinstall the rubber belt. If you removed the belt tensioner on the front as I did, slide this back in to place and wrap the belt around the pulleys on the front and back of the machine. Insert the golden ends in to the L shaped grooves on the carriage to secure them in place, and then tension and tighten the belt.

At this point we are finished with the Y-Carriage Plate installation, but use the picture and checklist below to make sure that everything is correct.

✅ Flat edge is located on the right side
✅ Eccentric nuts are located on the right side
✅ Washers are located on the right side
✅ Carriage plate hole located in the back right corner

The magic of this Y-Carriage Plate is the support for 3-point bed leveling, and the unique bar design is what makes that possible. To install it, insert the included screw through the mounting bar’s center hole. Holding this in place, position it on the right side of the heated bed (left side when it is upside down) as shown below.

The kit includes (2) M4 nuts and (2) M4 lock washers, where these are placed at the ends on the original bed screws to secure it.

At this point, you have the choice between the improved 3-point leveling or the original 4-point approach. As 3-point leveling is the purpose of this upgrade it is definitely recommended, but you can always switch back and fourth as it does support both. Put the original bed springs on the screws where appropriate, then turn it over (while holding them in place) and set it on the new Y-Carriage Plate.

It may take some maneuvering to get all 5 screws in to the carriage, but once they have passed through the holes, go ahead and screw the thumb wheels back on to wrap things up.

21 thoughts on “Guide: How to Upgrade the Y-Carriage Plate (Ender-3)

    1. I’ve asked for the weight of this product (don’t have a scale on hand) and will update once I have it, but just holding the original plate and this one, it actually felt considerably lighter than the stock carriage. This was without the 3-point mounting bar so that would add to the total, but I would venture to guess this one is nearly the same if not a bit less. To answer your other question, I have only done several prints since installing it, but have not noticed any different in print quality at all.

    2. I spoke to the designer tonight and the weight results are as follows. So if you are going for only weight reduction, just using the Gulfcoast Robotics plate is about a 23% weight savings. With the 3-point leveling bar included, it is considerably less (although still a bit lighter than stock).

      – OEM Y-Carriage = 250g
      – Gulfcoast Robotics Y-Carriage = 195g
      – Gulfcoast Robotics Y-Carriage Bar = 25g

  1. I had issues with the stock bracket bumping against the motor after installing a y-axis damper. This prevented the bed from contacting the limit switch by approx. 1cm. Does this bracket allow for that?

    1. Hi Chad,

      This has come up several times recently on my Damper guide and the Youtube video I posted of the before/after. I bought one of the early models after the Ender-3 was first released, where the machine doesn’t have any clearance issues like others have described. With that said, there are a number of brackets on Thingiverse (like this one) that will address that problem.

      As for this Y-Carriage Plate, the design is very close to the stock plate, so it likely wouldn’t make any difference in regards to clearance. I would imagine that you will still need a printed bracket for the Y-axis motor to clear the damper.

    1. Hi Zack,

      While I generally prefer written guides, I actually think that would be better done as a video. I don’t have much equipment but I will work on putting together a demonstration clip to show the process, should have it available on Thursday. In the meantime, it is actually quite simple and I can give you the basic idea.

      – For the first time leveling the bed (with 3 or 4 points), I tighten down all of the bed screws to bring them roughly to the same height
      – Go around the build plate and loosen them about 4 turns each to raise it towards the nozzle, keep doing this until it is within a few millimeters
      – For 3-point leveling, start on the side with 2 bed screws and level these with each other, sliding the bed back/forward until they are both leveled
      – Move over to the opposite side with 1 bed screw, position the nozzle over it and raise the bed (loosening the spring) until it is level

      At this point, it should be pretty much near perfect. Position the nozzle over each bed screw and double check, testing the distance with a sheet of paper once more, fine tuning them if needed. After it has been leveled the first time, all you really need to do in the future when re-leveling is start with the side that has 2 bed springs, level them with each other, then raise/lower the 3rd point on the opposite side afterwards.

        1. Hey Ryan,

          Just a video showing how to level using 3-points, or showing the installation process of the Y-Carriage? I actually already recorded an install video (since some people still seemed to be having issues with this written guide) but all of the footage came out being rather poor quality. I’m building a large light box with tons of LEDs for video/photography this weekend and will re-record both as soon as I have that wrapped up.

          -Brett

  2. The Y axis on the Ender Pro is 40 mm wide in lieu of 20 mm. It apears this plate may not be compatible with the Pro unless there are multiple wheel holes. Please confirm.

    1. Hi Thomas,

      This particular model is designed for the Ender-3’s 20mm Y axis and won’t fit the Pro model. There is a new version in the works that should have support for the Pro model as well, although I don’t really have any idea when it will be available.

  3. Great article, thanks for providing it. It’s what made me decide to do this mod.
    I have a couple comments/questions.
    I don’t remember geography class that well, but I think it took a wide open space to make a plain, not three points. 😉
    I’m confused about something that I can’t see very well in the pictures. Do you put lock nuts on all five screws?
    You end up with five long screws coming down below the bed. Three are mounting points for the wheels. What are the other two hanging down so far for, if anything? If it isn’t necessary for them to be quite so long, can shorter screws be used instead? Do you put lock nuts on those two under the surface where the wheels would have gone?
    I forgot how the spring went back together on the plate at the heating connector. Does it go above or below the plastic thing? Like, inside the cupped bit?
    I understand the basics of the purpose of this mod well enough to recognize it’s potential, but I am having a tough time picturing how it actually accomplishes the leveling. A diagram illustrating the movement effect of each wheel would really help.
    In the pictures with the leveling wheels attached, it looks like there might be some kind of spacer between the wheels and the plate. Am I seeing things, do we have different hardware, or did I lose something?
    About those two long screws hanging down I asked about earlier; would it make a difference to put springs on them between the carriage and the bed?
    Since the leveling process should be much easier now, should lock nuts be used under the leveling wheels to keep them from accidentally turning? (I used nylon lock nuts on mine just because I had some around.)
    It would really help if you could add a picture taken from the front of the Ender, looking straight through the gap between the carriage and the plate, at a slight angle to the left or rightly so all five screws, springs, and wheels are visible.

    Sorry, that turned out to be more than just a couple questions. 🙂
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for pointing that out, your comment made me laugh once I realized what you were referring to. I proofread everything I write numerous times, yet somehow overlooked “geography” when I meant “geometry”. To address each one of your questions…

      • Lock nuts are of course optional, but the included hardware just has regular M4 nuts and lock washers instead, which have a serrated side.
      • The Ender-3 Y Carriage plate in this guide reuses the original bed leveling screws, mounting the 3-point leveling bar in place. That does leave quite a bit of extra length as you can see, but the upside is that you didn’t have to peel up the existing BuildTak surface to swap out the screws. Version 2 (new design) of the Ender-3 Carriage was just made available today and does include 2 shorter screws to replace them if desired.
      • The second to last photo kind of shows this, but the wiring goes inside of the plastic channel, and the spring goes below that to hold it in place.
      • I’m actually working on a video of the assembly process for this plate right now, where I can more easily demonstrate how 3-point leveling works. The gist of it however is to level the side with 2 wheels first, then tighten/loosen the single wheel on the other side to bring it level with them. Instead of having to do an X pattern with 4-point, leveling the adjacent corners against each other, you just level one side and then bring the other in to alignment with it for 3-points.
      • Those extra screws only have one purpose for 3-point leveling configuration, and that is to hold the 3-point bar in place. Since the only other workable alternative is to drill a hole through the build plate or replace it entirely, this approach simplifies things by creating an extra mounting point without any permanent modifications. You can do whatever you want with those screws, including replacing them with shorter versions
      • You can absolutely use lock nuts wherever desired. The included lock washers are a decent choice, but nylocs are usually the best solution. Nylocks are however considered a one time use (for best holding power) and since leveling does sometimes require loosening/tightening, I feel like this can wear them out and cause them to lose usefulness for bed wheels.

      I’ll see if I can grab you a photo soon, I have the Ender-3 apart right now for several different guides I am working on, but will take a picture as soon as I get it put back together!

  4. Thanks very much for the info!
    Just finishing up the assembly now. We’ll see if I have any clear what I’m doing….

  5. Got mine up and running and definitely glad I received version 2! Plenty of room for the y stepper motor with a damper attached. Thanks for the engineering and time that went into this. It seems to be performing as well as the 4-point stock carriage, but need more experience to really asses.

    My after thoughts for those discerning a purchase are:
    1. What sold me on this carriage was actually the geometry principle. If money is tight, for just a few bucks more might be worth just getting an ABL system. Heck, I probably still will in the near future, so I guess this 3-point carriage is just a “nice-to-have”.
    2. Bed does seem to stay level longer, but there are cheaper ways to achieve that if you are really in a pinch.

  6. Hi,

    I followed your guide but I think I did something wrong. The side with the one spring is sitting much higher compared to the other one when I have all the screws on and tightened down. Did you run into this? Not sure what’s causing this and I have re done assembly three times already. I’m using yellow springs not sure if thats why but I doubt it.

  7. Do you have any suggestion as to why the rear right side of my plate would be significantly higher than the rest of the plate? It seems as though the bar part is not pulling evenly across the right side of the plate where it is installed.

    1. Hi Doc,

      It sounds like your Ender-3 bed is most likely warped. One of the reason Chinese manufacturers use 4-point bed leveling is to mask quality control problems. Even if your bed is deformed, 4-points can often pull it in to a somewhat flat shape and make it kind of usable, even if it’s not perfectly flat (which it should be). If you take the bed off and lay it face down on a flat surface (kitchen counter is usually a good option), you should be able to tell if it’s raised in certain areas.

      If this is the case, you have a couple options. You can contact the vendor you purchased the 3D Printer from, I had the same issue with my Ender-3 from Comgrow on Amazon, they sent out a replacement heated bed that was much more flat (not perfect but good enough). If the warp isn’t too bad, you can also try and bend the bed back a bit. This is much easier done if the entire plate is curved like a taco, might be more difficult if it’s just the rear corner. You can always install the new Y carriage with 4 point leveling temporarily and add the 3-point leveling bar at a later time.

      Overall, 3-point leveling is a significant upgrade, but does make it very obvious if your bed’s surface isn’t flat. Let me know if you need any more help!

  8. Hey man, thanks for the guide. I’m not sure if you were aware or not but golf Coast robotics is linking your guide on their website as a user manual.

    Your instructions are kind of ambiguous about the center screw on the 3-point bar. In your pictures you have a nut on the center screw, but the kit only comes with two M4 nuts, and they are use for each of the corners on the right side. Is this center screw supposed to be secured to the bar somehow? Or does it just dangle loose?

    1. Hey Jason,

      No problem, hope it helped! I actually do the Customer Service at GCR, the owner asked if he could link my guide on the product page and I gave permission to do so. Thanks for the heads up though, a ton of websites lately have been straight up copying my images, content, etc. without permission or even giving credit, where I appreciate my readers letting me know about it.

      A couple Chinese sellers on Amazon even copied the Gulfcoast Robotics Ender-3 carriage design, then stole the text from this article vebatim for the product description, but Amazon won’t respond to my requests to make them change the text. It’s kind of funny seeing my sentences written in first person being used for product bullet points though.

      As for the information here, it’s a little bit outdated now. I wrote this guide with the first revision of the product, but the Ender-3 Y Carriage has been redesigned a bit and is basically V2. The v-wheel bolt pattern has been changed from staggered to square (to match new Ender-3 printers), there are additional bolt holes for the Ender-3 Pro, and Modular bolt holes have been added to mount printable designs. The installation steps are still the same for the most part, but as you mentioned, hardware is a bit different too. I will check to see what hardware is being sent exactly and look at getting this updated to make it a bit more clear!

      1. hi, im looking to upgrade my ender 3’s bed and id like to use this product. problem is i’m based in the uk so i cannot buy the product you have linked and the other ones i find on amazon are the copied versions so i would prefer to buy the original do you know anywhere i could buy it for the uk? thanks.

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