How To Unscrew A Stripped Screw

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What Is a Stripped Screw?

A screw becomes stripped when the grooves on the head of the screw – whether for a Phillips head or flat screwdriver – have been completely worn off. Your drill bit or screwdriver has nothing to sink into in order to leverage the screw when it twists.

Of course, there is such a tool as a screw extractor bit that you can use in your drill, which works like a charm, but you definitely don’t need one. You just have to know different ways to remove a stripped screw. In fact, all the methods explained here use common items from the home or garage to get that stuck screw out. The beauty of having so many ways for how to remove a stripped screw is that if one isn’t working for you, try another.

Video

Step 1: The Poor Mans Way

This first option uses 2 things. it is the cheapest way however you still will not be able to use the screw after unlike the second option. You will need: A screwdriver (one that fits your type of screw) A rubber band (preferably one that is nice and wide) 1. The first and only step in this process is to place the rubber band in the screw head, insert the screwdriver and undo the screw like you would normally. This works because the rubber band fills the holes dents and grips the metal while you unscrew the screw.

5. Enhance Your Screwdrivers Grip with a Hammer

Photo: shutterstock.com

Photo: shutterstock.com

If the screw is made of soft metal—which is the kind most likely to become stripped in the first place—grab your hammer.

  1. Use the hammer to tap the screwdriver down into the screw head.
  2. Lodge the screwdriver as firmly as you can into the screw head.

Doing so may provide the extra grip you need to twist the fastener.

How to unscrew a stripped bolt?

A stripped bolt is the one that gets stuck into a surface because the threads that are used to tighten it get deformed due to overexertion on them. You can unscrew a stripped bolt by employing any of the following techniques.

Use impact force

This method is a piece of cake. All you need is a flathead screwdriver and a hammer. Place the screwdriver on the damaged bolt and hit the back of the driver with a hammer. The force will drive the stuck bolt out.

You can even use a lubricant to make the drive smoother and easier.

Apply heat

We have all studied in school how heat affects metal and causes it to expand and contract. Heat up the frozen bolt with a blow torch or a heat gun. Once the bolt loosens up, extract it out.

Relief cut

This trick relieves the tension in a stuck bolt by hashing the head of the bolt. Use a flathead screwdriver and a hammer to make relief cuts on the bolt. Once the tension is released, the bolt would come out.

Use a ratchet

Shake the bolt by placing a ratchet on the bolt’s head. Move the ratchet back and forth rapidly, that would loosen up the bolt. Drizzle a bit of lubricant to make matters easier for yourself.

If a ratchet doesn’t provide you enough room to firmly grip the bolt, you can even use a metal pipe, or a hole saw to dig out the stuck bot.

Drill out the bolt

Use a drill or screwdriver to take out the stripped bolt. But you need to be careful to not do more damage. Choose the correct direction to rotate the bolt in reverse so that it comes out instead of getting tighter.

Use a screw or bolt extractor

This is a sure-shot method. Grab an extractor and extract the stuck bolt by following the instruction manual.

When a person embarks on the journey to deal with all the stripped screws and bolts in their estate, they must know which tools they are going to need.

Removal

Having spoken now about the most common causes of a stripped screw, the effects they have, and a few ways in which to avoid it, we need to move on to the removal of a screw presuming you have managed to strip in any way.

If you have, don’t think there is any shame or even that you necessarily did anything wrong, there are many reasons a screw can strip, even down to a faulty screw in a box of otherwise well-made products. Either way, it’s what we are here to talk about so let’s begin.

For the purpose of an easy to follow guide, we shall start from least to most aggressive forms of removal with helpful headings.

Reversal

Stopping the motion and then going in reverse is the most basic of all starting points with any screw of more or less any design. The second you feel, hear or see your driver slip in the head of the screw, stop screwing forward and go in reverse instead, this means turning your screwdriver the opposite way, anti-clockwise for most standard thread patterns would be classed as reverse or loosening. Providing you have not kept tightening the screw after the initial break, the head should still be intact enough to alter direction and loosen it out.

If this method works, then once removed throw the screw away, never try and reuse a screw since it is now damaged. Also, check your tool or adaptor head to ensure it is not also damaged. If not then before you try again, consider why the driver slipped in the first place? Was there not enough pressure to force it through or perhaps you ran across something hard in the material? If so then consider piloting the hole again, drill the hole deeper for your wall anchor or simply change locations if possible.

If you are trying to reverse a screw out with a power tool then consider stopping and easing it out by hand instead, use a screwdriver as this gives you more control and takes the process a bit steadier.

Hammer & Pressure

Under certain circumstances, if the reversal method has not worked then you might need to apply a little more force to help the driver get a grip of the screw head. There are several methods to achieve this, the first is to gently tap a hammer against the handle end of your screwdriver. Be careful when doing this against plastic or wooden handled tools as they may splinter or shatter.

The variety of screwdriver you can find below linked are designed to absorb the impact of a hammer since they have a metal reinforcement plate over the handle. The one linked is for a single screwdriver, you can buy them for any size or design and build up your collection. Also if you decide to go with this option, you should be able to buy a complete set from your local hardware store or tool supplier.

Get It Here

Get It Here

When using simply put the correct size or slightly bigger screwdriver into the screw head that is damaged, give is a few gentle to firm taps and see if it has managed to grip properly. If so then steadily begin to turn in the correct direction to unscrew it, once clear then unscrew as normal.

The next option up from here is a device called an impact driver. The nifty gadget, is designed to harness the brute force of a hammer strike to unscrew a screw. Often these types of tools are used when a larger screw has been in an object for a long time and is struggling to otherwise come out, maybe it is rusted or has thread lock on it. This device converts a hammer blow into a force that is then used to turn the screwdriver end.

Get It Here

Get It Here

Although their primary use is more erred towards an industrial environment, if you have one in your tools box then it could work to help carve out and grip the screw head and then force it out.

There are smaller options available that are catered more towards in-home use but speaking with your local hardware supplier might be a good option here.

If you come across a scenario where no type of driver tool will work because the head of the screw is completely rounded then we may need to get a little more aggressive.

Before we hit the complete destruction part then we want to tell you about a simpler way that is almost an absolute guarantee to work and remove the entire screw, or at the very least it will allow you to break off the stud and place a new screw in a new location without the damaged one being an issue.

This is the twist drill method.

Using a twist drill bit that is the same size or slightly bigger than the screw shaft, tighten it in a power drill, then carefully drill the head. Take it steady and drill carefully, keep the pressure on until you feel a slight pop. Once you do, it means the head is no longer holding an object down and you are now free to remove the object from under the screw. With the remaining exposed stud, use a pair of pliers and unscrew it.

If you don’t have to use the same hole again then an easier option might be to simply snap off the exposed stud with a hammer or pliers by moving it from side to side.

Once broken tap flush with a hammer and carry on.

Destructive Method

This is just about the last solution available which relies mostly on brute force. If you have tried reversal and a few other methods but find you have now completely run out of options then it’s time to get rough.

First off see if and what material can be removed from around the screw. If for example, you are dealing with a decking board, are you able to cut and replace it? If so then cut or chisel out around the damaged screw. Once the rest of the board is free then break off the excess wood around the screw, this will expose the head and body which can be used to extract the rest of the screw.

Again there are several ways to do the extraction itself, the most common is to slightly bend the screw over, not too far or you’ll snap it. Now use a pair of pliers to grip onto the stranded screw to extract it by turning it in a loosening direction.

This is one example but note this method can be used on a range of materials and in a number of scenarios, with the effort always being to first create a clear, workable space around the damaged screw so there is enough exposed to get pliers or a similar gripping tool around the screw. From here it is a simple case of working it free, usually by twisting or wobbling it out.

Chop Off

Following on from the more destructive means comes the simple effort of giving up with standard methods. If the screw is so tight into an object that even the pliers won’t work then there may be no other option but to simply break or cut the screw leaving some of the thread and body in place.

Having cleared a space around the screw then use a hammer to simply knock the screw in one direction, once bent then knock it back the other way. Once a stress fracture forms in the metal the screw will simply sheer off.

For thicker screws that might be located in more fragile material like breeze block, then using a hacksaw, simply chop off the exposed stud.

Hex Head Removal

We am adding this section because we mentioned another common type of screw head which was the hex head design. These use a socket style attachment for a screwdriver although commonly it needs a power tool, especially if using a self-tapping screw because of the force and speed required for penetration.

The most common way in which this type of screw becomes rounded is by using the incorrectly sized adaptor which can then turn and round off the socket completely.

If this happens then, because of the design of the head, it is unlikely you can simply switch your drill to reverse and power it out. These use what is called a cap head design meaning the head of the screw sticks out from an object. This, in turn, means you can make a modification to the screw by cutting a single slit into the head using a hacksaw of cutting disk in an angle grinder, although be careful when doing so as a single slip could ruin any chance of salvage or cause harm to yourself or others. Once you have made a slit you can now use a flat bladed screwdriver to unscrew the fixing.

Modernly, the design of these hex screws have changed so that some are purposely manufactured with a slit or cross in the head so they can be tightened with other types of screwdriver, this means the same slit can also be used to loosen it.

Keep this in mind when purchasing as forward planning for these sort of potential eventualities can save you a lot of time and effort in the future.

Pull Out the Screw With Pliers

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

If you can grab onto the head of the screw with pliers, this is usually the most reliable method of removing a stripped screw. Locking pliers are especially helpful when using this method. Even if you can only barely grab the outer rim of the screw head, this is usually enough to begin turning out the screw.

Tip

If you're working with wood and you're having trouble getting a grip on the screw head, try grooving out a couple of shallow indentations next to the screw head.

Drill Into the Screw

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

This method is much like using a screw extractor tool—except you only need to have a drill and a set of drill bits suitable for drilling into metal. Choose a bit that is smaller than the screw head. Place it in the center of the screw head and drill slowly to form a hole about 1/8- to 1/16-inch deep. Remove the drill bit from the drill and switch back to your driver bit. Often, the hole helps your driver bit sink just far enough into the screw so that it can grip better.

Warning

If you drill too deep, you risk breaking the screw or snapping off the drill bit in the screw.

How to Unscrew Stripped Bolt (Easy Tricks That Works)

thesprucetools.com

 · Place the tool into your screw or bolt and slowly hit the end with a mallet. This will provide just enough force for you to get a good grip on the screw. Now you can turn and unscrew the bolt easily with your impact driver. While these are quite helpful in removing stripped bolts, the most useful tool is an extraction kit. These kits are …

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Screw Type

This plays a huge role in determining what screw will be suitable for what job. Ranging from your basic wood screw to self-tapping, each has their own unique head type. The four most common head types are listed below:

1) Flat Head or Slotted Head

These are steadily becoming less relevant in modern time, they were traditionally used in homes and industry and where one of the earliest screw types to be invented. Modernly, they are now getting replaced by stronger, more high tech alternative head types. This screw had its time and day thanks to the ease at which the screw and driver could be manufactured, repaired and replaced in a time when advanced machinery was lacking.

2) Phillips and Fearson

These are two very similar variants of the same screw type. This consists of a single cross with one coming to an abrupt end while the other is more pointed. These are a stronger alternative to the flathead since the cross allows for more surface contact when screwing.

3) Pozidriv

This often gets confused with the Phillips’ head as it effectively looks very similar. This head looks more like a star though since it has a single smaller slot in-between each of the bigger slots. This screw type is considered a bit more of an industry standard as it carries the title of being able to cope with the most torque when tightening compared to all other standard screws.

4) Hex Head

This type of head is most commonly found on hex bolts which aren’t a subject we are covering here, what we will cover however is the self-tapping screw which coincidently uses a similar hex head design. These use a socket to tighten and can just as easily become stripped, especially if using a wrong adaptor.

7. Weld a Nut to the Screws Head

Photo: shutterstock.com

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re experienced with welding and have the necessary equipment on hand—and you really want to remove that pesky stripped screw—here’s a last-ditch effort you can make. Spot-weld a nut to the top of the screw head, wait a sufficient period of time, then remove both screw and nut by means of a socket wrench.

Armed with all these tips, the next time you strip a screw you can rest assured it’s not the end of the world—it’s just another solvable, albeit annoying, problem. No single trick works every time, but once you’re familiar with all of the options at your disposal for how to remove a stripped screw, you’ll gradually learn to recognize which scenarios call for which particular solution.

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