I’m sure that we have all run into problems at some point trying to remove that pesky threaded screw that seems impossible to get out! But what are the best ways to do this?
Stripped screws are a nightmare and try as you might, some just don’t want to come out. That’s when frustration takes over and before you know it, that once crosshead shape has turned into a big fat ‘O’.
There are plenty of great ideas out there, in fact too many to mention, and there is no one method that works on all screws. However, I have picked 6 techniques that I thought might be useful to share, using everything from an elastic band to an impact driver!
So, say screw it and get that thing out of there!!
1. Using a manual screwdriver
If you’re having trouble with your screwdriver bit slipping against the screw head try this simple method. Start by using a hammer to tap the screwdriver down, lodging it firmly into the screw head. This should provide the extra grip you need to twist the fastener, especially if it’s made of soft metal. If that doesn’t work, to get a better grip on the screw, cover it with a rubber band or a small piece of duct tape with the adhesive side against the screw head, as this will give extra grip. Press the material into the hole with the screwdriver and try again.
Another option, if your screw has a Phillips head, is to use a flat-head screwdriver that is narrow enough to fit within the Phillips head hole. To pull this off easily try using the rubber band method mentioned above.
2. Using an impact driver
This manual tool is great for removing threaded screws but make sure you use a good quality bit. Choose the correct screwdriver bit, ie Phillips or flathead and then insert it and tighten it. Next ensure the screw head is clear of any loose dirt and debris and ensure the bit is in the correct direction as you don’t want to tighten it up! Make sure you’re wearing your safety glasses and place the impact driver bit snugly into the screw head. Strike the handle end of the impact driver several times with a hammer. The bit will set firmly into the screw head and the impact driver head will rotate, loosening the screw. You should now be able to remove the screw by using either a drill or screwdriver.
3. Using a Screw Extractor
For those stubborn screws that just won't come out then screw extractors are a good choice as they are counter-threaded to how screws are threaded.
Screw extractors come in different sizes, so you'll need to select the right size to fit into the screw head of your stripped screw. Load the extractor into the check of your drill and tighten the chuck to hold the extractor securely. Make sure you set the drill into reverse. Because the extractor is reverse-threaded this means that with the drill in reverse the extractor bit will drill into the stripped screw and bite into the screw head. Keep drilling in reverse and the extractor will start turning the screw in reverse which will back it out.
4. Using vice-grips or pliers
This is a great way of removing a stripped screw as long as the screw isn't buried all the way. Just clamp down around the screw head and start turning! However, caution should be taken as this method could damage the surrounding surface around the screw as the jaws of the vise grip could scrape the surface.
5. Using left handed drill bits
This isn't a joke, they really to exist! Left handed drill bits are designed to be used in reverse. Choose a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the head on the screw, then put the bit in the drill and tighten. Make sure the drill is in reverse and apply firm pressure to the screw head and start the drill. Once it bites there’s a good chance that it will remove the screw.
6. Using a rotary tool
If none of the above techniques work then using a rotary tool is another option. Securely attach a thin cutting disk to your rotary tool and start to cut a thin slit in the stripped screw. Make sure it’s deep enough to fit a flathead screwdriver, but thin enough that the screwdriver has enough to grip. If your screwdriver doesn’t fit you may need to make the cut larger, but make only small cuts; if you cut off too much of the screw, a screwdriver will not catch and you will not be able to twist the screw. The rotary tool can scatter loose metal shavings around the device so make sure you wear your safety glasses.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you found these techniques useful. However, please make sure that when attempting any of these methods you take care and wear suitable safety glasses.
For more ideas on how to remove a damaged screw check out this YouTube video which covers some of the methods above and also shows a couple of extra techniques for you to try.
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