How to Remove a Stripped Screw From Any Material

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A quick and easy repair can all over a sudden become one of the hardest tasks when you encounter a screw that won’t come off. This happens all the time when trying to remove a stripped screw the usual way.

A stripped screw is a screw fastener with a rounded-off head. The damaged head does not provide enough grip to a screw driver, and as a result, causes it to just sweep over without unscrewing. When you encounter such a problem in your repair project, you need unusual ways to deal with it, lest you spend all your valuable time on one screw. In this article, I share with you 9 easy hacks for removing a stripped screw. But before, here is what to do avoid stripping screws.

How to avoid stripping screws

  1. Use the correct driver bit or hand screwdriver
  2. Snug the screw, don’t overtighten it.
  3. If a screw has signs of stripping, don’t use it in your project.
  4. Get good quality screw fasteners
  5. Don’t use rusty screws. They are damaged already and you will end up chewing them with a screwdriver.
  6. If you are using a drill driver, increase the speed gradually. Also, use the speed and torque setting for particular screws. For example, most drill drivers have a setting for self-tapping screws.

Now lets jump right into the 10 ways you can remove a stripped screw that won’t budge. You will need patience for these methods to work. Don’t be in a hurry lest you cause more damage.

How to remove a stuck stripped screw – 10 easy hacks

Hack 1: Use a hand screwdriver

I know you like to use power tools to drive fasteners quickly. However, with a stripped screw, you’ve got to go back to the basics and use a hand screwdriver. The screwdriver will give you more control on speed and torque so that you don’t damage the screw farther.

Try to twist the screwdriver and see if it grips or skids. If it grips, just twist slowly and apply more force to see if the screw budges. This should work if the fastener is not chewed up completely and it is not very tight. By the way, you can spray some WD40 to see if the screw will loosen up.

If it does not come off, the you need to try a different hack.

Hack 2: Try an elastic band

An elastic band works magic on stuck stripped screws. It creates more friction for the screwdriver or bit, allowing it to grab a screw more tightly. Here is how to do it:

How to remove a stripped screw with a rubber band.

  1. Place a wide elastic band over the stripped screw head
  2. Press the band down with a drill or screwdriver
  3. Drill slowly in reverse or twist the screwdriver counterclockwise (if you are using a hand tool)

If the screw does not come off, try a different hack!

Hack 3: Use locking pliers

Locking pliers are a sure bet for removing a chewed up screw that has its head sticking above the surface. Just pick your locking pliers, grip on the edge of the screw head and lock it in place. Then turn the pliers to remove the screw.

If you notice the pliers jaws are sliding, file two opposite sides of the screw head to create a flat edge. This will provide a better grip on the fastener.

Hack 4: Remove with a screw extractor

removing a stripped screw with easy-out screw extractor
Removing a damaged screw with screw extractor

A screw extractor is a drill bit designed purposely for removing stripped screws. It is a two-sided hardened steel bit. One end is a burnishing tip and the other is a tapered extractor tip. The burnishing end looks like a broken drill bit while the extractor tip looks like a screw that is threaded in reverse. This is how to use it

How to use a screw extractor

Tools you need

  • A drill or driver
  • Screw extractor bit
  1. Install the right size of screw extractor bit onto the chuck of your drill driver with the burnishing side facing out.
  2. Switch your drill driver to reverse and drill the head of the stripped screw at a high speed to burnish the head. Grind about a sixteenth of an inch to remove some of the stripped profiles drill deep enough (at least 1/8″ into the screw. This will create a hole on the head of the screw for the grooved tip of the extractor to fit.
  3. Flip over the bit such that the extractor end faces out. Grip it firmly in the drill chuck and be ready to remove the screw.
  4. Press the tip against the burnished screw head and slowly press the trigger. Remember the drill should be in reverse mode.
  5. As you drill deeper, you will feel the extractor bit engage the screw head and the screw will budge.
  6. Continue to drill slowly as you apply some pressure onto the screw to back it out. Within no time the entire screw should spin right out.
  7. You can have a beer!

A screw extractor should extract any stuck screw or bolt. I have used it to remove stuck bolts in a motorcycle including the Harley Davidson.

Hack 5: Use a hand-held impact driver

manual impact driver tool
manual impact driver

You can use a handheld impact driver with a good quality bit to remove the damaged screw. All you need is the manual impact driver, a hammer, and an impact bit. This is how to use it:

How to remove a stripped screw with manual impact driver

  1. Install a suitable bit into the bit adapter (preferably a flathead bit). The bit should fit into the groove of the damaged screw head.
  2. Set the drive to rotate in the reverse direction so that it can back out the screw when it turns.
  3. Set the bit in the damaged screw head and keep the tool upright. Remember to wear gloves to protect your hand from impact.
  4. Strike the end of the tool handle with a hammer to turn the drive. You should notice the driver bit turn slighty. Most turn 20 degrees.
  5. Once the screw has loosened up, extract it with a drill and a proper size driver bit. Alternatively, use locking pliers to unscrew it.

How does a handheld impact driver work? A manual impact driver turns the drive in when you hit the end of handle. This means it pushes down the screw and turns at the same time just like a powered impact driver. This helps budge a stuck screw.

Hack 6: Try a left handed drill bit

A left-handed drill bit has threads wrapping the shaft in anticlockwise direction. They are designed to be used in reverse. This is how to use them.

How to remove a stripped screw with left handed drill bit

  • Install the proper size of the drill bit onto the chuck and hold it in place. The bit should be slightly smaller than the head of the screw
  • Put the power drill in reverse.
  • Place the drill onto the screw and press the trigger button. It will start to drill the screw but will bite it in the course of the spin and dislodge it.
  • Press down the drill onto the damaged screw lightly and continue to unscrew it.

Hack 7: Cold chisel and a hammer

The cold chisel and a hammer method is one of those screw extraction methods that test your patience. You literally drive out the stuck torn screw by hitting it with a chisel and hammer radially. It is good for removing damaged countersunk screws that have nowhere to grip. This is how you do it.

How to remove a rounded-off screw with chisel and hammer

  • Place the wedged side of the chisel against the damaged screw head.
  • Slant the chisel so that it makes contact with the screw head at an angle.
  • Hit the chisel with a hammer to drive the screw out slowly
  • Continue hitting until there is enough part to grip with pliers.
  • Twist out the remaining part of the screw with pliers.

Hack 8: Use a rotary tool and a flat screwdriver

A rotary tool such as a Dremel can make a very good screw extraction tool. You can use it to make a slotted head on any screw head so that you can use a flat screwdriver to unscrew. The only limitation is that you cannot use this method on countersunk screws because the Dremel circular saw will damage the surface.

Hack 9: Drill out with a hole saw

If everything does not work, you can try the destructive method of gouging out the stuck screw with a hole saw. Just bore around the stuck or broken screw. Use a chisel to remove the material around the screw shaft. Then grip the exposed screw with pliers and extract it.

Once the screw is out, fill the hole using any of these methods of fixing a stripped screw hole.

So, there you have it. Don’t let a stripped screw delay your project while you could use any of these hacks to remove it in minutes.