How to Remove a Stripped Screw From Any Material (9 Easy Hacks)

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A quick and easy repair job can become a source of headache when you encounter a screw that won’t come off. This happens always when trying to remove a stripped screw.

A stripped screw is one with a rounded-off head. In other words, it is a screw fastener with worn-out slots that make it extremely difficult for a screwdriver or screw bit to grip the screw and turn it. This is a nightmare you don’t want to happen in your assembly or repair projects.

Unfortunately, you will come across screws with worn-down heads in some of your repair projects. How do you deal with them? The answer is simple. Don’t use conventional screw removal methods to remove a stripped screw.

A stripped screw needs a bit of creativity to remove. In this article, I share 9 easy hacks for removing stripped screws from different materials in your projects. But first, here is what you can do to avoid rounding off 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.

Even after doing everything right, you cannot avoid stripped screws entirely. Somewhere along the way, some screws will just refuse to come off and before you know it, you have damaged the slots trying to force the fastener out. Some screws are of poor quality and the slots will deform at the slightest amount of torque. Others become rusty and can get damaged quite easily even with the right tool.

Luckily, you can try any of these 9 techniques to dislodge a stripped screw that will not budge with old methods. However, you will need a bit of patience for these methods to work. If you are not patient with a stripped screw, you can cause more damage and cause it to get stuck permanently.

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. Unfortunately, a stripped screw requires you to go back to the basics and use a hand screwdriver.

A manual screwdriver will give you more control over the speed and torque you exert on the rounded screw so that you won’t damage it further.

Try to twist the screwdriver and see if it grips. Twist slowly as you apply more force to see if the screw budges. This should work if the fastener is not too tight and the slots are not chewed up completely.

By the way, you can spray some WD40 to see if the screw will loosen up.

If the screw does not come off, try these other hacks.

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 if the head is 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 the pliers jaws start to slip, use a file to flatten the opposite sides of the screw head. This will provide a better grip for the pliers on the screw 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 slightly (about 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 the 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 on the stripped screw

A left-handed drill bit has threads wrapping the shaft in an 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: Remove stripped screw with a cold chisel and hammer

A cold chisel and hammer method is one of the 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 a 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 it. 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 the stripped screw 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.

Conclusion

There you have it. Don’t let a stripped screw delay your project when you could use any of these hacks to remove it in minutes if not seconds.

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