Introduction: Remove Seized & Stripped Screws From Motorcycle Engine Covers

Picture of Remove Seized & Stripped Screws From Motorcycle Engine Covers

Hello! Motorcycles are still new to me, and for my first project (after learning to ride, of course), involves getting to know my bike. What better way to familiarize myself with the parts of the engine than to replace all the old, seized screws from the side covers? I picked up a "complete set" of shiny new allen bolts from 4into1, but quickly realized it would be harder than expected to remove the old screws from my 1975 Honda CB200T.

Not only were many of them seized, but they are JIS (Japanese version of Phillips) screws, which are prone to stripping if you use the wrong (ie regular Phillips) bit. I definitely stripped at least one screw before even conceiving of the other steps in this guide.

So whether you're stuck mid-process or if you're thinking of attempting screw replacement on your vintage motorcycle, these techniques will help you deal with stripped and seized screws.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials

This is a nice project to ease into-- you don't need all the tools at once to get started. Start with the easy-to-access screws and work up to the removal of the footpegs required to access certain screws.



  • wrenches for removing parts to gain access to obscured screws
  • flathead screwdriver
  • allen keys and/or allen screwdrivers that fit replacement screws
  • JIS T-handle screwdriver
  • manual impact driver
  • hammer
  • Dremel or other rotary tool with cutoff disc
  • eye protection
  • electric impact driver
  • rags/paper towels
  • left handed drill bits (if all else fails) and standard power drill

Step 2: Apply Penetrating Oil

Picture of Apply Penetrating Oil

About a week before attempting to remove any screws, apply penetrating oil to each one, as well as to the bolts holding on the footpegs (since we'll be removing them to access certain screws). Ride your bike around and get the engine nice and hot. Repeat 3-5 times over the course of the week so the oil has a chance to seep into the threads.

Step 3: Use the Right Bit for the Job

Picture of Use the Right Bit for the Job

Before mangling your screws with a standard Phillips screwdriver, trust me that it really does make a huge difference to start out with a JIS bit in your screwdriver. These screws are pretty soft and very stuck, which is a combo that easily leads to stripped heads.

I ordered a three-bit T-handle JIS screwdriver from Amazon that worked perfectly for two thirds of the screws on my engine covers. If you are a bit stronger than I, you may get away with a regular shaped JIS screwdriver.

But if this driver strips your screw heads, don't worry. Next up we'll introduce more and more drastic methods for getting that sucker outta there.

Step 4: Try a Manual Impact Driver

Picture of Try a Manual Impact Driver

A manual impact driver turns with high torque when it is struck with a hammer. Yours might work differently, but mine is dual direction and has to be twisted slightly in the direction you wish to turn the screw before striking a few blows with a hammer. Mine has standard Phillips bits since I couldn't find JIS bits for it or a JIS manual impact driver.

Since I'm not using the correct bit anymore and the screw is likely already mildly stripped, it will now likely either release or strip entirely. If it's the latter, don't worry! We're not giving up yet.

Step 5: Stripped? Cut a Slot

Picture of Stripped? Cut a Slot

To work with a stripped screw head, the next step is to cut a slot in it with a rotary tool and cutoff wheel. Be sure to wear eye protection, as the cutoff wheels have a tendency to break and send shards in every direction. Hold the wheel as perpendicular to the screw head as possible, and dig in to cut a new slot across the head. This gives you better leverage.

Now you can use a flat bit and your manual impact driver to try again, or bust out the electric one in the next step.

Step 6: Electric Impact Driver

Picture of Electric Impact Driver

My friend happened to have an electric impact driver to lend me, which removed the last remaining stubborn screws from the engine covers. However this tool is really jumpy, and scratched the metal of the covers in a few places. If you don't have access to one, but have a standard drill, the left handed drill bits in the next step are a suitable alternative route, cost wise.

Step 7: More Drastic Measures

Picture of More Drastic Measures

Left handed drill bits have threads cut reverse from normal drill bits, and will actually start backing your screws out as you drive them in. My bike did not require this more drastic step but your screws may be more stripped than mine.

When I mentioned I was working on a tutorial on this topic, many more suggestions came in so I will share them here as well!

  • Heating with a torch, rapping with a hammer
  • Drill and re-tap
  • Screw extractor/remover set
  • Take it to a shop! If all else fails, ask for help from a professional.

Step 8: All Done!

Picture of All Done!

When the screw finally does come out, here's what you can do to prevent that situation from happening again! Use some heat resistant anti-seize lubricant on the threads of the new screws when you install them.

My new screw set was one screw shy of what I needed, and two of the screws were too long and needed to be ground down to fit. But now I know my bike a lot better and will be ready to take on more advanced repairs in the future!

Do you have an experience with stripped or seized screws to share? Post a comment below!

Check out more of my motorcycle projects:


koniglar (author)2016-10-19

JIS impact bits:

mrandle (author)2016-06-20

Yes JIS bits are the best because they are designed to not "cam out" at a specific torque like Phillips heads do. Now if I could just find an impact rated JIS bit nothing would stand in my way!

simontrav (author)2016-06-19

The only addition I can give to this is I once talked to a guy who'd ended up welding a "bolt extension" onto the tip of a burred off head to allow him to remove a really tricky bolt. I assume he drilled into the original then fed the new one into it a bit.

Somoldguy (author)2016-06-16

Hey, Nice clean looking old CB! Good solid little machines!

There are various routes to removing seized screws , stripped heads etc.

If you use a blind punch on the screwheads before you attempt to unscrew them you can dispense with most everything else.

The blind punch will compress the material of the screwhead just enough so that a manual impact driver bit gets a good purchase on it.

I've worked on motorcycles since my youth and never , except maybe once , had success with "Easy out" extractors.

A good manual impact driver , a blind punch , and some bits will remove most except the most stubborn of screws.

The only proviso is that your blind punch must be equal to the diameter of the screwhead - two good raps with a hammer and the blind punch before putting a screwdriver to the screw and it will like as not, simply unscrew with a regular screwdriver.

Just a caution on stainless cap head screws and aluminum , they don't go well together , it is advisable to use some "Copper slip" on the threads before inserting.

'Copper slip" is also good in high temp applications like exhaust studs as it is pretty heat resistant.

On the subject of exhaust studs - some penetrating oil applied before is always a good idea , also when trying to loosen them , do not try to simply unscrew them directly , i use what i call a " Wiggling " technique , that is , very slight rotation , wiggling in the tighten / loosening direction until at least one full turn has been completed. After that it will usually unscrew without much incident , if it stalls coming out , simply apply penetrating oil and run it back in , then progressively out again.

Some 6mm taps would also be a good idea for thread chasing to clean up afterwards.

NickW77 (author)Somoldguy2016-06-17

Could I ask for clarification as to what a blind punch is you refer to please?

No reference to them via google.


Somoldguy (author)NickW772016-06-17

Sorry! Blind punch = Pin punch

I am old skool , have just always called it a blind punch

Chipmunk03 (author)2016-06-17


that's a beautiful engine you have there. In the '80's we used to ride these cycles. The first engine was a CB 90 one cylinder. Later on we used to ride a CB 200 and 360. I preferred the 360. Four cylinders, one exhaust pipe (four in one). Marvellous sound.

We did the same you are doing now. Only, we didn't have WD40 at that time, I think. Oil and a little bit of gasoline did the job. We lost some of the bolts, because we didn't know (at that time) we had to tighten them with a certain force (Newton Meters). Nowadays I drive a BMW K75. I always check with what kind of force the bolts, nuts and screws need to be tightened with using a torque wrench to prevent loosing them or leakage. In the engines maintenance manual or on the Internet you can find info about the force you need to tighten the bolts with.

Nice job! I always get a little bit nostalgic when I see engines like these. Keep them rolling.

Kevanf1 (author)2016-06-16

I note that you are using WD40 as a penetrating fluid. Personally I will not use this as I prefer a substance called 'Plus Gas'. It's better than WD40 in that it works faster and more effectively. It is roughly about the same sort of price but is a dedicated penetrating fluid rather than a catch all lubricant and penetrating fluid just in case :) The best way of working with any penetrating fluid is to soak the fitting over a number of days. Every few hours give it a little spray. Maybe heat the fitting first with a heat gun as this will draw some of the penetrating oil into the recalcitrant fitting. If this is done over a couple or three days it should (fingers crossed) make easing the screw out a lot easier. Nice little bike (I remember them from the 70's) and very good instructable, thank you :)

bekathwia (author)Kevanf12016-06-16

It's just wd-40 brand, but it is a dedicated penetrant type formulation (not plain ol' wd40). agreed it's not as effective as some other brands like Blaster PB, but it was what was available to me at the time and besides, otherwise you'd have nothing to comment about! =D

Kevanf1 (author)bekathwia2016-06-17

Ah, I didn't know that WD40 were now doing a 'dedicated' penetrating fluid. Good news in that case. Though, I'm an old fuddy duddy and will stick to my 'Plus Gas' ;) Hope that motorcycle's behaving :)

maintann (author)2016-06-16

Ah soft Phillips Head screws on old Hondas. Brings back many memories :-) WD40 is not great for this but way better than nothing. Penetrene, Inox, CRC etc are much better. An impact screwdriver used properly will work on all undamaged screws. Replace any that are looking bad, use a nickel antiseize rather than a copper based one. (water around the combination of copper & aluminium leads to spectacular corrosion)

Another tip: a pin point butane torch applied to the screw head while a wet rag on the surrounding casing will often work well too.

Third tip; gasket sets can be hard to come by for these old bikes; reuse the old gasket but coat all mating faces with Permetex No3, wait 5 minutes & assemble. Use a torque wrench set to correct value. Traces of the Permetex will enter the screw holes & work as antiseize & friction lock. The Permetex will also prevent the gasket sticking to the aluminium & fill those tiny imperfections on the mating surfaces. It cleans off completely at next disassembly with alcohol. Much MUCH better than using silicone.

AlanS14 (author)2016-06-16

I'm another one who's been through all of these tips in my time. I'd add that after the penetrating oil has been left to work give a tap or two in the tightening direction before trying to loosen them. It helps break any seal / corrosion between the threads and helps to reinforce the cross head screw shape- all helping the loosening process.

Good instructable!

Jakwat (author)2016-06-16

I had a bolt that had broken about half an inch into a fitting, I drilled a hole into the bolt and tapped a star bit into the hole with a hammer. The bolt came out easy, it wasn't a real tight fit though.

yellowcatt (author)2016-06-16

I was given a green and black Honda CB200 as a birthday present back in 1977.

Kevanf1 (author)2016-06-16

Be careful when using those tapered screw removers. They need an almost perfectly centred hole to be drilled in the stuck screw or bolt and then they can actually cause more problems than they solve. If that extractor breaks off, and they are harder (more brittle) than standard drill bits, then you may end up with a piece of very hard metal stuck and a drill bit will not bite into it :( I know of a lot of professional mechanics who will not even allow those things into their workshop....

mbaranak (author)2016-06-16

I knew I recognized you. You work for Adafruit, right? I love your projects. They're always well written and informative.

bekathwia (author)mbaranak2016-06-16

Used to, now I work at Instructables! and Thanks!

storm_child_277 (author)2016-06-16

A trick that will work "IF" it is an exposed screw head is using a small cold chisel and hammer. (You have to replace the screw after this) first get a good penetrating oil and soak the screw really good and let it sit for 15 minutes or so (long enough to work yet not so long it evaporates, Next morning is too long) Start a cut straight into the head from the side using light strikes (this is just to get it marked and shock the threads loose as mentioned in a few other posts) then as the cut deepens, swing the chisel angle in the direction you wish the screw to un-turn in (Haven't run into any Japanese left handed threads but I did get myself turned around (righty tighty, Lefty loosy) a few times. this generally works when the screw head has completely cam-ed out and there is nothing to grab with a driver tip. Well Done on the write up!

ronjohnstone (author)2016-06-16

If you insert your screwdriver exactly into the screw head, then give it a good rap with a hammer, you will drive it fully into the screw head and also shock the entire length of threads to help separate the screw from the casing. When all else fails, try to grab the head with a Vise Grip plier, really biting into the head, then try to turn it.

AlfS7 (author)2016-06-16

If all else fails, and I really mean ALL, grind the whole head off the screw so you can get the cover plate off (or whatever you want to shift). Use a good quality HSS drill to drill into the aluminium casing all around what has now become a stud. This will allow you to remove it, but leaving a big, untidy hole. Fill the hole with good quality 2-part epoxy, as it starts to go tacky, screw the new screw in, let it set for about 12 hours - you should be able to unscrew it then, leaving a nice neat threaded hole. Leave it to set for 3 days. This will work only if you don't need to undo the screw very often, AND ONLY if it's not load-bearing, and it is a last resort. I did this to replace a seized broken carb mounting stud on a 1953 250cc BMW.

mnwingnut (author)2016-06-16

Great Instructable!

I had a CB200T as my first vehicle, and I had forgotten how soft and miserable those JIS screws were.

I have a tip for shortening bolts that helps preserve the threads.

If you have a nut that's the same thread size and pitch, run that up threads all the way to the head, and if you have a second nut, run that up the threads as well, just past the point of where you want to cut. Now secure the bolt in a vice safe in the knowledge that the vice won't mess up the threads. If you don't have nuts that fit, don't worry: use a rag or a few winds of tape to protect the threads and gently secure the bolt in the vice. You want the excess hanging outside of the jaws.

Now take a hacksaw and cut halfway through the bolt. Don't go all the way, just to the middle.

Next, grab a ball peen hammer and strike the excess along the threads. The goal is to cleanly shear the bolt. If done with conviction, the cutoff piece falls away and what remains is a bolt the correct size AND the threads are intact. If you used nuts to help hold the bolt in vice, the act of removing them will clean up the threads as well. Even if you used the rag/tape method, though, the threads are almost always clean and ready for use.

Oh, and whatever you do, do NOT even THINK of exceeding that red line at 70MPH on the speedometer of a CB200T. Few old motorcyclists have done it and lived to tell the tale. ;-)

Jack of Most Trades (author)2016-06-16

Good job! That's how I dealt with those case screws 40 years ago. I had a CB-350 that was a lot like your 200, and I wound up using the drill bits and extractors on it. I replaced them with Allen-head bolts with a smear of anti-sieze on the threads..

billbillt (author)2016-06-16

Thanks for sharing this very important and complete instructional... It was concisely written so anyone could follow it...

mikecz (author)2016-06-16

The manual impact driver has to be one of the coolest tools EVER! I rode a Suzuki 120 & then a Suzuki X6 in college & after during the 60's & 70's. First time I tried to take a screw (Phillips or JIS) out of the side case I realized I was in trouble. My neighbor in the dorm worked at the Suzuki shop in town & told me I HAD to have an impact driver. Bought one & never looked back. Never stripped a screw or had one fall out for being too loose. The magic of the tool is that it applies the turning force at the same instant it's being crammed into the screw from being hit by a hammer. You simply can't push on a screwdriver as hard as you can hit one (or your impact driver) with a hammer!

Recently, after a meeting we were attending, a lady friend realized she had a flat tire on her pretty new Toyota Tacoma pickup. Sure enough, her wheels had a cover plate over the lug nuts, held on by Phillips screws! And, sure enough, the screwdriver in the little tool kit that came with the truck wouldn't budge a single one of these cover screws. We weren't far from my house, so I told her I had just the solution. Got my trusty impact driver & popped those screws right out of there, just like always! I've used it once in while like this over the last 50 years & it has never failed me.

BrianV21 (author)2016-06-16

Great job with nice clear photos. One suggestion, though. I noticed that the powered impact driver that it kept jumping out of the screw head when you pulled the trigger. It's very important to maintain HEAVY pressure on the tool as you pull the trigger. You need to hear that "rat-a-tat" sound as the tool does its magic. If the tool jumps out of the screw head, all the angular thrust is lost. You may need a friend to keep the bike upright while you lean into it, or (making sure all fluids are drained) lay it over on some wood planks and work down on it.

When working on an older bike that has been sitting for a while, I often go straight to the electric (or air) impact first. That way the heads are as minimally buggered as possible to start out.

Also, great advice on the patience needed to let penetrating fluid do its work.

Archergal52 (author)2016-06-16

Excellent presentation in this instructable! Thanks for the great ideas!

Rotorheadone made it! (author)2016-06-16

Airframe Power plant mechanics use valve grinding compound on the end of screw/Philips driver to help tip from moving off head of screw.

sitefab (author)2016-06-16

Hi Becky,

Your enthusiasm for removing challenging bolts from motorcycle engine cases is impressive. One tip I would like to pass-on is when things get really bad, when the bolthead has been removed, the only way to remove the mangled remaining bolt shank without damaging the parent metal further, is to use a stick welder and tack weld onto the existing bolt. Build up the bolt with a series of tacks, in turn heating the bolt in the alloy casing. This expands the mild steel bolt quicker than the sourounding alloy casting parent metal creating a peak heating point, where the "corroded" locked seal in the thread gets broken. At this point if you weld a tee handle on to the top of the series of tack welds, you can then usually crack the locked seal of the bolt and unwind it. (What I mean by tee handle is any 2 small lengths of steel welded together to create a tee handle) if any clarification is needed pls email me at

julinano (author)2016-06-16

what a nice bike! cheers from Brazil :)

iMega (author)2016-06-16

also a lot of people don't know that the phillips screw was invented SO THAT the screw driver WOULD slip out of the screw. something about it being easier in manufacturing and assembly. I can't quote the source. i don't recall. but its an eye opener.

iMega (author)2016-06-16

the method i used back in the day was to put the edge of a flat screwdriver to side of the screw and using the screwdriver like a chisel hamer the screw sideways and if possible back again. my first few bikes had phillips screws holding the cases together and they were always locked and this method worked 90+ % of the time. that side of the head impact just seemed to break whatever was sticky. Im glad they came to their senses and stopped using phillips screws.

MidnightMaker (author)2016-05-11

I spend a lot of time working on motorcycles and this is the first time I have even heard of a manual impact driver! Thanks for sharing!

My partner has one.. you give it a good whack with a hammer. The 12v one is easier though.

alison.vharding (author)2016-05-31

aahotdog has beaten me to it - a dab of cutting compound aka lapping paste is a godsend! You can buy it in tubes and it's called Screw Grab - this is bloomin expensive though, just buy lapping paste (we have it for sharpening mower blades). Another lesson I have learned the hard way - always use the correct sized screwdriver, and if you can feel it slipping, STOP before you bugger the screw up further.

Meglymoo87 (author)2016-05-19

Very useful info...thanks! Now to get a motorcycle ;-P

nedchurch (author)2016-05-11

Great presentation. Good point about the JIS heads, they are a real pain. I've done 50 years of restoration on British and Japanese bikes and just about every one of them has had seized up screws in the aluminium casings. I might suggest that after you have tried the impact driver that you go straight to screw extractors (Step 7) while there is still a nicely centred starter hole in the head of the screw. If you drill slightly off centre you will end up with a snapped off screw or worse still damage from drilling into the thread in the casing. Then you will end up drilling the thread out and using coils which is a lot more work. I always replace with stainless Allen head or if it has to be authentic like a classic restoration use stainless Phillips head instead of the old cadmium plated stuff.

bekathwia (author)nedchurch2016-05-18

Thank you, I appreciate your input!

BuffyL2 (author)2016-05-09

Although I ccertainly understand the use of anti-seize compound after removing all of those stuck bolts i'd suggest using blue Loctite instead. It's about as good as an anti-sieze compound and has the added advantage of reducing loose bolts due to vibration (which can be a thing on these little buzzers).

Miner20 (author)BuffyL22016-05-11

Just point out Anti Seize and Blue Loctite are 2 different sort of compounds the latter being a gasket or metal to metal sealing compound.

Try using a dab of Copper Grease on the threads when re assembling works well with metal and aluminium

tkdphoenix (author)Miner202016-05-12

Here is a helpful link to find copper anti-seize: I have used this extensively, and it is great! I like it because when you are rolling around / walking around you can accidentally squeeze a tube-style container, and this being a paste in a tube is more stable to rub a screw through the paste and also not squeeze any out on the ground like liquid-type containers / tubes.

mmmkff (author)2016-05-11

If you strip the heads of those screws with the impact driver, don't bother to use your dremel tool; use a jaw locking plier. Tighten the jaws on the head and gently torque them out. You will be surprised how easy that goes, you can use this instead of the impact driver phase.

gm280 (author)2016-05-10

First of all, I have to applaud you for tackling a project without any knowledge of how everything works. But you seemed to find clever means to get the job done. As stated before invention is the mother of necessity. And that is what really counts. Luckily you didn't have any break off. That would lead to further knowledge about removing broken screws. That is something you will eventually need to learn if you continue working on your bike. But good project and Bravo for your post.

farraha (author)2016-05-09

Very helpful - thank you.

aaahotdog (author)2016-05-09

Very nice presentation. Good catch on the Japanese philips screws, many people do not realize that. One addition you might try is valve grinding compound. Apply it to the tip of the screwdriver, it gives the screwdriver bite like you wouldn't believe. Whenever I go after screws that I suspect are somewhat seized, I apply that. It might prevent stipping out a screw head.

About This Instructable




Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Autodesk/Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables ... More »
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