5 Ways to Remove a Stripped Screw




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We've all been there; clumsily fumbling with a screwdriver trying to remove a screw only to notice that it's been stripped, either by your hands in haste or left behind by a previously frustrated repairer. I guess the screw is there for good, right? Nope!

Removing a stripped screw takes a little ingenuity, but is fairly straightforward. We'll look at a 5 surefire methods to remove a stripped screw, starting from least destructive and moving through to more destructive methods. The method you chose will depend on your circumstances and how important it is to remove that stubborn stripped screw.

We're not going to let that screw ruin your day. Screw you!

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Step 1: Rubber Band

Sometimes all that's needed to get a stubborn screw out is a little extra grip. The rubbery surface of an elastic band can help keep the screwdriver end in the stripped screw head and prevent cam out.

Any rubber band will work, but wide bands work best as they provide the most contact area between the screw head and the driver bit.

Place the elastic band over the driver bit and pull tight enough that there's no slack, then gently insert the driver bit into the stripped screw head and turn the screw loose.

If the screw isn't totally stripped the rubber band will help fill in the areas where the screw has been stripped and provide friction where it's needed, allowing the screw to be removed.

Step 2: Grab With Drill

If the screw is not completely sunk into your material there's a good chance you can grab it with an electric drill and easily back it out.

Open the chuck of the drill and place over the head of the screw, then hand tighten to secure the jaws of the chuck over the screw. Set the drill to reverse and gently back the screw out of the material.

This works on just about any type of threaded screw or bolt stuck provided there is a portion of the head the chuck can grab onto.

Step 3: Screw Extractor

If there is a particularly stubborn screw that just won't come out then it's time to get a little destructive.

Screw extractors are a good choice as they are counter-threaded to how screws are threaded - screws have a right-hand twist and screw extractors have a left-hand twist.

Screw extractors come in a few different sizes, and 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.

Set the drill into reverse. Since 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, continue drilling in reverse and the extractor will start turning the screw in reverse and back it out of the material.

Step 4: Cut a Notch

Slightly more destructive than a screw extractor is to cut a notch into the stripped screw head with a rotary tool. Depending on how deep the screw is in the material the notch cut might damage the surrounding surface.

Using a rotary tool with a cutting wheel cut a single slot into the head of the stripped screw. This will make a channel for a flathead screwdriver to seat and allow you to back the screw out.

Step 5: Wood Plug Cutter

If the stripped screw is really deep inside your material and no other options seem to work then it's time to get really destructive. Wood plug cutters can be used to remove material from around the deep set screw and allow you access to an otherwise unreachable screw.

Place the plug cutter in an electric drill and position above the screw. Engage the plug cutter with the wood and remove material from above and around the stripped screw until the plug cutter has reached the screw head depth.

Remove the plug cutter and any debris it created and see if you can get access to the screw head for removal.

Step 6: Leave It?

Can you live with just leaving it? Sometimes screws are just too buried or difficult to get, and not worth the hassle.

Though not ideal, there may be no other way to deal with a stripped screw and you might be able to work around it. If you're resigned to leaving the screw in situ then maybe you could try and hide the screw with a patch of similar wood.

Step 7: Share Your Tips!

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I'm sure there are plenty more clever ways to remove a screw that people have come up with. Why not share your unique way to remove a screw in the comments below?

Happy making :)

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    357 Discussions


    16 days ago

    I've had most success cutting a notch then removing with a flathead, however space and surface does not always make it possible. I also find that a few taps with a hammer can loosen any debris and rust and help get things going, as can WD40.

    Ideally, don't let the screw head get torn up in the first place, by using the right bit, firm grip, and turning the slip settings on your combi drill down low you shouldn't damage the head too much


    5 weeks ago

    Help! I have a 2009 Toyota Matrix. I broke off part of a bolt in the lower part of a very tight area in the thermostat housing. Anyone have some realistic doable ideas of how I can remove so I can replace bolt and put in new thermostat? Have tried penetrate fluid hasn’t worked then tried heat still doesn’t work. No realistic video on line. I’m talk about a very tight space. Thank you


    Tip 1 year ago

    ...and another thing; though i've only seen them on bronze wood screws in wood boats, there's a cross-headed screw called a "frearson" or "Reed & Prince" which looks VERY much like a phillips screw. The tip angle is different, though, and the four 'lands' of the tip don't taper like Phillips do.
    There are 3 sizes of frearson drivers, but they all can be used in any size frearson screw (or so they say...) Don't waste time looking for them in hardware stores; I just went through that.


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 7

    Centerpunch the screw head, then drill the head off with a drill bit the diameter of the screw shank.
    Pull, pry, wiggle, the board free, then put visegrips on the shank protruding from the bottom piece and unscrew it

    Also, there's s company I can't remember offhand (see "CaitD1below; she says Woodcraft sells them) that makes what is basically very small holesaws out of hardened steel tooling, which I found online. They work, but they're very brittle and you need to be careful how hard you tighten your chuck.
    For a single use you can ma,ke one from steel tubing and a file..


    1 year ago on Step 7

    The "Cut a Notch" idea is the best I've seen. Thank You!


    Tip 1 year ago

    I was unable to find the tapered plug cutters mentioned above, but found a screw extractor at Woodcraft. It is a narrow tube with teeth on either end and fits into the drill. Trick is to be careful and read the directions completely. It suggests drilling a pilot hole in a scrap and clamping it securely to your piece over the broken screw hole...Mine was broken down inside the wood and only the shank was left. I tried the extractor on a scrap and it skated all over the piece. I then drilled a hole corresponding to the diameter of the extractor, clamped it in place and slowly ran the drill in reverse as per directions. Worked like a champ. We removed about 5 broken screws from an antique we were refinishing. We will fill the holes with a dowel and replace the broken screws with new ones. Can be found on Amazon also.


    2 years ago

    Not all cross-headead screws are the same - For many years I ranted about how Japanese motorcycles used screwheads that must be made of "cheese" - turns out they were made of exactly the same stuff used in the west, only they were cut to a slightly different specification!

    If you are getting nowhere with your screwdriver, and on closer inspection you see a "dimple" on the screwhead, you need a "JIS" screwdriver - even a half ruined one becomes remarkably easy to extract with the correct tools!

    6 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    My first motorcycle was a Honda, and not only were the screw heads slightly different, I found that they use an impact driver to tighten them. Fortunately, the metal was soft enough to easily drill the heads off untiI got the right tools for the job.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Ah the impact driver :) I remember mine well, and as a nearly last resort it still gets looked out

    my order of preference goes;

    any screwdriver

    good screwdriver

    whack it, and screwdriver

    penetrating oil

    gentle heat (boliling water)

    impact driver

    stronger heat

    cut a slot

    drill the head off


    Reply 2 years ago

    Do you agree that JIS screwdrivers are for use with Japanese screws, not others? I only mention this because before I just now looked up JIS screwdrivers,I thought you were saying that they were always the better screw driver, and I was going to buy a set.


    Reply 1 year ago

    They're meant just for JIS screws, and are significantly better when dealing with Japanese fixings, I have to admit to having used them occasionally on other cross-head types and certainly found them "no worse than many"

    They're probably a bit expensive to have as a "just in case" but if you regularly work on Japanese kit I'd say they justified themselves almost immediately!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Phillips and Pozidriv screw heads are designed to "Cam out" the screwdriver tip when they get tight enough (fine if you stop the instant it jumps out, bad news if you have a powered screwdriver and continue to press down hard)

    JIS doesn't, it has a "squarer" profilewhich is less inclined to slip

    - now it's undelniable that JIS screwdrivers are very much better for JIS screw heads (than ordinaryt screwdrivers), but I *have* used them on non-JIS stripped crosshead screws with some sucsess, although I can't guarantee it would work in each and every occasion.

    It's probably a case of "try if you happen to have a JIS screwdriver handy, probably not worth buying one specially"


    Reply 2 years ago

    Chapman Set. Also with philips especially more down force than twist force in good measure in most cases. If corrosion cleaning out first with an awl or whatever then tapping in the correct bit with a hammer first works wonders. Probably could use other methods mentioned here too like abrasive compound..


    Reply 2 years ago

    yeah...garage guys with impact wrenches and oversized compressors! Can you spell hernia!


    2 years ago

    Don't use a Phillips (cross) head screw in the first place. Use a square socket (Robertson in Canada) or Torx head screw.

    2 replies
    Mr FrugalCurtR

    Reply 2 years ago

    Too funny! I was about to post the same comment in regards to Robertson/square drive screws. Not only are they less likely to cam out in the first place, they stay put on your driver when you are installing them.

    Every time I have to deal with messed up Phillips head screws, or install something that came them as part of the enclosed hardware, I curse Mr. Robertson for not cutting the deal with Henry Ford and his assembly line.

    In a way, it's similar to the Metric System. A far better solution that has been largely ignored by the 800lb gorilla; (also known as the USA).

    wyndotteMr Frugal

    Reply 1 year ago

    I agree that Robertson (square) drive screws are better than phillips, but Torx are even better drivers and will tolerate a lot more angle from the driver before camming out, which you occasionally need when building with wood.