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Even the best screws can get stripped. A stripped screw is one in which the slots in the head of a screw have worn out. This makes it hard for a screwdriver to grip the screw and turn it. Stripped screws are usually old screws that have been screwed in and out for a long time. You can also strip a screw by overtightening it. A big challenge of knowing how to remove a stripped screw is figuring out what kind of tool might work. Read on to learn how to unscrew a stripped screw using rubber bands, pliers, screwdrivers and more.
If enough of the screw is above the surface, try using pliers. This method of removing a stripped screw requires a bit more muscle than most. Pliers will allow you to get a firm enough grip on the screw to pull it out. Locking pliers or vise grip pliers work best. Grip the screw on the sides. Twist the screw gently right and left until you’ve loosened it enough to pull it out.
Try a Rubber Band
Knowing how to remove a stripped screw begins with figuring out how to add traction. A common household rubber band can do the trick. Simply place part of the rubber band over the head of the screw. Insert your screwdriver into the rubber band. Turn the screwdriver counterclockwise to remove the stripped screw.
Tip: You can use a piece of steel wool in the stripped head of a screw instead of a rubber band.
Use a Drill
Here’s how to fix a stripped screw using a drill. Try drilling a hole into the head of the screw. Place a drill bit designed for metal in your drill. Use a low speed so you don’t split or break the screw. Drill down into the screw until you feel the bit catch. Put your drill in reverse. If this doesn’t remove the screw, load a special screw extractor bit in your drill. Drill the extractor bit into the screw and then drill in reverse.
Try a Different Screwdriver
The head on a stripped screw can still have one or two slots that still work. See if a different type of screwdriver or size of screwdriver will work. If your stripped screw has a Phillip’s head, use a flat screwdriver. Or try a smaller or larger size screwdriver in the slot.
Tip: If a screwdriver doesn't work right away, don’t force it. You don’t want to strip the screw further.
Use a Screwdriver & Hammer
Knowing how to unscrew a stripped screw can depend on if it is made of a soft metal. If it is, you can create a new slot. Stick a flat head screwdriver into the screw. Use a hammer to gently drive the screwdriver down. Drive the screwdriver in deep enough to catch. Next, twist the screwdriver to remove the screw.
Cut a New Slot
Sometimes every slot in a stripped screw is worn out. In those cases, cut in a new slot. Use a thin cutting disk on a rotary saw or oscillating tool. Make sure the disk is made to cut metal. Carefully cut a new notch into the stripped screw. Push a flat head screwdriver into the new slot and twist.
Add a Nut
When you’ve exhausted every other method, it’s time to give the screw an entirely new head. You can do this by spot-welding a nut onto the screw. Choose a nut that is the same size or slightly smaller than the screw. Once the weld is set, use a wrench to remove the stripped screw.
Struggling with a stripped screw is a lot less irritating now that you know what to do. Learning how to remove a stripped screw starts with choosing the right tool. You can unscrew a stripped screw using a rubber band, pliers, a drill or even a screwdriver. When figuring out how to fix a stripped screw, remember to not overwork the screw with any one method. If one fix doesn’t work, quickly try another. You don’t want to strip your screw any more than it already is.
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