Removing stripped screws

Make quick work of removing a stripped screw combining physics and hand tools.

Removing stripped screws
My personal favorite type of screw!

This situation is a bit unusual, but when you encounter it the first time, it can be frustrating. Here's the scenario; You are attempting to remove a screw and it just turns in place, not coming out. What are your options?

  • Curse, swear, bang on it with a hammer? Therapeutic, but pointless.
  • Hacksaw the head off? The screw body is left behind and you run the risk of damaging the surface.
  • Give up in frustration? We don't give up! Now drop and give me twenty, fixer!
  • Seek solutions from Simple Fixes? Ah, now you're talking.

There is a pretty slick technique that works most of the time, and as you guessed, I'll explain it next.

  1. Gather your tools:

- The appropriate screwdriver (slotted or Phillips) for removal.

- A smaller, flat-blade screwdriver or small prybar.

2. Slip the smaller tool under the head of the screw or bolt and apply upward pressure.

3. Use the other screwdriver to start turning the fastener out, keeping steady pressure on the fastener's head.

Stripped screw removed by the use of tools and physics.

4. Continue until the screw is out!

Note: Depending on the tool you are using for leverage and the length of the screw, you may find the levering position of the tool becomes too short to continue applying pressure. In this situation, take a pair of pliers and continue backing the screw up by pulling up as to twist your pliers.

Tip: I have used this technique when I needed to remove a nut and bolt fastener and I did not have a wrench to hold the nut.

Application of physics: For those keeping track, this fix employs a fundamental action of physics, the use of a lever to apply pressure and gain a mechanical advantage! Since I can't award CE credits, put a nice sticker in your notes to celebrate!

A cautionary note from member #1

It always pays to use the right tool and technique in any project to prevent injury. Member #1 shared a picture of the blood blister she acquired trying to remove a stripped license plate bolt. Ouch! Always be careful and thanks for sharing the picture.

Blood blister from a nasty pinch using needle-nose pliers to remove a stripped bolt.
Blood blister from a nasty pinch using needle-nose pliers to remove a stripped bolt.

Next steps

Congratulations on successfully removing the recalcitrant fastening device, aka the "screw." Everything is fine until you need to reassemble the object. Guess what? The hole is now too large for the original screw? How do you fix this? Go here and learn how.