Popular ways to remove a stripped screw.  For this article I am going to be assuming we are dealing with a stripped Phillips head screw as nine times out of ten, that is the screw that gives me issues. The Phillips screw was designed to ‘cam out’ under too much torque to prevent the screw from breaking. While being incredibly helpful in the early 1900’s, it is wildly less so now. That cam out feature leads to your driver slipping and quickly stripping your screw.

Depending on how badly your screw is stripped will help you see which of these options is best suited for your situation. At the bottom of the article I will discuss best practices to hopefully avoid stripped screws.

Level Easy

– Switch to a different driver –

Often a larger or smaller flat head screwdriver will give something for the screw to bite into. The same idea often works for different Phillips drivers too. Once the screw has started to strip, going to a screwdriver (instead of a cordless driver) will give more immediate feedback if it is working, or if you are just stripping it out more. 

The smaller driver can sometimes get into the deepest part of the screw

You can use a hammer to lightly tap the screwdriver to help it seat better into the screw

– Use a Rubber Band for grip –

Adding a wide rubber band over the screw head can add enough traction on the stripped screw to get things moving again with your screwdriver or cordless driver.  You will want to press very firmly into the ‘screw-rubber band-driver’ setup to maximize the rubber band deforming into all the nooks it can.

Super simple and highly effective way to remove some stripped screws

– Use pliers –

Depending on the situation (screw head type and how much is space you have to work with), getting a pair of vice grips or pliers on the outside of the screw head can be a life saver.  Be careful not to break the screw head as generally we aren’t working with an ideal screw at this point. There are specially made ‘screw extractor’ pliers as well.

Level Moderate

– Screw extractor –

If you have one, this is the point to consider breaking it out.  If you don’t, they are easily found on Amazon and the like and are very helpful. The idea is to partially drill out the stripped screw head and then use a specially designed backwards tapered thread to bite into the screw.  Since it is backwards threaded, it is working to unscrew the stripped screw as the screw extractor is digging deeper and tighter into the screw.  

This is sort of the point of no return.  Ideally, this is a somewhat simple process. The issues are with making sure you are using the correct size bit for your stripped screw, but once you start drilling out the inside of the stripped screw things have gotten interesting and can get complicated in a hurry. Issues with using screw extractors can be broken screw heads and inventing new curse words. If at all possible, learn this art on your friends car before needing to use this on your own. 

– Cut a Slot for a Flat Head Driver –

Using an oscillating or rotary cutting tool (Dremel and the like), or metal blade, cut a slot straight across the head of the stripped screw. Take care to get very deliberate and exact with those cuts as they need to mimic a true flathead (slot) bit with straight vertical walls, not rounded hills. Proper eye protection is a must here. Once cut, take a couple minutes to track down the best flathead driver you have to get the best possible fit before trying to turn the screw.


Tips for avoiding stripped screws

  • Replace worn drivers - worn drivers are less secure and lead to screw slippage..., which lead to stripped screws.  Driver should be snug.
  • Keep driver perpendicular to the screw head.
  • Make sure you are using the correct size bit - bits should be very snug when put into the screw recess without any wobble.
How to'sStripped screw

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