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Three Ways to Remove a Broken or Stripped Screw

Updated on April 6, 2016

Three ways to extract a broken and stripped screw

I had eight stripped and broken screws that were rusted and completely stuck that I need to remove to replace a part. I started with trying to find a screwdriver that fit the remaining grooves as well as possible, but as soon as I twisted, the screw was completely stripped.

Start by Applying a Penetrating Liquid

Often times a screw is rusted and the corrosion bonds between the screw and what it's screwed into. Using a penetrating oil like liquid wrench will break down the rust and help loosen the screw.

If you are trying to remove a stripped screw that is rusted, applying a penetrating oil should be the first step. Other types of chemicals can be used to break down rust and clean screws. I've had good success with Pepsi and Coke. They are both high in acid. Also, lemon juice will work. Pour the liquid on the screw and let it sit. It often takes multiple applications for the liquid to eat its way through the grooves of the screw. I've also had success using Easy Oven Off on stuck screws. I just spray it on liberally and then come back the next day.

Extract a Screw with Pliers

The first screws I was able to remove with a pair of pliers. From the top of the screw, I clamped the pliers tightly around the sides of the screw head and twisted. Slowly I was able to pull the screw out. This technique works best when the screw still has grooves, but the head is broken off so that a screwdriver won't work.

Removing a Screw with Pliers When the Head Breaks Off

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Using a Screw Extractor Kit

When I couldn't get the pliers around the head, I tried to use a screw extractor kit. Using the largest size I could, I put the extractor in my electric drill and reversed the screw out. The extractor is made of extremely hard metal. I had to press down on the screw with all my force to dig the extractor grooves into the stripped out screw head and then I applied a low amount of power to the drill. If you go to quickly, the screw will be completely destroyed.

The local hardware store should carry a kit or individual bits. They range from $3 for a single bit to $60 for a high-end kit.

The screw extractor worked on a few screws, but a few others were too tough.

Screw extractors work best when the threads of the screw are stripped and the head of the screw is broken off flush to the surface so that it's impossible to grip with pliers.

Screw Extractor Photo

Drill the Screw Out with Metal Drill Bits

Some screws won't come out with pliers or a screw extractor kit. For the third option and last resort, I used drill bits for metal. Pushing the bit straight down on the head of the screw I hollowed out the screw until the screw was destroyed.

I also used the drill bits to weaken the head of the screw and pulled the head off. Then I used pliers to twist the remaining portion out when enough of the screw was exposed.

A Few Other Techniques I Tried to Remove the Screws

The screws were rusty and caked in oil so I tried to clean them with WD40. That seemed to help when I used the screw extractor kit.

I also tried heating the screws with a small torch. That seemed to make it easier to drill them out when they were hot.

I spent a good four hours removing eight screws with these techniques. They aren't pretty, but they work.

Questions & Answers

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      • Nagatang profile image

        Nagatang 4 years ago from Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia

        Welding a new screw to the old striped one is another option. Once the job cool, slowly unscrew them.

        This method is useful to extract large broken screw/bolt.

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

        This is so funny that I came here and saw this hub. I was looking at my an old forum where I had asked questions, and that was my question! Thanks for the information - it will come in handy next time.

      • clintonb profile image

        clintonb 5 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

        I like to use vice grips if you can get enough of it around the screw. Also had good luck with screw extractors too.

      • stephhicks68 profile image

        Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Paul, what a great hub! We first had to try to deal with a stripped screw in grad school many years ago. This situation comes up often and it is so helpful to have a straightforward hub like this with advice. Rated up! Thanks, Steph

      • profile image

        SirDent 5 years ago

        Back in the days of the dinosaurs, I had an uncle who was a mechanic. One things he used to extract screws was valve grind compound. He would put a dab on the tip of the screwdriver and it worked. I am not sure if it will work all the time.

        It is a specialized product that can only be found in automotive stores.

        Also, I have two sets of screw extractors myself. I love them even though they get little use. They are always there when I need them.

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

        Wow. I didn't even know screw extractor kits EXISTED! I wish I had known about this before I've damaged so many walls. And chairs. And tables. And shelves. =__=

      • Paradise7 profile image

        Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

        Not fun is right. I've been completely stymied by stripped screws before. Now, at least I know there is a way to get them out! Thanks, Paul, for yet another useful article.

      • profile image

        jenubouka 5 years ago

        Thanks for this, I now have no more excuses, darn.

      • carcro profile image

        Paul Cronin 5 years ago from Winnipeg

        Thanks Paul, I have found myself in need of these tips on several occasions. Definitely very useful information. I have tried pliers and drilling the screws out as a last resort, but never heard of extraction kits. Again thanks for sharing your experience, Voted Up!

      • Brad Beard profile image

        Brad Beard 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

        I have successfully removed old exposed screws by taking a hacksaw and cutting a new groove into the head, followed by using a screwdriver.

        You have some good suggestions Paul. I voted your post useful.

      • formosangirl profile image

        formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

        The only infomercial purchase we have ever made was for a "Grabit," and it worked surprisingly well.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

        We've had to deal with such things on occasion...as you say--not fun.

        Depending on what is being repaired, if you've had to drill the screw out, destroying it--you've now also got a stripped hole--making your next necessary tool a tap to re-thread the hole, and that's one specialized tool you'd better know how to use, or you'll ruin the tool.