Paul is a fix-it-yourself homeowner who enjoys finding creative and cost-effective solutions to house problems he encounters.
Three Ways to Extract a Broken, Stripped, or Rusted Screw
I had eight stripped and broken screws that were rusted and completely stuck, but I needed to remove them 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.
Before You Try Any Method, Apply a Penetrating Liquid
Often times a screw is rusted and the corrosion bonds between the screw and what it's screwed into. If you are trying to remove a stripped screw that is rusted, applying a penetrating oil should be the first step. 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.
Liquids That Can Be Used to Break Down Rust and Clean Screws:
- Using a penetrating oil like Liquid Wrench will break down the rust and help loosen the screw.
- I've had good success with Pepsi and Coke. They are both high in acid.
- Lemon juice will also work.
- 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.
Method 1: Extract a Screw With Pliers
The first screw 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.
Process Gallery: Removing a Screw With Pliers When the Head Breaks Off
Method 2: Use 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 too 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.
Method 3: 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
- WD40: 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.
- Heat: 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I broke a 0.47-inch bolt head. However, the other side is open. I was thinking about drilling a smaller hole into it and then fastening a smaller bolt inside to remove the original one. Do you think that could work?
Answer: It could work, but I’d try a screw extractor first.
Jean Harris on January 15, 2018:
Great tips. A few years ago I dealt with a broken bolt on my truck's engine. One of eight bolts that held the exhaust manifold in place had broken off and, of course, it was nearly innacessible in the back of the engine compartment. Worse, I found out about that broken bolt during a mandatory vehicle inspection, it failed the safety because of it.
Sadly I let my mechanic handle it, he cut and welded on half of a new bolt to the old and removed it like it was never stuck. The next time I tackle a broken bolt I'm saving $95 and doing it myself with one or more of these tips!
Don't broken bolts happen at the worst times? I suppose there is never a "good" time but... these are great techniques to know. Thanks.
Nagatang from Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia on December 22, 2012:
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.
Shasta Matova from USA on December 02, 2011:
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 from Adelaide, Australia on November 30, 2011:
I like to use vice grips if you can get enough of it around the screw. Also had good luck with screw extractors too.
Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on November 29, 2011:
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
SirDent on November 29, 2011:
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 Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 29, 2011:
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 from Upstate New York on November 29, 2011:
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.
jenubouka on November 29, 2011:
Thanks for this, I now have no more excuses, darn.
Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on November 29, 2011:
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 from Tampa Bay, Florida on November 29, 2011:
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 from Los Angeles on November 28, 2011:
The only infomercial purchase we have ever made was for a "Grabit," and it worked surprisingly well.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on November 28, 2011:
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.