Do screw extractors actually work?
October 26, 2004 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Stripped screws: I have three screws whose heads have become so worn that no screwdriver will grip them. I've been told to try a screw extractor. Has anyone used these successfully? Easy or hard? Success rate? Handy tips? Or should I just get a pro in to do the job instead?

And when I say 'used these', I mean extractors in general, not the specific set of extractors I linked to. But you knew that...
posted by humuhumu to Technology (7 answers total)
Actually, I tend to use a Dremel tool with one of the cutting discs on it to create a new flat-head place for the screwdriver to sit. Then I replace the screw. I've never had to use an extractor, but I also haven't had to remove screws that are sunk in before.
posted by SpecialK at 2:27 PM on October 26, 2004

How big are these screws, or what are they used on?

Screw extractors work pretty well, especially in (gummy) brass.
posted by notsnot at 2:48 PM on October 26, 2004

Be careful with the extractors -- they're very hard, but can be brittle. So you drill a hole in your stuck screw, thread in the extractor (left-hand thread), and try to twist out the screw. Oops! The extractor broke. Now you have a very hard extractor in a hole in your screw, and a genuine PITA on your hands.

Can you describe your headless screws in more detail? Are they really screws, or are they bolts? What are they screwed into? (Wood? Metal? Other?) Are they likely to be rusted, corroded, or otherwise hard to move, even if you could get purchase on the head?
posted by spacewrench at 3:30 PM on October 26, 2004

I just drill them out with my dremel. That drill bit goes through steel screws, even metal screws, like a knife through butter. It's made out of some kind of magical stuff.
posted by luriete at 3:31 PM on October 26, 2004

Removal methods in my order of preference:

1. Create new head, as SpecialK suggests.
2. If all materials are metal, use propane to heat material in which screw resides.
3. Use screw extractor
4. Drill screw out (which you may have to do anyway when your extractor breaks).

If you drill the screw out incorrectly, you may need to use a tap to rethread the hole. Do not use a cheap tap.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2004

Also, screw removers/extractors tend to come in two varieties-- the corkscrew-type that you cited, and the biting type. The biting type are less invasive, and they earn my endorsement.

The link, BTW, is to Snap-On, who is IMO the second best tool manufacturer. FACOM is the other. Cheap tools are rarely worth it.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:44 PM on October 26, 2004

It depends on the application. i.e. removing a stripped exhaust manifold bolt from a '63 Oldsmobile vs. a reamed out chassis screw on a laptop.

Don't forget the WD-40.
posted by groundhog at 7:19 PM on October 26, 2004

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