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November 20, 2004 4:25 PM   Subscribe

How do you remove a screw after totally raping its head?
posted by Evstar to Media & Arts (26 answers total)

best question phrasing EVER.

that said, i am also interested to see if anyone has any suggestions - my only solution has been to give up and live with it. of course, i am the least handy person alive.
posted by pikachulolita at 4:30 PM on November 20, 2004

You might find some good answers here.
posted by Orrorin at 4:32 PM on November 20, 2004

This might work or you may need to pick up an actual SCREW EXTRACTOR. I just had to deal with this and slow and steady muscling the smidgeon of groove that was left eventually worked. Plus I was able to run through my list of "handy man obscenities" which is always fun.
posted by HifiToaster at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2004

Dude, please. The word is "stripping."

You can hammer a screwdriver into the stripped-out screw, then apply major downward pressure as you try to remove it. But you'll probably end up having to drill it out, using a bit that's slightly smaller than the screw.
posted by naomi at 4:37 PM on November 20, 2004

If the screw head isn't totally flush with the surface - or you don't mind damaging it- you may be able to take a dremel or other rotary tool and cut a new "slot" for a regular screwdriver.
posted by true at 4:42 PM on November 20, 2004

Either true's answer, or stick a drill down it and use an extractor. In the Uk they'r eknown as 'easy-outs'.
posted by twine42 at 5:06 PM on November 20, 2004

Use something like this or this.

Or you could try and dremel a straight line into the head and use a flathead to get it out.
posted by Pockets at 5:14 PM on November 20, 2004

If the head or shaft of the stripped screw is exposed at all, I'd try vice grips to grab it and twist it out before I went to buy a special tool.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:17 PM on November 20, 2004

You can drill it out if it isn't holding something fragile/expensive together. Like, if it is securing a harddrive, I wouldn't bring a drill near it .
posted by Grod at 6:15 PM on November 20, 2004

As a last resort I've used an old, strong pair of diagnol cutters to dig into the head and twist it out.
posted by bondcliff at 6:15 PM on November 20, 2004

impact wrench
posted by specialk420 at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2004

Hammer and duct tape. I'm not really sure how this would work, but these tools can solve most problems :)
posted by Raze2k at 6:41 PM on November 20, 2004

If the screw's in metal, heating the surrounding metal (with a torch) will make the screw easier to get out (the screw hole gets bigger). That's worked for me with rusted-in-place automotive screws/nuts/bolts.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:53 PM on November 20, 2004

how big of a head does the screw have? As mentioned, does it stick out from the surface it fastens? What application (automotive, computer, home) is it being used in?
posted by notsnot at 10:18 PM on November 20, 2004

These work well.
posted by AstroGuy at 10:24 PM on November 20, 2004

Don't don't don't use an easy-out. The damn things are as brittle and hard as anything you've ever imagined. If (more like when) they break you will be pissed as hell because you can't do anything at that point. Drilling out an easy-out is almost impossible. Using one just isn't worth the risk.
posted by aspo at 11:26 PM on November 20, 2004

No to an easy-out? Even a good one?

Just about everyone in the aviation mechanics field that I know swears by them. Mind, they pay about $12 a piece for reusable Snap-on ones rather than the few cents for one use basic ones.

I'd tend not to trust people in most fields, but these guys are on big time contracts for all the major airforces and manufacturers, so I've kind of assumed they know what they are talking about.
posted by twine42 at 2:22 AM on November 21, 2004

I've gripped pliers really tightly around damaged screws and slowly twisted them out . This isn't usually easy or fun but it has worked for me. I'm sure there's a million better ways.
posted by DyRE at 4:33 AM on November 21, 2004

Vise grips work well, if the screw has a head you can grip. If the screw goes through something removeable, grind or drill off the head, remove the whatever, and you can often get vise grips on the shaft.

Sometimes, if you have been using a too small screwdriver you can get the right size and still get a grip on what slot is left.

Put the end of the screwdriver handle in the palm of your weak hand. Put your strong hand on the handle in the normal fashion, gripping like a bat but with your thumb toward your body. Put the driver into the screw, with the back of your hand facing you. Lean all your weight, or how much you can against the back of your hand to press the screwdriver HARD into the screw. For me it ends up touching my chest near my right shoulder. Use the other hand to turn it, preferably keeping your wrist straight and using your shoulder/biceps/etc. to do the turning. This keeps you from stripping it in the first place and can sometimes even undo a stripped one. if the screw is in a wierd place, you can do the same thing but keep your weak hand away from your body and use your weight through your arm to hold it, or just your muscles.

Easy outs are only good if you know it won't break. If you break it you are almost completely screwed. A professional airplance mechanic might know the difference but I avoid them completely. They are the devil, as the more important it is the thing not break, the more likely it will. They work for me like 1 time out of five.

In the end I usually just drill the screw out. If its a machine screw drill it to the proper size for the tap that makes the threads you need. If you center the drill well you may end up just cleaning the threads that are there. If you bugger the threads, drill it bigger and invest in a helicoil kit, or drill it biger for the next larger tap and upsize the screw. if its in wood, just drill for the next larger screw, or drill big and glue in a plug.

Hope some of that helps.
posted by jester69 at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2004

Come to think of it. On the using two hands technique, I pick which hand to use as the strong hand based on which way I want the screw to turn. You generally want to do it so your elbow is being pulling toward your body.
posted by jester69 at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2004

Gah. I forgot something else in regards to the two hands technique. Sometimes you can lock your elbows to your sides and use your body to turn the screw. This way you can sometimes get more weight onto it, and a steadier turn.
posted by jester69 at 7:53 AM on November 21, 2004

Following up this thread (which I asked), I ended up getting a handyman in. He got some pliers with a massive grip on them and twisted them out that way. Given that the screws were on a stainless steel fridge and he was putting enormous pressure on the pliers, I envisaged him losing his grip and the pliers scratching a huge trench out of the fridge. He didn't. The screws were out in about two minutes...
posted by humuhumu at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2004

I tried drilling through the head of the screw when this happened to me, waiting for the screw to break its hold on my wall and slip easily out, as described by one website above. Didn't work, and of course there was no slot left on the screw, just a square hole.

I tried a vise grip, and it took the screw right out.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:03 AM on November 21, 2004

Mildly stripped screws can often be moved just by leaning the screwdriver in one direction. By using it at an angle, you contact the screw differently, at a point which, you can hope, some threads still exist.
posted by scarabic at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2004

If you have a steady hand and patience, and if the positioning and size of the screw permit it, you could dremel parallel flat surfaces into the sides of the screw's head to make using pliers/vise grips easier.
posted by the_bone at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2004

Or follow scarabic's eerily detailed previous advice.

Unless of course you meant a wood screw!
posted by geekyguy at 10:06 PM on November 21, 2004

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