Fix-It Chick: Remove a stubborn screw

Screws get stuck, and it often takes ingenuity as well as elbow grease to get them unstuck.

Back in the good old days, it was common practice to coat the threads of a screw with a little beeswax before installing it to facilitate the screw’s removal at a later date.

Then and now, with or without beeswax, screws get stuck, and it often takes ingenuity as well as elbow grease to get them unstuck.

  • For applications where the screw is seated into a metal screw hole, soak the area with a high quality penetrating oil, such as PB Blaster. Allow the oil to penetrate for as little as several minutes or as long as 24 hours. Often a second or third application of penetrating oil coupled with an extended waiting time will break the bond between metals and allow for easy removal of the screw.
  • Try a bigger screwdriver or a smaller screwdriver. A larger screw driver may grab the edges of the stripped screw, or a smaller screwdriver may seat down into the screw head far enough to lock itself into place.
  • Try holding the screwdriver at a slight angle, pressing into the side of the screw head, rather than down into the screw.
  • Use a hammer to tap an appropriately sized and relatively sturdy screwdriver deep into the screw head to allow the screwdriver blades to grab the edges of the screw head.
  • Use a small cutting blade on a Dremel-type tool to cut into the screw head. Then use a regular, slotted screwdriver to remove the screw.
  • If the screw is holding two parts together, use a Dremel-type tool or a hacksaw to cut off the screw head. Remove the top “part” and then use locking pliers to remove the remaining screw shaft.
  • Drill an appropriately sized small pilot hole through the screw head and slightly into the screw shaft. Then use a screw extractor bit (often referred to as an “easy out”) to slowly turn the screw out of its hole.
  • If all else fails, use an appropriately sized drill bit to drill the screw out. Drilling a machine-thread screw out of its hole will most likely damage the existing threads within the hole, so be prepared to re-tap the hole for a larger size threaded screw once all remnants of the old screw have been removed.