Shift A Stripped Screw By Reducing Its Gravity

Got a stripped screw that just won't budge? Try shifting around the object you're trying to remove the screw from.

Photo: Steven Depolo

Stripped screws are a perennial problem, and one we've coverered previously on Lifehacker.

I quite recently found myself in the position where I was testing out a review product that had been through a few reviewers previously. It wasn't the product's fault per se, but part of its installation included attaching a stand that needed to be fitted into place with tiny screws, and over time, they'd become increasingly burnt out. I noticed this even as I was putting it together.

Again, not the product's fault, because in ordinary consumer use it would be assembled and then quite possibly never touched again. However, in my case I was stuck with three screws that simply wouldn't shift, and I had no particular desire to start drilling into a product that wasn't even mine.

So I applied a little lateral thinking. A stripped screw is stuck in place because you can't turn the head of the screw any more, but it's also holding two things together, and often at least one object up if it's got sufficient mass. That applies force to the screw that makes it even harder to shift out if the head is sufficiently stripped.

So I shifted the object around to remove the worst of the gravity pushing down on the screw. It took some lifting, a certain amount of "strong" language and some sweat, but it proved effective; I was able to lift the screws out once that level of force was removed. Obviously not something that will work for a screw stuck in a wall, unless you happen to be Bruce Banner, but for single large objects, it's well worth keeping in mind.


Comments

    Another good trick is to use a rubber band between the head of the screw driver and the screw.
    Creates friction and you can usually get it in.

    .....thats what she said

      I actually tried that one, but with no success :(

    Didn't work for me, but I maintain that I'm not swearing hard enough or loud enough.

    Phillips head screws are designed to "cam out." Which is when the screwdriver jumps out of the screw head. This is what burrs the head, making them very difficult to use.
    Use a flathead screwdriver on screws that are particularly stubborn. You can put significantly more torque into a screw with a flathead screwdriver than a Phillips head.

    A pagan sacrifice usually works for me, if that fails then its half an hour of pleading, 5 minutes of threats and if that doesn't work and hour of sulking usually does the trick.

    A couple of tricks.
    1. Grind the tip of a Phillips head screw driver just a bit to get a better bite.
    2. Place the Phillips head screwdriver into the screw and give it a good hit with a hammer, then try.
    3. Get a set of screwdrivers that extract with the hit of a big hammer (the ones with interchanging bits). This one nearly always works but you need a lumpy hammer.
    4. Heat the head with a soldering iron and the give it a go when still hot and again when cooling.

    If you're grinding you may as well grind a groove in it and use a flat bladed screw driver?

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