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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.