I have wood screws whose heads are stripped from trying to remove them with a drill. The drill (or screwdrivers) can't grip the heads anymore. What can i use to remove these screws easily?

  • Phillips, flat head, or other?
    – Tester101
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 20:38
  • Phillips type head.
    – LordHits
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 21:55
  • It varies a little by how the screw is stuck. Is it a machine screw with a nut? Or a wood screw? Etc.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 12:26
  • 11
    You could use a rubber band.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 14:13
  • 1
    Have you considered vice grips? Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 18:11

13 Answers 13


Damaged screws are extracted by drilling into the screw with a drill bit, then using a special screw extractor bit that is tapered and has threads which turn opposite to those of the screw.

The extraction process should be done slowly and carefully because the extraction process is more fragile than the normal insertion of a screw.

I found this to be a good write-up with pictures.

  • Yeah seen this done on an outboard motor where the bolt heads snapped when my friend tried to remove the head due to a blown gasket. Not a screw but the same concept.
    – hookenz
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 21:58

You may be able to cut a notch (or a slot) in the screw head, using a hacksaw (or similar cutting tool or rotary tool), then use a slotted (aka "flat") screwdriver to unscrew & remove it.

enter image description here


There is also a kit called a Pro-Grabbit that is made for stripped out or broken screws. I've used it before, using a portable drill with one tip to drill it out and fip the bit and it will extract the screw. It has worked for me on the couple times I've needed it and suggested for work when there is a need.

This is the Pro Grabbit.


Here are the instructions for the brand I sell. You can get these at any hardware or diy store.

Grabbit Instructions


  • 2
    +1 for Grabit. Billy Mays (RIP) endorsed it, and, like his other endorsements, it works a treat.
    – sarumont
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 22:21
  • 2
    These work, but they also break easily.
    – TREE
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 17:11
  • 1
    I think i got a set of these at ACE Hardware one time. They do work very well. You drill one way to create a hole, then the other to grip and it take it out. I've heard of other ways too, like putting a rubberband over it.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 8:11
  • 1
    I used Grabit to remove some large microwave bracket screws. Worked wonderfully.
    – Dutchie432
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 17:25
  • 1
    I bought this exact set this weekend when I needed to replace a rounded out machine screw in my miter saw. It couldn't have been easier! Well worth the $15.
    – Doresoom
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 14:52

Before you put a lot of work into removing the screw, you should try placing an elastic band between the screwdriver and the screw. Often when the screw isn't completely stripped this method works fairly well.


If the screw isn't buried all the way in, I've found a pair of vise grip pliers (maybe even regular) work great, just clamp down around the head (I will do parallel to the surface of the head, so you can use the length of the pliers for leverage, or in other words at a right angle to the length of the screw) and start turning, if its not high enough, I have used the screw extractor method at work and it seems to work well enough. Good luck.

  • 5
    This technique has worked for me every time. Just realize it will probably damage the wood surface around the screw as the jaws of the vise grip scrape the surface. Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 17:40

Put a bit of ajax powder on the screw driver tip mixed with water. It fills in and adds friction. Also, you can use fine dirt as a substitute for the ajax. I have used this method with great success for many years.


If you're okay with leaving part of the screw in the work (the shaft, not the head) you have the option of drilling out the screw without recourse to any special bits. Simply take a high-carbon (or harder) drill bit, one size smaller than the screw shaft, and apply to the center of the screw head at your drill's maximum torque setting. If you have trouble keeping centered start with a smaller bit, drill down do a depth of maybe 2x the head length, and repeat with progressively larger bits. Sooner or later you will destroy the head, releasing the shaft from the top portion of the work. At this point you can free the top part of the work by rotating it manually if the thread is engaged to it. If the thread is not engaged to it lift the top part of the work clear of the screw shaft and unscrew the shaft using pliers.


If the screw is too tight and big enough you can weld a nut or something. This has worked for me with worn bolts.


If it's sticking out at all, just take the bit out and tighten the chuck onto the exposed screw.


To remove a stripped/damaged screw easily, you can use a pair of specialized screw pliers. These have special jaws for gripping the outer perimeter of the screw head. Simply twist and remove.

enter image description here

Image from this link: http://www.precisionhandtools.co.uk/screw-pliers/engineer-pz-58-neji-saurus-gt-multi-purpose-pliers-with-screw-extractor-jaws


enter image description here

I use my Irwin vise-grips all the time to remove screws in this fashion. Just grab the head and turn!

  • TIL that Irwin calls channel locks = vice grips...
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 16:47
  • I think, @Mazura, that Irwin sells just about everything now under the IRWIN™/Vise-Grip™ brand. These are channel locks, no matter what they call them.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 13:20
  • Channel locks are the proprietary name of tongue-and-grove slip-joint pliers, made by the company that invented them in 1934, now of the same name. For reasons that still escape me, we used to get yelled at here for using proprietary names like Freon instead of refrigerant. Xerox can kiss my ass too; agreed: they're called channel locks. Those are actually locking channel locks, which I don't prefer.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 2:28
  • "Locking pliers (also called Vise-Grips, a vice grip, Mole wrench or mole grips) are pliers that can be locked into position, using an "over-center" cam action". - if it doesn't lock into position as opposed to simply changing the pivot point, then they're not freaking vise GRIPS.... Stupid branding is stupid.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 2:34

If a tiny bit of the screw is still above the surface it's in, I always use an electric screwdriver to grab hold of the screw, and unscrew it. That is, mount the electric screwdriver on the screw the same way you would mount it on a normal drill - then simply reverse to remove the screw.

Much simpler than using vise-grips, pliers, and other things to grab hold of it - and much faster to remove the screw afterwards!

  • Ah, sorry about that. I'm not a native English speaker, so didn't understand his solution with his wording.
    – DuneCat
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 7:17
  • Well, it's just the word 'chuck' I wasn't familiar with - the rest of his answer is clear enough.
    – DuneCat
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 7:24
  • 1
    Perhaps you could add a shout out to him, and note 'the part that he calls a chuck' or some such wording, and we could clean up these comments and I'd throw you an upvote ;p
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 7:38

Few minutes ago I was struggling to remove a near flattened out flat-head. With just a combination pliers, a good screwdriver and a hammer I got it out slowly; here's what worked for me:

  1. The screw was bound by plastic Raul plugs, screwed into a bathroom tiling. So I first started out by hammering the sides trying to loosen it up a bit.
  2. I tried using the combination pliers as a lever for the screwdriver and then hammered away to yank it out. That didn't have much effect.
  3. Finally I tried placing the screwdriver at the corner of the flat head, and then hammered it till it started to rotate in the anti-clockwise direction. Then I tried using a combination pliers like the one below and unscrewed it! :D

Combination Plier

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