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 Dec 5 '11 at 20:38
  • Phillips type head. – LordHits Dec 5 '11 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 Dec 6 '11 at 12:26
  • 11
    You could use a rubber band. – zzzzBov Dec 6 '11 at 14:13
  • 1
    Have you considered vice grips? – Brian Dec 17 '12 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. – Matt Nov 5 '15 at 21:58

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

enter image description here

  • 22
    A dremel works great for this. – chris Dec 6 '11 at 12:43

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 Dec 5 '11 at 22:21
  • 2
    These work, but they also break easily. – TREE Dec 6 '11 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 Dec 7 '11 at 8:11
  • 1
    I used Grabit to remove some large microwave bracket screws. Worked wonderfully. – Dutchie432 Apr 16 '12 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 Jun 24 '13 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 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 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. – Chris Vesper Dec 6 '11 at 17:40

Put a bit of ajax powder on the screw driver tip mixed with your spit. 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 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 Dec 9 '17 at 16:47

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 Apr 17 '15 at 7:17
  • Well, it's just the word 'chuck' I wasn't familiar with - the rest of his answer is clear enough. – DuneCat Apr 17 '15 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 Apr 17 '15 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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.