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I thought replacing this mailbox would be easy... four bolts out and a new mailbox (identical to the old which has exterior issues) in.

But then I noticed the four bolts were actually Phillips head screws there were in there very tight. Using a stubby screwdriver, I was barely able to turn 3 of the 4, but the back left one in the image below stripped on my. I tried loosing these up with WD-40, but it didn't do anything.

It takes most of my arm to reach those back screws and I can't get enough downward pressure to hold the Phillips head screw in while also turning. I also tried a ratchet with a screwdriver bit, but there wasn't much room to ratchet and of course with the screwhead starting to strip the bit wouldn't stay in.

Assuming I get these out, I will try to find similar threaded bots, so a ratchet wrench can be used, but how do I get that back left screw out without harming the wood below the mailbox that it is screwed into?

Photo: https://i.imgur.com/ttKqjzz.jpeg

Problem screw in the back of the mailbox

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  • 3
    Get all cross-pondian and celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with gusto, and a mailbox full of fireworks. Access SOLVED!
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 3, 2023 at 0:05
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    @Ecnerwal Cross-pondian, I like it, although that would mean getting all 4th of July to us cross-pondians 😜
    – phuzi
    Nov 3, 2023 at 10:43
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    Too late now, but are you sure they were Philips and not pozidriv, which look a lot like Philips but strip if used with a Philips screwdriver Nov 3, 2023 at 14:25
  • I don't envy you lol. I would hate to do this while trying to save the mailbox.
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 3, 2023 at 19:01
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    Is the mailbox at the correct height? Would you maybe like the post it's on to be about 2 inches shorter? If yes, then simply trim the post :) Nov 3, 2023 at 23:02

7 Answers 7

26

Probably need to "think outside the box" a bit.

Will the existing mailbox be disposed after it is removed? Then don't worry about removing it delicately. Pick up a claw hammer, tin snips, a reciprocating saw or jig saw or hack saw, or similar tools and smash and cut a hole through the top of the mailbox. You can create good access to the stuck screw and then apply your full strength with full-size tools to solve the problem.

If the mailbox must be removed without damage, try locking pliers on the head of the screw. They're not likely to hold well enough to turn it but it's worth a shot.

The head of the screw could be ground away with a small rotary tool (aka "Dremel"). After the mailbox is removed there'll be a stub of screw remaining. You may be able to remove that with locking pliers, or you may be able to simply grind it down further and abandon the screw in place. The fasteners for the new mailbox can probably go in different locations after all.

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  • And since there are washers under the screw heads, dremeling the one away won't hurt the mailbox even in this hard-to-reach place. You might need a new washer though ;)
    – arne
    Nov 3, 2023 at 7:59
  • The mailbox would hopefully be salvaged but if it can't be, it can't be. Thank you for multiple option suggestions!
    – Sunny
    Nov 3, 2023 at 13:49
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    Think outside of mailbox in this case. Nov 3, 2023 at 16:06
  • An oscillating tool with a flush cut blade made for metal would also work really well. Even a saws-all with a metal cutting blade could work, but would be a lot less easy to use. A grinder could also work, or a flex shaft on a drill could drill off the head. Lots of ways to remove that screw head. Nov 4, 2023 at 15:48
25

After removing other 3 screws, try twisting the whole mailbox counterclockwise while pulling up - it might loosen the screw.

You can also use the old fashion method:

  • Take a blade from metal saw, wrap it in cloth and use the blade alone to cut a slot in the screw. Wide cutting blade is preferred so it doesn't flex too much.
  • Use flathead screwdriver to unscrew the screw.

Note: You can also buy a dedicated handle for using the blade alone. Useful in tight spaces. And much more convenient than wrapping it in cloth.

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  • Nice, wanted to say the same. If the other three screws are removed, perhaps the mailbox can be rotated on the last one as a massive wrench. (Of course, other solutions are great, but this just might be the cleanest if the box is gripping the screw tight enough.) Nov 3, 2023 at 10:56
  • Was just going to post this answer. It's usually pretty effective. Nov 3, 2023 at 15:11
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    Instead of cloth, wrap a hacksaw blade in a few layers of duct tape.
    – Chris H
    Nov 3, 2023 at 16:58
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    Note that two of these suggestions can be combined. If, when rotating the box, you have locking pliers clamped on the head inside the mailbox, you might get the torsion that one or the other couldn't get you. Nov 4, 2023 at 7:39
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    dremel with cutting disk could work, rather than hand filing/sawing, maybe? ... ah - next answer :)
    – Mike M
    Nov 4, 2023 at 11:13
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Using a cutoff disk in a Dremel (or similar rotary) tool you could cut a slot for a flathead screw driver, or cut off two of the rounded sides of the head to make grabbing it with a wrench (if you're naturally gifted at cutting parallel in an awkward position) or locking pliers (for the rest of us) more practical.

If you are not refurbishing the mailbox the suggestion already made to cut it open could help.

I find this an unusual (and inferior) mounting method. All the standard mailboxes of this general shape I've met have holes through the sides, below the bottom of the box, which you can put screws or lag bolts through with good, easy access, into the side edges of the board that fits into the recessed bottom.

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  • Mine have both mounted with screws through the bottom sides from the outside. Even if the new one doesn't have holes here, they can be made and this would be the way to do it!
    – FreeMan
    Nov 3, 2023 at 10:58
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At this point, I'd be thinking about grinding the head of the screw away and then using some vice grips to remove the screw.

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  • Grind enough of the head away and the mailbox should lift off easily. Then the stub can be ground flat and the new mailbox fitted after any painting.
    – Criggie
    Nov 3, 2023 at 7:42
10

Does the mailbox have a lip over the wood it's screwed into? If not, you can try taking a metal hacksaw blade off of the saw (maybe hold with vicegrips), slip between the mailbox and the base, and saw through the screw.

image

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    Excellent illustrations! Nov 3, 2023 at 16:52
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    "A few hours later" -- haha! Yep. I've used this technique to remove frozen toilet tank bolts. It's reliable, but takes some time. A little cussing won't hurt. Probably won't help either, but it feels good. Nov 3, 2023 at 17:02
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    "A few hours later" to be spoken in Spongebob French accent of course! Nov 5, 2023 at 19:06
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You could try using a 90° drill attachment in an impact driver. I've done this quite a few times getting screws out that otherwise would have needed to be cut off with a grinder.

To tackle this you might need an extension to reach the back of the mailbox.

Image credit: Amazon. 90 degree drill attachment

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    Personally I've never had success using an impact on a stubborn philips head screw, even with straight on access - its like they're designed to cam-out at a certain load.
    – Criggie
    Nov 3, 2023 at 7:43
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    Yeah, @Criggie, almost like they're designed to not hold well!
    – FreeMan
    Nov 3, 2023 at 10:59
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    I too am not a fan of Philips screws but this technique has worked for me in several times in the past.
    – matt.
    Nov 3, 2023 at 17:52
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    @Criggie Yes. "Cammin out" is a desired feature in some applications. Under power tool assembly it is (usually) better to cam out at max tightness than to shear the fastener. Nov 6, 2023 at 0:20
0

Get a left-hand drill that fits the stripped-out socket. Take it easy with a power drill. You will feel when it catches. I have done this many times at work.

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  • How do you fit the drill into a mailbox? That's a pretty tight squeeze...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 6, 2023 at 15:04
  • @ FreeMan OK I didn't think of that. A Dremel might work, but it's somewhat weak. You could also use a sturdy tap handle and do it by hand. Nov 6, 2023 at 15:16

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