I need to replace a gate latch, and the latch receptacle is screwed in with four very old, very rusty screws that will. not. budge. Two of the screws are between the post and more fence and are hard to access.

I've tried loosening them with lubricant, vinegar, and dish soap. I've tried tapping on them with a hammer. I've tried grabbing them with channel locks. I've got one out, but zero luck on the others.

It's technically possible to remove the fence post, but it's cemented in below ground and that would be a whole hassle.

What else should I try?

  • 1
    Need a picture to answer right.
    – DMoore
    Commented May 7 at 5:06
  • Wood fence? Metal fence?
    – Huesmann
    Commented May 7 at 12:57
  • One can drill the screws out and then either use an easy-out or just pull and twist with effort. But I would not put a screw back into that place and think it would hold.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 7 at 13:22
  • Sometimes, installing a longer or thicker screw isn't needed.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 9 at 16:33

2 Answers 2


You can drill, file, grind or saw off the screw heads and any protruding threads, and leave the rest inside the fence post. The new latch can be chosen and positioned so its backing plate hides the old screws and they don't interfere with the new ones.

  • 100%! Move the mounting point to avoid the old screws and move on with life.
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 7 at 12:24

There are core bits sold for this purpose which will drill a nice clean hole around the screw. Remove the plug containing the screw, glue in a standard-size dowel, done.

  • The screws are holding-in a metal plate, so I'm not sure that's a good option.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 7 at 11:10
  • This puts the mounting screws into end-grain (of the plugs) and end-grain doesn't hold a screw nearly as well as face-grain does. Probably a bad call for something that may take a fair bit of stress like a gate latch.
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 7 at 12:24
  • You can get cross-grain dowels, and there are plug-cutter variants which make them. Or you can simply shift the mounting point a bit. Though if you do that you may not even have to remove the olds screws, just cut them flush.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 7 at 14:14

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