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I have a craftsman drill which I use for drilling. When I use a screwdriver head to fix screws in drywall or wood, it keeps on destroying the head of the screw. So much so that the screw head is unusable.

What I am doing wrong? I have the drill on the slowest possible setting of 1.

Edit: This is a battery operated drill. It looks similar to the one in the picture below.

enter image description here

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    The main reason is either cheap or old bit, or the wrong bit. Go the the hardware store, pick up a box of the same screws, and ask them which bit is best for those screws. Then buy several of them and keep in mind that bits wear out. This should resolve your problems. Even cheap screws can be driven if you have the right bit. – Adam Davis Mar 10 '15 at 12:28
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    1) The bit is worn out. Some bits last eons, others are worn out after 5 screws. 2) The bit is the wrong size. A Pillips bit must fit tightly into the recess in the screw head, with no "wobble room". 3) You're using the drill improperly, failing to apply enough pressure to the screw or "gunning" the drill too much. (Or it's simply not a good tool for driving screws.) – Hot Licks Mar 10 '15 at 12:36
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    (Note that it is very difficult to drive a slotted screw with a drill.) – Hot Licks Mar 10 '15 at 12:39
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    "the slowest possible setting of 1" is wrong. That ring dial does not control speed; the trigger controls the speed. If you have a HI/LOW switch on the top, that sets the torque. The ring dial sets the sensitivity of the clutch. A smaller number means the clutch disengages when the drill feels a small amount of resistance. Larger numbers means more resistance is permitted. There is also a setting with a picture of a drill bit that does not allow the clutch to disengage. – longneck Mar 10 '15 at 19:58
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It is possible that there are several reasons for the screw head destruction.

  • You may be using an electrical tool that is not at all suitable for driving screws. Some tools designed for drilling holes are not going to offer enough torque at a low enough speed to properly drive screws. If your tool starts out with a huge burst of speed it can almost certainly lead to immediate stripping of the screw head.

  • You are using the wrong size driver bit for the type of screw that you have. If the screws are Philips head be aware that there are multiple sizes of drivers such as #1, #2 or #3.

  • You may attempting to use the wrong style of driver with the type of slot the screw. Do not mismatch the likes of Philips and Pozidrive. There may be other specialty type slots that are also similar but require the proper drive bit selection.

  • It may be that you are not properly aligned with the axis of the screw. Proper installation of screws with a driver requires that the driver be directly in line with the axis of the screw.

  • When driving screws with a power driver is in necessary to apply a pressure on the driver to properly keep the driver bit in the screw slot. Without proper pressure the bit can run out of the slot and strip the screw head.

  • It is possible that you did not properly prepare the medium into which you are trying to drive the screws. With many screws you will need a pilot hole in the area where the threads are to engage with the medium. If you are attaching another piece to the base medium you would want to provide a screw body clearance hole to the mounted piece. This can actually result in a stronger screw joint as well.

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    You mention wrong size. Is there anyway to ensure that I always pick the correct size, other than matching the head of the screw with the driver? – abhi Mar 10 '15 at 14:17
  • One way is to purchase screws and driver bits that are specified to the same size. – Michael Karas Mar 10 '15 at 14:30
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    This answer could include a mention of Pozidrive (PZ) screws as well. Philips bits will strip PZ screws, (and perhaps vice versa.) – Qsigma Mar 10 '15 at 14:40
  • @Qsigma - Agreed. I'll add this in a generic way. – Michael Karas Mar 10 '15 at 14:42
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Is this an impact driver?

If not,

  1. Lower the torque setting on the drill.
  2. Use the correct sized bit for the screw. For Phillips head screws there are several sizes. If you are using a Pozidriv screw, use a Pozidriv bit. Sometimes you can use a square drive bit with Pozidriv, but using a Phillips bit will generally cause the bits to cam out.
  3. Try using Pozidriv or square drive. Phillips easily cam out.
  4. Push harder on the drill.
  5. Pre-drill a pilot hole with a correctly sized drill bit. (This help also with the material splitting or cracking.)
  6. Make sure your driver bits are in good shape. They do wear out and you will be able to tell by looking at the bit.
  7. Make sure you are aligned straight with the screw. The Phillips head design will easily cause the bit to pop out of the screw if the bit (and drill) isn't straight in line with the screw.

An impact driver generally doesn't have any speed or torque settings. You pull the trigger and when the drill encounters a certain amount of resistance, it starts an impact action. So, as you squeeze the trigger and press the drill, the drill basically hammers the bit around to spin the bit. You get increased torque and better control. You can drive long screws easier with less cam-out.

In my opinion, if you start destroying screw heads with an impact driver, you aren't using good quality screws or the correct bit.

  • I am sorry, but I am not familiar with an impact driver. – abhi Mar 9 '15 at 14:40
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    Predrilling can also help. – Tester101 Mar 9 '15 at 14:41
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    6. I would add make sure you're drilling straight. – Dano0430 Mar 9 '15 at 15:15
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When you say drill. what type of drill do you have?

Electric Drill: enter image description here

Generally a drill used for drilling is geared to fast and does not provide enough low speed torque for screwing things in. Coupled with that, it does not have an instant off or speed break. you can use a special adapter with these drills but its not ideal,

These electric drills (And the more powerful battery type) are also able to drill into walls (masonry). for this the drill incorporates a hammer action (which makes a lot of noise) this is typically referred to as an impact drill) - if you are drilling in this mode. then you will most definitely notice.

Generally a drywall screw adapter is used to drill in a certain type of screw in a repetitive nature, this is not really a DIY approach, rather for someone who will be drilling the same spec screw into the same material. Drywall Screw Adapter

Battery operated Drill/Screwdriver

enter image description here

The generally accepted norm is to use a battery operated screw-driver or drill which has the following advantages over an electronic drill:

  • High torque with several torque settings (to ensure that you dont damage the screw thread)
  • Variable speed trigger to get the start-up and slowdown of the drilling correct. Generally more ergonomically designed to align the screw bit with the screw,typically as soon as you apply a slight angle off the screw head you start to damage the screw.

Generally, even an el-cheepo electric screwdriver is better than a drill at applying screws, unless you are doing lots of drywall or decking, in which case the professionals use a Screwdriver and drywall adapter or really expensive battery drill.

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All of the above, but also, you could be using really crappy screws. Cheap screws can have their heads stripped pretty easily. You absolutely should see if you can find the manual for your drill--it may have multiple settings (for speed and torque). Definitely pre-drill, and if you're still having problems, some head designs strip less easily...I'm using heavy duty cabinet screws in cabinet installation, and those are star heads and come with a star bit, supposedly to strip less easily.

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It may be impossible to avoid with low power, or substandard screw-guns. If I'm stripping heads, it's a low battery.

Set the drill to it's highest setting; low gear is for screws that just won't go in and you need the extra torque. In low gear, it's going to be really hard to apply the necessary pressure to keep the bit from slipping.

Push as hard as you can. If it's really giving me trouble, I have someone put a hand on my back to brace me; giving me something to push against. Unless you start snapping heads off, you're just not pushing hard enough. Until you get the hang of it, your wrist will hurt and your whole palm will feel like a blister after doing drywall all day. Failing to push as hard as needed, your bit will skip and you'll strip the head and you'll eventually burn out your bit.


The above assumes you began driving the screw and it started striping along the way. Unless you drive the screw and set it at the correct depth in one trigger pull, you can run into problems:

How to set a screw:

To set screws in drywall without a dimpler, you have to learn when to stop at just the right moment so as to not drive it all the way through (actually way before then, but not until it's set). You can't just give up when it's almost in and then think you're going to finish it up with a few trigger pulls. That works sometimes, but without the momentum of the initial drive behind it, the torque required greatly increases. It may be near impossible to fight this additional torque and prevent cam-out, instead:

Back it out and sink it again if you fail to set a screw properly. Any screws that 'popped' should be removed and relocated. Screws that you strip on their first try going in should be tossed. Impact guns are great for snugging up those almost set screws and don't require backing them out first.


Unless I'm using square-drive deck-screws, which do stay on the tip while driving them, I always use a screw guide. They let you push without fear of slipping off.

enter image description here (threewinindustry.com)

Push until it hurts, then pull the trigger.

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Drill pilot holes, and rub dry bar soap on the screw threads, this will make it go in very easily.

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    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming! – Daniel Griscom Sep 21 '18 at 23:50
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The most common causes I find are:

  • Pozidriv screw with Phillips bit or vice-versa (not mentioned elsewhere, hence this answer)
  • Cheap screws made out of too soft a metal
  • Not pushing hard enough on the drill
  • Too small a screwdriver head, giving insufficient grip, and thus rotating and 'filing away' the screw head
  • Lack of pre-drilling means that the torque necessary to turn the screw exceeds that which can be transferred through the coupling.

I try to find the largest bit that I can that will fit the screw. This is often larger than you think.

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