What Causes Screws to Strip?


In this guide, I’ll share my top tips and tricks for solving the issue of stripped screws, explain why screws may become stripped, and provide steps to prevent and fix such a situation.

Why Screws May Be Stripped

1. Incorrect Screwdriver: Using the wrong type or size of screwdriver increases the risk of stripping the screw head, as it does not engage properly with the screw.

2. Excessive Force: Applying too much force or torque while tightening or loosening a screw can cause the screwdriver to slip out of the recess, damaging the screw head.

3. Poor Quality Screws: Low-quality screws made from soft metals are more prone to stripping due to their lower durability.

4. Misaligned Screws: If a screw is not properly aligned with the hole, it can become cross-threaded, making it difficult to tighten or loosen without stripping the head.

Preventing Stripped Screws

1. Use the correct type and size of screwdriver for the screw you’re working with.

2. Apply consistent, steady pressure while tightening or loosening screws.

3. Invest in high-quality screws made from durable materials.

4. Ensure proper alignment between the screw and the hole before tightening.

What to Do If You Accidentally Strip a Screw?

If you accidentally strip a screw, don’t worry – there are several methods to remove it safely without causing further damage. Here are some techniques you can try:

Rubber Band Method: Place a rubber band over the stripped screw head, then press down firmly with a screwdriver and turn counterclockwise. The rubber band may help the screwdriver grip the damaged recess.

Flathead Screwdriver Trick: Position a flathead screwdriver at an angle in the stripped recess, then tap it lightly with a hammer to create a new groove. Carefully turn the screw counterclockwise using the newly created groove.

Use Pliers: If there is enough of the screw head exposed, use pliers (preferably needle-nose or locking pliers) to grip the head and carefully turn it counterclockwise to remove it.

Screw Extractor Kit: A screw extractor kit contains specialized tools designed to remove stripped screws by gripping the damaged head or drilling into it and using reverse threads to back it out. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific extractor kit you have.

Left-Handed Drill Bits: These drill bits rotate counterclockwise and can help remove stripped screws when used in conjunction with a screw extractor. Drill a small hole into the screw head, insert the left-handed drill bit, and turn counterclockwise to remove the screw.

Hammer and Chisel: If you don’t have access to specialized tools, you can carefully create a new groove in the stripped screw head using a hammer and chisel, then use a flathead screwdriver to remove it.

Remember to work patiently and carefully to avoid damaging the surrounding material or causing injury. Once the stripped screw is removed, replace it with a new, undamaged screw of the appropriate type and size.

How to Loosen a Stubborn Screw

Screws can become stuck for a variety of reasons, such as rust, over-tightening, or paint buildup. When faced with a stubborn screw, it’s essential to avoid stripping the screw head, which would make it even more difficult to remove. In this guide, we’ll explore several techniques using tools readily available at home to help you loosen a stuck screw without causing damage.

Reasons Why Screws Get Stuck

  • Rust: Moisture and oxidation can cause screws to rust, making them difficult to turn.
  • Over-tightening: Applying excessive force when tightening a screw can cause it to become stuck.
  • Paint buildup: Layers of paint can accumulate in the screw head, making it hard to grip.
    Thread damage: Damaged threads can cause a screw to become lodged in place.

Techniques for Loosening a Stubborn Screw

1. Using Heat

Instructions: Turn off any power sources connected to the object you’re working on.
Use a hairdryer or heat gun to apply heat to the area around the screw for 1-2 minutes. This will cause the metal to expand and potentially break the bond holding the screw in place.
Use a screwdriver with a properly fitting head to attempt to loosen the screw while the area is still warm.

2. Brute Force

Instructions: Place a rubber band over the screw head, providing extra grip for the screwdriver.
Apply firm, steady pressure to the screwdriver while turning it counterclockwise.
If the screw remains stuck, try tapping the end of the screwdriver with a hammer while applying pressure. This can help break the bond holding the screw in place.

3. Lubricants

Instructions: Apply a household lubricant, such as WD-40 or cooking oil, to the area around the screw. Allow it to penetrate for several minutes.
Use a screwdriver with a properly fitting head to attempt to loosen the screw.

4. Specialized Tools

Instructions: Use a pair of pliers or locking wrench to grip the screw head and turn it counterclockwise.
If the screw head is raised, you can also try using a pair of needle-nose pliers to grip the edges and turn the screw.

In conclusion

Understanding why screws become stripped and how to prevent such situations is crucial for successful home improvement projects. If you encounter a stripped screw, there are several methods and tools available to safely remove it without causing further damage.

Ultimately, choosing the right type of screwdriver will reduce the risk of stripping screws. There are many types of screwdrivers that look similar but have slight differences that can cause screws to strip, always ensure you have the right screwdriver and the right size head for the screw. By following these tips and tricks, you can confidently tackle any DIY repair at home.