Round screws getting you down? We'll show you how to use a screw remover to remove a damaged screw. If you do it right, you can get a broken screw out of its hiding place in less than a minute. Of course, you need the right tools.
A good screw extractor design uses a tapered bit with a reverse thread. You turn the drill in the opposite direction as if you were going to unscrew a screw normally. Due to the reverse threading, it bites into the head of the stripper fastener as it exits. Perhaps it's not so much about how to use a screw extractor as it is about choosing a reliable product for the job.
Editor's note: Check out our best deck screws article for our top picks.
Table of contents
- Why do I need a screw extractor?
- How the Screw Extractor Removes Damaged Screws
- How to Use a Screw Extractor – Step by Step
- final thoughts
- Use a kit with a double ended drill/screw extraction bit – they are easier
- Look for hardened steel – these bits must be strong
- Using the drill in reverse, slowly drill out the damaged head
- Flip the drill over and reverse using constant pressure (slow speed) to drive the extractor until it bites
- Slowly continue turning the screw/bolt/plug until it works freely
Sometimes you can cut or bend the fastener and that's fine. Other times, however, you just need to get it out. Rounded corners and peeled screws can seriously hamper your productivity, but they won't stop your work. Get a relatively cheap screw extractor. It allows you to quickly remove those pesky worn and weathered fasteners without frustration.
Any professional from a mechanic to a woodworker should have a set of screw extractors nearby. If you're just starting out, or you find yourself apprenticed to a pro, we can show you how to pull out screws as if you've been doing it for years.
The key to the usefulness of a screw extractor is its overall design. While brands vary, the most common design uses a tapered bit with reverse threads. This helps it lock and remove damaged screws. Makes sense, right?
Basically, after punching or drilling a hole in the top of the damaged screw, you'll use a screw extractor to bite into the screw and screw it back out of whatever it's holding together. Very simple.
Step 1: Gather some needed tools
You'll need a few tools, depending on the type and size of the fastener and the material you're removing it from:
- screw extractor
- center punch
- Drill the holes (we don't recommend using an impact driver – too much torque and speed)
- Drill bit (not needed if your extractor has a boring end)
- Thread cutting oil and/or penetrating oil
Step Two: Safety First
Wear those safety glasses, as your work may send some metal shards flying around. You always want to protect your eyeballs from debris. You may also want a pair of gloves if you're concerned about metal shavings cutting you.
Step 3: Type it out
With a basic screw extractor, you may need to leave some room in the screw head to work. That means drilling or reaming holes in that old screw.
To do this, you align the punch with the center of the screw and tap lightly. This will create an indent in the very center of the screw that will help guide the drill.
Some screw extractors have a polished end that you can use to drill right out of the screw heads. If that's your set, skip the punching and drilling steps.
Pro Tip: If you're repairing a bolt or plug on your engine, watch out for those pieces of metal – you don't want them falling into the engine block!
Step 4: Drill Pilot Holes
Next, find a drill with a smaller diameter than the screw you need to remove. To make your life easier, put a little thread cutting oil on the screw heads. This goes a long way.
Keeping the bit straight, slowly drill down into the screw. Depending on the size of the screw extractor you plan to use, you may only need to drill down about 1/8" to 1/4".
Pro tip: Take your time. If you're going to stop to remove a screw, there's some value in protecting your workpiece. Don't ruin the whole thing with a rushed process. You also want to use a drill for this process, as the mechanism on an impact driver doesn't provide a smooth action.
If you are using a polisher/extractor double ended drill, you will need to reverse the drill to use it properly. The benefit is that the double-ended bits are already matched to the appropriate extractor size, so there is no guesswork. Simply compare each bit to a screw and choose the best size.
You could tell we found the stud extractor kit easier to use.
Step 5: Screw It On
For the tutorial on how to use the screw extractor, it feels like it took us a long time to actually get the screws out, no? Well here we are. At this point, you can finally put the screw extractor into use.
If you are using the drill in reverse, turn the screw extractor into the pilot hole you drilled. The screw extractor will rotate down until it grabs the screw. Once this happens, keep turning until your screw is securely out. Walk very slowly.
Pro Tip 1: If the screw extractor won't bite, drill or drill more holes in the head. Most screws only need about 1/16" to work, but you may need to go further on some. If it still doesn't work, try the next size.
Pro Tip 2: Consider running the extractor manually . Using the drill at low speed will do the trick, but more than a few times we've had the drill break by running it too quickly into a fastener that was really stuck. The larger and more "sticky" the fastener, the more likely the manual method will be more effective than your drill.
Probably the biggest problem with taking out screws is simply having the right tool for the job. We've tested some solid products that we like, including the Gearwrench Bolt Biter Screw Extractor. If you haven't checked these out, check out the products listed at the bottom of this article for more recommendations.
If you have any other tips and tricks on how to use a screw extractor feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
Rockler has a really good video explaining how the spiral extractor works and how to walk you through the process. You can watch it here.