Does This TikTok Hack for Removing a Stripped Screw Really Work?
Have a stripped screw that won't come out? We tested a popular TikTok hack that claims to make quick work of this annoying situation.
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Few things are more discouraging for a DIYer than trying to remove a badly stripped screw head, whether joining wood or other materials. If the head of the screw is so damaged your driver bit or screwdriver can’t grab and turn it, you’re facing a big headache trying to get the screw out.
That’s why we tested this trending internet hack, which claims to provide a fast, easy, and foolproof way to remove stripped screws with a regular handheld drill.
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What Is A “Stripped” Screw?
We’ve all seen one — a screw head with a slot too mangled to hold the turning tool. Even when you do everything you can to avoid “stripping out” the head, sometimes it happens anyway. Phillips screw heads strip out a lot more easily than Robertson (square-drive) screws.
Soft grades of steel are sometimes used to cast screws, and these can be incredibly easy to strip. Some projects also require driving screws without sufficient space to properly align your driver bit. This increases the odds of stripping a screw, through no fault of your own. That’s where this hack comes in.
How It Works
Before this hack came along, the go-to approach for removing a stripped screw involved gripping the sides of the screw head with toothed pliers and trying to twist it free. Sometimes this worked. And sometimes the pliers slipped and the screw stayed put.
Another option was buying a set of special damaged screw removing bits. These bored into the body of damaged screws and twisted them free. The problem is, bits like this aren’t common, many DIYers don’t know about them, and they’re tricky to use even if you do.
That leaves us with this hack. You’ll need a hand-held drill with a standard chuck (i,e. the part that holds the drill bit). Here’s what to do:
- Open up the chuck so the internal locking jaws are spaced out wide enough to slide over the damaged screw head.
- Place the drill chuck over the damaged screw, then tighten the chuck until it’s good and snug around the screw head.
- Switch the drill’s direction of rotation to counter-clockwise and gently squeeze the trigger. With any luck, the chuck will maintain its hold and twist the stripped screw free of the workpiece.
I found this hack quick and easy to implement and moderately successful. I tested it on screws of various lengths and thread diameters, driven into softwood (pressure-treated spruce) and hardwood (seasoned ash).
As long as the screws were at least 1/4-in. above the wood’s surface, my drill had no trouble pulling them free of the softwood — even the 3-1/2-in. course-thread deck screws!
Things didn’t work quite as well with screws driven into hardwood. I could only remove them if they were embedded an inch or less into the ash. Any deeper and the chuck spun on the screw heads. The screws didn’t budge.
Problems and Alternative Solutions
This hack won’t help a stripped screw that’s fully driven because there’s nothing for the drill chuck to grip. Hardwood is also a challenge. The denser wood fibers grip screws harder than softwood, so you probably won’t have much luck if your workpiece is maple, oak or ash. However, if you’ve pre-drilled generous pilot holes to weaken the grip of the threads, it might work.
My conclusion: This hack is worth trying, but doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your stripped screw out. If it fails, try pliers or screw extraction bits, or cut the screw off flush with a hacksaw.