Removing Stripped Screw Heads

You did stripped out the Phillips screw that holds your taillight on, and now you're kinda screwed.

Removing a stripped Phillips head screw

You did it…you stripped out the Phillips screw that holds your taillight on, and now you’re kinda screwed. Here’s a simple solution on how to remove a stripped Phillips screw: Grab your favorite rotary tool and turn that Phillips head into a flat head. I use the standard grinding disc that most rotary tools come with. I suppose a cutoff tool with a thin profile would work as well.

The existing hole in the screw acts as a guide. Once you get the slot started, make sure to move the tool back and forth—you don’t want a slot with a curved bottom. Also, try to hold the tool as perpendicular to the head as possible. If you grind the slot at an angle, you’ll end up with another stripped-out screw head.

As always, let the tool do the work: Don’t push too hard or the grinding wheel will want to jump out of the slot, or you’ll break the bit. And don’t overgrind—on one occasion, I ground too deep and the screw head split in half when I tried to loosen it.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t need to resort to more drastic methods of screw extraction, but this simple trick has saved me a dozen times.

— Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor

For more tips on driving and how to remove a stripped Phillips screw, check out:

How to Loosen a Stuck Phillips Screw

How to Extract a Broken Screw

How to Drive Screws Perfectly

Plus: 65 Super Cool Tool Hacks
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