The 5 Most Effective Techniques for Extracting a Stuck Screw
A jammed screw, typically the result of rust and corrosion inside the screw hole, is a source of great frustration. Not only can it put a damper on progress, but it may also dampen anyone’s spirits. Because of the corrosion, a screw is practically locked in place, and unscrewing it could cause damage to the screw or, even worse, the substance it is fastened to. Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true procedures that may be used to free a stuck screw with minimal effort and frustration.
Make sure you have the right size and type of screwdriver before you start beating on the screw, as using the wrong one might shred the screw’s head, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove the screw without ruining it.
First, resorting to some chemical manipulation is the safest and least invasive technique for extracting a jammed screw. This may sound difficult, but common household “solutions” should be able to loosen the corrosion holding your screw in place. For instance, a refreshing cola beverage, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice can break up the corrosion and free a stuck screw. In extreme cases, you might even consider purchasing rust remover from a supermarket, department store, or hardware shop, despite the fact that this is a more extreme and costly option.
Although this method is often the least damaging, it still requires caution to avoid staining or otherwise damaging the material. If an anti-corrosive is overused or if something is left soaking in it for too long, it could cause damage.
Any anti-corrosion solution worth using requires a few minutes of soaking time. If you tap the screw head while applying the anti-corrosive, you can get it to go further into the screw hole, which will help you loosen or release more of the screw. The screw will loosen more easily the more area you can cover with the solution.
You can try to get the screw out after a good soak. If a screw won’t budge, try tightening it (you’ll find that this strategy is useful for many of the solutions below). If the screw can be turned in both directions, the corrosion should be broken and the screw released. If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to move on to plan B.
The second strategy, called “brute force,” relies on using one’s own physical strength (along with maybe a few tools) to accomplish one’s goal. First, try to grab the screw-head with pliers or vice grips if possible. You might be able to use this as bargaining leverage if you can get your hands on it. If you’re having trouble turning a screw because you can’t grasp it, try inserting the screwdriver into the screw head, locking the pliers or grips onto the screwdriver’s shaft, and then applying downward pressure. It’s possible that combining the screwdriver’s downward pressure with the rotating leverage of the grips will loosen the screw.
If that doesn’t work, give the top of the screwdriver a light whack (enough to make the screw aware that you’re there without breaking the tip). The hope is that the impact will break apart the corrosion on the screw, allowing you to remove it. The combination of the screwdriver’s spin and a sharp blow to the head can often free a stubborn fastener. – However, take care not to damage the screw’s head.
Make sure the material the screw is stuck in can withstand temperature changes before trying to free it by applying high heat or cold. Lubricating oils are flammable and could start a fire if you heat them enough. Be careful, as exposure to such high temperatures can also cause burns if you aren’t wearing the proper protective gear.
Applying heat is the first line of defense. A butane or propane torch, soldering iron, heat gun, or even a glue gun (sans glue) can be used to generate sufficient heat to loosen or replace a screw. Hopefully, the heat will cause the screw to expand, which will break the corrosion and allow you to jiggle it loose.
If high heat is not an option because the material is sensitive, you can try freezing the screw to loosen it. Put ice on the screw (in a plastic bag to contain the water) and let it sit for a while. When compared to “regular” ice, dry ice performs far better. Try rotating the screw in both ways once it has gotten nice and chilly.
Repeated exposure to heat and cold can improve outcomes.
If you really need to remove the screw and nothing else has worked, you might have to destroy it. Destroying the screw is an extreme measure, used only when all other options have been exhausted. Take care not to damage the screw hole while you use the demolition technique.
Start by tapping the screw head with a small chisel or steel punch so that it is slightly off-center. Strike the punch or chisel’s top with the hammer repeatedly. Use a pressure that is anti-clockwise when you strike. The screw should be freed from corrosion after being hit by a few blows of this type.
It’s also possible to get creative with a power drill in an effort to remove the jammed screw. This will usually result in the complete destruction of the screw head, but you might be able to get it moving before the head becomes completely worthless. – Drill the screw out of the hole backward while keeping the bit centered on the screw head. Take care not to smudge the area around your mark if you happen to miss it. Even if you’ve completely broken the screw head, you can still use pliers or grips to pry out the rest of the screw.
The fifth and last option is to use a screw extractor to completely destroy the screw, which is a drastic measure but sometimes necessary if the screw is truly seized or has lost its thread, head, or head slots.
To remove a screw, an extractor must first drive into its body, grip it, and then twist it out. The device is incredibly ingenious for its low price tag of around $10. The screw extractor’s square head and reverse tapered cutting threads allow it to be used with an adjustable wrench or vice grips in addition to the T-handle it was designed for.
Drill a pilot hole into the center of the stuck screw using the smallest drill bit you have first. Depending on the size of the screw extractor, you may need to use slightly larger bits to enlarge the pilot hole to the desired size. To use an extractor, put the tool’s T-handle or other handle into the pilot hole and hold it. To ensure the extractor is properly seated in the pilot hole, tap its top with a hammer, and then, while pushing down, rotate the extractor anti-clockwise (to the left). Even though an extractor is normally made of high-quality steel, it is nevertheless possible to damage the pilot hole by applying too much force when pushing and twisting. The extractor’s reverse threads will eventually penetrate the stuck screw’s interior, dislodge the corrosion, and, most significantly, free the screw.
Confidence Vote: You Will Succeed! – Keeping at it until you succeed is the surest method to loosen the screw. Keep your cool and show it who’s boss, and you’ll win in the end.
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