I need to remove a stripped screw

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Here are a few ways to remove a screw if the head is stripped out:

  • The most important recommendation: Replace all of the Phillips screws you can on your bike with stainless steel Allen fasteners, preferably before they get stripped. They look nicer, are much easier to work with, and are a heck of a lot more durable.
  • Make sure the screwdriver you are using is as nearly new as possible. Look at the tip of it and make sure you can see NO rounding or nitching of any kind. The less it bites, the more of your force is wasted trying to press it into the screwhead in the first place.
  • An impact driver takes the force of a hammer and turns it into rotary torque. This is a very useful tool, especially for older vehicles with stubborn fasteners. Can usually be used for screws or nuts/bolts.
Impact 1.jpg
  • In the absence of an impact driver, smack the butt end of your regular screwdriver with a hammer while turning. Put additional turning force into as you make the hit. DISCLAIMER: This is pretty dangerous, so use great caution about doing it. If done poorly or with too much force, you stand a chance of hurting yourself or punching the screwdriver tip through something, or breaking whatever you're working on.
  • Do you have a cordless driver drill? Most of the modern, quality ones have multiple torque settings. Using a good bit, start at the lowest setting and let it ratchet for a second or so. Keep doing this on each successively higher setting. There are purpose made cordless impact guns made by Makita and the like, too.
  • Using a Dremel tool or similar cut a slot into the head and use a flat blade driver. Sometimes the additional torue at the very edge of the screw makes all the difference in the world.
  • With a *sharp* center punch knock a divot as close to the edge of the screw head as you can. Then lean the centerpunch all the way over and try to tap the screw out.
  • Drill the head off the screw. You only need a drill bit the size of the screw shaft. Then, just drill through the center of the screw, and once it hits the shaft, the head normally just twists right off (because there's no metal left there to hold it together). Then, pull off the part you're working on and use whatever pliers you desire (needle-nose vise grips are a handy tool to have around) to remove the screw shaft that's protruding. Again, replace with an Allen screw.
  • Purchase a set of drill bits made for screw extraction. The kind that work with a T-handle are better, because you can remove it by hand, and have better control over the torque.
  • Several members have had good luck with the Craftsman 3 pc. Screw-Out Damaged Screw Remover Set, model #52154. It runs about $20 at Sears.
  • Take a properly fitting screwdriver, then attach a set of vice grips (very tightly) to the shank just in front of the handle, to form a "T" (the screwdriver would be the top). Use all of your weight to push straight in on the screwdriver towards the screw, then use whatever remaining strength you have to twist it using the leverage of the vice grip.

A simple approach

This process uses a product called GraBit. There are several products like this on the market. This one works and was available for the photo shoot.

For your inspection: a rear lower fairing bolt. Common problem area. With the plastic behind it, this is one area where you don't want to use an impact driver.

Grabit 02a.jpg Grabit 03a.jpg

The kit comes with #2 and #3 Phillips two-sided bits. Choose the appropriate size for your job.

Grabit 04a.jpg

The right side of the bit is a coarse drill bit that shapes the interior of the bolt into a cone shape. This is done in regular direction with the drill.

Grabit 06a.jpg

The next step is to use the left side of the bit counterclockwise (drill in reverse). This bit is grooved and 'bites' into the cone opening, backing the bolt out.

Grabit 07a.jpg Grabit 08a.jpg

Much easier than some of the methods discussed above.

Grabit 09a.jpg Grabit 10a.jpg

When you're ready to reassemble, change the Phillips bolts to stainless steel Allen ones. While you're at it, change as many of the Phillips fasteners on your bike as you can.