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The Daily Fix: Remove a Stuck Screw

Filed Under: Tools, Essential Skills, Know-How

Isn't it infuriating when a screw just won't budge? Whatever you do, don't lose your cool and resort to brute force. Yes, I know it's tempting, but you could easily make matters worse by stripping the head of your screw. That little mishap will leave your screwdriver bit spinning uselessly in the now-hollow end of the (still stuck) screw. Now that's infuriating!

So how did your screw get stuck in the first place? Odds are, it got wedged firmly in position over time, or it was overly tightened. Whatever the cause, here's a clever trick worth trying: heat the screw up. The sudden expansion of the hot metal screw can loosen things up enough to get that stubborn metal moving. Here's how to do it safely:

soldering iron, glue gunThe trick to removing a screw that won't budge? Use a soldering iron or a glue gun. Photo: Michael's

All you need is a soldering iron or hot glue gun. Many of us already have one or both of these items in the garage -- or can beg or borrow from a friend. If you need to buy one, no sweat -- they're cheap. A basic soldering iron or hot glue gun can be purchased for a mere $15 to $20. A pair of safety goggles is highly recommend too, especially if you end up moving onto plan B (below).

Now it's time to get cooking. Hold the tip of the hot soldering iron or glue gun firmly against the head of the stuck screw. Just be extra safe:

1. Don't get distracted or leave the room.
2. Only try this method if you can do so without risk of fire or other damage to the surrounding wood or wallboard.
3. NEVER try heating a screw after already applying a flammable lubricating oil like WD-40.

Once the screw is good and hot, try again to turn it with a manual screwdriver (don't touch it with your hand). Press hard while attempting to turn the screw slowly but firmly counterclockwise. No luck? Try heating it again. If there's still no movement, move on to plan B: clamp on a pair of vice grips. Just go very, very gently so you don't run the risk of snapping the screw's head off. Hot metal can be very dangerous, so always proceed with caution.

  • mark

    how to remove a screw? I thought you just rolled over and said WOW.... love ya baby

  • Maggie

    They said "screw" Mark, not "shrew"...

  • shelly

    I saw your comment and just howled with laughter. How funny ! ! Thanks for the laugh.

  • TJK


  • dan nolan

    what if the head is stripped? here is what you then do. get a hack saw and saw a new slot. get a heavy duty screwdriver and it'l,l come out easy!

  • Jack

    I was hoping someone would explain how to get a screw out of a tire. Will it go flat and maybe I'd better leave it there?

  • lita

    It will likely go flat. (This depends on how deeply the screw has penetrated the tire.) Put the spare on find someone who will remove the screw and repair and inflate the tire, if you cannot do these things yourself. (You don't want a slow leek to leave you stranded somewhere.)

  • Steve

    If you can't replace the tire immediately and it is still full of air, do not remove the screw. It is best to put the spare on and then drive slowly to a tire repair shop and they can repair it for you, often for a very small fee. Leaving the screw in not only prevents loss of air, it let's the repair shop know where the damage was done. They can also check out the rest of the tire and the other tires. Good luck and stay safe, no matter what.

  • Ed

    And what if it's a flathead?? The vice grips and hacksaw would be a definate no no. Put the screwdriver in the slot, and give it a few good wacks with a hammer. If everything else fails, you can always just drill it out, with a good drill bit.

  • Ed

    Duh,,of course it will go flat if you pull it out. Get a tire plug kit,, easy fix.

  • mike

    It also depends on how long the screw is....I was lucky, the screw I ran over was the same thickness as the tread and did not cause a leak. And unless it's a DIRE Emergency, NEVER use that goo that seals and inflates the tire. Tire shops will charge extra to do a proper repair (ie, patch the tire) if they have to clean that glop out of the tire so the patch can be applied. Didn't happen to me cuz I refuse to use it, but I know people that have had this happen at the trie shop.

  • strontium90

    This writer has this backward and you will have major problems if you do this. "DO NOT" heat up the screw to cause it to loosen up, you "MUST" heat the fitting that is holding it. You want what ever the screw is in to warm up and expand around the fastener that is now stuck. If you heat up the broken fastener you will cause it to expand and get even tighter in what ever is holding it. If any thing if you have a part of an end sticking out put a piece of ice on it for a little while to cool it then quickly heat the part that is holding it and the expansion differential will ideally break it loose for you.

  • Mike

    30 year mechanic here. I don't have time to wait and play games with a screw, bolt, pin, whatever. Nor do I want to see how a heatsink works. Just grind the head flat, center punch, and drill.

  • 13 Comments / 1 Pages

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