How to Remove a Stuck Screw

Updated: Jul. 14, 2023

We show you some ways to remove a stuck Phillips head screw.

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Get that stuck screw out using one of these techniques for removing screws in metal. Begin with the easiest and move on the more complex if necessary.

Tools Required

  • Hammer
  • Impact driver
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Rotary tool

Materials Required

  • Valve grinding compound

Project step-by-step (3)

Step 1

Removing stuck Phillips screws: The easiest techniques

Fill the screw head

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Squirt a dollop of valve grinding compound into the head of the screw. Then jam in the screwdriver and turn. No matter how simple the repair, it seems like there’s always one stuck screw. You try to muscle your way out of the jam, but all that does is cam out the screw head slots. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tricks to coax out a stubborn Phillips screw.

At the first sign of trouble, spray the screw with rust penetrant (Liquid Wrench and PB Blaster are two really good brands). Let the penetrant work for at least 15 minutes. Then spray it again and tap the screw head dead-on several times with a hammer. Then try the screwdriver again.

Next, apply valve grinding compound (photo 1). The compound (about $4 at any auto parts store) contains a fine grit that helps the screwdriver bite into the head.

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Step 2

Still stuck? Try stronger techniques

Hammer the impact driver

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Hold the body of the impact driver to prevent it from turning. Then hit the end with a serious blow. If the screw still won’t budge and the surrounding surfaces can tolerate some heat, aim a lighter flame directly onto the screw head. Then douse it with cold water before trying it again. Still stuck? Invest in an impact screwdriver (photo 2). Pick one up for about $20 at a home center or an auto parts store.

Screws: How to Loosen a Stuck Phillips Screw

Step 3

Stripped the head? Cut a new one

Stripped out? Cut into the head

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Slice a deep groove into the screw head with a cutting wheel and rotary tool. Make it wide enough to accommodate your largest flat-blade screwdriver. If you’ve stripped out the head, cut a new slot with a straight-groove rotary tool (photo 3). Then crank it out with a flat-blade screwdriver.

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