Every tool box needs a pair of screw removal pliers

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Thanks, Mark! Just ordered me a pair. I’ve wanted these since I was a kid, always figured I’d have to fabricate them. My current version… ain’t so effective anymore.

I am not implying the pliers aren’t a smart thing to have. Just the moment you have a touch of rust or (what is it called?) Galvanic bonding(?) It is easier to cut, drill, and tap.


Job for a small vise-grip:


Personally I use hacksaws or rotary tools for a lot of this. If you can find reverse thread screws of the right size, you can use those.

Somewhat related and I’m hoping someone can shed a little light here. I recently stripped a wheel stud while changing a tire. I never use a breaker bar or my foot, but this keeps happening to me. Someone told me that repair shops over tighten, and I’m not sure if that’s true, but it makes me want to carry spare wheel studs and nuts everywhere [Insert dirty joke here]. Am I doing something wrong?

ETA: I also fully seat the wrench every time.

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But does it have an infomercial with DRAMATIC MUSIC!?


Screw extractor. A device for replacing a stuck screw or stud with a brittle, tool-hardened steel shard that needs spark erosion to remove.


It isn’t wildly elegant or quick; but if you are faced with a screw that is stripped, some nonsense ‘security’ bit, etc. you can use the trick of epoxying a short length of hex bar stock(chose the same size as common modular-bit screwdrivers use, so you’ll have a handle that will grip it easily at hand) to the top of the screw.

It helps if both surfaces are suitably rough; but JB Weld doesn’t mess around. You just have to be careful about any oozing out, if you plan on turning the screw in the future.


Wire cutters. The tips can grab the sides, or the side and the slit, and apply torque. The cutters don’t like it as the joint is not designed for this direction of load, but they can cope.

Or if the situation permits, you can solder a lever to the top of the screw. Here is how I did it with a compact camera:

(Complete teardown of the Canon A2600 cam here: http://shaddack.twibright.com/projects/reveng_CanonPowershotA2600/
and building in a USB charger for powering the hungry cam from a pocket power bank here:
http://shaddack.twibright.com/projects/mod_CanonPowershotA2600InternalCharger/ )


I have one of these, but I call it a “vice-grip”


Fencing pliers work pretty well, too.

True that. I fenced some pliers many many years ago and they still work pretty well.

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I have had many repair shops over-tighten the lug nuts. They use “torque sticks” which are extensions engineered to twist at a certain torque spec and treat them as infallible so they hammer away on them with their impact drivers turned up to 11. But they’re not infallible and end up massively overtorqueing the nuts. also you should put anti seize compound on your lugs, it will help tremendously. If a shop works on your car then immediately loosen and retorque the nuts afterwards. An impact wrench should never be used to tighten lugs even with a torque stick. A torque wrench is the proper tool.

Also remember if you have aluminum wheels to retorque them after 100 miles of driving.


I’ll throw a few of the more esoteric ways out there:

If you don’t need the screw anymore- weld a nail/steel stock (if big) or solder (if small) something
to the screw, and back it out. I like the one above Shaddak does, but solder will only work on light fasteners.

If it has a thick head- grind a slot in it using a dremel tool cutoff disk, and back it out with a flathead screwdriver. Done that one countless times, it works well.

If it’s a weird alloy and totally snapped off in the item- take it to an EDM shop and have them burn it out for you. Works great with seized taps and bolts too, but you gotta know a place. This is what machine shops do when very expensive parts are involved, often in expensive alloys or single parts. EDM will blast out anything electrically conductive with nearly no damage to screw threads when done correctly. Cheap too- and will go through anything usually.

As a watchmaker- this one will only work when screw or bolt or tap is in a material non-ferrous- rust it out. No- this doesn’t mean wait for 30 years. It can take hours to a couple days. Did this when I was learning the trade, I rusted out some screws to brass clock plates using pure iodine. Pure bleach will work too- but much more aggressive than Iodine. Least aggressive is vinegar. When you have a screw or component in an old watch, sometimes these are the only ways to get them out…I only go that route if I cannot cut it out on a lathe or mill. Adding heat via a hotplate to any of the 3, vinegar, or iodine, or bleach (weak to strong in that order) will hasten the effect. You may have some copper leaching out of brass plate if you try this- so be careful. If done carefully, and using a needle to break away the top rusted area gradually, you can remove the finest small screws without damaging the threads.

The last one here- it’s not something you do on a whim. It’s the final option, as it may lead to discoloration of the threaded material from alloy leaching- but it works when nothing else does. If I do it, I apply only enough to cover what remains of the screw itself using a fine hypodermic syringe.

And btw, these are some cool pliers. Might have to pick up a pair. But honestly, my dremel tool method usually works.


Thanks for the advice, but I don’t think you meant to write this… or maybe you did, but I’m confused.

Ack! You’re right. I meant “An impact wrench should never be used to tighten lugs even with a torque stick.” Edited the post to fix that.

That was confusing as written!


I have had only mixed success with this. Sometimes works for me if some careless chucklehead has stripped the screwhead before I got to it. If it’s one that I somehow managed to strip myself, the fastener is usually stuck so tight that a new flathead slot will just strip too.

Huh, I have never tried to rust out a screw. When I worked on turn of the century saxophones every other set screw was usually problematic (steel screw, brass post) and invariably I would cut a new slot through the post and screw, remove the screw, then build the cut mark back up with braze.

When those suckers get stuck… Well you can almost count on twenty minutes each. And there could be forty of them.


I can vouch for that one as well. Can be used even to remove sunk screws with “safety” heads (whoever thinks they are a good idea should be hanged on the spot because they are not worth the bullet), or those “nonremovable” screw-bolts that are used on way too many extension cords instead of real screws (even worse than safety heads, I’d say; the pushers of those should be buried in a fire-ant hill). The cost of that is a slit extending through the plastic of the object, because the wheel needs to have its space, but that’s just cosmetic, with usually only minuscule mechanical impairment of the part.

EDM is a good method. In a better world, there would be cheap EDM rigs available. I think I saw a design long time ago, based on one-farad car stereo capacitor…

The rusting-out method was unknown to me but it is pretty obvious in retrospect. I did not expect the rust to proceed that fast, but the galvanic action from the copper alloy vs the iron alloy will have a major role there.

Isn’t it rather selective leaching of zinc from the brass, with the copper remaining? Selective leaching can be quite a bitch for some alloys…

…I heard about it used for gilding. The trick was using a silver-gold alloy for the object, then selectively leach silver from the surface and burnish the remaining gold.


Heh, who knew so many people were experienced with removing tiny screws :smile:

I’ll throw another one out:

If it is two metals and you know one expands at a different rate than the other… Wd 40, oxy acetylene, and a very very quick hand has saved my bacon. But you need a hot, narrow flame, and no fear of burning yourself (you will burn yourself).