How to Remove Stripped Screws with an Impact Driver

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An impact driver with screwdriver bits and socket heads.
An impact driver with screwdriver bits and socket heads. (Image: set of screw-drivers image by Dmitry Sladkov from Fotolia.com)

Encountering a roadblock during a home-repair project is frustrating, especially when the difficulty is something simple like a stuck screw. Installing new bath fixtures or ceiling fans or simply replacing light switch covers can come to a complete stop because of a screw that will not cooperate. Brute force often makes the problem worse, with the risk of stripping the screw entirely. Fortunately, the proper use of an impact driver and a little finesse can get your repair project back underway.

Things You'll Need

  • Impact driver
  • Appropriate bit (Phillips or standard)
  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses

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Instr

Determine whether your stuck screw has a Phillips or a sStandard screw head and select the matching screwdriver bit. Open the bit holder of your impact driver, insert the screwdriver bit and tighten.

Screwdriver bits.
Screwdriver bits. (Image: fallen image by Adam Walter from Fotolia.com)

Clean the stuck screw head of any loose dirt and debris. Set the impact driver for left turning to loosen the screw. Put on your safety glasses and place the impact driver bit snugly into the screw head.

Clear loose dirt and debris.
Clear loose dirt and debris. (Image: Wood Screw Head image by Jim Mills from Fotolia.com)

Strike the impact driver solidly on the handle end with a hammer. The bit will set firmly into the screw head and the impact driver head will rotate, loosening the screw.

Strike firmly with a hammer.
Strike firmly with a hammer. (Image: hammerhead image by sumos from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure the impact driver is set to loosen rather than tighten screws before beginning.
  • Screwdriver bits come in many different sizes. In addition to selecting the correct type of bit, be sure to select the appropriate size. Using the wrong size bit can strip the screw head.
  • Hit the impact driver firmly with the hammer. Too light a touch and the impact driver head will not move and neither will the screw. Too heavy a hit can damage the assembly holding the stuck screw.
  • Be sure to hit the impact driver squarely on the handle end, seating the bit straight into the screw head. Hitting the impact driver at an angle can damage the screw head.
  • Impact drivers are relatively inexpensive and are typically available in standard hardware stores. However, cheaply made impact drivers can require an extremely hard hit before engaging, risking damage to the screw. Try a lubricant if your screw is still stuck. Let the lubricant set and then try removing the screw again with the impact driver. Heating the screw threads can often aid in loosening a screw. However, you must be able to heat the threads, not just the screw head.
  • Never apply heat to screws you have lubricated.
  • Keep your fingers out of the way when hitting the impact driver with the hammer.

References

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