How To Use A Screw Extractor – Remove Damaged Screws Like a Pro!
Rounded out and stripped screws can throw a real wrench into our productivity, but they don’t have to cause us to come to a grinding halt. With a relatively inexpensive screw extractor at the ready, as well as a couple of other handy accessories, we can remove those pesky worn and weathered fasteners with a minimal amount of frustration.
The concept moves into larger bolts and plugs to the point that you’ll see Pros from woodworking to mechanics keep a set handy. In this edition of Training the Apprentice, we’re going to show you how to use a screw extractor.
How to Use a Screw Extractor Crash Course
- Grab a set with double-ended burnishing/screw extracting bits – they’re easier
- Using your drill in reverse, slowly burnish out the damaged head
- Flip the bit around and use constant pressure to drive the extractor in until it bites
- Slowly keep turning the screw/bolt/plug out until it’s free
The key to the screw extractor’s usefulness lies in its general design. While there’s some variation between brands, the most common design scheme uses a tapered drill bit with reverse threading.
Basically, after punching or drilling into the top of your busted up screw, you’ll use a screw extractor to bite down into the screw and twist it back out of whatever it was holding together. Easy-peasy, right?
How To Use A Screw Extractor
Step 1: Prep Yourself
You’ll want to gather up all the various tools you’ll need for your screw removal project. And, unfortunately, you’ll probably need a few items in addition to your screw extractor to really get the ball rolling. Here’s a list of tools and equipment you may need depending on the type and size of fastener as well as the material you’re trying to get it out of:
- Screw Extractor
- Safety Equipment
- Center Punch
- Drill Bits
- Thread Cutting Oil
- Penetrating Oil
Step 2: Safety First
Don those safety glasses, because your work could potentially send a few metal shards flying about. You’ll want to keep your eyeballs from taking on any puncture wounds. You may want a pair of gloves if you’re concerned about metal shavings cutting you.
Step 3: Punch It Out
With a basic screw extractor, you’ll first need to provide some space within the screw for it to work. To get to that part of the process, you’ll need to drill a hole in that old screw.
To do this, you’ll need to align your punch to the center of the screw and hammer down lightly. This will create an indentation in the center of the screw that will help guide the drill bit.
Some screw extractors have a burnishing end that you can use to drill out the screw head directly. If that’s the set you have, skip the punching step.
Pro Tip: If you’re working a bolt or plug out of an engine, mind those metal shards – you don’t want them falling into the engine block!
Step 4: Drilling A Guide Hole
Next, you’ll want to find a drill bit that has a smaller diameter than the screw you need to remove. If you’d like to make your life easier, adding a little bit of thread cutting oil to the head of the screw will go a long way.
Keeping your drill bit straight, drill down slowly into the screw. Depending on the size of the screw extractor your using, you probably only need to drill down about 1/8″ – 1/4″.
Pro Tip: Take your time. If you’re stopping to remove a screw, then there’s some value in protecting your workpiece. Don’t ruin the whole thing by rushing the process.
If you’re using a burnishing/extractor double-ended bit, you’ll need to kick your drill into reverse to use it properly. The nice thing is that the double-ended bit already matches up with the proper extractor size so there’s no guesswork. Just compare each bit to the screw and choose the best size.
You can probably tell that these double-ended screw extractor sets are easier to use.
Step 5: Screw It
For a tutorial on how to use a screw extractor, it feels like we took a long time to get to the actual screw extraction, doesn’t it? Well, here we are. At this point, you can finally put the screw extractor to use.
Moving counterclockwise with a ratchet or in reverse if you’re using a drill, turn the screw extractor into the guide hole you’ve drilled. The screw extractor will twist down until it grabs hold of the screw. Once that happens, just keep turning until your screw is safely out.
Pro Tip: If the screw extractor doesn’t bite, drill or burnish out a little more of the head. Most screws will only require 1/16″ or so to work, but you might need to go a little further on some. If it still doesn’t work, try the next size up.
If you have any other tips and tricks on how to use a screw extractor, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
Rockler has a really good video explaining both how a screw extractor works and taking you through the process. Check it out here.