How to Remove a Broken Screw with a Screw Extractor

  • 01 of 05

    The Screw Extractor

    screw extractors

    They say good things come in small packages and that's true when it comes to this handy little tool called a screw extractor. When you have a screw head that is stripped or broken off or a bolt that has a stripped or broken off head, it can be impossible to remove without this tool. The screw extractor (which also works on bolts) comes in a range of sizes for screws of diameters ranging from 3/32" to upward of 1/2" or even larger.

    For about $5 or less, you can have an indispensable tool that...MORE you'll be glad to have handy when you need it. Let's take a look at the screw extractor and how it is used.

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  • 02 of 05

    How the Screw Extractor is Designed to Work

    Screw Extractor Detail
    Screw Extractor Detail. © 2006

    The design of the screw extractor is elegantly simple. It consists of three elements:

    • Square Head
    • Shaft
    • Reverse Tapered Cutting Screw Threads

    Square Head

    The square head is mostly for being fastened into a "T" Handle that can be used with this tool to turn it (see next section). The square head can also be used to turn the extractor by using an adjustable wrench or vice grip pliers.


    The extractor is made of high strength steel and the shaft ties everything together. The vice grip type pliers can...MORE also be used to grip and turn the round shaft if desired.

    Tapered Threads

    This is the business end of the tool. The threads are designed to screw BACKWARD or counter-clockwise into the screw or bolt after a pilot hole has first been drilled. They are tapered so that the extractor digs into the damaged screw deeper and tighter and the extractor is turned. So while you're turning the extractor counter clockwise, it's digging into the damaged screw more and more and turns the damaged screw counter-clockwise which of course loosens and removes (extracts) the damaged screw. Simple huh?

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  • 03 of 05

    The "T" Handle

    screw extractor
    screw extractor. © 2006

    The "T" Handle can be seen in the photo above on the left. It's pretty obvious how it got its name since it's shaped like a "T." The handle is designed to screw down over the square end of the extractor bit. Once tightened down, the extractor is easily turned and pressure can also be easily applied.

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  • 04 of 05

    Drill Pilot Hole in Damaged Screw

    Woman Contractor Construction Carpenter with Power Drill on White
    Eric Hood / Getty Images

    Drilling the Pilot Hole

    The first step in removing the damaged screw is to prepare it for insertion of the extractor bit. The extractor bit is designed to screw into the damaged screw but first needs a pilot hole.

    • Using a power drill, drill a hole in the center of the damaged screw.
    • Often the surface of the damaged screw is uneven so the best way to start the pilot is to use a very small drill bit, about 1/16" in diameter. Try to get at least a starter hole for a larger drill bit sized properly...MORE for the extractor you are using.
    • Drill slowly and carefully into the damaged screw with the proper sized pilot hole drill bit as recommended on the package that came with the extractor. The pilot hole diameter will vary according to the extractor size you are using.
    • Be very careful NOT to break off the drill bit in the hole you are drilling.
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  • 05 of 05

    Insert Extractor Bit and Remove Damaged Screw

    Extractor Bit Engaged in Damaged Screw
    Extractor Bit Engaged in Damaged Screw.

    Remove Damaged Screw

    Once the pilot hole is drilled, proceed as follows:

    • Grip the extractor bit firmly with clamping pliers or use a "T" Handle.
    • Place the extractor bit into the pilot hole.
    • Using a hammer, tap the extractor firmly into the pilot hole.
    • Now while exerting downward pressure on the extractor, turn the extractor counter-clockwise and remove the damaged screw.
    • If the extractor slips and loses its bite in the screw, try again and tap the extractor more firmly to try and get a good...MORE bite. Also, push down more firmly as you turn it counter-clockwise.
    • If you still have trouble, try enlarging the pilot hole slightly and try again.