Stripped screws: it’s happened to nearly everyone at some point in their tool-using career.
It can happen to nearly anything, from drywall screws to hex bolts to disc brake bolts. And there are usually two things in common each time: 1) it is caused by using the wrong tool (or the right tool incorrectly), and 2) it always seems to happen at the worst possible time.
It happened to me a few days ago and so I wanted to write up a quick article here showing how I solved the problem.
First of all, what exactly happened? I was trying to remove a disc brake rotor from a wheel when I discovered, much to my dismay, that the bolts used were torx head instead of normal allen head bolts. My hex keys weren’t going to work here. And not having a set of torx drivers around (my first mistake of the evening), I decided to give it the ol’ college try with a flat head screwdriver (my second mistake of the evening).
As you might imagine, this was an exercise in futility. Disc brake bolts are normally held in with blue thread-locker compound to keep them from backing out. Even with the right tool, it takes some muscle to break them free. With the wrong tool, you’ll end up destroying either the tool, the bolt, or both – which is exactly what happened to me.
So now I’m pretty much screwed, pun intended, of course. Except that I’m not screwed, because I’ve got my trusty Dremel-type rotary tool that I got in a flea market in Bangkok (hey, a good Dremel isn’t cheap!)
The solution? A cutting wheel.
I sliced a nice slot right across the top of the bolt head. It took me a few passes but I got it just wide enough for a thick, flat blade screwdriver to fit in there. With a little bit of muscle and a little bit of luck I was able to break free the thread-locker and unscrew the bolt with the flat blade screwdriver.
And that’s all there was to it! Obviously this isn’t an ideal solution, but if you’ve already buggered up a bolt to the point of no return, this just might help you get it out.