Screws join and hold two or more materials, allowing us to build our projects. Allen screw heads have a hexagonal socket and are among the most popular screws due to their compact design. Tightening and loosening are common practices with screws. However, this can also cause wear and tear where the head angles strip, making it difficult for Allen keys to hold the heads.
Screws usually tighten when turned clockwise and loosen up when turned anticlockwise with an Allen screw following the same pattern. Allen screw heads can chip off when the screwdriver tip is damaged or improperly inserted before turning. Rust can also weaken the material and cause it to chip. One of the most common causes of screw heading chipping is normal wear and tear after using the screw for a long time.
When the Allen screw head weakens and the key can no longer grip it, tightening it and loosening the screw would be impossible. If you find out the head of an Allen screw has been stripped off, you’re better off trying any of the methods we’ll show in this guide than forcing the screwdriver.
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How to Remove Stripped Allen Screw?
Screwdrivers alone will no longer turn Allen screws when its head has stripped or worn out. You have to use special measures to get that screw out; luckily, there are various ways to achieve this goal.
1. Torx Wrench
Torx Wrench has a star tip which results in a better grip and higher torque making it possible to turn chipped Allen screws. The hexagonal shape of the Allen screw head is difficult to remove when stripped, but the star shape head of the torx wrench will grip chipped heads. Ensure to use a slightly wider torx head than the Allen screw head, so it fights in tightly.
You’ll find at least one size of a torx wrench in most tool kits, but you may have to invest in a full torx wrench kit, so you gain access to torx wrenches of varying sizes. To prevent further stripping, first, confirm there’s no wiggle room between the torx wrench head and the Allen screw head before turning clockwise.
2. Screw Extractor
A screw extractor is a specialized tool for removing stripped screws. There are many different screw extractors, but they all have a similar working principle. These screw extractors are like bits and need a drill or impact driver. Depending on the type of extractor, most will mention the tool to use with the extractor.
Removing stripped Allen screws using a screw extractor is a cumbersome project but is effective. You must select the right extractor size before forming a hole using a power drill machine and a metal drill bit. Form a hole about 6.5mm deep at the center of the screw head, and then place the screw extractor inside the hole. You’ll need to guide it in using a hammer if you get your measurements right since the extractor needs to fight tightly inside the hole.
Using an adjustable wrench or locking pliers, you can unscrew the stripped Allen screw. You should place the adjustable wrench on the head of the screw extractor and tighten it before turning it in an anticlockwise direction.
3. Set of Pliers
Pliers are common tools found in most tool kits, and you can use them to remove a stripped Allen screw if the screw head is exposed. The trick is to tightly grab the head of the screw using the plier’s jaws and then turn counterclockwise to remove the screw. Since most people own pliers, this method is easy and often does not require any monetary investment. However, it is limited to instances where the screw head can be held tightly.
4. Screw Grab
Screw grab is a liquid that significantly increases friction and makes it possible for your Allen key to grab that stripped screw and turn it. This is another specialized method of removing worn-out screws as the screw grab liquid is made to increase friction, make it easier to turn worn-out screws, and also prevent stripping of new screws.
Screw grab is made with fine-grit metal powder that grips the inside of the screw while taking the shape of the hex key. This formula works when you apply the screw grab directly on the screw head and then use the hex key to turn the screw. The screw guard increases the friction between the screw and the screw head, making it turn. The formula is affordable, non-toxic, and does not react with the skin.
5. Rubber Band
Rubber band works similarly to a screw grab in that it fills the stripped Allen screw head and gives the Allen key the grub it needs to turn the screw. You’ll need a rubber band that is wide enough to cover the head area. Place the band over the head and push the Allen key into the band to force it into the stripped screw head.
With the hex key firmly inside the Allen screw head, you can unscrew it like normal till you remove the screw. Apart from bands, you can use other materials like a rubber glove in a pinch or any rubberized material that can fit in the head.
6. Epoxy and Old Allen Wrench
Here is a more robust approach to removing stripped screws. It involves using epoxy and an old Allen wrench you don’t mind throwing away. Mix and spread a 2-part epoxy into the screw head and then press in an Allen key. Leave this key in the epoxy to dry for about two days.
When dry, turn the Allen wrench counterclockwise to remove the screw. Expozy dries hard, and you may be unable to detach the screw from the Allen wrench. Apply the epoxy on only the head of the screw without having it over the head and on another surface, which can solidify the screw and the surface.
You can remove the screw by drilling with a drill bit about the size of the screw head. Place the drill bit inside the screw head and drill downwards. You want to exert minimal downward force while using a low speed to prevent mistakes. Drilling might seem unconventional, but it’s an effective way to destroy and remove stripped heads.
Drill down and then use a pair of needle nose pliers to pick out the Allen screw from the hole. While drilling, you want to pay extra attention not to expand the surrounding area around the screw, which may further impact the material’s integrity. Wear protective materials, especially goggles, to prevent metal shards from flying into your eyes.
8. Cut a Slot With an Angle Grinder
Angle grinders are powerful hand saws that can make intricate cuts, polish, and grind surfaces, among other uses. Due to their blade shape, you can cut a slot into the Allen screw head to form a different head shape where a flathead screwdriver can work. Improvising an angle grinder requires carefulness, so you don’t damage the material or cut off the screw’s head.
Wear safety goggles before cutting with this saw to protect your eyes. Mark a straight line on the screw head and grind a narrow slot through the line using the angle grinder. With this new slot, you can place a flathead screwdriver and turn it the regular way to unscrew the Allen screw. Hit the screwdriver with a hammer if you cut an extremely narrow slot.
9. Center Punch
A center punch creates a tiny hole, especially for drills, to get an exact point and not slip. For a center punch, there’s a pointed end that makes the indentation and a spring-loaded point that applies the pressure—the two parts of the center punch work in tandem to remove stripped Allen screws.
Place the pointed end of the center punch on a flat part of the screw head while making sure the punch points to the left. To apply pressure to the pointed part, pull the spring and let go, so it penetrates the screw and locks in properly. Repeat pulling the string and letting it go to apply the force required to move this screw in an anticlockwise direction.
If the stripped Allen screw is attached to a metal surface, you can utilize heat to expand the area around the screw, so removing it becomes easy even when the head is chipped. The heat you need is enough to remove the screw and not damage the project. Tools like the propane torch are perfect for applying concentrated heat. You can direct the heat to a specific area which makes targeting the screw area way easier.
Using the heat method near fragile or flammable materials is not recommended since this can cause accidents or damage to the material. You only need 10 seconds of heat around the screw area to loosen it. You can fit your hex key again and turn the screw.
11. Screwdriver and Hammer
Combining a screwdriver and a hammer can remove that stripped Allen screw head that wouldn’t budge when using only a hex key. It is best to use a screwdriver that fits into the Allen screw head and gently tap the screwdriver’s handle.
The trick is to provide enough force to shake up the Allen screw and create room between the screw and the material. With enough room, you can even remove the screw by hand.
Quick answers to common questions about removing stripped Allen screws.
Ans. You can use a drill bit to break recessed Allen screws and then use needle nose pliers to remove the pieces.
Ans. For a stripped Allen screw where the head side is visible, you can remove these types using pliers that grab the screw’s head.
Ans. Use a band over the screw head and push the hex key into the head before turning clockwise to tighten the screw.
There are different methods of removing stripped Allen screws ranging from the more subtle options like filling with screw grab or even toothpicks to more robust options like drilling through the screw. Your chosen method depends on which is more convenient and available to you.