How To Remove A Stripped Hex Head Screw [5 Reasons and Prevention]

Old, worn-out, and stripped hex screws are difficult to detach from a piece of wood or metal. Unless you have the proper equipment, following procedures on removing a stripped hex screw can be a challenge.

Hex screws are different from other types of mechanical fasteners with internal slots or drives on their heads. Fastening or detaching a hex-head screw requires a mechanical wrench instead of a screwdriver.

Nonetheless, there are some tips on properly extracting stripped hex screws from metal and wooden bars. We have listed some of these procedures for you to remove these screws in no time!

What is a Hex Head Screw?


Hex screws are mechanical fasteners intended for assembling pieces of wood and metal. Known by other names such as hex-head and hex-cap, these screws have a hexagonal-shaped flat head instead of a circular top.

The threads of these screws may either be partially threaded or fully threaded. Partially threaded screws have an unthreaded shank portion, while fully threaded screws cover all shank parts.

As standardized under ANSI/ASME B18.2.1-1996, a hex screw measures from 0.25 to 3 inches in diameter. The thread measures 0.75 – 6.5 inches, while the height falls between 0.15 and 1.935 inches.

People often confuse the hex screw for other fasteners of similar appearances, such as the Allen screw and hex bolt. But, both of these are different from hex screws in different ways.

For instance, a hex screw has a hexagonal-shaped head with no drive or slot. On the other hand, an Allen screw has a cylindrical head and a hexagonal space for an Allen wrench.

Meanwhile, a hex bolt is an entirely different mechanical fastener. It has a nut and washer attached to its body to tighten and protect the bolt against stripping.

The quality of hex caps varies depending on the material used to produce the screw. These are classified according to the steel used and the toughness of screws when pulling pressure is applied.

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Listed below are classifications of hex-cap screws under the SAE classification:

  • Grade 2 and Below – Screws made from low to medium-carbon steel material are ideal for household consumption. Any markings do not represent these.
  • Grade 5 – These include medium-quality carbon steel screws for automotive work and are represented by three line markings.
  • Grade 8 – Screws under this classification are ideal for intensive applications, such as metal fabrication for tractors and suspension systems. The heads of these screws are marked with five lines.
  • Grade 8.8 -These Bolts are manufactured using medium carbon steel that has been quenched and tempered. Used in railroad equipment, motors, engines, and processing equipment, grade 8.8 bolts exhibit good tensile strength and perform well in most environments.
  • Grade 10.9 – These metric bolts are manufactured using medium carbon steel, medium carbon steel alloy, and low carbon boron steel that has been quenched and tempered. Used in automotive applications and for bolting large and forged parts, metric 10.9 bolts exhibit high tensile strength and good wear resistance.

Aside from SAE, there’s also a classification for screws formulated by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). A separate grading system from the ISO is also used in some industries.

Why Do Hex Screws Get Stripped?

Hex screws, much like other screws, can get stripped over time. It involves wearing and tearing the hexagonal screw head, making it difficult to detach from wood or metal bars.

Why do these hex screws get damaged over time? It may be due to the use of inappropriate and poor-quality tools.

Some people may forget to check whether the size of the screwdriver or drill bit is suitable for the screw. Others may be using old or worn-out drivers and drills in fastening the screw.

Improper handling and working on screws can also contribute to the stripping of the hex screws. Specifically, you may have used an already worn-out screw or may have fastened a screw too much.

In the end, you’ll have a hard time pulling out the screw from the wooden or metal surface.

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How To Remove A Stripped Hex Head Screw

If you’re having difficulty removing a damaged hex screw, you can follow the following procedures listed below.

1. Carve a Screw Driving Slot

Hex screws have flat hexagonal heads. They do not have drives or slots for screwdrivers and wrenches to plugin.

Nonetheless, you can create a slot from the flathead and remove it using a screwdriver or rotary wheel. Here’s the procedure:

  1. Make cuts or drill holes on the screw head to carve a slot for a flathead screwdriver or rotary wheel. You can use a grinding disk, cutting wheel, or similar tools to do this.
  2. Insert the end of the screwdriver or rotary disk into the carved slot. Gently turn the screwdriver in a clockwise rotation for the screw to push out of the surface.

High-quality steel screws may require a more powerful carving tool to create a cut or hole. You should also carefully use it to avoid further damage to the hex screw.

2. Try Using an Adjustable Wrench or Locking Pliers

If the above procedure doesn’t do the trick, you can use locking pliers or adjustable wrenches in extracting the hex screw. Special tools under this are Vise-Grips and Mole Wrench, which are specific brands of pliers and wrenches.

Listed below is the procedure for removing hex screws using these tools:

  1. Lubricate the screw thread with penetrating oil.
  2. Determine the appropriate tool for the screw. Smaller hex screws may require alligator vise grips, while straight-jaw pliers are suitable for larger screws.
  3. For tools with a plier mouth adjustment bolt, turn it clockwise for small screws and counterclockwise for large ones.
  4. Position the plier jaws on the screws. Ensure that the jaws are correctly gripped on the screw heads.
  5. Remove the screw by rotating the pliers counterclockwise.

Screws may tightly fasten if too much force is exerted and when the tool is used as a wrench. It’s essential to use locking pliers such as vise-grips with caution.

3. Use a Left-Handed Drill Bit

Typical drill bits have grooves that turn to the right to fasten a screw. These can operate in reverse to detach it from a surface.

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There are also drills with left-handed grooves that are useful in removing stuck screws from wood and mental blocks. The procedure in using this tool in removing hex screws are presented below:

  1. Create a marking on the center of the screw head first using a center punch tool.
  2. Position the left-hand drill bit into the marking on the screw head.
  3. Create a hole more than half the size of the screw. If the screw didn’t pop out, you could use other tools to insert it in the hole for extraction.

4. The Hammer and Torx Method

A Torx is different from a hex key as the latter has twelve edges, six more than the six-sided hex. However, the Torx is shaped more like a star than a hexagon.

Here are things that you need to follow to extract a screw using a hammer and Torx.

  1. Choose a Torx bit that is slightly larger than the punctured hole in the screw.
  2. With a hammer, carefully and softly strike the screw head.
  3. Insert the Torx bit in the created slot and carefully remove the screw.

5. Use a Screw Extractor

Screw extractors are tools exclusively intended for removing hard-to-detach screws. These usually have a handle where you can steer it counterclockwise to extract the damaged screw.

The process is quite the same as the other methods in this list. Here’s what you need to do using this tool:

  1. Make a hole in the center surface of the flat hex-head. Insert the end of the extractor into the hole.
  2. Turn the grip counterclockwise. Secure a firm grip while attempting to remove the screw.
  3. If the fastener screw is still hard to remove, cover it with steel wool or rubber bands for added grip. Position the extractor on the hole with a steel wool or rubber cover, and repeat the process until you remove the screw.

Tips on Preventing Hex Screws Stripping

Hex screws and machine screws are essential in constructing and assembling wood and metal furniture. However, these small items are sensitive enough that they can be damaged through improper use.

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Listed below are some preventive measures that you can take to avoid stripping hex screws.

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Use The Proper Screwdriver Size

Screws come in distinct designs, shapes, and sizes. Not every screwdriver is suitable for various screws, even hex screws.

Because of this, you should check the size and shape of the screws you’re using. Avoid forcing a screwdriver onto an incompatible screw.

Use Durable Screw Products

Not all screws are created with the same durable material and tensile strength. Often, those made from low-quality steel may not handle the pressure from intense applications.

It is why the use of durable screw products is essential. You can refer to these specifications of screws for information on the appropriate mechanical fasteners for your work.

Don’t Use Excessive Force

Since we have mentioned tensile strength, too much pressure in handling these hex screws can also reduce their quality. Utilize the screws that you have with care as you use them in construction and repair applications.

Make Sure Your Screws Are Correctly Aligned With the Axis

Screws are designed to rotate in one direction to strengthen their grip on the surface where it sticks. However, forcing a hex screw to turn the other way may destroy the grooves and the head.

Be Careful On Using Power Tools

Unlike manual screw insertion, power tools add pressure and force to the screws. However, improper usage may likely end up stripping the screws.

What you should do is handle these power tools with care and slow down when working. Not all screws can handle added pressure, so determine the speed and force needed for the screw.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is Torx Better Than Hex?

Torx screws are a step up to hex screws as these require star-shaped keys. These wrenches also exert more force in rotating the Torx screws than hex keys are to hex screws.

But, some argue that hex keys and wrenches are more accessible in the market than the Torx. It makes hex screws and keys more preferable if we talk about their availability.

How Do You Screw A Hex Bolt?

Hex bolts are different from hex-cap screws. The latter does not have a washer and nut, which are parts that hex bolts have.

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These bolts are inserted in holes in almost the same way as screws. However, fastening involves inserting the washer and nut on the other end of the thread.

Are Allen and Hex The Same Screw?

No, although people often confuse Allen and Hex screws because of the hexagonal shape in their screw heads.

In this case, Hex-cap screws have hexagonal flat heads with no slot for keys or screwdrivers. On the other hand, Allen screws have circular tops and hexagonal drives intended for Allen wrenches.

What Are Hex Screws Used For?

Hex screws are applicable for more extreme conditions where tough fasteners and high tensile strength is required. These can be suitable for assembling wood and metal blocks, bridge construction, and metal fabrication, depending on the classified grade.


Stripping hex screws is a problem generally encountered during the misuse of inappropriate tools for these fasteners. However, there are numerous methods on how to remove a stripped hex screw.

Hex screws, much like every other screw and mechanical fasteners, are sensitive to excessive force. It is why you need to know how to handle the screws you use correctly.

Lastly, knowing the appropriate screws and tools that you need for your work adds productivity and efficiency. These will help you in creating the best wood and metal products for your business.

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