How to Remove Stubborn Stuck Screws

Breaking stuck bolts, nuts, and other hardware loose can be a headache and although there are techniques that work well on heavier bolts and nuts; these techniques don’t work as well on flathead or phillips head screws as the head can strip or get damaged a lot easier. Often times the screws are in delicate or tight areas and using heat or other aggressive methods might not be the best option. We decided to show you our favorite method for removing phillips or flathead screws quickly and easily.

The stuck screws that I’m working on here are the flathead door hinge screws found on a Ford Model A. These early flathead screws are notorious for being stubborn to remove and they tend to have varied depth slots which can give you only one chance at removing them. The first thing I usually do is take a pick or small flathead screwdriver and scrape any old paint, or debris out of the slot in the screw. I then like to apply a creeping penetrating oil like Kroil around the head of the screw and to the backside if you can get to it. I also like to take an old screwdriver or chisel that will fit in the screw head and tap on it with a hammer. This helps vibrate the screw a little bit and get the penetrating oil where it needs to be.

Now that we have the screws prepared we can turn on the air compressor and hook up our air chisel or pneumatic rivet gun. I like to set the air pressure to about 60-70PSI and install the Screw Buster in place of the rivet or chisel bit.

With the Screw Buster installed you can put the appropriate bit in the end and insert it into the screw. I like to put firm pressure with your trigger hand behind the air chisel or rivet gun to keep the bit seated in the screw and work the trigger with your index finger. If you’re using an air rivet gun you can use the progressive trigger to your advantage by slowly raising the hammering force of the rivet gun.

As you begin to vibrate/hammer the screw you can use your other hand to slowly turn the handle on the screw buster. Take your time and let the air chisel/hammer do its job and vibrate the screw loose. Take care when performing this process as pushing too hard on the air chisel or running too high of an air pressure can push the screw through the surface and damage the metal.

Once the screw begins to break loose I like to stab the trigger quickly as I turn the handle on the screw buster to shock the screw and get it to work its way out. Once you get the screw about halfway loose it should turn out without the need for the hammering. The hammering effect of the air chisel or rivet gun only helps break the corrosion loose and let the screw turn out.

With the screw removed you’re ready to clean out the threads. I normally spray the hole with Kroil and Clean it out with PRE to get the threads all cleaned out and ready for a new screw. If the head of the screw breaks off you can check our article on our Top 10 Tricks for removing stuck bolts/nuts.


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