How To Remove A Rusted Screw To Prevent Breakage

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Have you ever been taking something apart, perhaps during a renovation project, only to discover the hardware has rusted in place? You don't want to break it, but that old rusty screw isn't giving up without a fight. It's a problem many people encounter at one time or another, especially if you live in a humid climate. Moisture and steel get together and produce rust and corrosion; it's a match made in, well, not heaven. Breaking the resulting bond without breaking the screw off can certainly be tricky, but it can typically be done with a little lubricant, a few sharp blows, and a lot of finesse.

To work this magic, you'll need very few tools. A regular hammer will work, but a ball peen hammer will be more precise. Manual screwdrivers are best for preventing damage. You might also end up needing a small torch or a rotary tool with a cutting wheel. But your biggest asset with any of these methods is going to be some heavy-duty leather work gloves for protecting your hands in case of slippage. Without further adieu, let's learn how to remove a rusted screw to prevent breakage.

Shock, break, and lube

Instead of "stop, drop, and roll" or "shake, rattle, and roll," this method employs "shock, break, and lube." Imagine, if you will, a world without rust – in which it is dissolved with a little help from a trusty can of WD-40 and some elbow grease. Start with the shock by applying a few sharp, well-placed raps to the head (of the screw) with a ball peen hammer. The idea is to break the bond the rust has formed with the metal so that you can sneak in with the lube.

Use a can of WD-40 Specialist Rust Release formula (or another rust penetrant) to lubricate the screw head and threads thoroughly. Apply a few more raps to the head for good measure, then allow the penetrant to penetrate for about 15 minutes. Come back and strike the head a few more times before attempting to remove it with a screwdriver. If necessary, you can use duct tape on the end of the screw head to get the grip needed to pull it loose. Proving once and for all, you can fix anything with a can of WD-40 and some duct tape.

Turn up the heat or admit defeat

If coaxing and cajoling the rusted screw just doesn't cut it, you might have to try cutting a new groove. If you've stripped the screw heads or they still won't budge, use a Dremel or rotary tool with a cutting wheel to cut a straight new groove into the screw head. Now use a large flathead screwdriver to push and turn simultaneously to remove the screw. Another trick that works exceptionally well if you're working with metal is breaking the rust bond with heat. Simply heat the screw head with a small torch for about 5-15 seconds. When it cools back down, try removing it then. The expansion and contraction from the heat should break the bond.

If all else fails, you may need to admit defeat and use a screw removal kit. Sometimes the screw is simply more stubborn than you are, but don't give up yet! For less than $12 at Home Depot, you can buy a screw removal kit and claim redemption. It will destroy the screw, but hopefully, nothing else. The next time you find yourself in this situation, try one of these methods before sending the offending item across the room (no matter how tempting that prospect can be).