Free a Stripped Screw from Your Bike Frame – Tested Tips!

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Last weekend, I planned log some serious miles, and break out from my squeeze-in-a-short weekday rides or (let’s face it) super quick trainer workouts. Geared up in a brand new kit, I slung a with a musette over one shoulder holding a matching kit (nicknamed “Ninja Lycra” by the way, because it’s actually abnormal not to name your outfits) for my best friend.

BANG! Twelve miles down the road, I have a stupid crash at low speed while avoiding a car. It was my fault, I admit it. In trying to save my bike, I smashed my shoulder into the curb. At first, I was pleased with just a jammed appendage, but a few feet down the road my derailleur started making angry gestures against my forward progress. Bent derailleur hanger, gnarled tooth in a cog, loosened jockey wheels . . . you get the idea.

A few minutes into fixing the problems, and I run into it. What should be a 10-minute swap of the derailleur hanger turns into anguish and frustration when I notice a stripped screw head that will not budge no matter how much coaxing. A 2mm headache. Although my eventual solution was slightly drastic, perhaps through my trial and error you can find a solution to the problem with a great deal less time and frustration.

Before you start this process, make sure to try removing the stubborn screw with an undamaged or brand new allen key. Sometimes the sharp edges on these will grab enough for you to get some torque.

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Removing Stubborn Screws

Get some Loctite or a similarly super strong epoxy. Find an allen wrench that you’re not at all fond of. Clean out the screw head and allen key as best you can–possibly even use a little rubbing alcohol to get a good contact surface. Let that dry while you mix up the epoxy according to the instructions on the back. 

Dip the allen key in the epoxy mixture, and use a toothpick or something with a fine edge to fill the screw head with epoxy. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET IT ANYWHERE NEAR THE EDGES OF THE SCREW. I shouted that one because I wish I had yelled it at myself before trying this. You want to be especially careful to keep it off your frame as well.

Hold the end of the allen key into the screw head for several minutes or until you can tell it’s bonded somewhat. You may even want to clamp it down for good measure. Make certain that no epoxy has smooshed out to the edges of the screw head–if so, take a baby wipe or rag and clear it off.

Now leave it for a couple of hours, or until the recommended time for your epoxy brand to set. Give it the full time. Don’t test it out except to make sure that the stuff hasn’t leaked onto the edges of the screw head.

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Time’s up? You should be able to twist the allen key and remove the screw! Of course, you’ll also have a permanently connected tool and screw . . . remember, use a tool you’re not even in like with.

This method should work, but if it doesn’t you may have to bring out the big guns:

  1. Weld the wrench to the screw for reals
  2. Drill it out or Dremel tool it (yikes!!!)
  3. Let your LBS do it for you

 

That’s pretty much it! This can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, but it should work out to success. If you’ve got any other tips, comment below!

Caution: As always, be extremely careful when working on your bike yourself. As I’ve learned the really, really hard way, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. If you’re scared, take your bike to a good LBS and have their mechanic take a shot at it. Try all my tips at your own risk–in other words, I’m not responsible for anyone messing up their bikes.

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

2 Comments

    • Yes, a screw extractor often works quite well! In this case, however, the screw was super tiny. I have also heard that stretching a rubberband over the head of the screw will help you to get some grip as well.

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