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How to Remove a Stripped Wheelchair Screw

It is going to happen, you did not seat the Hex Key in the screw properly and you when to remove it, and boom, you stripped the screw.  Wheelchair screws can be very hard to remove.  They get stuck so what do you do, use more force.  We get it.

image of a wheelchair screw with a stripped hex head

Photo of a stripped hex bolt on and ADI wheelchair back mount.

You can see here this wheelchair back came into our shop with a stripped screw and in order to adjust the back for the client we have to loosen the screw but cannot because the head is stripped.

Pro Tip #1:  Do not use ball head Hex Keys to first brake (loosen) then machine screw.  Always use an Hex head that is flat all the way to the end.

Pro Tip #2:  Before you turn any Hex key in a machine screw, make sure your Hex Key is all the way at the bottom of the hole.  The head strips when the key is part of the way in and you turn hard.  There is nothing for the Hex Key to grab onto is it twists as it comes out thereby stripping the whole.

Tools that you will need

  1. Dremel tool with a metal cutting disk or a hack saw (if you can reach the screw head with the hack saw)
  2. Large flat head screwdriver.

Image of large flat head screwdriver, a dremel tool, and two hex keys, one with an orange arrow point to the ball head. There are two other green arrows pointing to flat heads

Photo of a tools including large flat head screwdriver, Dremel tool with metal cut off wheel, and two "T" handle hex keys, one with ball head, the other with a flat head.

Step 1: Cut the slot

Using the Dremel or hack saw, cut a slot across the screw head.  Make sure not to cut so deep you split the head in half.  That is a whole other problem.  When you have make your slot it should look like this photo:

image of wheelchair hex screw with green arrow pointed towards slot cut in screw head.

Photo of wheelchair hex screw with green arrow pointed towards slot cut in screw head.

Caution:  When using a Dremel to cut anything with a fast spinning cutting disk.  Here are a few tips to keep you safe.

  1.  Do not do anything you are not comfortable with
  2. Use safety glasses
  3. Let the cutter do the work, do not use a lot of force, if you do you are more likely to slip and cut yourself
  4. Make sure you hands are well supported during cutting

Step 2: Use a Large Screwdriver

Next use the large flat head screwdriver to back the screw out. 

Pro Tip #3:  If you think the screw is corroded or has been there a really long time, use spray penetrating oil in the location where the screw and whole meet to break up any corrosion.

The Results:

If all has gone well, the screw is out and now you have to clean up and find a new screw to put in its’ place.  Make sure to take the old screw to the hardware store to get the exact diameter, thread pitch and length replacement.