How to get your bike’s screws loose
Nine simple and stress-free ways to free a rounded-off fastener quickly and easily
1Don’t lose your head
We’ve all rounded off a screw at one time or another. Quite often it’s caused by using the wrong sized Phillips screwdriver or the screw’s just never been touched since leaving the factory. But there are things you can do to extract them. First, spray penetrating fluid around the screwhead and at the back if the threads are exposed. Even if the fluid cannot penetrate initially, it will start working once you initiate removal.
Using a heat gun, warm up the area around the screw. If the screw is in an engine casing and the bike is a runner, start the engine to warm the bike up as it will prove more effective than the heat gun. Whichever method you choose, you’re aiming to get the damaged screw and the surrounding area nice and hot. This method is a very effective way of freeing a steel screw stuck in aluminium threads.
Hit the top of the damaged screw head with a ball peen hammer. The idea is to send a shockwave along the length of the screw as this will help crack any corrosion that is embedded in the threads. Also, the hammer’s blow will slightly deform the screwhead so that the screwdriver bit will get a second chance to grip when you have another go at removing the screw.
Bash your bit 4
Instead of using a traditional screwdriver use one with replaceable bits. Select the size that is the next size up from what the screwhead should be. Then hammer the bit into the screwhead; the previous step should’ve deformed the crosshead section enough to let the oversize bit in. Hammer it in until it fits tightly.
Get a grip 6
If the impact driver isn’t working try using mole grips. Carefully adjust the span in order to pinch both sides of the screwhead tightly. With the jaws securely clamped, try turning the grips with a slow movement. This action needs to be only very slight, just a degree or two both ways, as any sharp or quick move will cause the grips to slip off.
Turn up the heat 8
If it’s still giving you the run around, now’s the time to unleash some serious heat. Use a small handheld gas torch to apply heat directly to the area of the screw; the different expansion rates of the steel screw and alloy case often is enough break the seal. A word of caution however – only attempt this method if you are certain the extra heat won’t cause any damage to surrounding parts of the bike.
Make an impact 5
Another way of tackling this situation is to use an impact driver. Try heating the screw and tapping the head as before with a hammer. Locate the driver bit with a hammer. Keep applying a firm downward pressure while at the same time applying anticlockwise force to start to release the screw.
Cut a new groove 7
Still no joy, why not try this? Take a small chisel and hammer it carefully into the screwhead with a slight anticlockwise bias. You’re aiming to create a deep cut into the head while sending a loosening shockwave through at the same time. Try the opposite side of the crosshead if you need to persist with this method.
Consider a replacement 9
Manufacturers often use crosshead screws as standard but they are a compromise, in terms of quality and practicality. They can be replaced by either an Allen-type or hexagon-headed screw, both of which are much less likely to round off as they do not rely on a downward force to maintain drive integrity. Hexagon-headed replacement bolts also allow you to torque up to specification with better accuracy.