How to Fix a Stripped Screw Hole In Metal

Stripped screws — been there, done that! But what’s more daunting is trying to fix a stripped screw hole arising from them!

So, whether your kid was playing Spider-Man and dangling off the kitchen door or you have worn out surrounding material, good news is that there are myriad answers to the question “how to fix a stripped screw hole in metal?”.

Theoretically, the easiest way to fix a stripped screw hole is by taking a new screw and putting it into the damaged hole. But this technique is not recommended, because the new screw may not hold as tight as it should.  

How to Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Metal?

Fixing a stripped screw hole in metal can be a bit tricky, because re-threading stripped holes in metal can cause further, permanent damage. But here’s two ways to get the job done.

Method 1 – Using a Tap and Die Set

Despite not receiving the recognition they should, tap and die sets are an essential tool to have in your arsenal, and prove handy in several other situations, apart from fixing stripped screw holes.

Once you’ve got a tap and die set, you will need to take accurate measurements of the outer diameter and thread count. There are two ways to measure the diameter of the hole — either measure the width of the hole or the width of the screw that goes into it. To do this, select a screw that fits the hole, then measure and note down its thread count in unit inches across the shank of the of the screw.

Now that you’ve got the measurements, you can select the appropriate tap size, and install the tap into its respective handle. Next, place the tap into the special wrench and tighten it in, and place it over the hole you want to thread. Start rotating the tap handle clockwise and counterclockwise until the screw is placed perfectly into the hole.

Method 2 – Fixing Stripped Metal Holes with Helicoil Insert

When looking for a solution to fix stripped screw holes in metal, you’ve probably heard the term — “Just Helicoil It” Helicoil, to explain briefly is a thread repair solution that is easily available online or at your local hardware store.

This is a great solution is the screw hole has suffered substantial damage, and is easy to do as well. Before using a Helicoil insert, you first need to clean the damaged hole to ensure it is free of dust particles, etc.

You can do this by putting some braking oil into the hole, and then removing it. Brake fluid also serves as a great way to lubricate the damaged hole as well.

Get started by drilling all the way to the bottom of the damaged hole to ensure that the Helicoil insert fits perfectly. You will now need to thread with a tap set to cut the threads in the hole.

This next step is where you need to pay attention as the process may vary depending on the thread pitch of your fastener — coarse or fine. For coarse thread, mount the Helicoil insert into the installation tool and rotate it until the tang mates with the drive notch of the tool.

Thread the insert into the hole to match the proper depth, and then remove the install tool. For fine thread, install the Helicoil insert into the pre-coil tool, which will compress it to the correct size.

Place the install tool into the insert, and then inside the pre-coil body, and spin the tool until fully threaded. Lastly, thread directly into the hole until it reaches the right depth, remove the installer tool, and remove the tang using a punch that fits right into the insert.

Method 3 – Thin Wall Thread Repair Inserts

This is a rather more technical method of re-threading. You will need the appropriate size of thin wall repair inserts, as well as the correct size of drill for the insert.

It’s best to use a bench mounted drill press or a milling machine for the preparation of the holes. You first need to drill the hole to the correct diameter to accept the new insert.

The new hole is then threaded with a thread tap to the corresponding thread of the insert. Once that is done, the insert is screwed into the hole and secured with a special adhesive to prevent it from backing out.

Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Wood  

If you’re dealing with stripped screw holes in wood including MDF (engineered wood), the process to fix them is pretty straightforward. You will need:

  • Wooden dowel
  • Drill
  • A saw to cut the dowel if needed
  • Shop brush
  • Wood glue
  • Screwdriver
  • Small drill bit to drill new pilot holes
  • 3/8″ drill bit

Get started by drilling out the old screw holes using the 3/8″ drill bit. Fit the wooden dowels in the hole snuggly, but not too tight to ensure there’s room for the glue. Remove the dowels, and add glue to the holes using the shop brush to spread it evenly around the inside of the hole.

Next, add glue to the dowel, and spread it around evenly using the shop brush. Push the dowel in, so that it is flush with the surface of the wood. Clean up the any gluey mess gently using a damp wash cloth.

After the glue is fully cured, mark the hole location, then use your small drill bit to drill pilot holes in the dowel for your screws, reattach the screws using a screwdriver. Refrain from using a power drill to avoid applying too much force, and stripping the screws back out again.

Fixing Stripped Screw Holes with a Screw Hole Repair Kit

Screws are prone to damage, so if you deal with them often, investing in a screw hole repair kit is a good idea. Even though there are a number of products to choose from in this category, the Woodmate 2498 Mr. Grip Screw Hole Repair Kit outweighs the competition for several good reasons.

This kit is easy to use, and is specially designed to fix worn and stripped screw holes. Another noteworthy feature of the Woodmate screw repair kit is that it can be used in several different materials including wood, metal, plastic, cement and aluminum.

To use it, you simply cut one of the included thin metal strips to the right size, and then insert it into the hole. Once inserted, you can drive in a new screw into the fixed stripped hole and tighten.

Use Larger Screws to Fix Stripped Screw Holes

If aesthetics aren’t important, using larger screws to fix stripped screw holes is a practical solution. For this method, you can either use a screw with a larger diameter or a longer screw. Take note that the new screw will look odd compared to the existing screws, which is why this method works well where the screws will be hidden from plain view.

Using Toothpicks or Matches to Fix Stripped Screw Holes

If you’re not really tool-friendly per se, you can try using toothpicks or matches to fix the damaged screw hole. We’ll work with toothpicks in this example, because matches are often too soft for this solution.

Things you will need:  

  • Wooden toothpicks
  • Wood glue
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Razor knife

If you have toothpicks that are tapered at one end, you will need insert the smaller end into the hole. Start by placing as many toothpicks as you can into the hole, and then remove them in a way that their ends are lined up. Next, put a few drops of superglue around the tips of the toothpicks, then insert them into the hole and tap them in gently with a hammer.

You don’t have to apply force with the hammer or similar tool, but just have to ensure that the toothpicks are snug enough to easily pull them out. Now with a very sharp razor knife, cut the bundle of toothpicks, so that they are flush with the surface of the wood. With your screwdriver, start driving new screws into the center of the bundle of toothpicks.

Pro-tip: Toothpicks can also be of poor quality, so as an alternative, you can use the type of wood you’re actually working with. To do this, grab a spare board, cut it into thin pieces, put wood glue over it and fill the hole just as you’d do with the toothpicks. The new screw will hold itself better, given that you’re using the same material as your workpiece.

How to Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Concrete?

You’re probably already using plastic wall plugs when driving screws into concrete. If so, you simply have to take the damaged one out, and replace it with a new one. You will still need to drill holes of the correct size to insert the plastic wall plugs into. Plastic wall plugs are truly versatile, as you can use them to fix stripped screw holes in stone walls, brickwork, and other similar material.

How to Fix Stripped Screw Holes in Laptop?

For stripped holes in laptops such as those in the casing, you first need to clean the hole with some alcohol to get rid of any grease that may be present. Refrain from using acetone, as it doesn’t go too well with plastics. Start by coating the screw tips with WD40 lightly, then apply some J-B Weld on the threads of the screw or into the stripped screw hole.

Insert the screw into the stripped hole, and let a little bit of the J-B Weld squeeze out. Once dry, unscrew the screw, and you now have cast perfect screw heads, so clean off the excess oil from the screw threads, put the casing back on, and then drive the screws.

Final Thoughts:

Stripped screws can be a pain in the rear, but what’s worse is when the screw hole stemming from it becomes stripped, resulting in screws that just spin. But repairing a stripped screw hole is easy with the techniques mentioned above.

Most of the items required to get the job done should be available in your home or at your local hardware shop. Stripped screw holes in certain materials are easier to fix than others such as wood compared to metal, which requires a bit of extra effort, and different tools.