Why Does My Electric Drill Strip Screws?

You’re using an electric drill to make your life easier — but much to your dismay — stripped screws are still throwing a wrench into your plans. What’s going on here?

An electric drill may strip screws by picking an incorrect drill speed, faulty screw bit, or user error. Of course, there are a few other common reasons that a drill may strip screws:

  • Turning screws with your drill at an angle to the screw
  • Using the incorrect-sized bit (especially one that is too small)
  • A worn or broken bit
  • Over-tightening a screw
  • Working too hastily

Why Does My Electric Drill Strip Screws?

You might even be surprised to learn that it could be a combination of things that are causing your cordless driver to damage the screws. So, we’re going to break down all the possibilities and help you come up with a solution.

In this post, we’re going to explore all the specific reasons your tool might be stripping screws and what you can do to finally put an end to the madness.

High-Speed Settings on Electric Drills Strip Screws

If you’re using your electric drill at a high speed, you might struggle to drive the screw into the wood without stripping it in the process.

Drills are really meant to make holes, and so they don’t always provide the right torque to drive screws. If you do want to use your drill to drive a screw, make sure you’ve adjusted the speed to a slow setting.

If the screw head is still intact, or almost intact you can try to use the forward/reverse button on your drill to unscrew.

Most cordless drills have two speeds. The slower speed delivers more torque and the faster speed is for drilling holes. If you run the drill too fast, it’ll almost certainly damage the screw head.

And if you’re a casual cordless drill user, you’ve probably tried to adjust the speed by adjusting pressure on the trigger. It’s a mistake we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another.

Try adjusting the speed at the clutch instead of with the trigger. Many of us naturally ease on or off the trigger to adjust the speed, but this isn’t as accurate and makes it more likely for the bit to slip.

Your Drill Bit May Be the Problem

The bit you’re using must fit snugly into the screw head recess. If you notice any wobbling, you’re likely to damage the screw. Check the bit for signs of wearing or breakage.

Worn or broken bits can slip out of place and spin around the screw head, which will cause stripping.

So, if you’re noticing that an older drill seems to be stripping screws more often, it may be time to replace the bit. Either it’s the wrong size for your screws or it may be damaged.

Your Drill Technique May Need Work

Deterioration of a screw is one of those incredibly frustrating issues that leaves most of us swearing and looking for someone to blame. And, there’s no doubt that the drill is an easy target.

In all honesty, there’s a good chance that the problem lies either with the tool itself (in speed and torque) or the drill bit.

But still…

There’s a chance your drilling technique may leave some room for improvement.

The number one rule you want to remember is to work directly in line with the axis of the screw. Never hold the drill at an angle if you can help it.

You want to hold it at a perfect 90-degree angle to the screw and make sure there’s a firm fit between the drill and the screw head.

As mentioned earlier, you’ll control the speed from the switch, so you can apply firm and even pressure to the trigger. As the screw sinks deeper, it will encounter more resistance and will need the added pressure.

And, finally, take your time when sinking screws. If you rush, your technique is likely to get sloppy and you’ll end up damaging more screws or even injuring yourself. In the long run, this will cost you more time and frustration. So it’s always better to work at a deliberate pace the first time around.

Pilot Holes Slash Your Chances of Stripping Screws

Since you have that electric drill handy, it’s a good idea to drill pilot holes. This is where your drill will shine — because this is what it was meant to do.

And not only will you make those pilot holes with ease, but you will also slash your chances of stripping screws in the process.

Here’s how it’s done…

Use a bit that’s slightly thinner than your screw’s shank to make a hole to the same depth as your screw. Depth is crucial, though.

If the screw hits the bottom of the hole, it’ll call upon a lot more torque, which may strip or even snap your screw. If you want to know more about drill bit sizes and screw sizes read this article.

Here’s an easy trick to get the depth just right: Wrap painter’s tape around your drill bit to mark the depth of the screw. As soon as you stop seeing the colored band of tape, you can stop drilling. This way, you’ll get the depth right every time.

More Tips for Using Your Electric Drill to Sink Screws

Even if you do everything right, there’s a chance you may deteriorate a screw or two. It’s frustrating, but it kind of comes with the territory.

Still, there are a few extra things you can do to cut your chances of stripping those screws. Here are a few ideas that’ll give you the best bang for your buck.

Use a Magnetic Bit Holder

If you’re not a carpenter and don’t take on DIY projects every weekend, you might not be so confident with the drill. And that’s okay. A magnetic bit holder can help in a few ways.

First, it’ll hold any driver bit with a standard ¼-in hex base, which makes it quick and easy to change bits.

But the magnetic bit holder also extends your bit length, which makes it easier to get that screw into tight spots without angling the drill as much.

And, finally, it’ll magnetize the tip and attract the head of the metal screw, keeping it the correct position as you drive it into the wood.

Use the Right Screw for the Job

If you’re hanging drywall, simply drywall screws will do. But you obviously wouldn’t want to use a drywall screw as you’re drilling into the dense wood. There are different types of screws for different mediums and projects.

If you’re unsure of which screw you should be using for which project, just take a quick trip to your local home improvement store. Someone should be able to answer your specific questions.

But if you’re working on a more challenging project and want more assurance that you’re not going to strip screws, you may want to consider using Torx-head screws.

Torx-head screws are pricier than most screws, but they fit so well into the Torx bits that they rarely ever cause stripping.

Torx-head screws used to only be found in automotive work, but they’re gaining popularity on construction projects because they’re versatile and easy to use.

The Low-Down on Why Electric Drills Strip Screws

As we’ve seen, there are quite a few reasons why your tool may be stripping your screws. And it’s not always clear at the moment.

To figure out exactly what’s going on in your situation, review all the possibilities in this guide and try some of the tips outlined here as well.

No matter the reason, it’s still incredibly frustrating to damage a screw.

But the good news is that you’re now armed with all the information you need to use your electric tool to sink screws seamlessly. Say that five times fast.

Read Also: How Much Weight Can A Screw Hold?

Hopefully, this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading and good luck with your upcoming project.

Cheers tools owners!


Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.