Submitted by foootrest t3_yfq1tt in DIY

We moved into a new home recently, and one of the showers had a bad handle on the hot water valve. We pulled the handles off to replace the set and one of the screws was so rusted that the head broke off when we tried to unscrew it.

I can't seem to find good info on how I can get this screw out.. most guides and videos are about getting out a stripped screw but I don't have a head at all on this one.

Am I screwed(no pun intended) & looking at replacing the valves entriely at this point?

EDIT: This got a lot more attention than I was expecting, just want to say thank you to everyone for the suggestions.

I think I'm going to try to Dremel in a groove for a screwdriver after letting it soak in a lubricant for a bit. If that doesn't work I'll try something else... I had a plumber coming to look today. He took about a 10 second look and said he couldnt get it out and that he would do a full replacement, going in through the wall on the other side.



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skyewinter194 t1_iu4nnbx wrote

Replace the entire faucet. Probably from the back side of the shower. If the screws are that rusted, chances are its old enough to warrant a total replacement. In the long run, it will probably be less effort than dealing with repairs to an old set


F1RST_WORLD_PROBLEMS t1_iu5atyu wrote

This is the real answer. Fix it, don’t put a bandaid on it. It’s easy enough to replace and not terribly expensive.


fosighting t1_iu6ii5a wrote

100% agree. When that old valve leaks in the wall, you'll be redoing the whole shower because of mould. And potentially even more.


Bergwookie t1_iu8f2uc wrote

That's the only right way to do.... Faucets are not that expensive, if you think about it, you use it (almost) every day, if it holds 15-20years you're paying less than ten bucks per year for it... Even if you take a high quality expensive one.

Buy yourself a bit of peace and replace it with a decent, quality brand one which has a replacement parts supply ( some parts get bad faster than others but if it's already rusty, throw it out)

Edit: don't take fancy fashion colours, just plain chrome, the fashion faucets look nice, but if you want to replace one after a few years, you have almost certainly to replace the whole set of the bathroom, as those colours are out of production.

And don't take matte finishes, they draw calcination like a magnet iron shavings...


thirdeyefish t1_iu4ma91 wrote

Drill it out. Pick a bit smaller than the screw and destroy the screw. Your valve may already be lost. I had a similar issue and the cheapest option was to replace the whole knob.


thephantom1492 t1_iu532x6 wrote

There is some reverse drill bits too. They are pricier, but they MAY grab and cause the screw to unscrew.


Captain_Elson t1_iu5c3w7 wrote

Theoretically these should always grab when used properly. Generally they come with a kit that has the correct size reverse bit and the associated drill bit. Edit: Just checked and harbor freight sells a whole set of these for like 10 bucks.

You'll want to use the regular, smaller bit to drill a hole into the screw, then (generally with a tap wrench) use the reverse bit to grip on the inside of the hole you drilled. Just back out the screw while the bit is trying to go deeper. I've never had one of these fail on me.

Hardest part is getting the initial drilling straight on the screw, but there is quite a lot of tolerance.

Also, lube up the bit while youre drilling, WD40 works fine for this. And blast the screw with PB Blaster before unscrewing it.


joejc18 t1_iu58rbt wrote

Always use reverse bills for extraction. Why are you going to drill a hole and make the screw go in even more. Drill and loosen at the same time or nothing


Skeeboe t1_iu5a3iy wrote

I saw a reverse bill on daffy duck back in the day


Remanage t1_iu4p4b4 wrote

The other problem is going to be cleaning up the old threads, since you probably don't know the thread size so you can't pick the right tap. You might be better off picking a slightly larger drill bit and then re-tapping the hole slightly larger. It looks like the valve is behind a sheet of plastic, so my worry would be that replacing the whole valve is going to become a much larger shower/tub project.


QuestionsGoHere t1_iu51y85 wrote

I had to do the same thing recently at my parents place. OP make sure to get a drill bit that's harder than the screw. Something like a Carbon drill bit $15-$20 for the bit no need to get the super expensive bits


BariumEnema t1_iu5ncai wrote

2nd this, I fought with a tub overflow screw that was stripped to Hell. Wrestled with it for hours until I said eff it and just drilled it out. That soft metal gave away real easy and I was back in business quickly. I was afraid I was going to mess up the threading but it was not an issue.


vesati t1_iu4me67 wrote

I think you're looking for a "broken screw extractor" drill bit.

I think you would just use a smaller diameter extractor when removing a headless screw.


Pays_in_snakes t1_iu507tj wrote

I successfully used one of these to get a broken screw out of a washing machine transmission, but I got the distinct impression that it wouldn't have worked if the screw had been rusted in there. You don't get a lot of torque on small, cheap screws before they just drill out


vesati t1_iu518ce wrote

Oh yeah, I've been in that situation.

Ultimately, I went scorched earth on the screw, and drilled out the center of the screw with a drill bit, then kept stepping up the drill bit size bit by bit until I had literally scooped the old screw out of the hole from the inside-out.

I was victorious over the inanimate and uncaring object.


jkool702 t1_iu7lkf4 wrote

A modified version of this approach works really well actually

  1. drill out the center of broken screw

  2. find a screw with a sharp point tip that is about the same diameter as the screw you just drilled

  3. screw this new screw into the hole you drilled into the broken screw

  4. let it sit for a few minutes. As it cools off (from the heat caused by friction from screwing in the screw) it should lock the 2 screws together

  5. slowly unscrew the new screw. The old broken one should come with it.

If this fails you can also drill it out and tap a new hole with a slightly larger thread and use a slightly larger screw. Just hope that the tap doesnt break off in the hole....getting a broken screw out is childs play compared to getting a broken tap out of a half-threaded metal hole


Tidesticky t1_iu86typ wrote

Worked on the back panel of my laptop. Soon upvote


AlePhiCri t1_iu4ulzo wrote

You could try Cutting a slot in it with a dremmel and use a flat head screwdriver


blacksideblue t1_iu4v2ep wrote

To add to this, if its a really small/narrow bolt head: cut a cross for a Philips head screwdriver. If that fails it still acts as a guide for a left handed screw bit.


Agouti t1_iucg928 wrote

To add to this, use a posidrive screwdriver, not a Phillips - Phillips are designed to cam out to prevent over-torque (so limit how much purchase you can get). Get a cheap one with a solid handle and hit the end with a hammer while you apply torque to the screw. It can also help to use a small drill bit to slightly recess the middle where the two slots meet (look at a normal screw head for inspiration).


DilithiumCrystals t1_iu53ap8 wrote

Although I agree, it sounds like the screw is rusted in, hence why the head broke off, so I don't hold much hope that they will get it to turn.


foootrest OP t1_iu4llta wrote


nah-meh-stay t1_iu4nwlu wrote

Can you get the whole valve stem out? If so, take it to the hardware store and replace the whole thing, handles and all.


foootrest OP t1_iu4q92t wrote

Not without getting into the valve from behind the shower, I don't think. Would have to open up the wall in the hallway on the other side.


tired_and_fed_up t1_iu4t9tu wrote

In order to remove the stem, you shouldn't have to come from behind. There should be a bonnet that holds the stem onto the valve body so that it can be replaced.

So either the valve stem screws in or there is a bonnet that screws over the stem to hold it in.

Take a picture of the top of the valve.


foootrest OP t1_iu4tvyx wrote

This is all I can see


roadfood t1_iu4zkdf wrote

That threaded plastic sleeve will unscrew to reveal the stem body. Remove and replace for easiest fix.


tired_and_fed_up t1_iu5vqok wrote

That looks a lot like this one:

In your first picture I think I see your packing nut as the gray thing behind the stem.

Either way, there should be something to unscrew from the front and remove in order to replace that stem body.

In order to do that, turn OFF the water and then OPEN the shower/tub water flow. What you are doing there is removing the pressure. That body is under 60psi (water pressure) so you wouldn't be able to unscrew anything without first relieving the pressure.

Then you can goto your local home improvement store and hopefully find a replacement.


SteveSanders90210 t1_iu6f5zr wrote

Faucet handle screws breaking off inside a stem or cartridge is a common issue. You do not have to get the screw out or replace the whole freaking shower valve when this happens. The stem is removable with a set of valve stem wrenches. Then just replace the stem with that broken screw in it.


day7seven t1_iu4o1f9 wrote

Do you have something for scale, the size of it will make a difference in what options you have.


5degreenegativerake t1_iu4qh7p wrote

It’s a normal faucet, so likely something on the order of 10-32. Certainly smaller than 1/4”.


OkAttitude5978 t1_iu4m37i wrote

What's it screwed in to? If its just a mounting screw you can tap it out with a tap out set and just get a bigger screw for it to install the new (screws at ace hardware, large variety) if it's a part of the valve construction, get a new valve and don't try to fuck with it


foootrest OP t1_iu4n7o2 wrote

It's the screw that goes into the valve the handle is mounted on? If that answers your question. I have another comment with a pic since help requests can't be image posts


OkAttitude5978 t1_iu4nqsg wrote

I'm not a plumber but I am in construction, if you ask me it's lost. You can shut the water off to the house and try to tap it out anyways. Looks like a fiberglass surround, if you open the sheetrock on the other side to access the valve you don't have to rip your shower out. Be prepared to replace it if you try to tap it out


StevenArviv t1_iu4rqao wrote

It would be better to replace the whole valve. Even if you manage to get the screw out... you will most likely destroy the threads in there.


pacnwxplorer t1_iu4m5u6 wrote


Fake_William_Shatner t1_iu4u84h wrote

This seems like better advice than the others — if it’s just the screw, why replace everything? I’ve used a hack saw or a Dremel with a thin metal grinding wheel bit to cut a new flathead screwdriver notch in screws if there is enough surface area.

But, a product with a drill and a grabber in one seems like it will be easier and come in handy later.


dgtlfnk t1_iu4rw1u wrote

Yep! Was coming to tell OP to nab a set of these. They work great and won’t damage the threads as with some of the other suggestions here.


SnakeJG t1_iu4vftr wrote

I would try a screw extractor, you just might have to use a smaller size.

If that doesn't work and you are at the point of wanting to replace everything, I would instead use some waterproof epoxy putty to just permanently attach your replacement handle. Worst case you have to replace the whole valve anyhow, but if it holds you can have a good 10+ years with it.

Edit: Bonus 3rd idea: The screw hole looks like it might be really deep in your picture, its possible you can just turn the broken screw deeper using a drill bit and have enough room to just screw in the valve normally (possibly with a shorter than standard screw).


doghouse2001 t1_iu519b4 wrote

I'd drill it out and retap the hole to use a bigger screw. Rent a tap and die set from an auto parts store.

Failing that, I'd drill it out, and then replace the valve and handle with a new one. Just leave the mixer housing where it is.


red_headed_stallion t1_iu52sei wrote

Some things may be more trouble than they're worth. I have spent hours and days DIYing a problem that is a 1 hour job for a professional. You don't pay a professional for that 1 hour. You pay for their 20 years of experience.

If you've never extracted a screw before there's a certain amount of finesse that is needed especially with such a small screw. I used to be a heavy vehicle mechanic. Worn, weathered, stripped, and broken screws were an everyday part of the job. To be honest the first 10 times I had to do it I may have messed up every single time. With experience that little screw would be drilled out, tapped,and done in no time. But if you mess up you're paying for the repair of the whole valve anyway.


snowe2010 t1_iu58rpj wrote

first step is to soak it in a penetrating oil, something like Seafoam or Liquid Wrench.

Then you can either cut a slot in it with a dremel, use a screw extractor, or tap it out yourself using a screw tap kit (I put these in the order you should try this in.

If that doesn't work replace the whole thing.


ObviouslyATroll69 t1_iu893av wrote

I would super glue something to whatever you can, and use that to turn the screw.


Black-Sam-Bellamy t1_iu4mtej wrote

It really depends on the situation, but you could tap and extract it, simply drill the entire thing out, or the easiest solution might be to remove the entire section and splice in fresh timber and start from scratch. If that screw is fucked, chances are the rest of the installation isn't far behind


MrSnowden t1_iu4riql wrote

Go to ask plumbing. That is a a Kohler extender I think. r/askplumbing i think.


rayui t1_iu4sjgc wrote

I recently bought a set of left-handed screw bits which have come in very handy in several similar occasions.


mhey10 t1_iu4srdr wrote

Build a dam out of clay and soak it in wd40 for a few days. Then buy a left handed drill bit, Harbor freight, and drill it out. With a little luck it will unthread the screw.


Tallguy67ca t1_iu4tj9t wrote

WD40 is a lubricant not a penetrating oil.


asad137 t1_iu58duo wrote

It's both. It's not particularly great at either, though. There are better penetrating oils and better lubricants.

Also it's kind of amusing to see "WD-40 is a lubricant", since in lots of discussions regarding WD-40 people make the (also erroneous) claim that WD-40 is a solvent, not a lubricant.

WD-40 is a mixture of solvents and lubricants. The solvents thin the oils and help it penetrate, and when the solvents evaporate what's left is the oils.


The_Mech t1_iu4urzz wrote

WD40 makes a penetrant version.


OutlyingPlasma t1_iu50s6e wrote

And it's the best one because of the handy sprayer it comes in. No more losing the straw.


OJimmy t1_iu4xwy2 wrote

Dremel to create the shape of a head


cashew996 t1_iu4zsih wrote

If you remove that white threaded rod - you should be able to remove the valve stem from there. Then you can take that valve stem to a plumbing supply and replace it. You shouldn't have to replace the whole valve, just the one stem


Wildbleauyonder t1_iu4zygh wrote

Just did this last weekend. Screw extractor didn't work so we just drilled through the screw. You need to use cobalt drill bit. Make sure you support handle and don't use too much downward pressure.


listerine411 t1_iu57ug1 wrote

You should be able to unscrew the whole stem and just replace without cutting anything. You're not sweating in a new valve.

But otherwise on removing a screw, left hand drill bits (so it grinds in while screwing it out), cutting a slot so you can use a flat head screwdriver, maybe even just vise grips are good techniques.

I would soak it in something like PB Blaster or AeroKroil (just be aware these things can stink and linger, especially PB Blaster)


Tripalicious t1_iu5dgel wrote

File a notch into the top and use a flat head


doingthehumptydance t1_iu61job wrote

Get a multi tool, dremel type thing. Grind a new standard slot for a screwdriver into it.

Extract screw, if still won’t budge heat with torch, if that won’t work replace whole unit.


Kiyan1159 t1_iu6kdvb wrote

A few options.

Dremel tool through the screw

Hammer and rod to push it through

Another screw, in the screw, but with a counter spin and a wing nut. Only works if you can get a small enough counter screw that won't break.

If a portion of the screw is grippable, try some rubber to increase friction and surface area and a wrench of some kind. Or your hand, that would work too.


HighC123 t1_iu6qd2a wrote

Drill the screw out and use a tap if it’ll fit the next size thread to reinstall - shut water off and remove entire stem before you try to tap it


Ozzie338 t1_iu73coe wrote

go with the plumber


Sudden_Deer1314 t1_iu7brs2 wrote

Id tighten the part of a drill where you put a bit in around the screw and undo it that way with some lubricant on it to loosen it up


Archangel1313 t1_iu7ou6v wrote

Sometimes a left-handed countersink will work. Put it in a power drill and run it in reverse.


tucci007 t1_iu7rf63 wrote

Tap, not valve.

Bolt, not screw.

Sounds like you're on track, good luck.


MechaStrizan t1_iu7uhu5 wrote

I feel like there should be a punch line to the title


michaelpaoli t1_iu87r7b wrote

screw extractor

In more detail: center punch, drill, screw extractor

And as others suggested, probably good to let lubricant try to soak in for some while first.

Anyway, I learned of and used this method over two decades ago, when I had a bicycle handlebar stem bolt that snapped.


Thefunkbox t1_iu8h8nz wrote

That’s easy. Give it some head.


ja647 t1_iu8hhim wrote



Imissmymommyshedead t1_iu8qgps wrote

Might ask the galloping hessian? Perhaps it's a takes one to know


ogredmenace t1_iu93tsb wrote

Cut the handle off get a new cartridge and new handle… save yourself the im sure absurd amount they will charge to open the wall and then fix it then get a dry wall repair.


JonJackjon t1_iuegvdr wrote

We don't know your type of fixture. I had a similar situation. I removed the whole stem. This can usually be done from the front of the valve. Simply google "faucet valve stem" and you will see the construction I am talking about. If this is your valve type, replacing the valve stem is easy, not costly and much better as it replaces all the seals and moving parts.

Good luck. Let us know how you make out.



Plsdontcalmdown t1_iu65vqc wrote

Uhm... drill a small hole down the center, and put in a reverse spin screw for metal on metal (won't come cheap, they're usually made with titatium-steel alloys). Then use that screw to unscrew the situation.