You did it…you stripped out the Phillips screw that holds your taillight on, and now you’re kinda screwed. Here’s a simple solution: Grab your favorite rotary tool and turn that Phillips head into a flat head. I use the standard grinding disc that most rotary tools come with. I suppose a cutoff tool with a thin profile would work as well.
The existing hole in the screw acts as a guide. Once you get the slot started, make sure to move the tool back and forth—you don’t want a slot with a curved bottom. Also, try to hold the tool as perpendicular to the head as possible. If you grind the slot at an angle, you’ll end up with another stripped-out screw head.
As always, let the tool do the work: Don’t push too hard or the grinding wheel will want to jump out of the slot, or you’ll break the bit. And don’t overgrind—on one occasion, I ground too deep and the screw head split in half when I tried to loosen it.
There’s no guarantee that you won’t need to resort to more drastic methods of screw extraction, but this simple trick has saved me a dozen times.
— Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor
For more tips on driving and removing Phillips screws, check out: