How To Get The Phillips Screw Out Of The Brake Rotor

Eventually, your car will need new brake pads and rotors. Don’t bother trying to escape it, because you can’t.  If you are lucky though, you have a car that doesn’t have the stupid phillips head screws holding the rotors on to the hubs.  I was unfortunately not so lucky recently, but I have destroyed enough of these little screws to eventually figure out a way to get them out.  Guess what else?  I’m going to show you how!

Start off by staring down the rotor, threaten it a little bit if you need to, and don’t be afraid to give it the old “mean mug” either.  You need to let that stupid phillips head screw know who the boss is.  Use scare tactics by telling the screw that you won’t hesitate to drill it’s puny head off if it puts up a fight.

Next up, you’ll want to find a wrench, probably around 12mm, to slide onto the wheel lugs and jamb against the brake caliper.  This will prevent the rotor from spinning when you are trying to loosen the bolt.

The next step can actually be done before you have the wrench on there, but I did it out of order for some crazy reason.  Anywho…  Grab one of those cheap phillips drill bits that are on the hardware store counters for like 35 cents, insert it into the phillips screw, and whack it with a hammer a few times.  In my mind, this action shocks the screw and loosens the threads up a bit.  I’m not sure if that’s true, but it seems to work for me.  Shooting some PB Blaster on it is never a bad idea either, considering it is magic in a bottle.

Now remove the phillips drill bit and just whack the rotor a few times around that hate filled screw.  Again, I believe this shocks the area and loosens things up.  True? False?  I don’t know, but like I said before, it just plain works.

Okay, your hammer work is now complete.  Hopefully you didn’t hit the threads on the lugs, because that will put a damper on your day.  The next thing you need to do is find a proper size phillips screwdriver.  If you use one that is too small or too big, you will just strip the screw, which will add a world of hurt onto this project.  Once you have the proper screwdriver, grab it as tight as humanly possible with Vise Grips.  If you are lucky, your screwdriver will have a hex area on it near the bottom of the handle.  That allows for tons of extra grip.  Now, double check that your 12mm wrench is jammed against the caliper and preventing the rotor from turning.  If so, it’s officially go time.  Gather every little bit of muscle that you have in your body, and push into the screw while turning it.  HARDER!  If it doesn’t immediately break loose, give it a few more taps with the hammer, and also try tightening the screw just a tiny bit.  That sometimes releases the threads from their herculean death grip and allows you to back the screw out.  If you are lucky, you hear a “SNAP!” and the screw is loose.

Tada!  The bolt is now out.  WAIT! You aren’t done yet.  Before it goes back in with the new rotor, put a dab of anti-seize on it for the next guy.  You won’t know when or where, but somebody, someday, will thank you for doing it.  Good Luck!


Jeremy Nutt

Hi, I'm Jeremy.

9 thoughts to “How To Get The Phillips Screw Out Of The Brake Rotor”

  1. Timely post. I was cursing Honda yesterday when I was doing the brakes on my wife’s Pilot. I knew the pain I might be in for so I presoaked them in PB Blaster ahead of time and gave them a good few whacks of the hammer before I got started. I ended up getting all but one off with an impact. The remaining one stripped out and I drilled the head off.

    Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put a Phillips screw in that spot?

  2. I was about to post when I saw that Jeff had beat me to it. An impact screwdriver and a 3 lb. ball pein hammer to hit it with are all you ever need. No penetrant needed, either.

    Here are the urls:
    Impact screwdriver with case, $6.99. This set has more bits than the one I bought from them a decade or more ago. But all you need for this job is a #3 Phillips bit.

    32 oz. ball pein hammer, $4.99. I prefer a 3 lb. hammer but this will do.


  3. Impact screw drivers properly held and used work well, just remember the rotor just may have been heated and cooled a few times…’stuck tight’ may take on new meaning!

  4. When I did the brakes on my Girfriends 04′ Civic Coupe it was the first time I saw a stupid screw holding the rotor on and I lost alot of respect for Honda…(I grew up riding their great dirtbikes) I tried using my impact to get the screw out and wasn’t happening. (Southern Ohio-lots of salt in the winter) So I have a very well stocked hardware cabinet in the garage and I had the same screw with a slotted head and it was 1/4-20 instead of the 6mm size that Honda had. Since I had nearly the same hardware I just drilled the head off of every rotor screw on the car and once the rotors were removed the screws came out with my fingers. I just ran a 1/4-20 NC tap into the holes and rethreaded the M6 to a 1/4 which always works beautifully. I pulled the new rotors out of the bags and guess what? One rotor had the screw holes and taper in it and the other one wasnt even drilled! So I used a transfer punch and marked the second rotor for drill location and I used to be a machinist for many years so I had the chamfer tools I needed also. within 10 minutes they both matched. I lubed up the threads using a high temp mil. spec non-metallic anti-seize made by Valco Cincinnati Consumer Products to prevent the problem from happening again. In my opinion those screws are not even needed at all but since its my girlfriends car and not mine I wanted to put it back the way I found it.

  5. These screws aren’t that bad. I’ve never had to drill one out and I’ve only ever broken one off with my impact screwdriver.

    IMO drilling and tapping to 1/4 20 is a bad idea, but to each their own.

    I don’t have the screws at all on my prelude (larger rotors and calipers from another Honda…the screw holes don’t line up anymore) the wheel and lug nuts are what hold the caliper in place anyway.

  6. Regarding the bad idea of switching the M6 thread to 1/4 20 that is 100% your opinion. The 1/4 size is the next logical size…Look at a machinist chart. Like you said, you didnt even use them in another project. So it makes little difference.

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