What to Do If a Screw Won’t Tighten? Easy Fixes

We use screws in our everyday lives to hold things together. Mainly, the screws are important in most construction or DIY projects. However, sometimes, the screw won’t tighten and this becomes a problem since they can’t serve their purpose when loose. So, how do you fix screws that won’t tighten?

If you are a DIY enthusiast or you assemble things often, then you may have experienced situations where the screw keeps on spinning irrespective of how you turn them. In this post, we are going to explore easy fixes for loose screws. Also, we will give you reasons why screws won’t tighten in the first place.

Easy Fixes For a Screw that Won’t Tighten

While most people will likely consider doing repairs when there are major damages, focusing on minor repairs such as identifying loose screws and fixing them is equally important. Usually, when the loose screws are ignored, it can result in a major problem in the future which is expensive to fix.

The following are easy fixes for screws that won’t tighten:

1) Replace the Screw

Sometimes, the screws are loose and do not tighten because you have used the wrong size or the screw is damaged. For instance, if the screw spins in a hole and won’t tighten, it could be because the screw is smaller in size or has damaged threads. Therefore, the most convenient way is to replace the screw. You can use a longer or wider screw or a new screw that is not damaged.

Sometimes it is difficult to choose a screw of the right size. In such instances, you can try various screws with different diameters until you find one that fits.

Notably, using a longer screw won’t be a suitable way to fix loose screws if the piece of wood is thin and cannot hold long screws. In this case, you should consider alternative ways to fix the problem. Mainly, you shouldn’t worry since there are alternative methods that you can try out to fix the loose screws without the need to replace them with longer screws.

2) Put a Plastic Wall Anchor into the Hole

Although replacing the screw is the most appropriate way to resolve the problem when the screw won’t tighten, sometimes you may not have larger screws that can fit in that particular hole. In that case, you must consider reusing the screw that won’t tighten. To reuse the screw, you can first push in an anchor to provide a tighter grip.

Notably, plastic wall anchors are manufactured in a variety of sizes. Therefore, you need to choose one that matches the size of the screw you will use. After choosing the plastic wall anchor, the following are simple steps to follow:

  • Drill the hole. If the hole is not wide enough for the anchor to fit, then you can drill it.
  • Apply wood glue to the anchor. Apply a bit of glue. The glue will hold the wall anchor firmly in place.
  • Put the wall anchor into the hole. Tap it gently using a hammer until its top is flush with the wood surface.
  • Drive the screw into the anchor using a screwdriver until it’s tight.

3) Auto body filler

Using auto-body filler to fill the hole is another easy way to fix the problem of a screw that won’t tighten.

  • Drill a hole ¼ an inch larger than the screw you intend to use.
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions, mix 2 parts of filler. Mainly, you should squeeze filler onto cardboard enough to fill the hole you have drilled twice. Add a smaller amount of hardener into the filler, and stir using a stick. Notably, you should mix the auto body filler when you are ready to use it since it dries fast.
  • Scoop the mixture and press it into the hole. Once the hole can’t take any more filler, scrape off any excess filler.
  • Apply lubricant on the screw to prevent it from getting stuck into the auto body filler before driving it into the hole.
  • Press the lubricated screw into the filled hole. Important, instead of twisting the screw into the filled hole, you should press it in straight.
  • Wipe away excess filler being displaced by the screw.
  • Carefully remove the screw from the filled hole after 5 minutes. Within the 5-minute wait, the auto body filler will have slightly hardened, and you will see threads perfectly imprinted into the filler after removing the screw.
  • Allow the filler to fully cure for at least 2 hours.
  • Drive the screw in the filler by gently twisting it into the hole.

4) Use Chopsticks to Fill Part of the Hole

Sometimes, the screws won’t tighten because you drilled large holes. Therefore, to ensure the screws tighten, you should fill in the hole partially. You can use chopsticks or other filler materials such as thin wooden dowels, toothpicks, matchsticks, bamboo skewers, or scrap wood.

  • Cut chopsticks into the size of the hole depth. To determine the size you need to cut the chopsticks into, you should stick them in the hole and mark the depth.
  • Remove the chopstick from the hole and trim it. Repeat the process for all the chopsticks you intend to use.
  • Apply glue to the trimmed chopsticks and put them into the hole.
  • Wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes for the wood glue you have applied to dry.
  • Press the screw into the hole. The screw should tighten. However, if the screw is still loose, after adding one or two toothpicks, then you can add more and drive the screw in again until it’s tight and can no longer turn.

5) Use Dowel Plug

Using a dowel plug is recommended for use on materials that cannot hold screws. For instance, particle boards cannot hold the screws tight. However, you can use a dowel plug to fix the problem.

  • Drill a hole slightly larger than the screw you are using.
  • Apply wood glue on the wood dowel.
  • Press the dowel into the hole and tap it into the hole using a hammer.
  • Wipe off the excess glue using a rag.
  • Allow the glue to dry by waiting for at least 1 hour.
  • Cut the dowel to flush with the wood surface using a chisel.
  • Sand the cut dowel surface to smooth it.
  • Drill a hole in the dowel using the right drill bits. Ensure the hole is at the center of the dowel.
  • Drive the screw into the hole.

Reasons a Screw Won’t Tighten

Now that you understand various ways you can fix screws that won’t tighten, why won’t the screw tighten? Mainly, understanding the reason a screw won’t tighten will enable you to realize the best and easy way to fix and tighten it.

So, the following are some of the common reasons screws fail to tighten.

  • Material type. Some types of materials are prone to stripping making it difficult to hold screws in place. For instance, particle boards cannot hold screws in place unless you use a reinforcing material to hold the screws.
  • Rusty surfaces. Rust interferes with the screw’s ability to grip in place making it difficult to tighten.
  • Shorter screws. Usually, it is common for shorter screws to loosen with time. This is because the screws have less threading.
  • Small diameter screws. Screws with small diameters become loose especially when used on timber holes especially when they are not countersunk.
  • Wrong screw-drive technique. Tightening the screw wrongly or over-tightening it can cause damage to the screw and make it lose. When driving in the screw using a screwdriver, you should hold it parallel to the hole and be careful not to overtighten the screws.
  • Overloading the object. If your object holds materials of varied weights with some items being heavy, then it’s likely to develop issues of having loose screws. Therefore, to prevent the screws from loosening, you must ensure that the load your object holds does not exceed the recommended weight limit.
  • Poor maintenance. If the object or equipment is poorly maintained, then it will be prone to having loose screws. For instance, during routine maintenance, employees may overtighten the screws, damaging them in the process.
  • Use of damaged screws. Damaged screws can’t grip. For instance, screws with damaged thread can not tighten. Notably, the screw threads can get damaged due to wear and tear over time and loosen.
  • Regular use of the object. If you use equipment often, then over time you may notice the screws are no longer tightening up.
  • Extreme temperature changes. If you live in areas with extremely cold temperatures, especially during winter, the metal contracts pushing screws outwards and loosening them.


When a screw fails to tighten, you don’t have to worry. All you need is to identify the reason why the screw is not tightening and use the appropriate method to tighten it as discussed in this post.

After you have fixed the problem most appropriately, the screw will tighten as desired and will be able to hold objects together for longer.