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11 Handy Substitutes for a Screwdriver

Screwdrivers are some of the most simple but irreplaceable tools in your arsenal. Not having one can be a stress-inducing situation.

But don’t panic. You probably have several viable replacements just laying around the house or garage.

Frustrated man trying to fix a chair

Substitutes for a Phillips Screwdriver

A Phillips screwdriver has a cross pattern on its point. This cross pattern allows you to grip screws with the same type of screw head and isn’t as good for prying apart things like the flat-head screwdriver.

What is most important is size. Something too small or large will only strip the screw and leave you with a bigger job than you started.

Some of the substitutes for a Phillips head screwdriver:

1. Flat-head Screwdriver

One of the best things about the Phillips head screwdriver is that a flat-head can often be used in its place.

If the flat notch of the screwdriver fits into the screw head, you should be able to unscrew it. Be sure that it has enough traction to get the screw moving.

2. Pliers

An unconventional tool you can use in exchange for a Phillips head screwdriver is a set of pliers. Grip the edges of the screw head with the pliers and slowly turn them until you get the desired result.

Of course, removing screws this way takes much longer, but they will often get the job done.

3. Multitool

You have seen the multitool in several forms. The most obvious is the one that looks like a set of pliers but has a selection of tools folded into the handle.

While it technically could have a Phillips head screwdriver, most forgo them in favor of the flat head because it is easier to store in the small spaces provided.

4. Coins

Another way you can get the Phillips head screws out is by using coins. Coins are different widths and can fit in the slot provided for a Phillips head screwdriver.

In addition, coins are everywhere; chances are, if there isn’t one in your toolbox, there’s one in your truck.

Related 12 Handy Allen Wrench Substitutes.

5. Butter Knife

The butter knife is one of the most often used replacements for a screwdriver. They are easily found in your home and can be used for several other jobs.

In addition, butter knives are great for Phillips heads because they can use the end or the tip, which allows you to reach different screw heads or get more force on them.

6. Tweezers

The most exciting thing you can use as a substitute for a Phillips head screwdriver is a set of tweezers. Close the tweezers and allow them to expand inside the screw head. Once they have opened a bit, they should fit in the cross pattern, enabling you to create enough force to get the screw moving.

Finding something to use as a replacement for a Phillips head is more challenging than for a flathead. The cross-shaped screw heads make finding a small, thin implement that fits into one of the grooves imperative.

In addition, some Phillips screws won’t turn unless they have force on all four corners of the cross shape.

Substitutes for a Flat-Head Screwdriver

Man repairing a chair has an idea

The substitutes for the flat-head screwdriver are easier to find than a Phillips. Essentially, all you need is a thin piece of metal that fits into the opening of the screw head.

Here are some ideas:

7. Knife

The reigning champion of substitutes for a flathead screwdriver is a knife. If it has an edge that fits on the flat groove of the screw, you can make it happen.

However, if your knife has a serrated edge, you might have trouble keeping it on the track. If this is the case, try the spine of the blade.

8. Coins

Coins are flat pieces of metal that can often fit in a flathead notch. Place the coin in your fingers and hold tight as the pressure needed could force the piece of change out of your grip.

Remember that using a larger coin gives you more leverage and more real estate to hold onto.

9. Nail File

A nail file is another thin piece of metal that can be used in place of a flathead screwdriver. Nail files have a rough side that could help create friction in the notch and allow you to move the screw much more easily.

In addition, some nail files could have a blunted tip that will give you more torsion for a smoother job.

10. Scissors

Another implement that can be substituted for a flathead screwdriver is a pair of scissors. By opening the scissors and placing them along the head of the screw, you can slowly unseat it and remove it.

If your scissors break apart, you have a much easier chance of making them work properly.

11. Washer

Using washers is a fast way to get a flathead screw unseated. The good thing about them is you can stack them to pack whatever screw head you have.

However, more washers could be harder to hold onto as the stack could falter under the pressure needed to remove the screw.

Related Pry Bar vs. Crowbar | Key Differences and Uses of Each.

Ways to Remove a Screw Without a Screwdriver

Once you know the implement you will use, it is time to get that screw out. Removing screws can be more difficult without a screwdriver, and having a plan in place will help you get past any problems and complete the job.

Remember that this could be time-consuming and take several attempts before your improvised screwdriver works.

The steps to remove a screw without a screwdriver are as follows.

Pick Your Tool

The tool is the most significant part of the problem. Once you know what you want to use, it should seat into the notch on the screw head snugly.

If there is too much room, the implement could have difficulty getting traction and force, making the job much harder.

Seat the Tool

One of the most complex parts of finding a substitute for a screwdriver is finding something that fits into the screw head space. If it doesn’t fit tightly, there could be issues and possible stripping.

Stripping screws can be disastrous and force you to need power tools. So be careful when seating the tool.

Tight Grip

As soon as the tool is fit into the screw head space, you should get a tight grip on what you are using. Grip and pressure are essential to remove the screw.

Having a firm grip eliminates the chances that it loses its position, and you have to start over.

Get Moving

Slowly rotate the screw counterclockwise. As you move the screw, continue to squeeze the tool while keeping firm downward pressure.

If you have enough pressure on the screw head, it should loosen. There are alternatives if it doesn’t, but they could require more tools or ways to degrease the screw.


Once you get the screw out, you can move on to the next ones. If there are multiple screw heads, there must be substitute screwdrivers ready.

Remember that your tool might have been designed to be used as something other than a screwdriver, and if it breaks, you must start the process from the beginning.

The process is straightforward, but you must consider your force and pressure. If you place too much pressure in one place but not another, you could lose your grip, or the tool could slide out of the screw head.

Need a New Screwdriver? Look No Further

The best way to not need a substitute for a screwdriver is to find an alternative that you can keep with you at all times. Tons of neat screwdrivers and multitools give you a range of options to have more than one tool with you. By searching on Amazon, you can find the screwdriver substitute that works best for you.

Amazon Screwdrivers

They aren’t hard to find if you want a handy substitute for a screwdriver that will fit on a keychain or in your purse. What you might not know about them is that they can be decorative while being functional.

Some of the best screwdriver substitutes on Amazon are as follows:

  • Snowflake – One of the most innovative screwdriver substitutes is the Snowflake. It has 18 different heads, which allows it to work well with several different types of screw heads. In addition, it doesn’t look like a screwdriver with 18 heads but a snowflake dangling from your keychain.
  • Pen Screwdriver – A unique pen in your pocket or purse is an excellent platform for a screwdriver. The Pen Screwdriver is a four-piece set with interior storage for the extra bits and a neat clip for your pocket. It looks like a regular pen, but you can attach the bits to the point and get to work.
  • Folding Tool Set – A sleek folding tool set is another great way to have many options at your disposal. It has a hex key of bits that are seven different tools in one. In addition, it has a strong spine to help create torque on those screws that might need more power.
  • Screwdriver Tool – A popular trend among screwdrivers is a tool with several heads on one platform. The screwdriver tool allows the user to have a range of different types of screw heads while taking up much less space. This tool is a bit bulkier than the others but has more options for screw heads.
  • Multitool – One of the old ways to have more screwdrivers is by having a multitool. These tools have screwdrivers and pliers, which allow you to get the job done while folding into a neat spot in your purse or pack.

Choosing an alternative to a screwdriver is fun if you know what you need. Remember that some screws could have different types of screw heads, and having one of the nifty alternatives on hand could save a significant headache.

Final Turn

Flathead screwdrivers are some of the most straightforward tools to replicate. All you need is a flat edge that fits into the screw head. Once you have something that fits, apply proper grip and pressure and move the screw counterclockwise until the job is done.

Phillips head screwdrivers are a bit harder to find substitutes for. Their screw heads have a cross on the top, and you need something to get torsion on all four corners of the screw to have your best chance of removing it.

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