So, you finish drilling a hole and go to change out the drill bit. You turn the chuck; nothing happens. No matter what you do, you can’t get that drill bit out of the drill.
Or maybe, you’re drilling your hole, when suddenly the drill stops spinning. You try reversing; nothing happens. That drill bit is stuck in the material, and you can’t get it out.
Luckily, there’s a pretty easy fix to both of these – each is a little different, but the general idea is to use a pair of pliers to gain some leverage to turn the chuck or drill bit.
Lets dive in and find out the details!
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How to Remove a Stuck Drill Bit From a Drill
Grab a pair of channel lock pliers. They look like this:
If you don’t have a pair of channel lock pliers, you’re looking for something with jaws large enough to grip the chuck of the drill. The chuck is the part of the drill you twist to release the drill bit. See picture below.
Some alternatives to channel lock pliers include a vice grip or a vice. Here is a vice grip (which I got here):
And while I’m remodeling my shop and don’t currently have a vice to show you, this is a picture of my old shop that happens to have a vice in it:
Then, to remove the drill bit, do the following:
1. Clamp the channel lock pliers onto the chuck of the drill
Open the jaws of the pliers/vice grip/vice wide enough to grasp the chuck of the drill. Then tighten the pliers onto the chuck.
Note that the pliers or vice grip are probably metal, and the chuck is plastic, so there is some risk of damaging the plastic of the chuck. It’ll still work, but it might be a little scraped in a place or two.
Personally, I don’t really care about this, but if you do, it might be worth wrapping the chuck in a towel or other rag before clamping the pliers. This will weaken the hold, but you still might be able to get enough leverage to loosen the stuck bit.
2. Turn the pliers counter-clockwise
If you’re using pliers or a vice grip, turn the hand tool counter-clockwise. If you’re using a vice to clamp the chuck, then you’ll probably need to turn the drill instead (since the vice is probably attached to your workbench.)
This should open the chuck and loosen the drill bit.
This has always worked for me, but if for some reason it doesn’t, you can increase leverage even further by clamping the drill/driver in a vice, then using the pliers to try turning the chuck again.
3. Remove the drill bit from the drill
At this point, the bit should be pretty loose and fall right out. But if it wasn’t properly aligned in the chuck in the first place, it might need to be wiggled a bit.
If your fingers aren’t enough, you can use pliers to wiggle the bit. But beware – this can dull the drill bit. My drill bits are all really cheap, so I just shrug at that, but if you have nice, expensive bits you might care.
How to Remove a Drill Bit From Wood, a Wall, or Other Material
Removing a stuck drill bit from material isn’t that much different from removing a stuck drill bit from a drill; the main goal is to increase your leverage so you can apply more force to turn the bit.
However, when removing a drill bit from a drill you direct this force to the chuck. When you remove a drill bit from wood or a wall, you direct this force on the drill bit itself.
Since drill bits are generally smaller than a chuck, this time you can use regular pliers.
A vice grip will work as well.
Then to remove the drill bit, do the following:
1. Clamp the pliers to the shank of the drill bit
You’ll have more leverage if you clamp near the base of the bit, where it’s closest to the material. However, it’s likely there is exposed twisty-part (is there an official name for this?) there, and that means clamping could dull the drill bit.
It’s up to you if you’d rather clamp there, or further up the shank where the bit is smooth. I’ll also note that clamping further away increases the risk of breaking the drill bit, which as you could probably guess, is bad.
(If that does happen, though, I have more information about removing a broken drill bit below, so scroll down!)
You should also clamp the pliers so that the run perpendicular to the bit, not make a smooth line. That looks like this:
(Pretend this picture has a drill bit stuck in a wall or something, not a drill. The main purpose of it was to show you how to clamp the bit)
You’ll get more leverage this way.
2. Turn the pliers counter-clockwise
Turn the pliers counter-clockwise to loosen the bit. If you’re trying to remove a drill bit from the wall, I like to place my pliers on the left side of the bit, so I can push down instead of pull up, but maybe that’s just me.
3. Remove the drill bit
Chances are, after you’ve loosened up the bit, it’ll come right out with a bit of wiggling. However, if that doesn’t happen, you can keep “unscrewing” it using the pliers, until you’ve removed it from the material.
How to Remove a Broken Drill Bit From Wood, a Wall, or Other Material
So you tried the above techniques, and guess what? The drill bit broke. Or maybe it had already broken, and you’re thankful you finally made it to the part of the article that was helpful.
It’s worth noting that while all drill bits can break, small-diameter bits break with much more frequency. That’s why they sell little 3/16″ drill bits in multi-packs, because they’re pretty much expected to break.
Either way, if you have a broken drill bit, how do you get it out?
Some Basic Techniques
First off, do you have to get it out? What I mean by this – if your drill bit is stuck in a wall, can you push it through to the other side? It’s broken, you don’t need it back, and it’s not going to do any harm chilling in your wall.
If that’s not the case, or there’s a stud on the other side of that wall, check and see if there’s any shank sticking out. If there’s even a little bit of drill bit sticking out, grab some pliers and try the plier method listed in the above section.
You probably won’t be able to hold the pliers perpendicular, since you don’t have much drill bit to grab onto, but even just grabbing a little bit of the end can be enough to wiggle the drill bit out.
Drilling Out the Bit (The Official Technique)
Finally, if your drill bit is really embedded the material and you need to get it out with pliers, your best bet is to drill it out. However, this is only possible if you can access the bit from the other side of the wood/material. This is not going to work for walls.
To drill out a drill bit, try the following:
1. Flip the material over, and drill a hole exactly where your bit is located
This will allow you to access the drill bit from the other side. Your hole should be large enough to insert a screw or other metal instrument into the hole.
It’s also worth noting that the two drill bits will probably touch at some point, which will dull them. One bit is broken, so who cares, but for other bit you might want to use one you don’t love.
2. Hammer a screwdriver against the drill bit
Insert a screwdriver (or other small metal thing) into your new hole, and hammer it against the drill bit. This should pop the broken drill bit out of the hole.
Screw Extractor Method
The other official method for removing a broken drill bit is to use a screw extractor. That said, I have major reservations about this one.
Maybe I bought too cheap a screw extractor set, but I couldn’t get my screw extractor to remove screws at all, let alone broken drill bits which were not the original intention of the tool.
Additionally, this is only going to work on a larger diameter drill bit. If your drill bit is too thin, you won’t be able to get a large enough dent/hole to make a difference.
Either way, here’s how it goes:
1. Drill a small hole in the top of the broken drill bit
The goal here is to create a dent to embed the screw extractor into. The drill bit you use should be a few sizes smaller than the drill bit that’s stuck.
Some screw extractor sets have a drilling bit on the opposite side of the screw extractor. If yours does, awesome! Use that to drill the hole.
2. Insert the screw extractor into the drill/driver
Place the hex side of the screw extractor into the drill/driver, and tighten the chuck.
3. Extract broken drill bit
Insert the screw extractor into the hole you drilled into the drill bit. Then, with the drill/driver in reverse/counter-clockwise rotation, drill.
Theoretically, the threads of the screw extractor will bite into the broken bit, and ultimately pull it out. I say theoretically. I make no promises.
An Untried Idea
If none of these seem great, I’ve had this other idea in the back of my head to try next time I have a broken bit that I really can’t get out. I haven’t tried it, so who knows, but here it is.
If the drill bit is really embedded into the material, it should be possible to drill a larger hole up to that bit. Then maybe carve around it with a chisel or something else that’s sharp.
Once you’ve gotten at least a little bit of the broken bit exposed, grab some needle-nosed pliers and see if you can get enough grip to pull it out.
That’s my plan. If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes!