How to Remove a Broken Drill Bit

How to Remove a Broken Drill Bit

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A drill is one of the most basic power tools anyone can own. They are a staple of almost every toolkit and are used for a variety of jobs, from woodworking, plumbing, and electrical work. Because of this, we use many different types of drill bits to make holes in a wide range of materials including wood, metal, glass, concrete, and masonry.

However, drill bits often break, sometimes damaging the surface we are busy drilling into. Of course, when a drill bit does break, we need to remove it from the drill. It is essential to know why drill bits break and how to remove them.

3 Best Ways to Remove a Broken Drill Bit

There is nothing more frustrating than a drill bit breaking when you’re halfway through drilling a hole. Sometimes you can pull the broken end out easily, other times it’s not that easy.

The tool you use to pull a broken drill bit out of whatever you are drilling depends largely on how deeply it is embedded. Here are 3 options.

The simplest way to remove a broken bit is to use locking pliers. If locking pliers don’t work, try a screw extractor. Finally, if an extractor doesn’t work, you’re going to have to be a little more proactive and drill it out.

You could also use a computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine. CNC milling machines are cutting tools that are programmed to remove a tool or material from a workpiece, and they work with computer-aided design (CAD) software. They work very well, but are extremely expensive, and not something you would typically add to your average DIY toolkit. But, if you are stuck and have access to a CNC milling machine, use it.

#1: Locking Pliers

Remove Broken Drill Bit with Locking Pliers Generally, locking pliers are a good first option to remove a broken drill bit. If you are lucky, once you clamp the pliers onto the broken end of the drill bit and twist the pliers, it will come out.

Presuming the broken piece is sticking out of the material you’ve been working with, wipe it down with a clean cloth. This will get rid of any little bits of debris or lubricating oil that might make it difficult to grip with pliers.

Grab the end with the pliers and squeeze the handles together. Then, twist in a counter-clockwise direction. This should loosen the broken bit and enable you to get it out.

If the bit doesn’t come straight out, cut a small recessed area around the bit using a chisel. This should allow you to get better access to the bit with your pliers. Of course, the chisel you use will depend on the material it is lodged in. For example, a wood chisel and a chisel you would use to remove concrete are very different tools.

#2: Screw Extractor

Remove Broken Drill Bit with Screw Extractors A screw extractor is a handy tool that we can use for removing broken screws. It works well for removing broken drill bits too.

There are several different types of screw extractors including one that has a spiral flute and the other that has a straight flute. Some are designed for specific diameter screws while others accommodate multiple diameters. The latter is more expensive but obviously more versatile. However, they all work in a similar way.

If there are jagged edges on the broken drill bit, chisel them off to make them as smooth and flat as possible. Then use a pointed center punch to make a small hole or divot in the top of the broken bit.

Once you’ve drilled the hole, tap the screw extractor into the hole with a hammer. Then, insert a bit smaller than the broken one into a drill with a reverse rotation action. For example, if your broken bit is ⅜ inches, use a drill bit that is no bigger than 1/4-inch. Put the tip of the bit into the hole you have made and drill straight down for at least half an inch.

Position the screw extractor in the hole and tap it with a hammer to secure it. Use a wrench over the extractor and turn slowly in a counter-clockwise direction. If it doesn’t come out, you may be able to pull it out with locking or serrated-edge pliers.

#3: Drill

Remove Broken Drill Bit with a Drill Sometimes, the only way to get a broken bit out of the material you are working with is to literally drill it out. It works with virtually every material from steel and aluminum to brick, stone, concrete, and wood.

Start by blowing air over the broken bit using a blower or canned air. The idea is to loosen the bit naturally by blowing out dust and dirt. Clean up before going any further.

Sometimes, blowing air may be enough to enable you to grab the broken bit with locking or nose-needle pliers. If you can do this continue by following the instructions given in #1.

If not, drill around the broken bit to expose it. This should enable you to pull it out using pliers.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to fill holes in most materials, especially wood, mortar, and concrete.

4 Reasons Your Drill Bit Keeps Breaking and How to Prevent It

So, why would a drill bit break, and how can you prevent it from happening? Technically, the two most common reasons your drill bit would break are:

  • Radial force, which will result in the drill bit breaking at the end of the flute.
  • Twisted breakage, is caused by large torque or force that causes rotation. In this case, the bit usually breaks in the middle of the flute.

Also, some problems relate to specific industries and professional jobs. Many of these won’t apply to DIY projects. For example, drilling into a printed circuit board (PCB) has many possible failure conditions. These range from unsuitable backup boards to the quality of the PCB.

But there are loads of other simple reasons that even an inexperienced DIYer can avoid or overcome. Here are 4 of the most common reasons.

#1: Using the Wrong or an Old Drill Bit

There are many different types of drill bits, all intended for different applications. If you use the wrong type, there’s a good chance it will break, especially if you use it on the wrong material.

For example, a drill bit intended for wood isn’t going to make a dent in masonry or concrete. And a concrete drill bit won’t work if you are drilling through glass or tiles. The bit may not always break, but it stands to reason you should always choose the right bit for the job.

A worn drill bit is also more likely to break than one that is new and not well-used.

#2: Inadequate Clamping

This is a basic rule and one that should never be ignored. Always be sure to clamp your workpiece and/or drill properly. If the workpiece or drill moves, you could easily end up with a broken drill bit.

#3: Drilling Too Fast and with Too Much Pressure

If you are using a drill that allows you to select the speed and feed rate, that will help you keep your drill bits from breaking. If not, a good rule of thumb is to drill slowly and not apply too much pressure.

As mentioned above, both radial force and so-called twisted (rather than deflected) breakage, are common causes of drill bits breaking.

#4: High Temperatures

Additionally, If the drill bit gets too hot it can chip.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to use a lubricant and a coolant while you work. Do this by repeatedly moving the drill bit from the workpiece and lubricating it.

If heat builds up, it’s likely to fracture at the weakest point, which is where the flutes start.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips and Tricks

These are a few of the tips and tricks you can use to avoid breaking drill bits:

  • Whichever method and/or tool you decide to use to remove your broken drill bit, a golden rule is to work deliberately and slowly. If you jerk a hand tool while trying to remove a broken bit, you may break the end off, which will make it even more difficult to remove.
  • If you don’t have locking pliers, try using any pliers with serrated jaws. These should enable you to get a good grip on the broken bit.
  • When you use a screw extractor to remove broken bits, it’s a good idea to wear safety glasses. You can buy them at most builders’, home improvement, and department stores. They aren’t expensive and will prevent any tiny bits of metal from the drill bit from flying into your eyes.
  • Also, when using a screw extractor be careful not to drill too deep. If you end up cracking the broken bit it will be even more difficult to remove.
  • Simple issues like the registration of drill points can affect drilling accuracy and may result in bits breaking. The only way to overcome these issues is to check drill-point geometry.
  • If you apply a small amount of drilling or tapping fluid when you do a heavy-duty drilling job it will help to reduce the torque and resistance your bit meets. That, in and of itself, will help to avoid breaks.


We use drills for a wide range of jobs and projects. If you use the right drill bit for the job, you will minimize the chances of the drill bit breaking. However, if it does break, it’s prudent to know why it has happened and how to remove the broken piece from the material you are working on.

Our advice is to ensure you have the right tools to take action if your drill bits do break. We also suggest you familiarize yourself with the reasons why this happens, as this is the number one step in preventing future breaks.