How To Remove The Rotor Screws From Your Honda/Acura’s Brake Rotors

These screws are a pain to remove. Luckily, one you get them off you don't need to re-install them!

I hate these screws. Most European cars don’t even have them, but for some reason the Japanese feel the need to equip their cars with them. The reason they are there is to hold the rotor securely to the hub of the car once the wheel is removed. If you look at how the whole assembly of hub/studs, rotor, wheel, and lug nuts fits together, you will see that these screws serve no purpose once the wheel is installed. The screws exist merely as an unnecessary assembly aide.

Their function is so superficial, in fact, that they are made out of what must be the softest metallic substance on the entire car. Under any load from the brakes, I can imagine these screws’ heads popping off instantly. Alas, they are on the car holding the rotor in place and must be removed in order to change rotors (another insufficiently designed component of the Honda/Acura braking system, but that is another blog topic...) The process of removing these screws appears to be as simple as grabbing a phillips head screwdriver and giving them a twist.

Unfortunately, life creates it’s own interesting moments when it is realized that even a very minimal amount of unseen corrosion or galvanic action LOCKS these bad boys in place, causing the screws to strip with ease. Once these guys are stripped, you need to grab a drill and bore out the heads to get them off. I have done this drilling more often than I have had the miraculous joy of actually removing the screws properly. I never want to do it again.

Let’s say, I were to stop writing here. One might no doubt search their favorite message forum and read all of the wonders of a tool called an impact driver. This tool is a sort of screw-driver with a spring-loaded twisting action that works when the handle is hit with a hammer. The idea is, the hammer forces the driver into the screw while the spring action twists the screw just enough to break it free. Much of the time, and impact driver is the perfect tool for the job. But I content this method is no sure-fire way to unscrew these screwy screws without possible need for the drill.

Problem one with the driver is, not everyone has one, and not everyone who changes brakes every 2-3 years wants to buy one. In order to get one that works reliably, you’ll need to spend enough money that you might well have paid someone to do your brakes for you. I’ve used cheap ones, and broken them almost instantly. Bonus…before they broke, they stripped the screws.

Problem two, even with a good driver there exists an estimated 10% chance you’s strip a screw anyway because the screws are just that bitchy.

So here is my SURE FIRE, WORKED EVERY TIME I DID IT WITHOUT FAIL way of removing the rotor screws from your brake rotors. It involves two simple tools nearly everyone has in their tool box.

Now it is all about technique. Make a dimple in the screw head near the outside diameter of the screw. You just it need to dent the screw a little, not chop a chunk into it.

Using the dimple for “traction,” hold the chisel about 45 degrees from the rotor hat (make sure you put the dimple in a place not directly adjacent to a stud) and give it a few good whacks to work it free, and you’ll need to rotate your position as you hit to walk the screw around.

Use a screwdriver to spin the screw out! No new tools. No special tools. Hell, you can use the crappiest hammer and screwdriver you have. The real trick is not to get too wily with your chisel because you can make mince-meat out of the screw, making the job harder and making the potential for getting that drill out a reality. With a bit of practice, you can get this process figured out before you are done changing 4 rotors.

With the screws removed, go about the business of changing rotors, and if you are re-installing the screws. You’ll have to deal with them again later though. For this reason, I usually toss them in the trash. If these are intended to make my life easier, I wonder how things would be designed if designed to work against me.

GEEK TIME! Why does this work?

It works because when driving a screw with a screwdriver or an impact driver, the majority of the twist happens very close to the center of the fastener, imparting a minimal amount of torque to the screw (remember, torque is force x distance). In order to get the amount of torque needed to remove the screws easily, force must be applied to to a point on the fastener as far from the center of the fastener as possible. In T = Fd, you are increasing d.

Likewise, a screwdriver has a tendency to impart minimal grip on the screw itself, which is why when you turn it the driver want to naturally pop out of the head as you twist. This reduces the force you are able to put into actually turning. In order to get a screwdriver that really grips screws well, you need to come out of pocket more than you might want. You will find yourself putting lots of effort into shoving the driver into the screw to prevent this action even with better tools. A quality impact driver that will handle the extreme hammering that is needed sometimes is even more costly than a good screwdriver! When using the chisel method, the force you impart on the screw is concentrated in a localized area where it does the most good without any “fighting.” It is easy to remove the screws because so much of your effort goes into doing work, not to counter ancillary tendencies. In T = Fd, you are effectively increasing F.

There you go. All you wanted to know about getting the rotor screws out on your Honda/Acura…and more. Too much maybe.

:)

Marcus

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17 Responses to “How To Remove The Rotor Screws From Your Honda/Acura’s Brake Rotors”

  1. MrHeeltoe says:

    Through all the postings we have made in our marketing network, I am really surprised at all the comments this has spawned. (although not on the actual blog site, which I find pretty odd…).

    Most people are really supportive and like the write-up. Most of those people have interjected their input as far as how they get the screws off. All that is great! For the record, I am perfectly aware that there are a great many ways that one may remove these screws. I prefer this method because it is the only method I have used in the last 14 years that has not once necessitated getting a drill out. In the hundreds of screws I have removed and the half-a-dozen or so methods I have used, this one has NEVER FAILED ME. For an unprofessional and inexperienced DIYer, that is of utmost importance; reliability of process.

    Surprisingly, I have only had one critic saying the method was idiotic, and saying they “would actually be embarrassed for even suggesting this method.” My retort was simply that “buying $20 tool to remove screws that really should not exist and will be thrown away is idiotic.”

    Obviously there is more than one way to skin a cat. But reliability, consistency, predictability, and VALUE…all these are the traits that make a part or a process HT-SPEC!

    Marcus
    949-295-1668

  2. Ken Overby says:

    You should just use a impact kit that is made to take those screws off. It fits in the palm of your hand and when you hit it with a hammer it twists and breaks free those screws. It’s in the honda shop manuals. duu.

  3. Kenton says:

    I had to go out and buy a 5 buck chisle but at this trick works. I love the internet ;-) Thanx buddy!

  4. Edaccord08 says:

    I used to work on mostly all Japanese import’s (Mazda ,Toyota , Nissan ) and I would use this method too . I would first give the screw a good hit with hammer , hoping to shock it a bit . then do chisel to turn it , sometimes I ended up drilling if really frozen . There really no sure way , I just try easy first and work your way up, eventually it will come off .

  5. ieshoy says:

    thanks a lot changing wheel bearing assembly, and ran into these screws. Worked like a charm.

  6. helpdeskdan says:

    Thanks man, it worked for one side. The other side I had to drill out. Nice write up, thanks again.

  7. assilem says:

    You saved us. My husband almost gave up and we would have had to pay nearly $400 for a brake job. This trick absolutely works !!!!! Thank you for sharing

  8. sixpakldp says:

    Another way to do it is to use a rachet with a socket that fits a large flat head screw driver bit . . . one of the ones you get with those screw drivers that has a bunch of different bits. It works pretty decent for me.

  9. DSPGuy says:

    Worked great for me, when nothing else worked at all. Good article.
    I don’t disagree with anything said about the reasons stated why this works. But there may be one more. In addition to the the efficient use of force, I think that there would just plain be more force to begin with. A hammer hitting a chisel imparts quite a bit of force. True, for a very short period of time, but this is not a situation where a longer duration of force does more good. I can’t give you any numbers, but gut feel is that there’s considerably more force with the hammer and chisel than there is with any of the other methods, even the impact driver.

  10. Chuck Harmon says:

    I think Vettes had a rivet holding the rotor in place when new, also un-needed once the whell is bolted into place. Why not just drill it out and not replace. Would this not be even simpler?

  11. MrHeeltoe says:

    I have drilled…this method is needed for rivets, but screws are a lot harder to drill than rivets are. The screws are soft and drill relatively easy in this case, but doing it this way is so much simpler…you must try it. I don’t remove these screws any other way any more.

  12. Peter says:

    Nice technique, I used a slightly different twist (no pun intended) – I made the dimple, but wasn’t able to get the chisel into the dimple enough to twist the screw. Instead, I drilled out the dimple a little more, then used a punch tool (with a pointed end, not the flat end shown in the pictures here) at a 45 degree angle inside the small round dimple. Both screws came out no problem with this technique.

  13. Dave says:

    I will try this tonight on my wife’s odyssey. I got the back ones out with a screwdriver but stripped the front ones like butter. on my accord i tried an impact driver and broke all the bits it came with, so my buddy torched them out (took about 20 seconds with some cool popping sounds :)

    should have know better to remove those screws when i first bought the cars! i’ve asked shops to remove them when i got new tires and they wouldn’t do it

  14. Garrett says:

    The rotor screws and caliper bolts on my TL are all rusted in place pretty good, thanks to Colorado winters. I tried the impact driver, to no avail. I’ll be purchasing a breaker bar for the bolts, and trying your method on the screws this weekend.
    The pictures on this page won’t load though, are they posted anywhere else?

  15. Steve says:

    Marcus,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your trick. It worked perfectly on all four screws that hadn’t been out in about 100k mi on my wife’s ‘05 Odyssey. FYI – Toyota (at least a Camry of similar vintage) didn’t have the screws but had rotors stuck so bad they came off in pieces. For those having trouble getting the rotor off, consider a 3-jaw gear puller.

  16. MrHeeltoe says:

    The pics should be working now :) Let us know how this method worked!