How to Remove a Rounded Oil Drain Plug

Every IC engine – like your car engine – needs engine oil to run against the frictional impedance emanating from its moving parts. Ultimately, understanding how to remove rounded oil drain plugs is a prerequisite to having your car run soundly. 

First, the engine oil in an oil pan can lose its lubricating power as the engine runs and will need to be replaced regularly. And yes, you cannot change your car's engine oil without removing its oil drain plug.

Secondly, cars' engines made from the late 90s lost the privilege of being built with solid steel oil pans. Car engine parts are now built with aluminum – including drain plugs.

Hence, rounded or stripped oil drain plug has become a common issue in the automobile industry. Overtightened plugs can also get stripped when you try to remove them – with the wrong tools.

Stripping makes it hard to safely unscrew a drain plug whenever you need to change your car's engine oil.

But this article explains how to get out rounded off oil drain plug for that oil change your car has been waiting for.

5 Steps to Remove Rounded Oil Drain Plug:

Having a stripped oil drain plug stand in the way of your car's overdue oil change can be frustrating.

To remove a rounded plug as fast as possible, without worsening the stripping or damaging your oil pan, these steps can be helpful:

Step 1: Get the Right Tools Handy

In a bid to know how to remove a rounded plug drain, you must also seek to understand the right tools to use.

Using a wrench or a vice grip will only worsen the stripping. When dealing with a rounded oil drain plug, the best tools to use are:

  • A bolt extractor,
  • A ratchet socket,
  • The box end of a wrench in place of a socket,
  • A hammer,
  • A collecting pan, and alternatively,
  • A chisel

Unlike a wrench or a vice, the bolt extractor will enclose the plug, ensuring that its material is not further stripped.

If you must use a wrench, then combine its box end with a bolt extractor.

Now, get your tools ready, as well as your collecting pan, because engine oil will come pouring out as soon as the plug comes off.

Step 2: Fit In the Bolt Extractor

Fit the head of the extractor through the head of the plug. If the extractor doesn't fit completely – which is possible because of the stripping – tap it lightly with a hammer.

You don't want to hit your hammer too hard because your oil pan is likely made of aluminum which can crack at the slightest impact.

Step 3: Attach Your Ratchet Socket

When the bolt extractor has fit snugly around the plug head, attach the head of a suitable ratchet socket to the extractor.

Ensure that the ratchet stays straight, as any tilting can further distort the threading of the plug.

Step 4: Screw Out the Plug

With the extractor and ratchet rightly placed, start to rotate the ratchet in an anticlockwise direction.

As soon as you notice the extractor starts to pull away from the plug, remove the ratchet and hammer the extractor back into the plug.

Attach the ratchet again, and continue to rotate it until the plug comes off.

Step 5: Final Alternative

If the stripping is so bad that the bolt extractor and the ratchet socket cannot get the plug out, here's another alternative.

Chisel out the sides of the plug to get edges that can be gripped by the extractor or a wrench box head. Fit in the wrench (or the bolt extractor), and then screw out the plug.

How to Remove Stuck Oil Drain Plug

The last mechanic who worked on your oil pan or drain plug might have applied more force than necessary while tightening your drain plug.

As a result, the next time you decide to change your oil yourself, you may find that the oil plug is stuck.

Furthermore, any impact made on the drain plug in the wrong threading direction can cause it to get stuck. Accumulated particles and dirt can also make your oil drain plug challenging to remove.

The steps below will teach you how to remove stuck oil drain plug:

Cool Down Your Engine

To remove a stuck oil drain plug, cool down your car engine by parking it in a cool place for a long time.

The reduced temperature will make the plug reduce in size so it can come off easily. Afterward, jack the car to a comfortable height and then unscrew the oil drain plug.

Lubricate the Plug

Sometimes, rust and particle buildup could be the reason your oil drain plug has refused to budge.

Spray some lubricating rust removers around your oil drain plug, allow it to sit for some minute, and then gently unscrew it.

Use a Ratchet Socket

Another way to get off a stuck oil drain plug is to use a ratchet socket with a long handle. The handle allows you enough room to exert a suitable amount of torque on the plug.

How Can a Drain Plug Get Damaged?

Getting your car's oil changed seems to be a relatively easy thing to do.

But then, each change presents a fresh opportunity for your drain plug to get damaged – especially when you or your mechanic isn't an expert.

The following activities can damage your oil drain plug.

Infrequent Engine Oil Change

With prolonged use, engine oil starts to accumulate dirt and compounds that can lodge between the threads of your drain plug.

If not removed, these particles can damage your drain plug.


The excessive force most mechanics apply to drain plugs during tightening is unnecessary. Provided the plug has a sealant, you do not need power tools to secure your drain plug in place.

Overtightening will only make it difficult to unscrew the plug the next time the oil needs to be changed. This difficulty can also lead to the stripping of the plug, hence its damage.


Cross-threading occurs when your drain plug is not screwed into the pan in an upright manner.

When you cross-thread your drain plug, you damage the threading structure of both the bolt and the pan. This damage can make the plug ineffective and difficult to remove.


Indeed, you have some questions about oil drain plugs. Take a peek at the answers to some of those questions.

1. What is an Oil Drain Plug?

An oil drain plug is a bolt located on the side or bottom of an oil pan. It covers the opening through which old engine oil is drained out of a vehicle during an oil change.

An oil drain plug also serves as a sealant to keep engine oil from leaking out of your oil pan.

2. Why Is It Important to Remove a Stripped Oil Drain Plug?

When a stripped drain plug is not changed immediately, the metal particles from the stripping can find their way into the oil.

And when metal, or any other unwanted substance, mixes with engine oil, it can diminish its lubricating power and cause fatal engine failures.

3. Why You Shouldn't Ignore a Leak from Your Drain Plug?

First of all, a leaking drain plug can admit oxygen and other unwanted substances into your oil pan. These things can mix with the oil and result in the engine's damage.

You shouldn't also ignore a leak in your drain plug because it can run your oil levels low at an unexpected time.

When your oil levels become too low, your engine can knock – and you'll be spending a fortune to get it fixed.

4. What Happens if You Over Tighten an oil Drain Plug?

If you overtighten an oil drain plug, it can lead to stripping, damaging the plug with time.

Overtightening may also be irreversible and the entire oil pan have to be changed.


In a nutshell, removing a stripped oil drain plug isn't as difficult as it sounds. It is quite obvious that a damaged drain plug can be quite costly for both your pockets and your engine.

But since you now know how to do it right, you can get it done in a jiffy without causing further damage.

Irrespective of your engine model, the steps in this guide will help also you remove stuck oil drain plugs.

And since the causes of stripping have been explained, this guide will also keep you from stripping or damaging your plugs in the future.

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