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I've got a failed rear brake lamp (right side) on my Ford Focus (2002, 5dr Hatchback UK). I went to change the bulb and discovered that the (probably Phillips) screw holding the rear lamp cluster is rusted and stripped -- the screwdriver doesn't grip the head.

Two related questions:

  1. How do I remove the screw? I've looked at (e.g.) wikihow, which gives good tips in general, but I'm wondering if there's anything specific to this particular problem. For example: there's no way I'm going to be able to get a Dremel in there to cut the screw head.
  2. How do I find a suitable replacement for the screw, once I've removed it? I've looked on various Ford parts websites, but I can't find anything relevant.
  • Hi Roger, what sort of head pattern does the screw have? E.g. is it a phillips, or a torx, or something else? – BadAtMaths Jan 8 '17 at 17:05
  • It ought to be a Phillips, according to the manual, and comparing it with the less-rusted screw on the other light cluster. – Roger Lipscombe Jan 8 '17 at 17:08
  • If there is any remnants of the head you might be able to try a slightly bigger screwdriver. One trick that has worked for me in the past is using an elastic band between the screw driver and the screw, although I suspect this won't work particularly well if the screw is screwed in tight. – BadAtMaths Jan 8 '17 at 17:13
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You may be able to extract the screw by "drilling" it out with a left-handed drill bit running in reverse (counter clockwise). If you're in the US you can get a relatively inexpensive set from Harbor Freight. This YouTube video shows the technique.

The original recess for the driver will give you a good center for the bit. Before starting I'd spend some time trying to saturate the threads with a good penetrating oil – Kroil or PB Blaster or the like.

It might be worth pulling the other tail light to see how the screws connect to the body. That will give you an idea of how much leeway you have to "improvise" – for example if the screw goes into a plastic anchor which can be replaced you may find that the easiest solution is to use a big enough bit that it will completely remove the head of the screw, then you can pull out the light and either extract the stub of the screw with vice grips or replace the anchor.

You can probably get the screw from a Ford dealer, but it may be included in a large assembly – perhaps the lamp. To give more specific advice it would help to see one of the screws that you're able to remove.

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First, the individual screws (and vinyl fixings) are available from the parts desk at the Ford dealership. The newer ones are Torx, rather than Philips. It cost me £5 or so for two sets.

Next, this doesn't answer my original question of how to remove/replace the screw, but it does answer the actual question: how to change the light bulb when a stripped screw can't be removed.

The instructions for changing a bulb are:

  1. remove the screw (from outside).
  2. remove a (vinyl) wing nut (accessible inside the car).

Skip step 1.

If you remove only the nut, there's enough play in the rear light cluster that you can get at the bulb holder and replace the bulb.

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