How do you use self-tapping screws for aluminum?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

Self-tapping screws, also called sheet metal screws, are very versatile. They can be used to securely fasten metals together, including aluminum. They can also be used to efficiently fasten metal to other materials, such as wood or plastic, by creating a much stronger bond than a regular nail.

Aluminum has many characteristics that make it easy to work with. It's lightweight and easy to shape. However, aluminum is also known to vibrate, and when used as building material for boats, for example, this can be a problem when the engines cause the frame of the boat to vibrate. Regular screws and nails have a tendency to come loose under vibrations, and so they are not effective fasteners for aluminum. Trilobular stainless steel self-tapping screws, on the other hand, are ideal. Self-tapping screws are like drill bits; they have a sharp tip like a cutting blade and a thread that goes all the way down the length of the screw. They are designed to keep thin metal from denting.

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To use self-tapping screws, place the screw directly on the aluminum sheet. Stabilize the screw so it doesn't tilt as it goes in and twist the screw into the metal. Let it turn until it goes all the way through, as the threads and the sharp point make their own hole. Be careful not to over-tighten the screw since the metal can be damaged or the screw can break.

The advantage of using self-tapping screws for aluminum is that they don't need pre-drilling and are easily removed without damaging the metal. They can also be reused in the same material.

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Originally Published: May 31, 2011

Aluminum Screw FAQ

What screws can I use with aluminum?
Sheet metal screws, also called self-tapping screws, are a good choice. They are used to fasten many kinds of metals together, including aluminum.
Can I use stainless steel screws with aluminum?
Despite the risk of corrosion, stainless steel screws are often recommended as an efficient fastener for aluminum panels.
Which screw is best for wood?
Steel screws are ideal for DIY projects and woodworking. They're durable, available in a large range of sizes and are inexpensive.
What metal does not react with aluminum?
Brass, with a thick-enough coating, can be used on an aluminum structure without risk of corrosion. However, since stainless steel is among the least reactive metals without a coating, they’re the best option.
How do you use aluminum self-tapping screws?
First, place the self-tapping screws directly on the aluminum sheet. The sharp edge of the screw will automatically dig a hole in the aluminum. Next, stabilize the screw so that it doesn't tilt to either side while going in. Then let the screw turn until it has gone all the way in.

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