Know Your Tools: Flat Head Screwdriver

Flat head screwdriver
The common flat head screwdriver is still very useful. Steve Gorton/Getty Images

A flat head screwdriver is a screwdriver with a flat-bladed end, used to tighten or loosen screws with a linear notch in the top.

It's the most common tool on the planet, the ubiquitous flat head screwdriver. Every junk drawer has one or two in it. While it comes in many shapes, the concept is always constant. There will be some sort of handle attached to a steel shaft that is flattened at the tip.

This flat tip is perfectly sized to fit into the slot on the corresponding screw. While not the best screw design by any stretch, the flat head was the first, and as such you'll find countless things that require a flat head screwdriver to remove or install. Even though the flat head has been largely replaced in automotive applications by screw types like the Phillips head and the very advanced Torx type screw, you'll still find the need to use a flat head in car repair from time to time.

While one of the most commonly found tools, the flat head screwdriver is also one of the most abused, often substituted for any number of other tools that might not be available. While it's not always a great idea to use your flat head screwdriver as a tool for jobs other than tightening screws, sometimes it's just that. The fact is the flat head screwdriver is quite useful for more than tightening screws.

Used for light prying, scraping, nudging or holding it can be pretty versatile. You have to be careful when leaving the tool's comfort zone, however. Prying too hard can cause the end of the tool to snap off, leaving you with a fishing weight in your toolbox.There's nothing less useful than a flat head screwdriver with a broken tip.

 

There are flat head screwdrivers in many sizes, so choose the one in your tool box which most closely matches the job you need to do with it. The slots in flat head screws don't just require a wider tip as the size of the screw increases, it also needs to be thicker. Flat head screwdrivers vary in thickness proportionate to their width, which should give you excellent grip in the slot of a screw.

If you don't have a flat head (also known as a slotted tip) screwdriver in your toolbox, you need one right away! Here is a great starter screwdriver that will be very useful to you. ​