Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Have a loose screw? Here’s how to fix it

I suspect most RVers have a screw loose, and I am not just referring to our questionable mental state of white line fever traveling the country in a house on wheels. The interiors of most RVs are constructed of wood. Wood cabinets, vinyl-covered wood paneling, etc. Most also contain cabinet framing with photo-wrapped wood. Basically, it is a picture of nice-looking uniform wood grain wrapped around what is often a piece of soft, inexpensive pine.

If you have a loose screw on a cabinet hinge, the odds are it is the side of the hinge screwed into the cabinet framing. The soft grain of the pine doesn’t hold the screw as well as the hardwood the cabinet door is made from. If you have a cabinet screw loose, it typically won’t do any good to tighten it as there is no longer any solid wood under the photo wrapping for it to bite into.

What to do when you have a screw loose

  • Consult your spouse on which screw you have loose. Spouses are always keenly aware of these things.
  • Next, gather up the following: Toothpicks, wood glue, diagonal pliers, and a box knife.
  • Remove the hinge screws attaching the cabinet door to the cabinet framing. Place the cabinet door out of the way so it won’t get damaged. (Diagram 1)

    screw loose in cabinet
    Diagram 1 – Cabinet door removed
  • Apply wood glue to the tip of a toothpick and push it into the hole where you have a loose screw. (Diagram 2) Snap off the excess length if desired.

    RV cabinet door repair
    Diagram 2
  • Insert additional glue-covered toothpicks, as needed, until the hole is filled. (Diagram 3)

    Diagram 3 Installing a second toothpick
  • Let the glue dry overnight or longer.
  • Using the diagonal pliers, snip the toothpicks extending out of the hole off as close to the cabinet face as possible. (Diagram 4) If needed, use the box knife to trim off any excess toothpicks until they are flush with the face of the cabinet framing. Be extra careful not to slip and damage the photo finish.

    RV loose screw repair
    Diagram 4 – Nip off excess length so it is flush
  • Place the cabinet door back in position and reattach it by driving screws into the toothpick-filled hole(s). For added strength, you can also add a drop of glue to the tip of the screws before reinstalling. (Diagram 5)

    Diagram 5 – Reinstall
  • Finally, tell your spouse you no longer have a screw loose. Wait for the “Yeah, right!” look from your spouse.

This also works for other clips in the wall

This trick also works for those annoying little, often plastic, clips that hold the mini blinds in the down position during transit. Yep, the ones that poke you in the shoulder when you sit at your dinette or when you lean your head back on the sofa. Sooner or later, you will break one of these off, especially the plastic ones.

Mini blind clip
Plastic mini blind clip just waiting to break!

When you go to replace them, you will likely discover the manufacturer just screwed them into the thin wall paneling and didn’t provide any backing for the screw. As you tighten the screw when installing the new clip you will likely find you are unable to tighten it as there is not enough left of the paneling for the screw to grip. Now, have another screw loose to deal with? Break out the toothpicks and glue!

Author Dave Helgeson must have a screw loose as he has been around RVs his entire life. Sadly, he doesn’t know what to do with something that doesn’t have wheels underneath and a toilet inside!

Dave will be speaking at the 2023 America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, PA, September 13th – 17th. He would love to meet RVtravel.com readers that are attending. Feel free to introduce yourself after one of his seminars.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.


4.9 12 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Neal Davis (@guest_242805)
4 months ago

Thank you, Dave!

Snayte (@guest_242745)
5 months ago

A little more expensive but I have been adding threaded inserts to locations where the screws have stripped their hole. Particularly in places like the air conditioner cover that needs to be removed frequently for cleaning the filter.

Brent (@guest_242673)
5 months ago

Blind rivets and molly bolts work well for things screwed into Luan or Azdel paneling

Don (@guest_242643)
5 months ago

Another good way to plug holes is with golf tees.

James (@guest_242640)
5 months ago

A piece of a zip tie in (wood, metal, plastic etc) hole can also work before replacing screws.

Joe (@guest_242612)
5 months ago

I have used this method before however if I have the space I drill the hole a slight bit larger and put epoxy in it. Once it dries I sand it smooth and pre drill the hole for the screw.

Ray (@guest_242606)
5 months ago

Nice tidbit. I would add using a healthy dose of Loctite for metal on metal screws can help, provided the threaded surfaces are not completely gone. The fix should be allowed to cure before being put to the test.

John Lay (@guest_242602)
5 months ago

I have found that a hardwood dowel works quite well. I keep an assortment of sizes on hand. I drill a hole in the stripped screw hole slightly undersized to the dowel I am using (must not be too undersized) , then use a quality wood glue. I let it sit overnight and then cut it off flush. I drill a pilot hole for the screw. So far, I haven’t had one strip or come loose.

Kelly F (@guest_242601)
5 months ago

Does anyone have a solution for a larger hole in the wall? The seat back of my dinette is at a right angle to the wall and three years of leaning back against it has revealed that the supporting screws were only screwed into the wall paneling (not a stud)! There are now a couple of one inch holes in the wall…

Jim Johnson (@guest_242614)
5 months ago
Reply to  Kelly F

There are some options, but which is best is likely going to take someone with some experience to correctly triage the issue.

If you can get a toggle bolt in place it will straddle the hole – the biggest issue in most RVs is if the cavity is deep and wide enough for the toggle to spread its wings.

Is the hole hidden behind the dinette structure? If so, you may be able to cover the hole with an slightly larger piece of thin plywood (luan). Glue a wood plug (I suggest Gorilla Glue) to the plywood to insert into the hole. Pre-drill through the plywood and plug to hold an appropriate sized wood screw. Put the screw into the hole and remove it to pre-create the threading. Insert the plug into the hole gluing AND screwing the plywood to the wall. Reinstall the dinette seat back putting the retaining screw through the pre-drilled hole in the plug. Make sure you don’t apply excessive force to the plug or the glue will shear away from the plywood.

The patch/plug is still not as sturdy as hitting a stud, but will distribute the pressure over a much larger area of the wall.

You might be able to achieve much the same thing by attaching a metal plate to the wall. The metal is thinner, but many people don’t have the tools to fashion the plate.

VitoNam (@guest_242594)
5 months ago

Another glue to consider is CA (cyanoacrylate) glue generally known as Crazy Glue. It comes in different viscosities. The thin kind of CA will really soak into the surrounding damaged area and strengthen it. After that cures, you could use the alternatives listed in this article such as adding a toothpick, or such, to decrease the size of the hole and will really get that screw to bite and hold. Using CA will get the job done way more quickly, in comparison, than wood glue.

Cookie P (@guest_242586)
5 months ago

“Consult your spouse on which screw you have loose. Spouses are always keenly aware of these things.”

Thanks for the chuckle this morning.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.