The Tri-Wing screwdriver is a type of tool designed for special screw heads. These screwdrivers have three wings (hence the name tri wing, triwing or tri-wing on some labels) and a triangular hole centered so the tip could match a proper screw-type only.
Several manufactures use tri-wing screws for electronic devices, usually gadgets like Nintendo Wii or DS, PSP, GameCube and Game Boy, or mobile phones from Sanyo, Nokia and Panasonic.
The main purpose of this specialized socket is to prevent unauthorized access to the central electronics unit, which (according to the manufacturers) should only be accessed by qualified electricians and technicians.
People who aren’t experts, but still want to open the cover of the gadget to remove the spilled liquid or to clean the dust will certainly have difficulties while trying to remove it without tri-wing driver.
Plastic and internal components are very sensitive, any attempt to force entry or tamper can result in damaging the device.
Hardware stores will tend to have rare Tri-wing screwdrivers in stock, but fortunately, many online shops have this screwdriver available to buy for just a few dollars.
Instead of term “Triwing screwdriwer” you may find it called Y Screwdriver, Trigram Screwdriver or Triangular slotted screw driver. There’s a difference between mentioned screwdrivers:
- Trigram has tapered sides and a flat end,
- Triangular slotted is without a hole in the center
- Tri-groove is tamper resistant screwdriver too, but has wings partially convexed at the edge without connection in the center.
The tri-wing screwdriver design
The tri-wing screwdriver seems to have short shank, but there’s a simple reason for that. If the distance between the handle and the blades was longer, the force applied on the screw would be greater, not mentioning the fastener distortion.
The cause is simple: torque or moment of force is proportional to the distance between the bolt and hand. Tri-wing (just like jeweler’s screwdrivers) have shortened shanks to reduce the force and possibility of breakage.
Tightening the screws may not chip the screw heads only, but the breakable threads too.
Use the rubber grip only for loosening the screws. If you screw it too tight or apply too much pressure to plastic screw, the sharp helical ridge will deform and cause troubles when trying to unscrew.
Remember: screwdriver is made of tough steel and it multiplies the power of your hands compared to the gadget! Handle with a Tri wing screwdriver carefully because this hand-tool is generally used for very sensitive electronic devices.
The special type of tri-wing screw is the one without three “wings” united in the center of the screw hole. This form of screwdriver is named tri-groove screwdriver. The standard “tri-wing/trigram” does have slots connected to each other in the middle. Both tools are a part of every better tamper proof screwdriver set.
Recessed tri-wing screws can be found anywhere: from game controllers, consoles and mostly Nintendo Wii, to cell phones from Sanyo, Panasonic, Kyocera and Nokia, Fujifilm cameras, Black&Decker irons or some Apple wireless keyboards.
Macbook Pro has fixed battery with these screws and popular smartphone manufacturer HTC uses it on Aria model. The use of Tri-wing screws and drivers has expanded to many household appliances. So, it’s advisable to have it at hand just in case of a minor repair.
Tamper-resistant screw on the street lamps has a role of preventing the theft.
Tips for using Tri wing screwdriver
- Only tri-wing screwdriver matches the same screw head, don’t use anything else to remove the plastic cover. Using the different screwdriver may wear down the screws and permanently disable the opening. The only way to open it then is to break plastics parts. If the cause why you cannot unscrew the gadget are “wings”, which seems to jump while trying to unscrew, then you probably bought tri-groove instead of buying “tri-wing” screwdriver (or trigram as it’s sometimes called, which is not the same but can be used on both types).
- Don’t tight the screw too much since strong screwing could damage threads. Screwdriver additionally increases the torque of the hand, be careful when tightening. Keep the hand below the shank while screwing just to see the difference. That’s why tri wing driver is made “too short”.
- If a bolt won’t screw in, smear it with soap or add zero rust spray.
- Do not forget to apply the right-hand rule. We all get confused about handedness and instead of unscrewing in anti-clockwise direction, we do the opposite thing.
- Try not to loose screws! They are no bigger than a grain of rice and rare to find just like tri wing screwdriver, so it would be a good idea to put them in a box of matches or a glass to keep them all together.
Types: The difference between Tri-Wing, Tri-Groove and Trigram
Tri-wing screwdriver is often mistaken for similar types of tamper-proof screwdrivers.
- Y screwdriver and Tri-Wing are the same tool, Triangular slotted screwdriver has a small difference; it hasn’t got a hole in the center of screw-head.
- Trigram differs very slightly and it is sold under the label trigram/triwing most commonly.
- Tri-groove is a completely different type of screwdriver.
Let’s see the difference between these three mentioned security fasteners, and other similar but not the same screws and drivers which cannot be used for unscrewing Wii or Gameboy.
Some of them can be recognized at the first look since they differ by the shape of the extension head, while the other may look similar but surely won’t fit the screw perfectly as a proper tool. Find a screwdriver for your needs before shopping for it!
Tri-Wings have characteristically triangular slotted recess that matches only the appropriate bolt.
It’s shape is easy to remember since it has curved wings or flat ones on some symbols. No matter it’s shape, most tri-wings are made of stainless steel, triwing screws easily get stripped if using a screwdriver tip of the wrong shape.
Tri-wing screwdriver is specially designed to protect the valuable accessories like Nintendo Wii and GameBoy. Unboxing without Tri-Wing driver or simply said tampering will damage the product for sure, no matter how much torque you add. That’s not so important if you are dealing with a toy from fast-food, but expensive consoles don’t look very nice when you see scratches or broken plastics. The left picture represents Tri-Wing screwdriver used on the gadgets, sometimes called Y screwdriver or trigram. Do not confuse this screwdriver with Opsit, it has the exact same design but reverse threads. Unscrewing can be done by turning the screwdriver clockwise, which is the opposite of Tri-Wing and regular screwdrivers.
The edges are tapered and the ends are flat, which is not the case for Tri-Wing. Trigram screwdrivers are available in sets of 2, 5 or up to 10 pieces, or as unique bit mounted on a proper socket. Trigram is used for Gameboy, NDS, NDSL and Wii under the name triwing/trigram screwdriver.
The wings aren’t joined in the middle. Tri-groove usually refers to the two types of screwdrivers: the regular, without connection between the radial slots and Australian, “holt-head” version. The slots on the screw-head are not centered to make handling better. Both bit tip and screw head can be found on the market. The nut connectors are not uncommon for Tri-groove security screw drives.
Other Tamper-proof Screwdrivers
Tri-Arc screwdrivers have three arches. They obviously vary from tri-wing, so it’s hard to go wrong.
Torx 3-Lobed screwdrivers are sometimes used in Europe for tamper-proof screws and they are very rare for USA.
TP3 have triangular screw shape which can be replaced with 6-side Torx, in case the size matches.
Every mentioned screwdriver is a registered trademark of TamperProof or Phillips Screw Company.
Disassembling tri-wing devices
The tri-wing tip is magnetized to make handling with a screwdriver easier.
Screws are very tiny, about 3mm in size, so holding them with one hand while screwing with other is impossible.
Once you have matched the screwhead, setting the triwing screw into its place is simple. It won’t fall easily unless we want to remove it from the tip of a screwdriver.
Note: both tri-wing and cross screwdriver were used to take apart a gadget, make sure you get each one needed for the product you own before starting disassembly. Inform yourself about required screwdriver type, confusion among tri-wing, tri-groove, Y-screwdriver, trigram, is common even for experts. Buying a different tool won’t match the bolt.
How to unscrew Nintendo Wii
Follow these steps:
- Remove the plastic cover on the side of Nintendo Wii and pull the caps off to reveal the screws.
- Take them off using flat-tip screwdriver. See tutorial for Wii disassembly to follow this article step by step guide.
- Remember that each sticker and rubber foot hides one screw: tri wing/trigram or Phillips. Each one should be taken apart in order to fully diassemble Wii.
- Try to match the proper screwdriver size if possible, the type is obvious if it’s not an appropriate. Improper type of screwdriver may cause the damage to the screw head and then it is impossible to strip off the screws.
- Those on the back near a barcode label will require tri wing screwdriver to continue disassembly.
- The side panel should be unscrewed using Phillips head screwdriver or cross screwdriver instead, if fits into the recess.
- The black plastic cover could be removed now. It hides few more tri wing screws waiting to be loosened. Note that disassembly cannot be done without tri wing screwdriver or its alternative. Take apart the remaining components of Nintendo Wii as we did with the previous.
- Watch out for the white caps covering the leftover screws. A slot screwdriver is an excellent choice when removing the rubber foot off- the fastest way to uncover and less risk for scratching Wii.
- Now we are ready for removing the front panel from Nintendo Wii. You won’t need triwing/trigram anymore. Take it off slowly because the wires are still attached to the connector. Remember to be gentle when unplugging electronic components, thin wires can be accidentally detached and cause further problems.
- Now, only the side cover has remainded. Pull it off, with a help of a flat-head screwdriver if needed, and unscrew the last four on the metal bracket/heatsink. Remove CD driver and remember to keep the screws on known place while repairing/modifying Nintendo Wii.
Unscrewing the security screws on PSP
- Open the battery cover, remove the black sticker and unscrew fasteners that you find under it.
- To disassemble, you will need Phillips or cross screwdriver and tri-wing/trigram.
- Remove bottom and side screws using tri wing screwdriver to open PSP. The front panel that covers LCD screen has a sealed connector for the control pad. The joystick won’t function without it , try to put it on the right place when assembling the console.
- You are now able to put a custom plastic cover on PSP. Evolve PSP Slim, Chrome, Crystal Clear screen theme- pick the one among many beautifully designed covers!
A popular smartphone manufacturer these days, HTC corporation, has also protected their devices from tampering. If you remove the rubber caps in all four corners of HTC Aria, you will see tri-wing screw bits. The best way to do it is to use slotted screwdriver and slowly pull them off. Loosen tri-wing screws with correct screwdriver.
The first deficiency of tri-wing screwdriver seems to be the size of the item since it is 4 to 5 inches long. The small handle doesn’t look very handy, but surely has it’s very own purpose. In case screwdriver was made larger, the hand would create more moment of force through the shank and possibly damage the precious screw head.
It’s not unusual for tri-wing screwdriver’s blades to strip off after unscrewing a dozens of screws. Constant bit wasting is the reason why you should buy a high-quality steel screwdriver or even a set of screwdrivers.
The option to buy tri wing screwdriver as a set instead of just one screwdriver is better.
Screwing without unscrewing?
The tri-wing screwdriver may sometimes rotate without unscrewing.
If this happens, carefully add more pressure when tip fits and slowly turn it. Remember that the screwdriver has a magnetic tip in order to make screwing easier and keep the small screws in place. If the tri-wings have become worn and difficult to remove, the last thing you can do is to break the plastics cover.