Tri Wing Screwdriver

tri wing screwdriverThe 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 screw 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 is the privilege of an engineer only, since Tri-wing screwdriver sets are not common for households, but standard tool-box equipment of every electronics technician. 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. This helpful tool attaches to many Nintendo or other companies game controllers, cell phones and even Fujifilm digital cameras, Black&Decker irons, integrated batteries from Apple Inc. 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.
Every tri wing screwdriver perfectly fits the screw head as it matches triwing screwdriver tip bitthe appropriate slot. If you try to unscrew it with something else, both internal and external screw threads may be worn out or even broken because of the fragile material from which they are made of. Any damaged spiral ridge of a tri wing screw will cause difficulties when assembling the cover again. This type of fastener is actually made for that cause, so any person who tries to uncover, for instance, Nintendo Wii without the appropriate tools which is Tri-wing screwdriver in this case, and probably no experience and knowledge will surely damage it. That’s why it belongs to the category of tamper proof screwdrivers.

Tri-wing design

The 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 on lot of gadgets: 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. It may be interesting to note that tamper-resistant screw on the street lamps has a role of preventing the theft.

Tips for using Tri wing screwdriver

1. 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 tri wing screwto jump while trying to unscrew, than 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). Read more about the difference between types for more info. The photo represents triwing screw-head.
2. 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”.
3. If a bolt won’t screw in, smear it with soap or add zero rust spray.
4. 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.
5. Try not to lose 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.