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Busted Bolt Removal

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Tags: Tech, Bolts

One of the worst things to deal with when you’re working on your project is a bolt that won’t come out. There are however a few tricks that can help. The first is always a good idea if you’re dealing with rusty or corroded bolts. A good quality penetrating lubricant like WD-40 or PB Blaster will do wonders.

It will be most effective if you give it some time to really soak in. So, if you’re planning to start a project, just go out a day or two ahead of time and spray down any bolts you think might give you troubles. When you are ready to remove the bolts it is always best to try and use a 6 point socket or wrench whenever possible. Only use the open end of a wrench if you absolutely have to. This will reduce the chance of stripping the bolt head. An impact wrench can really help to break bolts loose. I recommend Titan Tools 22160 24V Cordless Impact Wrench, P/N 72822160 from Speedway, or Longacre 68604 Cordless 24 Volt Pit Gun, P/N 47568604.

If you’ve let the penetrating oil soak in and the bolt still won’t budge, the next trick is to apply some heat to the bolt. Be sure there is nothing flammable near the bolt though. If you are working under the car, make sure that any carpeting or interior is pulled away from the back side to avoid a fire. Once everything flammable is out of the way, keep your fire extinguisher handy, and apply heat to the bolt. An oxy-acetylene torch works very well, but a small propane torch will suffice. Often times the heat will help break the bolt loose.

Another trick that can help if the bolt is in a location where excessive heat is not an option is to warm the bolt and melt raw bees wax into the threads. The wax will seep into the threads and help lubricate them. This is an old timer trick, but can work wonders.

Sometimes even if you do everything right, the bolt still strips or breaks.

One of my favorite tricks, which works well on broken or stripped bolts, is to weld a nut to the head of the bolt (or the end of the shank, if the head is busted off). I will typically use a nut that is one or two sizes larger than the bolt. Just place the nut on the stripped head or busted shank and weld on the inside of the nut.

This not only gives you something to grab with a wrench or socket, but is also heats up the bolt to help break it loose.

This trick also works very well on busted studs, or screws with stripped out Phillip’s or Torx drives. (Those stubborn door striker screws are a piece of cake to get out with this method.)

One tool that should absolutely be in everybody’s tool box is screw extractor set, like Titan Tools 16013 Screw Extractor/Left Hand Drill Bit Set, Speedway P/N 72816013. As a last resort, sometimes it will be necessary to drill the bolt out. If this is the case, start by grinding the exposed portion of the bolt nice and flat. Then, use a center punch directly in the center of the bolt. I recommend using left handed drill bits to drill the center of the bolt out. Be sure to keep the drill centered and aligned with the bolt. The left handed drill bit help to try and screw the bolt out as it is drilling. Often times the bolt will come right out, just by drilling into it. If you drill through the bolt and it still hasn’t come out, select the appropriate sized extractor and hammer it into the hole (a few solid taps it all that is needed). Use a wrench to loosen the extractor and with any luck, the bolt will come out with it.

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