Quick Tips for Removing Damaged Bolts, Nuts & Screws
There are countless suggestions out there for the nightmare that is removing seized, damaged or broken nuts, bolts and screws. From dripping paraffin candles to mixing potions of automatic transmission fluid and acetone, you’ll find plenty of unconventional remedies online.
We’ll stick to some tried and true methods. Here are several ways to deal with damaged, seized or broken mechanical fasteners.
Apply Penetrating Oil
Clean off corrosion and dirt from the mechanical fastener with a wire brush. Next, apply penetrating lube, which wicks deep into the threads, acts as a solvent to break down corrosion and provides lubrication to ease the fastener’s removal. Leave the penetrating oil in for at least a few hours, or even a whole day. Next, hit the nut, bolt or screw squarely on the head with a hammer to shock and break it free.
Use Impact Tools
Impact drivers are the ideal tool for removing seized screws and smaller nuts. Some impact drivers also serve as a bolt/screw extractor. Drill a hole into a sheared bolt or screw and use the extractor to remove it. An impact wrench provides a strong rotational force combined with sharp jolts to break a fastener free. Only use an impact wrench on larger fasteners where there’s less chance of shearing.
Heat Up the Fastener
Use a butane torch to heat the nut, bolt or screw, then cool it off with water. The expansion and contraction caused by heat can break seized fasteners free.
Use Cutting Tools
Nuts: Put a hacksaw against the side of the thread and cut down through the nut to break it open. Or use a hacksaw to cut a flat edge on either side of a rounded nut, then grip the flat sides with an adjustable wrench to rotate and remove the nut.
Bolts: Cut a groove across the top of a rounded bolt head and use a screwdriver to remove the bolt. Or cut a flat edge on either side of a rounded bolt head, then grip it with an adjustable wrench and rotate and remove it.
Screws: Cut a groove across the screwhead and use a flathead screwdriver to remove the screw.
Weld on a Nut
Weld a new nut to a rounded nut, then use a socket on the new nut to remove the new/old nut combination. Likewise, you can weld a nut to a rounded bolt head and use a socket to remove the nut/bolt head combination.
Grind the Fastener
Use an angle grinder to grind away a nut (and the portion of the bolt within it) completely. Or use an angle grinder to grind off the bolt or screw head and push out the remaining shaft.
Preventing Nuts, Bolts and Screws From Seizing or Breaking
To prevent a nut, bolt or screw from seizing or breaking, always torque the fasteners to the correct specifications with a good torque wrench. Never overtighten a bolt, nut or screw. Apply anti-seize lubricant or threadlocker to bolt and screw threads. However, check your vehicle’s service manual first to see whether using anti-seize lube or threadlocker is recommended.