If you have owned a
vehicle for a number
of years and you do
maintenance and re-
pairs on it, you have
bolts and nuts.
And usually such
bolts/nuts are not
only highly frustrate-
ing (what a pain they
can be!) but they can
make a job turn into
So what can you do to
get that rusty bolt/nut
off (and many of these
you have likely tried)?
First of all, try to plan ahead. In other words, locate the rusty (welded-on) bolts/nuts.
Then spend some time with a wire brush (sometimes a small chisel and light hammer
will help to crack away the rust) to remove as much rust surrounding the bolts/nuts
with the goal of better enabling oil to get to the threads. Good products to use include
WD-40, PB Blaster, or even plain oil (to read a review of bolt/nut removal lubricants
visit: About.com Auto Repair). Then if possible, let the lubricant soak in overnight
Sometimes, this is all that is needed for the bolts/nuts to be removed, but do not
count on it!
Next, use a hand held propane torch (this can be purchased at a
hardware store, Lowe’s or Home Depot) to heat the bolts or nuts.
However, do not use the propane touch near the gas tank, fuel
pump, fuel lines, wiring or rubber hoses, etc. When a bolt/nut is
heated it expands slightly to help break the rust’s bond. Usually
rusty bolts/nuts will be ready to be removed after they are heated
for 3-5 minutes. After the heating another spray of lubricant and
tapping the bolts/nuts with a chisel and hammer can be helpful.
And it goes without saying that after being heated, the bolts/nuts
will be extremely hot, therefore, be careful not to get burnt (gloves
can be helpful but you can still get burnt so use due care!).
After the bolts/nuts have been heated, some mechanics spray cold
water on them and the abrupt temperature change will cause
the bolts/nuts to shrink slightly and help to break the rust’s bond.
Again, even after the bolts/nuts have been sprayed with cold
water, they will still be very hot and smarting burns to the fingers
is a concern. Furthermore, after the bolts/nuts have been heated,
some mechanics have been known to take a birthday candle and place
it around the bolts/nuts allowing the wax to penetrate to the threads.
Next, a good fitting socket (a 6-point rather than a 12-point will likely
work better) or wrench is important because if the bolts/nuts becomes
rounded, the next level of heavy artillery will be needed. Sliding a
two-foot piece of pipe on the ratchet shaft will increase your leverage
to break larger bolts/nuts free. Sometimes with smaller bolts/nuts that
can easily be snapped off, working counterclockwise and then in a
clockwise direction with light force gently works them free.
What if after all this effort, the rusty (and a couple of other choice
words) bolts/nuts will still not come off? Well, the last resort is
the electric grinder. The heads of bolts can be grounded off or
nuts can be carefully slit part way but not so deep as to damage
the threads. A chisel and hammer are then used to split the nuts
and vise grips are useful to detach the bolts/nuts.
When replacing bolts/nuts be sure to use the same grade (strength)
as the originals (thus, look on the bolt’s head for the grade before
you start to grind) . Sometimes you can use stainless steel bolts/nuts
that will help to eliminate future rust headaches. Stainless steel
bolts/nuts cost more but their no rust material can be worth it.
So what is the most important part of successfully removing rusty
bolts/nuts? Preparing them to come off, being patient, and knowing
if necessary, that you have the grinder to annihilate them!
Have an auto question or comment? You can email it to me at
Kbusch3@verizon.net. Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best
for the Price…” www.DriveTheBestBook.com.