Introduction: How to Remove a Stubborn Nut/Bolt

Picture of How to Remove a Stubborn Nut/Bolt

There are MANY ways to remove stuck and stubborn nuts/bolts, here are some of the ways that I've found work best.

These methods contain both simple options, and some that use luxurious tools such as an impact gun or welder. Use caution, as some of the methods described can cause damage to your parts and might injure you if you do not take proper safety precaution (read: don’t be stupid).

Let’s begin!

Step 1: Use Some Muscle

Picture of Use Some Muscle

Try a 6-point wrench or socket on your seized nut/bolt. Start by rocking the bolt by tightening then loosing, this may be all you need to break through the rust. Try and avoid 12-point wrenches and sockets as they likely to slip and strip the bolt head.

Another great tool I have found that is made by Irwin Tools is there Original Locking Wrench. Found here

This tool has been a life saver for me! It has removed the worst brake bleeder screws I have seen! It works on rounded fasteners too. This beast can be tightened so much, that it will WARP the nut! These have been in my box now and will not be leaving any time soon! They have a parrot beak shaped jaw allowing 3 sides of contact without marring up the corners of a hex fastener! Neat, Isn't it??

Step 2: Clean It Up

Picture of Clean It Up

If using some muscle on the bolt does not allow it to budge don’t be discouraged, as there's a few more ways to get that bolt free.

Take a wire brush and clean the bolt of loose rust and dirt. We will then use some PB Blaster or similar PENETRATING OIL (I can vouch for its effectiveness). Apply oil to the bolt and threads, covering it completely, then give it some time to work; I prefer to spray it every hour for 2 hours. It may work quicker or longer then that stated time, that is my preference. I’m impatient.

Now let’s try out the 6-point socket/wrench again, you may find that it now loosens easier but it may still bind. Again, rock it in and out to break that binding force.

Still stuck?

Step 3: Leverage

Picture of Leverage

Our next step is to use leverage to remove that stubborn bolt. Beware, rusted bolts and cheaper tools could possibly break and really screw you over. The best way to get some leverage is by using what is called a Breaker Bar, a long handled socket wrench without a ratchet mechanism. The longer lever will allow you to exert more force by being able to lean into it AND have excellent leverage, this will multiply your strength on the bolt. A lot of times, this will work for you.

Another way to get leverage is to use your wrench or socket wrench and add a pipe over the handle as an extension. However, the wrong tool for the job could hurt you. I suggest you do it right and buy a breaker bar.

Beware, at this point if your bolt is beginning to feel "soft" it may be twisting and about to break.

Step 4: Heat 'er Up

Picture of Heat 'er Up

At this point, the bolt may still not budge. I bet your getting frustrated, Right? Don’t fear, there’s still plenty more things to try!

Our next step is to use a torch to heat the bolt up. The idea is to have one side of our bolt expand from the heat and break the rust. This can be easily done with a small propane torch. Be careful, this method WILL ruin the heat treatment on stronger bolts.

Heat it up as hot as you can get it without melting the bolt. Remove the heat and let cool or pour warm water on the bolt to speed up cooling. Once it is cool, try out the breaker bar again. With any luck, The heat has broken the rust seal on the bolt allowing it to turn.

This is not a good idea around flammables or rubber gaskets/bushings.

Step 5: Be Smooth

Picture of Be Smooth

Since we have the propane torch out, we can also add candle wax to the stuck bolt threads. Apply a paraffin candle to the cool side of the nut, this will allow the paraffin (a lubricating wax) to be drawn toward the heat through the threads allowing you to unscrew the nut hopefully.

Step 6: Home Chemistry

Picture of Home Chemistry

If that has failed, our last attempt to do this without harming the nut and bolt is to treat it with another penetrating agent one last time. However, this time we will mix up our own.

Try a 50/50 Mix of Automatic Transmission Fluid with Acetone; it works exceptionally well. Treat several time over an hour and try to loosen again with the breaker bar.

Any luck? Time to do this the hard way!

Step 7: Drill a New Hole

Picture of Drill a New Hole

If you have been unable to free the bolt by now, we'll have to take drastic measures.

If we are working with a bolt, We will have to drill out our bolt and retap the threads for a new bolt. This involves picking a drill bit the size of the hole, boring straight in and removing the threads of the bolt. Then, you will need to screw in a tapping tool to recreate our threads. If you need the exact size hole, bore the bolt out oversized and buy a heli coil. This threads into a tapped hole with an inner diameter for the correct bolt you would like.

Fortunately, a nut is much easier to remove.

Step 8: Split a Nut

Picture of Split a Nut

If you have good access to the bolt another option could be to use a nut splitter. These inexpensive gadgets are found at most at most auto parts stores - I paid $10 for mine.

A nut splitter is slipped over the seized nut, then a screw on the side of the splitter is tightened which forced a wedge into the side of the nut. Keep cranking the nut splitter screw until the nut makes an audible pop and you get through the nut. Back off the nut splitter screw and clean the bolt of the split nut. Try adding more penetrating oil to the newly exposed bolt threads, then use one of the other methods described above to remove the bolt. With the nut removed, the bolt should be much easier to remove.

Unfortunately, this method destroys the nut and every once in a while the bolt too depending on its condition.

Step 9: Be Abrasive

Picture of Be Abrasive

Our last step if the nut splitter doesn’t work (or appeal to your stubborn bolt scenario) is use an angle grinder to cut the head off the bolt. Simply grind the nut and bolt until the nut no longer exists and pull the bolt right out.

This works great just be very careful as angle grinders can be a dangerous tool, they spin exceptionally fast (8000+ RPM) and have no anti kick mechanism. If your are not careful, the grinding disc may shatter and fly apart in all directions. The grinding also produces a lot of heat and sparks. BE CAREFUL!

Step 10: Bolt Extractor

Picture of Bolt Extractor

Oops! You just broke off the head of the bolt you were trying to extract, leaving you with a stuck bolt and no way to remove it. Luckily there's one last way before drilling and retapping.

Go to an auto parts store and look for a Bolt Extractor, it’s a nifty tool that screws in the same direction as the bolt unscrews and allows you to drill into stuck bolt and keep turning it tighter and tighter until the bolt comes free and out. My bolt extractor kit came with a reverse-threaded drill bit, allowing you to drill into the bolt and then back the bolt out using the bolt extractor. It's a GREAT TOOL and will save a lot of headaches

Step 11: Feel the Vibes!

Picture of Feel the Vibes!

This a relatively new method I have learned from a friend of mine! I wanted to add this to the list. A great way to remove a stubborn bolt is to "shock" it loose. When I say shock it loose, I mean hammer it! To be more precise, an Air Hammer. Using an air hammer on low pressure will make a nice vibrating but strong tool enough to loosen rust sometimes. Believe me, It works. If you tune the air pressure correctly, It will have a distinct hum. On the other end of this spectrum, if the first doesnt work, is to use a blunt or pointed tip on the head of a bolt with full PSI to the tool. This rapidly hammers it breaking the rust up mechanically. Even greater when penetrating oil has been applied. I have found this works very, very well. To my recent discovery, There is actually a brake bleeder tool made by Phoenix Systems called a Bleeder Buster. It works on the basis of a hammer action while putting rotational force on the stubborn bolt! I got a set from them, and I can confirm that it works very well!

Step 12: Dont Go Nuts!

Picture of Dont Go Nuts!

Another option for removing a rusty and stripped bolt? You can always repair the hex portion of the faster! How? Its simple! A great way to do this is to add a new nut to the old bolt head! A great way to do this, is to use a wire brush to clean the head of the bolt. Pretty clean is acceptable. From here, An appropriate sized nut can be MIG/Wire Feed welded on top of the bolt to provide a new gripping surface for the wrench onto the bolt! Nifty eh? Well, Guess what! This heating to cherry read while welding is also a great heat shock to the corrosion holding the fastener on! This makes it easier to remove!

Step 13: Brace for Impact!

Picture of Brace for Impact!

One last tool I use often in my own work, Which is a life saver if you have it, Is an impact gun! Be it battery, corded, or an air impact tool! Heck, Even manual impacts work! These tools focus on a power and fast rotational hammering action to shock and loosen the bolt in one motion! They are much less likely to round off a bolt then using a breaker bar! However, They tend to occasionally snap rusty bolts off unfortunately. Use with care, Especially if you have a powerful one! There is not much to them, Simply put them on a rusty nut and depress the trigger and let the tool hammer away!

Step 14: Thanks for Reading

Picture of Thanks for Reading

These are all methods I’ve used personally and have found work for me, I hope this has helped make the frustration and difficulty of stuck nuts and bolts a thing of the past for you.

I look forward to seeing comments here on other ways you have found that works too! I'd love to add some more ways if you have any of your own.

Step 15:


james.farrell1 (author)2017-09-13

I have a Starline Pool Motor which has a front cover plate secured in position by 3 hexagonal bolts. One unscrews with ease with a hexagonal bolt. The other two are rusted in and will not undo. I have been quoted £230 to removes these and to replace. I received this news with a sense of disbelief. Any suggestions gratefully recieved - Surrey based?

Gofish (author)james.farrell12017-11-23

Heat bolt heads red hot with a torch, rap with a hammer and undo. Occasionally dropkicks use the wrong type of Loctite on bolts. If rusted in heat, and candle wax. May take a few goes, sometimes over days. Patience & time does pay.

haroun (author)james.farrell12017-11-23

WD-40 or the Surrey vicinity equivalent applied to a bit of cloth or cotton sitting on the bolt head/case seam 2x a day for a few days, tap the bolt heads with a hammer & drift pin when you apply the penetrating oil. Time will allow the lubricant to work into the threads & allow for them to be loosened. If you have to you can pin punch the center of the bolt head & drill through the center with a small drill, then progressively larger drills till you get close to the thread size & either break the rest of it out or it will come free & spin out.

Then reassemble with a huge wad of plumbers silicone grease.

CharlesO57 (author)2017-11-23

I have found that warm oil seems to penetrate quicker than any of the spray cans,while I'm here I was told to try cold tea over battery terminals to take away the "fur" corrosion on them make a normal pot of tea and keep some spare to clean the terminals.

Gofish (author)CharlesO572017-11-23

Hot water,scrub,rinse and coat post before and after terminals fitted with Petroleum jelly,(*Vasoline).

Gofish (author)2017-11-23

Nut breaker if applicable. Good article. Heat and candle wax is one of the best as Paraffin candle wax penetrates rust when heated and also lubricates . Homemade penetrating oil. I remember when Acetone entered the formula in the Eighties previously it had been 50/50 ATF & Kerosene. The problem with Acetone is that it evaporates very rapidly. Kerosene by itself is a great penetrant,(used to be called No.1 Diesel),adding 10-20% Isopropyl Alcohol the the above mixture will speed up penetration but must be kept in a closed container.

I liked that you made the point of 'rocking' a stiff fastener back and forth is a good idea, so many people try to force something to move too far beyond the 'sticking point' instead of gently working it loose.

rokkripprapp (author)2017-11-23

Purely from abstract logic, instead of welding an additional hexagon onto a bolt, what about milling the bolt head a size or two smaller with precise points and edges? Bigger is generally better for transmitting torque through a bol

(Grrr, hit send prematurely.) . . . through a bolt, but a tight fit prevents slippage.

cdavenport (author)2017-11-23

I believe you got 'em all! I've also cut them off with a torch, but that is always a dicey thing to do if the surrounding machinery is vulnerable.

perec3 (author)2017-11-23

Fantastic collection of tips! About must-have in every DIYer garage!

aza993a. (author)2017-08-12

Hand impact driver, and hammer

BjN3 (author)2017-07-12

This info is very useful.

kai.h (author)2017-07-08

I've recently needed to remove a bolt that had sheared off inside a recessed area - I tried the bolt extractors that you have pictured (which I've successfully used in the past) but they couldn't get enough grip to back it out (thanks to whoever thought some locktite would be the solution last time they put it back together). A mechanic mate saw the strife we were in and had a different set of extractors that worked amazingly well. They looked more like torx driver bits (and made from super hardened tool steel). The idea is you drill a hole that's a bit too small for them to fit and then hammer them in. This gives you plenty of purchase to then back out the broken bolt.

Paulo Rogerio (author)2017-07-04

Dear trf, sometimes I use a very simple solution that almost always works out. I use a piece of vinegar (any kind) with a part of baking soda. Either I leave it behind or pinch it to the desired part. I leave it for a few hours and try using a key. A mechanic, my friend, said that brake fluid releases anything. Well, the way is to try. Thank you and good luck.

the best thing I found is called Mouse Milk. used on jet engines to loosen heat sized bolts and nuts. squirting a little on it and let is sit gor about 10 minutes, will come fight off.

BernardM36 (author)sgriffith622017-07-05

How many mice are required?

How do you milk them?

beswickat (author)2017-07-04

I broke some head bolts on my engine and got a professional to remove them - and watched closely! He started by filling the hole with penetrating oil and then got a air hammer onto the bolt and kept hitting it till a couple of lots of oil had flowed into the bolt hole. He had a selection of hammer bits (e.g. eBay - Air Hammer Bit Set Impact Tool) that had been turned down to suitable sizes. Tough steel like those bits will turn like butter with carbide tools. At this stage, the top of the bolt has been flattened and will take the drill better. He also had a set of sleeves that fitted into the bolt hole to hold the drill bit central while drilling the hole for the easy out.

Buy the BEST QUALITY easy out that you can get hold of.

beswickat (author)2017-07-04

A trick with heat - differential expansion. At red heat, steel becomes plastic, i.e. will flow inside a container. OK, think of the nut as the container. Heat the bolt and nut to red heat and both are plastic like putty, then squirt the nut only with water. The nut only will cool and shrink a little and will cool below the plastic temperature i.e. won't flow, the red hot bolt can still - and will - flow within the cooler nut. When the bolt cools to plastic temperature, it is still tight but continued cooling will then pull the bolt away from the cooler nut until they are both cool. Result - the bolt is now a smaller diameter :-) and will undo when cool.

This technique is also great for loosening tight pliers, heat the pin only of the pliers to red heat, let it cool and the pliers are as loose as you could want.

lbrewer42 (author)2017-07-04

I have some older wrenches similar to this design:

I cannot find mine online anywhere.

Either the nut come off, or the tremendous amount of torque needed to break the tool will be reached and the tool breaks. I have used 3 feet of pipe on the end of the tool as leverage to remove stubborn nuts.

My wrenches were were a couple dollars each. I have used them extensively and they have never failed me. I got them at local tent-tool sales that used to travel around and set up in parking lots years ago.

Sears made a copy years ago that were useless. The Craftsman models were made of metal plates bonded together. The cheap Chinese tools I got are one solid piece. I only ever broke one of mine - thankfully I had bought extras and have them in three sizes.

bpark1000 (author)2017-07-04

Hydrochloric acid will dissolve the rust. Apply dropwise and keep wet for an hour.

techcon (author)2017-07-04

Back in my dirt track racing days, we used Ether to loose exhaust manifold bolts, they are the worst, it dissolves rust easily, used to get it at the drugstore but not now, anything good has been taken off the market, but engine starter is nothing but pure ether so it is still available.

OmarJ3 (author)2017-07-04

Great advice, including the appropriate safety precautions. A friend of mine got extremely frustrated with the stuck brake bleeder, to the point of just living with soft pedal. The parts are relatively delicate and awkward to work on. Alternative solution is to destruct, remove and replace.

The Lightning Stalker (author)2013-07-18

The Oops! happens when the bolt extractor breaks off in the bolt and you now have a piece of hardened steel bolt extractor to drill through.

It is 4 years later, but my first time at this site. For the broken ease-out, it is tedious, but if the bolt is large enough, drill a circle of small holes around the ease-out. Then use a chisel to break out the core inside that circle. Years ago I bought an Allis-Chalmers tractor very cheap because the owner had broken ease-outs in two of the bolts mounting the front wheels to the engine. It took the better part of a day, but it worked (after I bought a dozen tiny drill bits).

that is extremely unfortunate :c

bbfree (author)2017-01-17

Thanks. I am a woman with no training in these matters. I tried a wrench and knew it was going to strip the bolt..I came here and found the right tool and project accomplished with no problem

AvsjeA (author)2016-09-15

A lot of great information! Thanks!

russ_hensel (author)2016-09-01

Just a note to let you know I have added this to the collection: Difficult Dis-assembly: Taking Things Apart for Repair


There are a lot of things that are hard to take apart and lot of methods.

haydee.hidalgo.98 (author)2016-07-15

Happened to me today. I bought a wider seat for my mountain bike and the bolts were impossible to budge. I read through the comments and only had WD-40 on hand so I gave it a try. I sprayed both sides where each bolt/nut was and waiting a minute (maybe) and when I tried again, it budged and I was able to remove it!!! It was over 90 degrees today and humid so the 5 minutes that I spent trying to do this before reading this post was very frustrating and exhausting. Thank you all for your expert advice!

VincentV37 (author)2016-07-03

A novel Approach.....Like the Engraver, Use a Spent Blade, attach it to a Multi-occillating Tool, then Squirt, Apply to Bolt Head Perpendicularly, then Run it ! Some Force is Required to Keep Contact with Bolt, but does WORK ! TOO ! 24,000 Cycles per second can't be all that Bad ! Get Inventive add Heat.....wear Gloves ! VJVMD

VincentV37 (author)VincentV372016-07-03

Then Try to Wrench it..........I Love that tool, is like 15 Bucks at Hfreight !

rogperf (author)2016-04-26

How about a plasma cutter or cutting torch?

buteman (author)2016-04-12

That's right, and it's free flowing and bubbles up when you pour it on so that works in a slightly different way to the others.

buteman (author)2016-04-11

Another thing you might try is pouring Coca Cola on the threads allowing it to run into the area where the nut is. It might easily dissolve the rust.

Czarcharles (author)2016-03-30

Oil of wintergreen makes a good rust buster. Apply it it with a syringe and let it sit a couple of hours. You may need to apply it a couple times, maybe every half hour and try it in two hours. Also lightly tapping the wrench with a hammer. Jut tap tap tap. Avoid the temptation to hit hard.

RogerP15 (author)2015-11-27

Only other one I could think of that's commonly recommended is beating it with a sledge hammer [i.e. with a socket on it] to loosen up the threads :)

RogerP15 (author)RogerP152015-11-30

Oops that's supposed to be hitting the end of your wrench (or breaker bar) with a hammer. Also founds on the interwebs: a pipe wrench is the ultimate stuck-bolt remover. if you can get one on there, the more force you put on the lever, the tighter the grip gets. with a pipe wrench, the fastener will fail long before the wrenches grip does.

you will completely mangle the faces of the fastener, though.

RogerP15 (author)RogerP152015-12-03

Oops again, looks like you *can* gently tap on the socket (that's on the bolt) with a hammer, may help.

RogerP15 (author)2015-11-30

Another option: dry ice (apparently quite effective, viz: )

RogerP15 (author)RogerP152015-12-01

CRC Freeze off is apparently similar to dry ice but a bit less effective (probably want to prop the dry ice while you hold it and use gloves LOL)

RonQ2 (author)2015-11-26

phillips heads give a problem by gouging when trying to apply torque. Can reform the slot, by good hammer blow on the head, then insert phillips tip and hammer blow on the back of the tip; reinserts/reshapes the slot. Also the vibration enlarges the thread and loosens .....

Bobby T (author)2015-10-19

15 steps. Before opening this, I could only think of 4.. You really know your nuts man.

trf (author)2015-08-30

Thank you for all the great comments and suggestions everybody! I see a lot of great ideas in the comments and find them very informational! I'm glad to see so many different, new, and effective methods that have worked for you all!

Toxictom (author)2015-08-26

Another really good tool for removing rusted bolt/nuts is an air chisel. Just chisel the head or nut off. Works a lot quicker than many of the methods mentioned.

Hyginkz (author)2015-08-26

Sometimes ice works where heat does not. Add some salt to lower the melting temp.

Hyginkz (author)Hyginkz2015-08-26

I should say lower the freezing temp of the water, either way get the parts cold.

HobbyJim (author)2015-08-25

Great tips. Thanks. When I heat nuts and bolts, I go extreme and touch the bolt with an ice cube. This quickly contracts the bolt to loosen it from the nut.

Also, Lee Valley sells a great product called Evapo-Rust the dissolves all rust but it's not corrosive. Just drop the bolt into it and wait until the rust is gone.

Kathys Smokin (author)2015-08-25

Fantastic accumulation of information, I'll keep it in the back of my head for the next stuck bolt. Thank you, trf!

newfiebackflip (author)2015-08-25

another great one that we use at work a lot is Tabasco sauce

JulianAzz (author)2015-08-25

very helpful,would adding soup to it help?

About This Instructable




More by trf:How to Remove a Stubborn Nut/BoltHow To Make A Bladesmiths Forge
Add instructable to: