How to Remove a Stubborn Nut/Bolt





Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

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!

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

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.

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    I have to ask...if you follow the steps in the instructable, one after another, going from one failed liquid or chemical to another, do you need to clean off the previous liquid/chemical/wax, before going onto the next? If so, is there one liquid/chemical that would neutralize all of the suggested? Just asking to avoid any safety issues.

    Pretty comprehensive list, but people need to consider the size and location for their situation. Percussion can work on many sizes, but how it's applied will depend on whether it's a tiny eyeglass screw or a structural steel bolt. Little taps or whack it with a monkey wrench sort of thing. Hot wax on a nut in old furniture, but not on your keyboard, lol. Useful information, trf!

    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?

    3 replies

    Use a wire brush to remove the rust flakes, then soak the nuts in vinegar. Build a dam aound the nuts with plastiscene and pour the vinegar around the nut. Leave for several days. Repeat if necessary, using the wire brush between sessions.


    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.

    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.

    and when removed, replace with stainless steel :-)

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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.

    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

    1 reply

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

    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.

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

    Hand impact driver, and hammer


    This info is very useful.

    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.

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    How many mice are required?

    How do you milk them?