How to Remove a Stubborn Nut/Bolt

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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

http://www.irwin.com/tools/locking-tools/the-origi...

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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    93 Discussions

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    rokkripprapp

    1 year ago

    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

    2 replies
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    rokkripprapprokkripprapp

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    jellmeisterrokkripprapp

    Reply 8 days ago

    Difficult to accurately mill most things as they are usually on the underside of a car or on a part with no convenient reference or tool access. Welding is manual and therefore more flexible

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    james.farrell1

    1 year ago

    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?

    4 replies
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    Y-Geojames.farrell1

    Reply 8 days ago

    All these fancy lubes & chemicals , we use a plastercine dam round the bolt head or nut which ever is easier then poor coca cola in the dam leave over night (the worsst case we had was over a week end ) as easy as that and no flamables/poisons/ skin irritants to deal with on clean up

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    stackerjackjames.farrell1

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

    Jack-Surrey

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    Gofishjames.farrell1

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    harounjames.farrell1

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    AlpacaSheep

    Question 2 months ago on Introduction

    I have a bolt through two pieces of wood. The head of the bolt is behind the second piece of wood up against a wall and can’t get behind these two pieces until I can undo the last nut. I used WD40 and sheer brute strength to finally loosen the nut from the bolt thread, but can’t get it off the last ½ inch of the bolt. I think I may have damaged the thread when holding the bolt with pliers so I could loosen and twist the nut off towards the end of the bolt. What could I try now? I can hold the bolt from behind the nut with the pliers, but the nut won’t budge any further. Would using the pliers have damaged the thread on the bolt and that’s why I can’t move the nut any further???

    1 answer
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    Y-GeoAlpacaSheep

    Answer 8 days ago

    Hi,
    cut the damaged thread off with a hacksaw ?

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    lmwarmoth

    9 days ago on Step 15

    If you have the time soak it in vinegar to dissolve the rust. It may take a few days, but it works!

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    Dennis R Levesque

    Question 9 days ago on Step 14

    In the last photo, you showed a carriage bolt. They're mainly used for wood. One thing I never understood, is why I can't find a metal washer with a square hole and gripping teeth to keep the bolt from spinning in the wood. They could be stamped out by the millions cheaply. Why does nobody do it? It can't be that hard.

    2 answers
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    Dennis, you don't want to put a washer on a carriage bolt because you want all of the square shoulder pressed into the hole. You want the hole as tight on the bolt as you can get it and still get the bolt through it even if you have to give it some help with a hammer. When the square shoulders get to the round hole just drive it into the wood. You should have very little trouble getting the nut tight with out spinning the bolt especially if you put some pressure on the head of the bolt with your thumb as you tighten the nut.

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    billbillt

    9 days ago on Step 14

    Great instructions!... Thanks for the heads up about the Irwin Special Vice Grip!... I had never heard of it.....

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    hctbn

    9 days ago

    When all else fails (as it often does on my Land Rover or classic mini) drilling down through the nut parallel to the bolt in two places often works. I use a cobalt drill (don't forget lubricant) and then a cold chisel to split the nut - never failed yet, but don't expect to reuse the bolt!

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    tabakma

    4 weeks ago

    This is a good article. Any suggestions for how to remove a nut from something that rotates? I have a nut I need to remove that is on attached to a pulley, but the pulley rotates. I can't put enough backward pressure on the pulley to compliment the forward pressure I'm putting on the nut.

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    taktiks

    3 months ago on Step 14

    Well done, sir. I prefer Kroil penetrating oil as it has long been the machinists go-to. In the event you do break off the bolt-flush to the surface, don't dismay too much, unless you are doing a brake job on a Lexus and the frozen one-use-only--and yes expensive--aluminum caliper aluminum bolt snaps off in the aluminum hub. What to do? Forget Helicoil, go with Time Serts. Expensive little buggers (over $100) but they work well, just have to make sure you drill in square and straight. How? I use the Big Gator drill guide.

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    CarolynL51

    6 months ago

    I was changing brake pads and found this list when I turned to the internet in desperation. Great, comprehensive list, but given the awkward space I was working in, I couldn’t get much leverage. I finally put a car jack under the wrench attached to the bolt and jacked it up, and that gave me the muscle and leverage I needed. Success! (Also, by this time there were many coats of lubricant on it.) The toughest bolt was on the other side, and there I couldn’t just jack it upwards. I finally figured out to nail a board into the floor to brace the jack and used it on its side. That jack was a life-saver in a case where the bolt in question was attached to something as solid as a car!