Join the Car Talk Community!

Discussion Rules

Welcome to the Car Talk Community!

Want to ask a question or join the discussion? Great! Join now.

Sign In Register

Tricks for removing stuck bolts and nuts

I'm just a Saturday mechanic with a Sears Craftman ratchet set and a few screwdrivers is about all I have, but I've come across plenty of stuck bolts and nuts and other parts rusted stuck. One of the most memorable was a front brake disc. The disc in normal operation is held to the wheel by the tire and the wheel lugs , so the disk is just held on to the backing plate by a phillips screw so it doesn't drop off when you take the tire off when doing service. Well, I removed the brake caliper then the phillips screw but the disc wouldn't budge. And it wouldn't come off no matter what I did. I applied heat. Lot's of heat. It wouldn't budge. I crawled under the car wearing short pants -- this part is important to the story! -- anyway I'm laying on my back pounding my fist on the disc from the underside of the car to knock it off, no go, so I take a break for a minute to catch my breath, just laying there wheezing. I guess in the meantime the heat got distributed to where it was supposed to go in the first place, and all of a sudden without me doing anything and with no warming it just fell off. And landed on my bare leg. Hotter than hades! Ouch! lol .. well, it wasn't funny then, but it's funny now.

Anyway, what are your secrets to remove stuck parts? Here's mine

* Penetrating oil and time
* Heat
* Nut splitter (a small gadget to split open stuck on nuts so you just pry them off)
* Manual Impact driver (a small gadget, you knock it with a hammer and it twists slightly, to remove stuck screws and bolts)
* And the biggest secret: If I need more room to work, I take more stuff off to get better access.

What are your other secrets for removing stuck parts? Any funny stories?

I don't think actual mechanics can afford to spend time with stubborn stuck bolts. What do they use? Air impact wrenches?



  • edited March 2012
    PB Blaster , is one lazyman option, a blow torch number 2, cutting wheel or oxy acetylene torch #3

    Edit impact wrench first then above!
  • If there is enough room and enough bolt or nut to grab, I have an 18" pipe wrench that works well. This is usually after a PB Blaster soaking. I recently used a manual impact driver to replace the door latch on my Explorer. It wasn't rusted, but was tight enough where a simple screwdriver couldn't loosen the phillips head screws. A power driver would have most likely damaged the screw heads. Used it to tighten the screws again on re-install.
  • Wrestling stuck fasteners is a way of life for mechanics and time has to be spent on that pain in the neck job no matter how proficient the mechanic. Other than what you've mentioned, welding a nut onto a broken bolt is an option and in some cases if there's enough of a nub still protruding a tiny monkey wrench can work them loose.
    I avoided mentioning E-Z Outs because while they may work if one is careful, and lucky, there's also a strong possibiilty of an E-Z Out breaking off in the fastener and then it becomes a double headache.

    In some cases there is no option but to drill the bolt out and retap the threads or install a thread insert.
  • The oxy acetylene torch succeeds when all else fails...
  • An acetylene torch is hard to beat. I sometimes press a candle at the base of the threads after heating and move the bolt back and forth to get the wax to wick down and lubricate the joint. Stuck parts seem to be the coup de grace for would be mechanics. After needing to be bailed out a few times after breaking bolts they just give up on trying.
  • edited March 2012
    Tell me about stuck/rusted fasteners. Here's what had to be done in order to remove the long bolts from the knuckles in order to replace the rear lateral links on a Camry. And it took a day of heating up and cooling down with an oxy/acetylene outfit before they broke loose.

    3072 x 2304 - 691K
  • I don't do much of heavy work, but have an assortment of schedule 40 PVC pipe and keep adding length and girth to the wrench until something happens.
  • Since it got me more than once, I'll add this: Make sure your "stuck bolt" isn't actually just reverse-threaded.
  • I doubt I have anything special to add, though once I bought an air impact I couldn't figure out why I'd waited so long to do it. Its not that it does everything, but it works wonders on many things I used to wrestle with. Impact of some kind is always my favorite approach. If I can't fit the air tool I find a way to at least whack the wrench or socket with a heavy hammer - poor man's impact.

    Along with that goes the PB Blaster and, of course, heating. I've recently added cooling to that. So I'll heat it up a whole lot. Then I turn one of those compressed air cans upside down and blast with that that. A couple cycles of that with some PB Blaster loosened up a broken head bolt for me quite nicely when I needed it to. After a bit of that the rest of the bolt came out with a pair of channel lock pliers. I've also done other normal things like pounded the next smaller size socket onto a bolt head (I prefer 12pts for that) or cut a slot in a stripped phillips head to get a grab with a flat blade...stuff like that.

    My only real "failure" so far was an axle nut. I broke a 1/2" breaker bar on it while jumping up and down on an added 4 or 5ft cheater pipe. I finally put the tire back on and drove it to a shop I use. I asked them to break it loose & snug it back up so I could drive it home. My shade tree air tools are handy - but no match for the professional shop.

    Tester - you need to move out of Minnesota or wherever it is. No one should have to deal with that much rust on a regular basis. Arizona's much nicer on mechanics I'll bet.

  • You get used to it.

This discussion has been closed.