What do you do when you get stuck in a repair job?

Like when the part you need to remove to proceed, stuck in place, fasteners won’t budge. You’re tempted to keep trying, but know if you do you’ll more than likely just round off the fasteners, making the problem worse. Me, I immediately stop what I’m doing, apply another dose of thread penetrant to the fasteners, and go to the local tool store. I look for a tool that would make the job easier. Usually can’t find any tool there better purposed for the job than what I’ve been using, so leave empty handed. Not a total loss though. The time it takes to go to the hardware store and back is usually enough time for the penetrant to unstick the fasteners. Plus I chalked up another tool store visit.


I bathe it in PB Blaster, go have beer, go to bed to try again tomorrow. If it still won’t budge, I light the oxy-acetylene and go to it…can’t be stuck if its liquid!


Impact tools are great for stuck fasteners. The hammering drives in the pentrating oil and shocks the bolts out… or breaks them off! Then I can MIG weld a nut on…the heat usually gets it off.

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Beer is good idea, especially when it is really hot weather like now. Problem w/beer, have to stop working. I don’t work on my car projects until at least 8 hours after drinking a beer.


That is why I go to bed after the beer…no “hold my beer” moments for me!


I’m beginning to think that when a dose of penetrant seems to have no effect, it is b/c gunk at the bolt/threaded hole interface is preventing the penetrant from passing down the threads and into the hole.

I didn’t have many hardware problems but I have a habit of installing parts that aren’t made for the car I’m putting them on. Don’t look under the dashboard or you may want to ride a bicycle to work. What I did to a clutch slave cylinder should have been televised. I used to love manual choke conversion kits. I regret that I had nothing to do with the GM engine mount cure that involved wrapping a cable around the exhaust manifold.

Plan B if it is an option. Maybe 4 years ago had a tire that kept going flat on the $75 garage sale 2 stage snowblower. PB did nothing, torch heat did nothing so I slimed the tire, still going. For whatever reason the speed control works fine except when it snows. I have tried every lubricant I can find but leave the blower on speed 2, knowing it will freeze up. It is like a wheel on a record player that slides from one side of a spinning plate for reverse, then outwards on the other side for forward speed control. I could replace the shaft and wheel, but I need to remove the axle which I cannot do because I mushroomed the bolt trying to pound it out. to replace the tire. So the tire is still good, I don’t need it but 2 or 3 times a winter when the single stage is not an easy task. Limp along like the poor hillbilly I am!

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I have lost battles but I have never lost a war :slight_smile:
Thermal shock is an effective tool on stuck fasteners. This is where the fire wrench shines. Several applications of penetrant in between and it makes it inside the interface.

If there is room, I have never had a reddish-orange bolt that did not come out. They scream on the way out but they come out :grin:


Sometimes not possible or at least difficult to heat certain threaded parts. I had a stuck jet in a carburetor awhile ago, not brave enough to light a torch to it. I got to thinking if heat works, cold might work too. So I held an ice cube on the jet for 5 minutes, voila, out it comes. I think if you have a brass fitting (like a carb jet) that threads inside a hole in something else, applying cold to the fitting might work better than heat, b/c cold shrinks the fitting. Holding an ice cube on the jet isn’t that much fun though. The electronics technicians here in Silicon Valley seem to always have a can of cold-spray on their lab benches; wonder if that would work the same as ice on the jet?

My original question wasn’t so much about methods, but about the psychological aspects of dealing with a seemingly impossible problem. I think just walking away from the problem for a day or two is pretty effective, leaves room in brain for ideas.

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Sometimes I get stuck when I try to avoid taking off some parts to get to the problem. I would have been time ahead by taking off those parts in the first place.


Some years ago had to replace drum brake wheel cylinder. Bolts holding it on the backing plate were no problem. But threaded brake hose fitting, subjected to road-gunk for years, wouldn’t budge. Difficult access made the problem worse. I decided best method was to remove the other end of the hose, remove the cylinder with the hose attached, and remove the hose from the cylinder on the work bench. Other end of hose wouldn’t budge either … lol …

Not car related, but a kohler toilet, Fill valve was screaming so I replaced it. A month later big clunk on flush. New hose was shorter than the old hose for the tank fill. It broke the clip that holds the fill valve in place. So I rotated the new fill valve, to get some extra slack in the rube and the cannister would now hit the line without disconnecting it, thus no big clunk on flush. It never ends!

Diy’er plumbing stories are almost always good. My toilet uses the pressure-flush method, big metal cylindrical tank in top part of toilet fills with water, airspace above rubber diaphragm is compressed, and that air pressure forces the water out at high speed next time toilet is flushed. Problem is to replace failed flush valve, must separate top ceramic tank from bottom part. If those two parts are not perfectly mated upon testing the flush valve, first flush attempt the 2 1/2 gallons of water will spray out of the cylindrical tank and all over the room. Ask me how I know … lol …

Like others have said, penetrating oil, heat and shock if possible, then reassess, improve the approach (including possibly better tools) and try again. Most recently successful to remove the blades on a Bush Hog, a tractor-towed, PTO powered, six foot swath grass cutter in the field. Had been used more than ten years without being touched. Manufacturer gives you a three inch hole in the deck to try to drive the blade pins out. That proved useless. Ended up flipping it over and pulled the whole blade assembly off the center splined shaft after a couple of tries with a 15 ton hydraulic puller. That allowed access for the old pins to be pressed out. They aren’t press fit but between being keyed to prevent rotation and cutting wet grass for 10 years they were pretty stuck. Also the massive piece of steel they go into make them pretty impervious to heat. The heat gets sucked away by the thermal mass sink making it impossible to achieve any temp difference between it and the bolt. So after failing from the top with ever larger hammers and air hammers, changed the approach and got the sucker to yield. Very satisfying.

Have also been known to put my tail between my legs and bring the problem to my guys when I’m out of ideas and feel that anything I do will just make the problem worse. Case in point: trying to change the oil pan gasket on a 12 year old Tacoma. The bolts were just crumbling under the wrench and the engine had to lifted to remove the pan. What they managed to do in a few hours would have taken me days lying under the vehicle. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles.

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I’ve had success with PB Blaster and time lately. I had to use a liberal application of Language Lube to remove the last spark plug on the back of the V6 in my Chevy Corsica. Yes, that was a long time ago. I had to use a U-joint adapter on my socket wrench to get at it and that made applying force more difficult. I put a 3 foot pipe on the wrench and still nothing. I finally stood on top of the engine, crouching under the hood, and yanked and yanked and it finally broke loose. Maybe the tongue lashing I gave that plug put me over the top. Looking back now it’s funny, but definitely not then.

I don’t even bother trying to remove any of the jets or other passage screws until it has been taken apart and soaked in Berryman’s for 15 to 20 minutes. Then you can do anything you want. All the varnish and gas residue is gone.

I agree cold can be as effective as heat and why I used the term “thermal shock”. It’s temperature agnostic :wink: Shocking the interface is what’s important. Expanding the outer part with heat or shrinking the inner part with cold…or just heating and then cooling.

Whether or not freeze spray will work would depend greatly on the mass in question. Kinda like the guys having trouble with suspension bolts using a propane torch… My preferred cooling method after heat is to just use the air nozzle on my compressor. Has enough flow to cool things relatively quickly.

That’s a very good idea. I didn’t think of it at the time. I did soak the carb after removing all the parts (including the jets), thinking better to do the soaking after the jets removed. Next time I’ll follow you advice, 1/2 hour fuel-bowl soak in BM Carb Cleaner before removing jets. There wasn’t any visible residue at bottom of fuel bowl, so I had no idea why they were so stubborn; but in retrospect, like you say, there was probably an invisible varnish layer holding them in place. I had to buy a gigantic vanadium-steel screwdriver too, to get those jets to move! No regrets, I’ve used it many many times since. If not as a screwdriver, makes a good pry bar too.

Sometimes the thin carburator die castings have defects that cause leaks that are too small to detect by any quick simple test, so the manufacturers give new castings a resin bath that plugs up the leaks. Powerful solvents can attack those resins and expose the leaks. The resin allows the manufacturers to use cheaper impure alloys.

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Those thermoset resins are pretty resilient. They survive acid baths used in plating the parts after impregnation. It’s all a matter of exposure time. Berryman’s will even dissolve the metal over time if you leave it in there long enough. About 15 minutes is long enough to dissolve the stuff you want it to attack but not harm the metal or any impregnated sealing resins. But it does point out the risk of ignoring the directions :slight_smile:

In one of the businesses I am involved in we use castings that contain dielectric oils. There, we often specify a hipping process be applied to the casting to eliminate porosity. More costly but more robust solution.