Removing A Seized Fastener on your Car
If you do any of your own automotive repair and maintenance, you’ve run into a situation where the bolt you’re trying to remove is extremely stubborn. What usually happens next is you end up with bloody knuckles because whatever type of wrench you are using slips and your fist takes the brunt of the impact.
No matter what, you should always wear a pair of gloves to try and keep the pain to a minimum and some safety glasses just in case some bits of metal go flying. For starters, you can take a wire brush and clean the area of any loose rust or dirt.
Tools That Should Work
Apply penetrating oil to the bolt and threads and let it sit for a period of time. After that, there are a variety of tools that might be able to loosen a stuck fastener. An impact wrench is best but is not something the average do-it-yourself mechanic owns. The next post offers a couple of common options:
These pliers are best known by the brand name Vise-Grip. Whatever brand you have, they’ll get you out of a jam when bolt and nut shoulders are rounded, or when screw slots or Phillips crosses are stripped out. Rounded jaws work best. Make sure the jaws are seated on the flats of the nut/bolt or around the screw head, and tighten the handle as much as you possibly can before turning the fastener.
Box-end wrenches work better than sockets on stuck heads because they twist in the same plane as the head, rather than being offset by an inch or more. That offset means sockets are likelier to slip off heads and round over shoulders. Fit the closed end of the wrench over the bolt head and try tugging in short pulses, instead of a full-throttle pull. That’ll help loosen rust-bonded surfaces. If that doesn’t do it, tap on the wrench with a plastic, brass or wooden mallet. It’s a good way to loosen the bones in your hand, too, so wear leather gloves and keep your fingers well away from the impact zone!
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A pipe wrench can also work to remove bigger bolts if you don’t own a set of over-sized sockets or wrenches. You need plenty of room to use it, which isn’t always the case when working on a car.
Another option is using a wrench but adding some leverage. Put the handle of your wrench into a heavy-duty steel tube to extend the length and strength. Again, this will work on lug nuts or areas where you have plenty of room to maneuver.
An additional method is by applying heat, which is demonstrated in the following video:
As mentioned, be careful where you direct the flame so you don’t melt something. Always read the instructions that come with the torch to be sure you know how to handle it safely.
Drilling It Out
One of the last ditch options is to drill the stuck bolt out. Here’s how to manage this method:
What you want to do is take a small drill bit and drill all the way through the bolt. This uses a bit of the chemistry a few of the other methods use. It heats the bolt by drilling it, and it also makes a hollow
portion in the bolt so it can contract more as you attempt to remove it. I’ve had times where just drilling the bolt will allow the bolt to turn out quite easily. Other times you may have to keep stepping up your size of the drill bit with a drill index until you are just a bit smaller than the diameter of the bolt. At this point, you may be able to carefully chisel or break the bolt apart in the hole. You can then extract the pieces and clean the threads back up with a tap set or a universal tap tool.
Nothing puts the brakes on a fix-it project faster than a frozen fastener. Not only is it a major frustration but when it is rusted and in a tough spot to reach, you may want to call a repair shop in San Antonio to loosen the seized hardware for you.