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Thread: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

  1. #1

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts - updated with pics

    We’ve all been there. The repair is going swimmingly until that one bolt simply won’t come free. We fight, curse, break tools and kick stuff in frustration.

    Next time, avoid all that. There are four ways to free a seized bolt. Used separately or in combination, they can ensure a positive and curse-word free repair experience.

    1. Impact
    2. Leverage
    3. Penetrating lube
    4. Heat

    Impact is the best known and in most cases, the fastest. A good compressor and a 600 ft-lb impact wrench get the job done in a right hurry.



    Unfortunately, this is also your most expensive option and quite difficult to carry into a junk yard. Next time, try hillbilly impact. Whack the end of your box end wrench in the proper direction to loosen that stubborn bolt. In many cases, this can be more effective than an impact wrench, especially on smaller bolts.



    Leverage is the next best known method for removing tough bolts. Most every mechanic has used a breaker bar.



    Most mechanics also know that when the breaker bar isn’t enough, a jack handle slipped over the end of your breaker bar adds a tremendous amount of leverage, guaranteeing a freed bolt …or a broken bar.



    Hillbilly leverage is also an option for smaller bolts. Slip the box end of your wrench on the tough bolt, then slip the box end of another wrench over the open end of the first wrench. Presto, double leverage with minimal tools.



    Penetrating lube can be very helpful. Saturate your bolt with Liquid Wrench or PB Blaster and let steep for a few minutes.



    If the bolt is especially recalcitrant, try multiple applications. Then double-up with leverage or impact.

    Heat is the final option, and really a Hail Mary option. If nothing above has freed your bolt, put a torch to it. I once got a spindle nut free with heat and a breaker bar, so I know it works. But be careful. You can end up melting important rubber and plastic pieces unintentionally.


    Other notes on problem bolts -

    Deformed bolts can be very problematic. There is no specific procedure for removing them. Try whatever you think might work and use vise grips as a last resort. They often work, but will deform your bolt further.

    How to keep bolts from becoming frozen:

    1. Use correct torque, ALWAYS. Don’t go crazy when tightening. Lug nuts have a torque spec of 80 ft-lbs, not of a full grown man jumping on a wrench handle. Not only will too much torque make future disassembly more difficult, it increases the likelihood of your bolt shearing off, which is a nightmare far worse than a frozen bolt.

    2. Use a good anti-seize compound. Steel bolts bond to aluminum parts and vice versa. Your cylinder head is aluminum and all the bolts in it are steel. Use a good anti-seize compound to prevent seizing.

    3. Avoid deforming bolts by ensuring that you have good alignment between your wrench/socket and bolt heads before laying into the wrench.

    Like this:



    Not this:



    Our engine bays slope to a point and, consequently, are quite small. The engine is tucked in very snugly, and a lot of bolts can be in remarkably tight spots. Buy a set of socket u-joints to ensure good alignment for these out-of-the-way bolts.

    4. Don’t let things go too long. A lot of problems can be avoided by performing regular routine maintenance and fixing problems when you first learn of them. If your thermostat cover is leaking, fix it. The longer it drips coolant on the lower cover bolt, the more likely it is to rust that bolt to the thermostat housing making a relatively simply repair become a half-day fight and a trip to the junkyard for a new housing.

    Specific bolts – Thankfully our cars have few truly difficult nuts. Be aware of the following when you tackle them.

    1. Spindle nuts – these hold the CV joints to the hub assembly. They have a torque spec of 134 ft-lbs. You’ll have to remove them very infrequently, leaving lots of time for them to rust solid. These are the only bolt where you might have to break down and buy a compressor and a mighty impact wrench to get them free. Before doing that, try this trick:



    2. Crankshaft pulley bolts – this holds the fan belt pulley to the front of the engine. It can be very difficult because its torque spec is 108 ft-lbs and because it spins freely as you turn it (on auto trans models). Your best bet for getting this one loose is to wedge something in the timing light opening, between the drive plate and the transmission housing. I use a 6-inch impact extension because it’s strong and won’t fall through the timing hole.



    Whatever you use, be aware that it will work its way down into the timing hole as you torque on the crankshaft pulley bolt. If it falls completely through, you will have to drop the tranny to retrieve it. You’ve been warned!!! If you drive a stick, this won't work, so try the spindle nut trick above.

    3. AT drain bolt – this bolt rarely seizes, but YOU SHOULD ALWAYS USE A BREAKER BAR TO LOOSEN IT!!! The torque spec is 29 ft-lbs, which is pretty meager. However, when you loosen it, it will give way spontaneously and violently. If you are using a 6-inch ratchet handle when it does, you WILL smash your hand savagely into the underside of your car. It will hurt badly. You will swear, and possibly kick the car. Use a breaker bar for maximum control.

    Hope this helps. Love your car and drive with joy!
    Last edited by Dr_Snooz; 04-19-2009 at 07:26 PM.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


    1989 Honda Accord LX-i Coupe, 220k miles, MT swap, rear disc swap

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  2. #2

    cygnus x-1's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Excellent post! I've seen all these movies before and I highly recommend them. Thought I might add a couple small things though.

    On one of my CV spindle nuts I had to use a dremel with a cutting wheel to actually cut the nut off. I didn't have access to a big enough impact wrench and I needed to get it off right away. You have to be careful not to hose up the underlying threads, but it will work.

    Also, you can use heat in combination with penetrating oil. Soak the bolt and heat until the oil burns off. Then soak again until it cools enough that the oil won't burn off. Then heat again. The expansion and contraction from the repeated heating and cooling can help to loosen things up. Be careful though that you don't catch anything else on fire.

    Finally if there are no plastic, rubber, or painted parts around to damage don't be afraid to heat up those bolts/nuts red hot. I've even heard of people using TIG torches to heat up bolts to get them free.

    C|

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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Great Post!

    Should be a Sticky!
    2004-2011?

  4. #4


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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    I'd like to add that for around $50, Sears sells a set of "sockets" that have gripping edges, where the harder you crank, the tighter they get. These are particularly good when you've rounded off the flats and a vice-grip needs more leverage. I used these to good effect on the oil drain plug on my Honda bike...it took a breaker bar plus the special socket to get that puppy loose. Well worth the 50 bucks.

  5. #5

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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Let me add one of mine.
    On a stripped of bolt or nut head I sometimes take another socket size smaller and beat that puppy on the mangled head. Make sure the donor socket goes on the fastener streight and remember you only have one chance at getting it to hold enough to turn so make it count.
    Sometimes the donor socket is still useable afterwards, but sometimes not so keep that in mind.

  6. #6

    AccordB20A's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Quote Originally Posted by roodoo2 View Post
    Let me add one of mine.
    On a stripped of bolt or nut head I sometimes take another socket size smaller and beat that puppy on the mangled head. Make sure the donor socket goes on the fastener streight and remember you only have one chance at getting it to hold enough to turn so make it count.
    Sometimes the donor socket is still useable afterwards, but sometimes not so keep that in mind.
    exhaust bolts are good for doing that if you dont use a 6 sided socket, Most bolts stript cause your using a 12 point socket on a 6 point bolt thats too tight, So if you dont want to stript your bolts use the appropriate socket.

    Ive undone stripped 14mm exhaust bolts countless times by smashing a 13mm socket onto the nut lol

  7. #7
    3Geez Veteran AccordEpicenter's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    yes that works very well. also, somtimes you can get a slightly smaller sae socket to fit on an eroded metric bolt. For example, ive pounded 3/8" sockets onto rusted 10mm nuts/bolts. Goes on good and holds pretty good too. Another technique ive seen done, particularly with studs or bolts in cast steel or cast iron parts that seem to seize up, is to heat the casting around the bolt cherry red, then use a center punch and drive it into the side of the casting with a hammer where its cherry red towards the threads of the bolt. Somtimes, if you do it right, it will distort the threads gripping the bolt slightly, usually enough to greatly reduce the chance that the bolt will break the head off and having the bolt come out in one piece instead of having it break flush with the casting, it seems to work good
    429whp 362wtq A20 TURBO. A20T>*

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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    that reminds me of another trick a old moonshine mechanic showed me, heat up the nut cherry red but be aware that the stud and nut are two different shades then using a stick of canning wax, melt it so it creeps down the threads.

  9. #9
    LX User slacker's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Awesome! Thanks Dr Snooz for the useful info

  10. #10
    LX User Juggalo88Accord's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    This was definatly a worth while read an is gunna help me alot next time in tha junkyard. i just wish i had a few tricks to share as well

  11. #11
    3Geez Veteran lostforawhile's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    pick up an impact screwdriver, they have some heavy impact bits,but usually the end comes off and you have a square drive for 3/8 sockets, you just wail on then with a hammer on the back end, thats what they are designed for. talking about the same kind you remove the brake disc screws with, a lot of people don't know the end of the tool comes off and has a 3/8 drive under it.

  12. #12
    3Geez Veteran lostforawhile's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    they look like this, most of them, the end comes off and has a 3/8 or half inch drive for sockets under it.

  13. #13

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    I just figured this little gem out today for getting spindle nuts off junkyard cars: https://www.3geez.com/forum/3geez-accords/68506-best-way-remove-spindle-nut.html

    I'm pleased that some newer guys are finding this useful. I'm inspired to add some pics to the original post. Thanks!
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


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  14. #14

    Dr_Snooz's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Okay, updated with pics. I think this should be a sticky for the newer guys. It took me many years of wrenching before I figured most of this out. It's really basic wrenching stuff that most people don't know.
    Dr_Snooz

    "I like to take hammers, and just break stuff, just break stuff." - Beavis


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    Shop manual downloads available here: CLICK TO VIEW

  15. #15
    3Geez Veteran A18A's Avatar
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    Re: How to free rusted, seized and deformed bolts.

    Quote Originally Posted by lostforawhile View Post
    they look like this, most of them, the end comes off and has a 3/8 or half inch drive for sockets under it.
    i have one exactly like that haha, except silver. same blue case aswell

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