How to Remove Seized Nuts and bolts

Seized nuts and bolts can be very frustrating and turn one of those five minute jobs into hours of hassle and pain. The following are some tips to get the nuts and bolts out, in the first place without any damage but when all else fails what to do when you are up against it. Remember when you put the nuts and bolts back it will be probably be you who has to take them out again some time down the line, so make sure when you reassemble you use a copper based grease.

Removing Without Damage to Nuts and Bolts

1. Preparation, if you know you are going to be doing a job then it is better a few days or even hours before you start to spray the nuts and bolts you need to take off with penetrating oil WD40 being one of the more famous brands. This allows the oil to soak in and do its job, it is sometimes necessary to continue to spray as the nut or bolt is removed to provide lubrication especially over very rusty threads.

WD 40

2. If an open ended spanner fails to get a grip then if you can get one on try a ring spanner as these grip all round the nut or bolt and therefore you should be able to get more purchase and leverage as these tend to be a little longer in length.

Ring Spanner

3. If this does not work try a socket and if possible one from an impact socket set as these are the hexagon type but do not use a ratchet as heavy pressure will cause damage to it. You can increase the leverage by using a bar to increase its length and if necessary a soft faced hammer can be used to shock the bolt into submission with some "gentle" taps.

Impact Sockets

4. Impact drivers are a very useful tool and work by a combination of twist and shock action but it is not always easy to get one of these tool to fit (removing bumper brackets for example)

Impact Driver

5. Heat can be used to loosen the grip because the metal expands increasing the thread gap between the nut and bolt and hopefully breaks the rusts grip. A gas welding set can be used or a blow torch but make sure you are not going to set fire to anything or cause damage paintwork. The nut can be heated to cherry red if necessary but this in not always required. I have used an electric hot air gun (paint stripper type) and this has helped to remove some stubborn nuts and bolts but it does require a lot more time to heat the metal.

Blow Torch


Removing With Damage to Nuts and Bolts

1. If you don't mind sacrificing the nut then nut splitters can be used and these work by putting the splitter over the nut and then a sharp blade is wound down onto the nut. The tightening of this cuts into the nut and eventually will split the nut and if you are careful will not cause damage to the threads of the bolt.

Nut Splitter

2. If the problem was the spanner slipping off or the nut and bolt has become rounded off then a pair of stillsons are a good bet as the design of this tool actually grips tighter the harder they are turned but they will probably damage the head of the bolt or the nut.


3. If you do not have a nut splitter then a cold chisel can be used to give the same result, alternatively a hacksaw can be used to cut off the side of the nut. Wear the appropriate safety gear as flying bits of nut can cause serious damage.

4. Professional car restorers will weld a good bolt onto the damaged one so that good purchase on the "new" bolt will be allowed and also the process of welding on the good bolt will generate a lot of heat so will also help to loosen the grip.

5. Stud extractors can be used, these work by drilling and tapping and inserting a tool steel extractor which should hopefully extract the bolt when the tool is withdrawn. The problem with these are that if the extractor snaps (not uncommon) then you are left with a stuck bolt with half a tool steel extractor in it and tool steel is very difficult to drill out.

6.The final last resort is to drill out the bolt or stud, this is done by using a drill only slightly smaller than the thread of the bolt, if this is done carefully then the thread of the hole should be intact and can be cleaned up with a tap. The disadvantage is that drilling out will cause swarf and bits of bolt to go everywhere and if you are anywhere near engine components and these bits get inside then an engine rebuild could be on cards.

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| Updated 22-Feb-2008 |