How to remove rusted bolts

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to remove nuts that have been corroded solid.  Indeed, it always seems to be the very last nut you have to remove that won’t budge! 

Here are some ideas that may help with the problem.

Firstly, don’t make matters worse

The biggest tip is to be patient.  Tackle the problem in a methodical way and don’t let frustration get the better of you.  Hitting the nut repeatedly with a hammer might help vent the frustration, but it is probably not going to fix the problem!

Use some muscle

Brute force is always the starting point.  However, if you are going to apply a lot of force it is important to use the correct tools.  Always use a 6 point socket set on the nut rather than a 12 point one.  This will even the forces out across the nut and will avoid burring the edges.   A 12 point socket will focus the forces on the edges of the nut and therefore will be more likely to cause rounding of the nut which will just make matters worse.

Should you inadvertently round off the nut, there is a nifty trick to fix the issue.  Get a similar sized nut with matching thread and wind it down the bolt until it is alongside damaged one.  The two then can be welded carefully together allowing the new nut to be the purchase point to remove them both.

It is also a good idea to try to rock the nut back and forth in order to break the corrosion bonding it to the bolt.

Clean up the threads

If a bit of brute force has not done the job, then it is time to get a little more involved.  The first step is to clean up the nut and threads with a wire brush.  Get rid of as much corrosion as possible and then apply some penetrative oil.  There are plenty of these on the market, but we have had success using a 50:50 mix of acetone and transmission fluid.  Apply and leave for a few hours and then apply again.  Once the oil has had a chance to penetrate into the nut thread then have another go at removing it.

Ratchet up the pressure

If you still have no joy, then try using a longer lever on the socket set to remove the nut.  A longer leaver will amp up the torque on the nut markedly.  The best tool to use is a breaker bar.  These are freely available and not too expensive. 

You can also just try extending the length of your existing socket tool by using a pipe, however given the forces involved this could be a little dangerous.

Impact wrench

Should the breaker bar not work, then you can try using an impact wrench next.  Impact wrenches are clever little tools which create very high rotational torque for a very short period of time. The object of so doing is to shock the target nut in breaking its corrosion bond and thus becoming free.  Impact wrenches come in a number of forms the simplest of which converts the force from a strike of a hammer to a tiny bit of very high torque. 

Don’t get hot under the collar, just turn up the heat

If the nut still does not want to budge it is time to bring the heat.  Get a blow torch and heat the nut as hot as possible without melting it.  This will expand the nut hopefully breaking the corrosion bond.  Cooling the nut quickly with water will cause a rapid contraction which will also help break any bonding.  This can be repeated several times.

Initially try loosening the nut after treating with heat once it has cooled down.  If you do not have any luck with that, then try when the nut is still hot – using caution and the necessary protective gloves and goggles.

Clearly, caution is required when using any heat/naked flames and particularly on cars which are generally pretty flammable!

When the going gets tough….

If it still won’t budge then it is time for some drastic action.  There are a couple of options available here.  Our preferred one is to get a nut splitter and use it to break the nut.  Nut splitters fit over the top of a nut and then are tightened forcing a chisel like tip into the nut literally splitting it in two. 

If you don’t have a nut splitter then another option is to drill the bolt out using a metal bit of equal diameter.  Simply, cut the bolt off flush with the nut and the drill down through the centre of it. 

The final option would be to use an angle grinder to either cut away or grinder way the nut head.

We hope these thoughts help.  If you have another other tips please let us know!