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"As the Bolt Turns"....or doesn't: A common problem....

 
pollinator
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Over many decades, one of the great frustrations of rejuvinating old equipment or buildings is encountering bolts that are, for lack of a better word, "intractable".  They either are corroded beyond their usefulness or, when the nut is turned with a wrench or pliers, the entire assembly turns with the motion.  Increasingly, it seems that the bolt head is to be found located in the most inaccessible crevice of the build or the device, rendering it nearly impossible to immobilize with either a vice-grip pliers or an accompanying socket or wrench for that head. I'm curious to know if others have come up with novel solutions to these situations.  Have you been using a method for immobilizing a bolt head or nut in a tight place that works for these tight situations?  Alternatively, do you often just throw in the towel and cut the bolt or bolt head off with a hacksaw or grinding wheel?  Will a standard cutting wheel on a 3.5" grinder cut right through a stuck nut for most grades of steel nuts and bolts?  Curious to know what has worked for you in these cases.....and if this has come up before on the forum, feel free to merge with the previous thread.  Thanks!
 
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A 4" grinder with a "skinny wheel" makes short work of those problem bolts.
If it's all metal, a cutting torch to heat the nut red , then cool it will often make them come off.

Lots of swearing, some finger blood, drops of salty sweat and a few splinters often come with that project...
I think they are the secret ingredients for proper bolt extraction.
maxresdefault.jpg
removing broken bolt
removing broken bolt
 
John Weiland
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thomas rubino wrote:
I think they are the secret ingredients for proper bolt extraction.



Are you saying that, having all appropriate tools at my disposal, if I start swearing and bleeding early and often I will get the bolt out sooner?.. :-)

But yes....I was wondering about one of those thin 'cut-off' wheels on my 3.5 inch grinder.  That might be the best thing.  Hoping to see if others have some novel tricks up their sleeve as well.  Thanks!

 
master steward
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Hmm, if you can't get at the head of the bolt and turning the nut spins the bolt too, there aren't too many options.  

One that sometimes works on cleaner bolts is to hold the protruding part of the bolt threads with a pliers while turning the nut.  The careful balance is to not totally mash down the threads since the nut still has to come the rest of the way off the bolt.

A similar way, if there's enough bolt thread protruding, is to put two nuts on and jam them against one another.  Then you can put a wrench on one of them and turn the original nut.

Hypothetically, if you can weld something to the end of the bolt, then you could spin the nut using that as leverage.  But then you have to break that weld and clean it up enough to spin the nut the rest of the way off.  Not sure when that would be better than cutting the nut/bolt off but it's an option.

Another possibility that could maybe be useful would be to drill out the bolt from within the nut (down the axis).  Maybe in a case where you don't want to damage the parts the bolt is holding together when using your grinding wheel?  Or where you can't have sparks/heat occurring?
 
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I have with success ground off a bolt head with a coarse stone, which allowed me to continue to work on a project, but still left a headless bolt to be extracted. I have sheared heads off of frozen bolts trying to unscrew them which also sucks and leaves the same problem. I have a set of those fluted bolt extractor things that a socket fits over, and the harder one turns the socket (or wrench) the tighter it bites into the bolt. They work, if there is room to use one.

Story time: I was redoing the brakes on my truck years ago which included putting new rotors on the hubs as well. I sheared the head off of one of the two large bolts that hold the brake caliper to the knuckle. I was fucked and there was no way to get the caliper off to get a tool on the bolt to try and extract it. Starting with a small drill bit, my brother and I took turns drilling out the bolt, going up a drill size at a time. Eventually we removed enough material that pieces came out while drilling, and using a pick were able to pry bolt fragments out of the threads in the knuckle. After a couple hours lost, a trip to the auto parts store for a replacement bolt, a little wire brushing, and a generous application of anti-seize on all the bolts, everything was put back together.
 
pollinator
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Liquid Wrench or PB-Blaster or some other thin lube intended for the purpose. Doesn't solve the problem that much but usually _reduces_ the problem. Standard say-so is: apply generously and tap gently for a little vibration to help penetration. Apply generously again and leave it over night. Me, I never had the patience, but I did apply generously and whack things some. WD-40 really is not appropriate for this use, though I guess if there's nothing else in reach, why not?

There is a type of ratchet wrench which is basically a box-end wrench with a ratchet inside of it. No levers, just turn it over to go the other way. They are one piece, don't come apart - buy the size you need. The advantage is they are very "short" and can be used when there is no clearance over the hex you're trying to turn.

I use a Dremel type tool with a cut-off wheel as well as a grinder and cut-off. The bigger tool works faster, but it's harder to fit into small spaces.

A "hot wrench" almost always works. Don't need to "see red" as above, I rarely do and as I say, almost always works. Getting the appropriate size torch helps a _lot_ to  keep the collateral damage to a minimum. Smaller the better is often the rule. I keep a "cigar lighter" butane torch above the bench and that's my first try. If you got acetylene, much faster and easier to mess up.  Either oxy- or air- torch. Get the right size tip - as above, smaller is likely better. The "TurboTorch" brand air-acetylene torches give a lot smaller, hotter, "harder" rosebud than any other air-acetylene torch I've ever found, but they are expensive and so hot that it's falling off a log to destroy things until you get some experience.


Regards,
Rufus
 
pollinator
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Grinder is fine if you have good access.

If there is enough thread showing, you can grind flats on the thread, and get a wrench on that to stop it spinning as you loosen the nut. You will probably need to clean up the threading around the flats with a hacksaw or the like, but the nut ought to still pass over. Usually more fuss than it's worth.

I have used a metal cutting blade in a hackzall to get bolts that a grinder cannot reach. Makes less of a mess, too.

Best tool is patience. If it's not an emergency I try and go do something else and let it soak in diesel mixed with ATF for a good while, repeated applications.. then try heat in moderation before picking up the saw or grinder..
 
John Weiland
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Thanks for all of the excellent responses.   I saw another option on YouTube of holding a small hack-saw blade against the bolt from within the tight area....if that can be done....and then using a drill/driver to spin the bolt.  It may take a while as well, but the bolt eventually is sawed through in this way.  But the grinder looks like a good option for situations where at least one side of the bolt/nut problem is relatively exposed.  I'm going to buy a cut-off wheel and give it a shot.  The current stuck bolt project has had PBlaster on it for a several days now with a new shot each day so I will try the easier possibilities first before getting more serious and destructive with the fix.  Thank again!....
 
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