The Best Way to Loosen Rusted Bolts

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Rust is never a good sign. It means something is deteriorating. Rust is especially bothersome when it forms on a bolt, as it causes the threads to corrode and bind to their surroundings. As you can imagine, this causes the bolt to be incredibly difficult to remove. If you encounter this problem, always use a wrench or socket that snugly fits the head of the bolt or nut. A socket or wrench that does not fit tightly will likely result in a bolt head break or a nut with rounded edges.

Things You'll Need

  • Ball-peen hammer
  • Breaker bar and proper size socket
  • Can of penetrating oil or rust solvent
  • Cheater bar (a piece of steel pipe will suffice)
  • Strike the rusted bolt several times with a ball-peen hammer. Hammering the bolt will break some of the rust and corrosion free from the threads.

  • Apply some penetrating oil or rust solvent to the rusted bolt. Completely saturate the bolt with the oil or solvent and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. It's best to apply oil or solvent several times throughout the day and allow it soak during the night. If it's possible, you can try to immerse the part with the rusted bolt into a container filled with penetrating oil and allow it to soak for at least a day.

  • Strike the rusty bolt with your ball-peen hammer a few more times to remove any rust that the oil or solvent may have loosened.

  • Place the proper-size socket onto the head of the bolt, then connect your breaker bar to the socket. For large bolts, make sure you utilize a heavy-duty breaker bar, at least 1/2 inch.

  • Turn the bolt clockwise, as if you were tightening it. This will help break the threads loose. Turn it only slightly, however. Then turn the bolt counterclockwise to loosen and remove the bolt.

  • Slide a cheater bar over your breaker bar if the bolt does not come loose. You can use a piece of steel pipe for a cheater bar, as long as it is able to slide over the breaker bar. The additional length of the cheater bar will give you greater leverage when trying to break the bolt free. Turn the bolt slowly, clockwise and then counterclockwise, until it is loosened.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you accidentally snap the bolt while trying to remove it, don't worry. You will need to make a trip to the hardware store and purchase an extracting kit or tap wrench. These tools will allow you to drill into the broken bolt using a conventional drill. Once the extractor or tap wrench is in place, you simply turn the bolt out as you normally would.

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References

  • Photo Credit rusty bolt image by Petr Gnuskin from Fotolia.com
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