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7 Ways to Remove a Rusted, Rounded, or Stripped Bolt

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From time to time, you’ll encounter a bolt that simply won’t budge. Stripped threads are another common issue you may experience.

However, there are numerous tricks, or hacks, that you can use to loosen stuck bolts of all types. Many of these solutions can be done with simple tools lying around the house. You’ll be able to resume work, whatever it may be, within minutes.

Professional mechanics usually have their favorite method. Here are seven of the most common ways to remove a stripped bolt (or rounded, rusted, or seized).

1. Impact Force

Sheer impact and force is one of the most effective ways for removing a seized bolt. A simple chisel, or large flathead screwdriver, and hammer will solve the problem most of the time.

Nuts or bolts that are extremely stuck may have to be removed with an impact gun. Using a lubricant like WD-40 can make it drastically easier to remove the stuck nut or bolt.

2. Heat

If you recall the properties of metal, temperature has a great effect on metal, causing it to contract and expand. Obtain a blow torch (some heat guns also work) and heat the frozen bolt until it gets red hot.

This extreme heat will cause the metal to expand. Once it cools down, it will begin to contract to its original shape or size. This process of expansion and contraction will break the rust bonds between the bolt and the threads, allowing easy removal. 

3. Relief Cuts

One sure-fire method for removing just about all stuck bolts or nuts are relief cuts. Simply make two to three cuts through the bolt head or nut. Hitting it with a chisel and hammer should then relieve the tension.

Relief cuts work a whole lot better on nuts, due to them being the exterior part. You will, however, need a metal-cutting tool for this hack such as a good oscillating tool.

4. Shake the Bolt

This process simply involves taking a ratchet, placing it on the bolt head or nut, then rocking it back and forth rapidly. Applying a lubricant will make matters a whole lot easier. Keep in mind that simple leverage can get the job done too.

A metal pipe can allow you to get extreme amounts of leverage and force. You can also try rocking the bolt or nut vertically as well.

5. Drill It Out

Although this method is virtually guaranteed to get your problem fixed immediately, it may cause damage to the threads, more often than not.

However, you can use a more in-depth process to ensure no damage to the threads by gradually increasing the drill bit diameter until you’re able to chisel the left-over metal out.

More than likely, you’ll need a special metal-cutting drill bit, depending on the material of the stripped nut or rusted bolt. You can use this method to remove a rounded bolt as well. If you need to repair any thread damage, a tap and die set will help you out.

6. Bolt or Screw Extractor

There are a few different types of bolt and screw extractor sets that allow you to remove a stripped bolt using pretty innovative methods.

Some of the kits use hardened bits that grab the inside of the bolt securely, allowing sufficient force to be applied. Some of the kits are very reasonably well priced too.

Here’s our favorite extractor set:  Irvin Bolt-Grip #394002

7. Reinstall New Bolts or Nuts

Removing rusted bolt can sometimes not being practical for the situation, especially if the job has a deadline. Drilling a new hole and installing a new bolt or nut may be a whole lot more simpler.

Resorting to this method is usually a last-ditch effort to remove a stuck nut or bolt, especially if there aren’t the necessary tools lying around.

Under some circumstances, alternative securing devices like zip ties, may also be used.

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Comments

  1. Hi there,
    Today I needed to remove a nut and bolt close to the break disc on my liitle 2004 plate Renault Kangoo when I encountered a Never Ending Nut, the nut turns but doesn’t unthread ( I have the other end of bolt spannered up ) what is the Best way to remove it ? I am going to use a disc cutter at the moment but if there is a better way it would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • You should be able to simply grab the nut with some pliers and pull while you’re loosening it. Cutting with a disc cutter or nut splitter would be plan B.

      Reply
  2. What is the simplest way to remove a threaded metal end cap (which is rusted and outer square type edges are rusted and disfigured) stuck up in ¾” GI pipe inside the brick wall.

    Reply
  3. Like your website. Currently working on a steel carburetor, removing the brass fittings, ie. Seat for the needle, (removed). The discharge nozzle is broken off flush with thread line into the carb. And gas jet for the low speed is drilled out. The last 2 are going to be a test of nerves, my nerves.

    They are seized and have been drilled to the edge of the thread. Expecting to get a tap and work with it to cut the remaining material out with the tap. Soaking this carb, boiling it in 212 degree water, did not loosen anything.

    Reply
    • Is it a stripped screw head (which takes a screwdriver) or simply a smooth round head? For the former, you can use a screw extractor (see the SpeedOut set here). For the later, there should be a nut on the other side of the bolt. You may need to apply pressure to the top of the bolt head while you loosen the nut.

      Reply
  4. I have a 2002 Chevy Malibu with a 3.1 liter. The concern I have is the EGR online tube needed change due to cracks in it. So I ordered a new one and the original coupling is rusted and seized and rounded off… I have sprayed penetration spray and used a small pipe wrench but it will not loosen… Any advise?

    Reply
  5. I’m about to replace Head gaskets on a 97 Chevy 4.3 that is pretty rusty underneath. I know the exhaust manifold bolts and donut gasket bolts are going to give me trouble. Other than spraying them with PB Blaster every day this week, Any tips on how to prepare them for easy extraction? Thanks

    Reply
    • If there is a good amount of rust, use a pick first to scrape off some of the surface rust so the penetrating oil can get through better. An impact wrench is priceless when working on the exhaust. The vibration or hammering action is what helps get the bolt loose. Heat is also a good method if PB Blaster, Kroil, or WD40 doesn’t do it. Heating up just the bolt with an oxy-acetylene torch or propane torch and immediately trying to loosen the bolt often works.

      I’m never tried this but you can use a combination of heat and candle wax. As you heat the bolt, push a candle to the side of the bolt head. If the bolt gets hot enough, the wax will actually be drawn inside and into the threads.

      Reply
  6. I have a 2004 Ford F-250 5.4 that I am trying to get the starter off of. The bolt was seized and I rounded the head. Any suggestions on what I should do?

    Reply
  7. I am working on my 1998 Honda Civic EX Coupe. I am trying to replace the steering rack and pinion and I have everything disengaged except for what appears to be the in and out from the power steering reservoir. I have almost rounded the nut off and it will not budge, I spent several hours and a lot of PB blaster and I still haven’t had the nut budge at all. I am at the end of my sanity on this project as it is.

    Reply
    • Can you get an impact driver in there? Sometimes that’ll be enough to break it loose. Heating it for 10-15 seconds with a blow torch is another option. The process of the nut expanding and then contracting as it cools off often breaks the rust loose. But you might not have room for a torch if the plastic reservoir or hoses are too close.

      If it’s too rounded off, destroying the nut is the best option. You can use a bolt extractor, die grinder, or small hacksaw.

      Reply
  8. Hi There.
    I’m trying to remove an engine compartment cover in the cab of a ’88 Econovan. One of the 2 bolts holding the cover on “spins”. I think the nut came unwelded under the floor. Other frame parts prevent me from getting at the nut. Maybe the only way is to cut the bolt head off? I need to be able to reach the engine for smog and service work. Would you suggest something that would not affect surrounding carpet, etc. Hope this is not too dumb a request.
    Thanks

    Reply

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