rusty bolt and nut

Removing Rusted Bolts and Nuts

Hello and Welcomesince you’re here, we’ll assume that removing rusted bolts and or nuts is quite a serious thing for you. This is WrenchGuru, so we’ll help you with that corrosion right now.

Muscle Isn't Everything on Rusty Bolts and Nuts

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First off, toss aside the idea that you simply need to add more muscle to get the job done. Some people around you and even on the internet are tossing around this more-harmful-than-helpful idea so do yourself a favor and chunk the thought immediately!

The reasoning behind this is simple: if you just apply more torque in order to remove rusted bolts then it’s quite possible that you’ll shear it off in the process. A rusty nut removal can cause the same even to occur to the bolt it’s attached to. In some cases, the rusty bolt itself is a bit old, permanently attached, difficult to find and replace, or all of the above. If you decide to spit on your hands, buckle down and bow-up on that sucker, then it’s quite possible that you’ll have more than simply a rusted bolt or rusted nut on your hands—you’ll have a rusty nut/bolt that’s also broken.

The Next Thing to consider is whether or not the rusty culprit has some sort of thread lock in place. If it does and you haven’t noticed, then buckling down on it would only add grief to your life that you shouldn’t have to suffer! What’s the solution to this minor possibility? Heat things up (this handy video goes through several of these steps). Typically, the thread locking pieces of nuts and bolts can be loosened up with a bit of heat. Warming up the bolt will soften the thread lock as they aren’t as hearty as the bolts and nuts themselves. One of the simple ways you can do this is with a special, long lighter, but for larger, more serious applications, consider picking up a small butane torch. They are not as dangerous as you may think!

Check For and Soften Thread Locks

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Clean Up The Rusted Bolt and Nut

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After That, Rust Must Scat. That’s right: one, two, three, four, have rust no more! Do your best at this point to clean up that nut and bolt, as well as the area directly around it. By doing so, you’ll make the stubborn screw or nut easier to get a bead on with your tools, thus being able to transfer more torque (turning power) to the rusted bolts and nuts.

By cleaning up the rusty nut and bolt, you’ll also be able to better see what you’re dealing with and then make a logical decision about how to get it removed or taken apart. For example, what if you hadn’t realized that there’s a thread lock on it but after cleaning it, viola! There it lies. Do yourself a favor and clean it up!

The Lube Tube is not a TV show but it’s something you need to tune in to. After getting that rusty nut and/or bolt prepped, you should soak it down with some nice lubricant—particularly the penetrating kind. If you don’t use the proper type of lube, then it’ll only be on the surface and not even remotely inside and between the spaces, which is where you need it the most. Furthermore, if you skip the cleanup and just go straight to the lube, it’s possible that the rusty materials will keep the lubrication from doing a proper job of getting into every nook and cranny. Remember each step!

Additionally, remember that some of these rusty bolts won’t be removed so quickly and may require soaking overnight. Drench it down as best you can and give it a few more doses here and there before you hit the hay. This little, patient step works miracles—trust us.

​Lubricate and Soak if Needed

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Know Which Way to Turn the Bolt or Screw

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Some Roads are one-way streets so it’s best to keep this in mind before really giving that rusted screw the old college try. Some say “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty,” but keep in mind that this isn’t ALWAYS the case—just most of the time. Be informed before you go crazy!

Don’t Wrench Your Back, wrench that rusty screw! Be sure to keep yourself from an awkward position when attempting to remove these rusty beasts. Yes, you’re removing a bolt or a nut but it’s not worth hurting yourself over it, especially something as important as your back. Use the best angle possible for your arms and body. Another reason for using the right angle and position is simply for the aforementioned torque or power. If you are lying on your side while attempting to turn the rusty beast over your head, there will be so much power lost that your five-year-old would be ashamed of your effort.

Next, select the appropriate tool for the job: is a hand wrench okay? Would a socket wrench be the better choice? Is that rusted out bolt a monster that calls for an impact wrench? Again, use your best judgment when picking the best tool for the application, but keep in mind that if it’s truly a beast and MUST come off, then a nice cordless impact wrench works wonders (not to mention it’s super handy for changing your tires!).

Take Care That You Don't Hurt Yourself

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If you've already wrenched your back, start checking out some options for relief.

Do You Even Care if the Bolt Breaks or Strips?

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Do You Even Care if the bolt breaks? If you aren’t going to replace that rusted bolt or nut and just want it out and gone, then just grab an impact wrench and go to town. Today’s cordless impact wrenches are an impressive lot and are capable of doing the impossible (almost).

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