In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
In The Shop: Defeating Rusty Nuts and Bolts
Oct 13, 2011
When a rusty or frozen nut or bolt defies removal, here are some of your options:
-if time allows, soak--and I mean "soak"--the offenders in penetrating oil. I'm not advertising for any specific product, but have had good luck with Kroil, Blaster, WD-40, JB-80 and others. Twenty-four hours isn't too long to apply, soak, re-apply and re-soak penetrating oil. Sometimes those products work like magic and the fastener easily spins apart. Sometimes they don't.
-if they don't, or if you don't have time to do the soak-and-reapply routine, you have to decide if you need to salvage the nut or bolt. Realistically, if it's that badly frozen, you're probably not going to be able to re-use it, so there's no advantage to being merciful.
-one option that may--or may not---allow you to salvage the offending nut or bolt is to heat the offender cherry red with an acetylene torch. While it's still glowing, give it a mighty tug with your biggest breaker bar, or hit it with a blast from an air wrench. About 60 percent of the time frozen fasteners surrender to heat-then-twist tactics. If not...
-at that point you've already got the torch handy, so burning/melting off the offending fastener with the torch is quick and easy. Considerations must be made for potential scarring/damage to nearby metal, and fire is always a concern.
-there is a high-tech electro-magnetic, hyper-thermic gizmo on the market that uses electricity to heat small areas to high temps that can be used to remove frozen fasteners. You wrap a special coil-like device around the nut or bolt, and it quickly heats that particular area red hot. I've seen it, haven't used one myself, but the times I've seen it in use it's been pretty slick--but expensive.
-grinding is another option. An angle head grinder, or a cut-off wheel in an air-powered die grinder can remove a nut or bolt head with near-surgical precision. The downside of those options is you have to have either a source of electricity or compressed air to power those tools.
-a cold chisel and hammer can be used to shear small bolts. It takes a lot of pounding to shear a bolt larger than 5/16-inch, but if you're angry or desperate enough, it can be done.
Those are the basic options to remove frozen nuts and bolts. None of them are "pretty." With luck, this fall you won't have to resort to any of them.