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Dealing with Stubborn Bolts

I received a letter from a woman who complained that she didn't have the strength to loosen, open or remove things such as nuts, bolts and screws around her home. Assuming she was not handicapped in some way, she most likely was just not using the right tool for the job.

In the kitchen we are often faced with the need to open items. A pry-top soda bottle cap can't be easily removed unless you use a bottle opener. A can of fruit can't be opened without a can opener, and a special key is needed for some canned meats. Using the correct tool or combination of tools is also the secret of getting things undone when doing home maintenance jobs. Brute strength is not usually the answer.

When trying to loosen a screw the screwdriver tip has to fit snugly in the slot or star. If it's too small it will not get a grip and probably ride out of the slot and mutilate the head of the screw. Once damaged, screws become almost impossible to remove with a screwdriver.

Not only does the screwdriver have to fit the screw snugly but the length of the screwdriver also has a bearing on how easily you'll remove the screw. The longer the shaft of the screwdriver, the more torque or turning power you can exert on the screw and the more likely you'll get the screw out. By grasping the square shaft of a screwdriver with an adjustable wrench you further increase the power you exert by turning the wrench and screwdriver together.

Screw extractor set

Once the head of a screw or bolt is mutilated the slot can be cut deeper with a hacksaw sometimes. When that won't work, you need a tool called a screw extractor or easy-out. Screw extractors come in several sizes. Each one has a drill bit size embossed on its shaft. First select a screw extractor smaller than the shank of the screw or bolt. Then you drill a hole of the size marked on the screw extractor into the top of the screw. Finally, tap the screw extractor firmly into the hole and with the special handle available for the extractors or an adjustable wrench you should be able to back the screw or bolt out.

A rusty screw that is frozen in wood can sometimes be removed more easily by heating the screw with the tip of a hot clothes iron or a soldering gun.

Nuts, bolts and sheet metal screws that are frozen in place should be first soaked with a penetrating lubricant such as LPS-1 or WD-40. For really stubborn nuts and bolts, it may take several applications and a few days for the lubricant to work.

Set of box wrenches

There are numerous tools available for loosening nuts and bolts. A few of the more common general purpose ones are open end wrenches, box wrenches and socket wrenches. These wenches come in fixed sizes and you must have the proper size for a given nut or bolt.

Adjustable wrench

An adjustable wrench (often referred to as a Crescent wrench) will fit many sizes of nuts and bolts. And just as the longer screwdriver works easier, the longer the handle of a wrench, the more power you can exert.

Pipe wrench

Two pipe wrenches are usually needed for loosening pipe joints. One wrench is used as a holding wrench to keep one section or part from coming loose at the wrong joint. The second wrench is used for turning the section or part that you want to loosen.

Penetrating lubricants can also be used on pipe joints but for a really stubborn pipe I've had success with a method that a retired plumber told me about.

Wrap the joint with an old rag saturated with ammonia. Then over wrap the rag with a plastic bag secured with tape to seal in the fumes. Let this sit overnight and the next day the joint should come loose.

Link to BoltDepot.com

When the handle of a wrench is too short for the job, it's a common suggestion to slip a long pipe over the handle to give yourself more leverage. In many cases it works just fine; however, you must keep in mind that quality wrenches are designed to keep leverage and the intended load in safe balance. It's possible to damage the wrench or bolts or injure yourself when using this method of extending the leverage of a tool.

Most tools are a lifetime investment if given a reasonable amount of care, and many jobs just can't be done unless you have the proper tool.



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