Trying to remove a bolt with a broken head can be a difficult experience, especially if you do not want to use a drill. For many, it can be so frustrating that removing it may cause even more damage to the device or connection itself. While using a drill can provide a hole that offers you a way to grab and remove the bolt, there are other methods available.
What follows are a few ways that you can remove a bolt without having to use a drill. The first step should be to evaluate the situation and then decide which method may work best for your needs.
- Is the bolt head broken off or have the edges been rounded?
- Is the bolt now flush with the surface or do you have something to grab?
- What is holding the bolt in place?
It’s important to understand what is holding the bolt in place. If you could turn the bolt would it come out? Or is the bolt being held in place by pressure, corrosion, or rust? By knowing the situation, you can then apply the proper method.
Stuck Bolt – Vice Grips
Most bolts that get stuck have simply lost the edges or corners that let you attach an open, closed, or socket wrench. If the head is broken off, but the rest of the bolt is exposed then you probably will need some vice grips and perhaps some lubricant.
A good pair of vice grips will allow you to grab the bolt and turn or wiggle it until it comes out. This assumes that nothing else is holding the bolt in place apart from the pressure of the connection itself. You can always apply a good lubricant in that case to ensure that the bolt slides out properly.
But what if simply grabbing it with vice grips is not quite enough. This is especially true if you need to unscrew a bolt at a certain point.
Stuck Bolt – Hacksaw
You’ll need the following tools for this method.
- Vice Grips
This method is sort of similar to using a drill, but you are using another device. If the bolt heat is just misshapen and not broke off. Or, if it is broken off but has a smooth surface, you can use a hacksaw to cut a groove into the top of the bolt.
Once cut, you can insert a flathead screwdriver and turn the bolt until it unscrews out of the opening. Or you can use the groove to pull the bolt out totally. If you cannot quite get the bolt out, you can use the vice grips to get the rest of the bolt removed.
But what if the bolt is being held in place by corrosion or rust? In that case, vice grips and a lubricant may not be enough. This is because even the best lubricants may not be able to loosen the rust that has encrusted the bolt. This is when you need to try another method.
In order to use this method, you will need the following.
- Vice Grips or Socket Wrench
- Safety Goggles
You’ll need to fix the item in a single position so that it does not move. This is where having a vice come in handy as you can secure it firmly before using the torch. Of course, depending on the location of the bolt, a vice may not be necessary or practical to use. Once in place, you should put on your safety goggles and gloves before firing up the torch. You’ll want to heat the area around the bolt so that it starts to glow red.
The heat from the torch will loosen the connection the bolt has to the device. Once it is heated evenly around the bolt, cut off the torch and grab the vice grips quickly. Grab the area around the bolt and it should break loose with some pressure. You may need to wiggle it, but with a little effort it should come out.
Using heat breaks up any corrosion that might be holding the bolt in place. This method can only be used if you can heat up the area safely. That may not be possible depending on the device that the bolt is attached or its position. Also, enough of the bolt needs to be exposed for you to grab it with the vice grips.
But what if the bolt has broken off entirely and is flush with the surface? You have nothing to connect to your vice grips. There is still a method you can use.
You will need the following if you want to remove a broken bolt that is flush with the surface.
- Nuts & Washers
- Open-end Wrench or Socket
- Wire Brush or Sandpaper
- Safety Glasses & Gloves
The first step is cleaning off the area with the wire brush or sandpaper so that any rust or other particles have been removed. These particles might otherwise stop you from removing the bolt. Once that is finished, you’ll need to get the washer ready. The washer should fit securely around the bolt itself.
Now, weld the washer to the to the broken bolt. Once completed, take the nut and weld it to the washer. You now have the washer connected to the broken bolt and the nut connected to the washer, so you have something to grab on to. You should weld both internally and externally to fully secure the washer to the bolt.
Once it is secure, let the nut cool down for about 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on how hot it is. Now, you can take the wrench or socket wrench and grab the nut which is now connected to the broken bolt.
With these methods, you can now remove any broken bolt whether it just needs a little work, is broken off, or is flush with the surface.
Founder of HandymanGuides.com and self-proclaimed “Mr. Fix-It”, Mike has countless years of experience building and tinkering with everything under the sun. He works as a local repair guy near Santa Monica, CA and when he’s not spackling drywall, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 2 daughters.