The best way to remove broken bolts

Written by david brown
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The best way to remove broken bolts
Penetrating oil can loosen broken bolts. (antique oil can image by studio vision 1 from Fotolia.com)

Broken bolts aren't easy to remove, but with the right tools most broken bolts can be successfully removed. The proper tool is a bolt extractor, or easy out. These tools have a very steep tapered left hand thread, and are made of hardened steel. The easy out is threaded counterclockwise into a hole drilled in the broken bolt. The easy out binds in the hole, and then begins to unscrew the broken bolt.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Penetrating oil
  • Hammer
  • Center punch
  • Electric drill
  • Bolt extractor (easy out)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Soak the broken bolt thoroughly with penetrating oil. Allow the penetrating oil to soak in for several minutes, then repeat. Penetrating oils take time to soak in; allow at least half an hour for every 1 inch of bolt.

  2. 2

    Drill a hole in the shaft of the broken bolt to accept the easy out. Begin by punching the bolt with the centre punch; this will keep the drill bit from walking. The depth of the hole will depend on the easy out you're using, and the length of the bolt. Usually a depth of 1 to 2 inches is sufficient.

  3. 3

    Start the easy out into the hole, turning it counterclockwise. If the easy out doesn't grab, tap it lightly with the hammer to set it. Continue turning the easy out counterclockwise to unscrew the bolt.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply heat with a torch to loosen frozen bolts.
  • Tapping the bolt with a hammer can help to loosen corrosion.
  • In some cases it is possible to grind a slot into the bolt, and back the bolt out using a screwdriver.
  • If the easy out doesn't work, or worse yet, if the easy out breaks off, all is not lost. It is possible to weld a nut onto the bolt's shaft, to act as a new bolt head. Find a washer with an inside diameter slightly smaller than the diameter of the bolt, and weld this onto the bolt shaft. Next, weld a nut onto the washer; you can now back the bolt out using a wrench.
  • Some machine shops have a metal disintegrator that can remove even the most stubborn bolts, as well as removing broken taps or easy outs.
  • Always wear eye protection when using power tools.

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