How to Free Seized Nuts & Bolts

Written by eric tosso
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How to Free Seized Nuts & Bolts
Oxidation bonds the nut and bolt together causing them to seize. (rusty bolt image by Petr Gnuskin from

Old nuts and bolts are prone to rust and often become seized if an anti-seize compound was not used during the initial installation. The extent of this problem can range from mild annoyance to outright ordeal. Fortunately, there are several options available to release the seized hardware. Each requires different materials and hardware. Depending on the situation, all of the methods may not be viable. Start with the least intrusive and work up to the more involved steps.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Wrenches
  • Penetrating oil
  • Acetylene torch
  • Nut splitter
  • Drill bits

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  1. 1

    Add penetrating oil to the seized hardware and allow several hours for the oil to begin working before trying to loosen the nut. Several applications may be required before results are seen. If the bolt is small enough, submerging it in oil can be effective too.

  2. 2

    Use an acetylene torch to heat the hardware before attempting to loosen it. This makes the metal expand and can break the bond between the nut and bolt caused by corrosion.

  3. 3

    Use a nut splitter to break the nut off of the bolt. This tool uses a wrench to tighten a sharp blade against the side of the nut causing it to split.

  4. 4

    Drill the bolt out, but only as a last resort. Mark the centre of the bolt and starting with the smallest drill bit possible, make a hole. Use progressively larger bits until the bolt falls apart.

Tips and warnings

  • Always be sure to use the correct-sized wrenches on the bolt head and nut to prevent rounding them off.
  • Acetylene torches make a very hot flame and should only be used under controlled situations.

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