Just about everyone has had to deal with stripped bolt threads at one time or another. Wheel lug nut bolts are a common source of this frustration. You may have tightened a lug nut improperly, or a shop repairman may have used an air impact wrench too vigorously. You can repair your own damaged bolt threads by following some simple steps and applying a few speciality tools.
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Tap and Die Kits
One of the easiest ways to repair the stripped threads on a lug bolt involves the use of a tap and die kit. You must determine if your vehicle's wheels have standard or metric threads before you buy or rent a tap and die kit. Some sets have universal applications. The die tool functions like a thread chaser, recutting the old threads into a new pattern with the use of a T-handled tool that accepts different size die bits, or chucks. The directions will tell you what pitch and size bolt you have, or a comparison chart will be provided.
Use a flat file to camphor the top ends of the bolt at 45-degree angles. Place a die tool that has the correct thread size cutting bit over the bolt, then twist the handle gradually back and forth, which cuts new threads into the bolt. Add oil to the cutting bit with progressive turns of the handle until the entire bolt has been cut. Back out the die bit frequently to clean away the cut metal fragments. It requires a keen eye and steady hand to recut bolts using a die bit.
Lug Bolt Removal
Lug bolt removal is an alternative to die-cutting the old bolt. By using penetrating oil and striking a hammer on the outside face of the bolt, the bolt can be forced backward off its spline seat. For difficult removals, use a C-clamp to press the bolt out of the hub. Sometimes a propane torch is needed to heat up the hub area to expand the inner hub splines, allowing the bolt to move out of the seat much more easily. For tight clearance problems, the hub and axle must be removed to gain access to the outer flange of the bolt.
Machine Shop Assistance
The preferred and exacting method for repairing a stripped lug bolt may necessitate taking the hub to a machine shop. Machine shops have presses specifically designed to press the old lug bolt out of its spline seat with one easy application. A replacement bolt can then be pressed back into the seat hub. Doing so takes the guesswork out of installing the correct replacement bolt and prevents you from encountering any misalignment problems during installation. Fees can be nominal for single bolt repairs.
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