It’s not fun to imagine a rusted bolt head crumbling or snapping off of your engine components. The premise isn’t fun, but for older systems, it’s a painful, inevitable reality. Corrosion and heightened pressure over time can lead to the degradation of an engine bolt rendering it entirely inoperable. There are a few steps to follow that might help you in your quest to remove the pesky fastener.
If you come across a rusted bolt that you want to salvage, do not attempt to force it off. First, you’ll have to decide, through a quick survey, whether or not the bolt is at the point of no return. If a bolt is not budging and looks corroded, consider if a locking compound has been applied. Locking compounds are adhesive fluids that help secure a fastener, such as thread locking fluid. These adhesives can be softened when heat is applied. A mini portable induction heater can be used to release fasteners from corrosion and adhesive compounds.
If a thread locking fluid is not the issue, you’ll want to remove some of the rust from the bolt. A wire brush can be applied gently to remove visible corrosion, in order to provide better visibility. Sometimes the bolt can be removed after a layer of rust is cleared. However, if the bolt is still not budging, you may need to consult the aid of mechanical and electrical tools.
Due to the degradation, a bolt may have reduced in size from its original measurements. You’ll want to make sure to have an assortment of box end wrenches on hand to compensate for the varied bolt corrosion you may encounter. It is also in your interest to have breaker bars and long handled ratchets in common bolt sizes on hand for more leverage. Open end wrenches are not as beneficial in this scenario because they are more likely to strip the bolt.
In the event that these first approaches are not working, it may be necessary to consult liquid thread looseners. These include specified lubricates and penetrating oil. The use of these catalysts can loosen a fastener from corrosive areas, enabling a smaller amount of torque to be applied for removal.
If all else fails, the bolt will need to be broken and removed. In this situation, a drill and drill extractor set will provide a convenient way to do so. The drill can be used to hollow out the bolt, enough to insert a drill extractor. Afterwards, a rachet can be applied to completely remove the fastener.
If you feel the bolt is not strong enough for any of the above, heat can be a decent Hail Mary. When heat is applied to a fastener, it expands and has the potential to break any rusted bonds. Analyze the components for any hazardous areas and proceed when safe. Heat the metal surrounding the bolt and remove while still hot.