Start with a rust penetrant
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Photo 1: Give them a shot of rust penetrant
Soak the bolts for at least 15 minutes before attempting to loosen.
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Photo 2: If that fails, hit it with a hammer
Create micro cracks in the rust with blows from a hammer, or even better, an air chisel
and hammer bit. Then apply more rust penetrant and “reshock” the bolt head. Repeat
until you can turn the bolt.
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Photo 3: Try a socket on your air chisel
Slip a wrench onto the adapter flats and crank away while you
apply air hammer blows. The dual forces break the bolt loose.
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An air chisel hammer bit and socket adapter can help loosen stuck bolts.
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Photo 4: If all else fails, heat it up
Aim the flame at the bolt head, not the surrounding metal. Heat
for about 15 seconds, but do NOT get it cherry red (overheating
damages the bolt's temper, and you'll have to replace the bolt).
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Photo 5: Then cool it down quickly
Spray the hot bolt with water to cool it quickly. Continue spraying
until it no longer steams.
Rust penetrants contain a solvent to
dissolve rust, a lubricant to reduce
friction and a surface tension reducer
to get deep penetration. “Home brews”
like Coca-Cola, kerosene and mineral
spirits don't have all those ingredients.
Neither does WD-40 (it's a great
lubricant, but it's not formulated as a
rust penetrant). Those products simply
don't work as well or as fast as actual
rust penetrants (find penetrants like
Liquid Wrench Penetrating Oil, Royal
Purple Maxfilm and PB Blaster at
home centers and auto parts stores).
Start by soaking all the bolts for at
least 15 minutes before you attempt
removal (Photo 1). If they still won't
budge, move on to the “shocking”
phase (Photo 2). You can smack the
bolt heads with a hammer. But I get
the best results with an air chisel and hammer bit (GRY No.
CH117 hammer bit; from
I've also had good luck
with an air chisel socket
adapter (No. PH1050;
from www.snapon.com). Slip
an impact socket onto the
adapter and pull the trigger
If neither of those tricks
works, heat and cool the
bolt. The expansion and
contraction will open cracks
in the rust and allow the
penetrant to work its magic.
But before you apply heat,
wash off all the rust penetrant
(most penetrants are
flammable). Next, remove
any rubber or plastic parts
that may be damaged by
heat. Then heat the bolt
head with a propane torch
(Photo 4). Immediately shock
the bolt with water spray
(Photo 5). Once the bolt cools,
reapply rust penetrant and
try removing it.