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How to Loosen Rusty Bolts

Loosening a rusted bolt is a frustrating experience. Forcing the bolt or banging on it too hard often results in a broken bolt that requires even more work to remove. The job may be easier if you choose the right tool. An open-end wench or six-point box wrench are recommended by Popular Mechanics. A thick layer of rust and corrosion may make it difficult to find the wrench that fits perfectly. Experiment with both metric and standard sized tools until you find a wrench that fits snugly.


The right size wrench is key to loosening a rusty bolt.
  1. Scrub away as much rust as possible from both the bolt and its nut with a stiff wire brush. Tap the nut lightly on its flat sides with a hammer. Fit a wrench over the nut and turn slightly to the right before turning it to the left.
  2. Saturate the bolt with a rust remover or lubricant such as an all-purpose household spray lubricant. Let the rust remover set for at least one hour then scrub the bolt and nut with the wire brush again. Tap the nut with a hammer and test for looseness. Repeat the lubricant application several times. If there is a thick buildup of corrosion on the assembly, let it soak on the rusted bolt overnight.
  3. Put ice on a metal bolt to make the metal contract. Heat the nut with the flame from a lighter or small torch. Heat will make the nut expand. With a contracted bolt and an expanded nut, you should be able to loosen the bolt with a wrench.
  4. Apply more leverage to a stubborn bolt by using a long handled ratchet or a breaker bar. Stop use of the ratchet if the tension goes slack or feels soft. This is a sign that you are stripping the bolt's threads.

Things You Will Need

  • Wire bristled brush
  • Hammer
  • Wrench
  • Household lubricant
  • Lighter
  • Long handled ratchet

Tips

  • Remember the saying "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" when attempting to loosen a rusty bolt. Cranking your wrench to the right will only tighten the bolt further; however, a short turn to the right before turning left can help loosen a stuck bolt or screw.
  • It may take several applications of each step to free a very corroded bolt. Spray some lubricant on the bolt and take a break if you feel yourself getting frustrated.

Warning

  • Do not use a flame to heat a rusted nut if there is combustible material nearby, such as oil or gasoline in an automobile motor.

About the Author

Jo Burns has been a freelance writer since 1980. She specializes in articles relating to home and garden, alternative health care, travel, writing and crafting. In 2007, Burns received an M.F.A. in creative writing.

Photo Credits

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