How to Get Out a Stripped Bolt

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Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Updated on Oct 4, 2022 · 7 min read
To remove a stripped bolt, you’ll need the right tools and a boatload of patience. Whether you use heat, a hammer, a Dremel, a drill bit, a bolt extractor, or another method to tackle your stubborn bolt, you’ll need to have the right tools and take the appropriate safety precautions to be successful. 
Stripped bolts, screws, and fasteners of all kinds are an age-old problem. Whether you’re a well-weathered mechanic or a learning car enthusiast, you’re bound to come across a stripped bolt sooner or later—and when you do, you’ll need the right tools and a ton of patience to get the job done.
Stripped screws and bolts are fasteners can occur for a variety of reasons. Rust and corrosion can lock fasteners in place, and age or misuse can cause the head and edges of these fasteners to become round. Overtightening or using the incorrect tool on a bolt can also cause it to strip. 
If you’ve faced one before, you know the nightmare of removing a stripped bolt. That’s why
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How to remove a stuck stripped bolt

If you’re facing a fixed fastener or stubborn bolt, there are a couple of ways you can proceed—but the route you choose might just depend on the tools you’ve got handy in your garage. You don’t need an arsenal of power tools—you likely have what you need hanging around at home.

Tools you’ll need for bolt removal

The tools you’ll need for removing a stripped bolt vary depending on the approach you choose. No matter what way you try it, however, you’ll want to make sure you have the following on-hand before you get started:
  • PPE (personal protective equipment) including thick gloves and protective eyewear 
  • A flat, open workspace that has ventilation 
It’s also a good idea to get your hands on a bottle of penetrating oil, which can help loosen up some of the corrosion binding the bolt in place—and potentially make your job easier. 

Use heat 

One way to tackle a stuck bolt is with the power of heat. If you skipped 7th-grade science (or just need a refresher on the lesson), here’s the basic premise: applying heat to metal will cause it to expand, and as it cools the metal will contract. This expansion/contraction process can be used to manipulate a stubborn bolt into coming free by expanding the area around it and breaking the corrosive bond between its threads. 
To tackle a stripped fastener with heat, you’ll need a heating or blow torch
With your tools and protective gear handy, simply heat the stripped bolt until the metal glows red, then use a spanner of the same size to grip and remove it. You may have to repeat the process a couple of times before the bolt breaks free. 

Use a hammer 

Hitting something frustrating with a hammer is more than just cathartic—in the case of stripped screws and bolts, it can also actually be a solution to the problem!
In situations where a fastener has only slightly caused seized bolt, the force of impact or vibration can potentially be enough to break the corrosive bond between the threads. Enter the hammer!
When taking a hammer to your stripped bolt, it’s important to start with light taps only—you don’t want to get too hammer happy! An excessive amount of force could actually have the opposite effect, entrenching your stripped fastener further and making the problem harder to resolve. 
The upside to the hammer method is that you only need a few tools—namely a hammer, but also a socket and/or wrench to get enough grip on the bolt head—to get the job done. The downside, however, is that this method of bolt removal is not always effective. If it’s not working for you, it’s time to move on to the next trick. 

Cut a slit 

Cutting a slit in the stripped head of your bolt or fastener can sometimes create relief from the pressure locking it into place, giving you a better grip and a better chance of removal.
To cut the slit itself, you’ll need a Dremel tool or something similar (any generic cutting or grinding tool may do). Once you’ve made the slit, use a flathead screwdriver(or any tool that will fit) to gain leverage on the bolt and break its corrosive bonds. This should give you the extra grip you need.
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Use a drill bit 

If you have a drill and an extractor bit as a part of your mechanic’s tool box, you may be able to drill your stripped bolt free. 
Begin with a stepped bit, and drill clockwise into the bolt to create an opening large enough to insert your extractor bit. Then, gripping the bolt with a spanner, insert the tip of the extractor bit and rotate the bolt counterclockwise until the bit connects with the hole. Once this happens, continue turning the bolt in the same direction until it’s freed.
Drilling your bolt free is no easy task, and it’s often not employed until most other options have been exhausted. If you’re going the drilli\ng route, we recommend taking your time and starting small. Over time, you can slowly expand the size of the drill (and the hole) until the stuck bolt comes loose. 

Use a screw extractor 

Screw and bolt extractor sockets—like extractor bits—are specially designed to address the problem of stuck stripped bolts or rusted bolts. These sockets sport specialized teeth that reinforce grip on a rounded head of the bolt, making the task of loosening a stripped bolt slightly easier. 
You can find extractor kits at virtually any auto parts store. Many will require you to first drill a hole in the bolt before inserting the extractor. 

Use locking pliers

If you have a pair of locking pliers, these can also be used to solve the problem of a stuck screw or bolt. Similar to screw and bolt extractor kits, locking pliers have special teeth that allow for a firmer grip, even on smoothed or rounded fastener heads. 
Gripping your stripped bolt with a pair of Vise-grippliers can potentially give you the leverage you need to turn it—and hopefully remove it. Then, you’re free to put in a new bolt. 

How to find hassle-free car insurance

With time and patience, you can break free even the most stubborn of stripped bolts. But if all else fails, you can always take your vehicle to a mechanic and let someone else do the dirty work for you. 
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While there’s no singular tool that outshines others when it comes to removing stripped bolts, locking pliers, bolt extractors, and blowtorches can all be used to effectively loosen and remove stubborn fasteners. You could even use a rubber band!
There are several ways you can remove a stripped bolt without using a drill—such as by heating the metal with a blowtorch, gripping the bolt with locking pliers, applying measured force with a hammer, or even cutting a slit with a Dremel tool and wedging a screwdriver inside to break it free.

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