Rounding off or stripping a nut or bolt can be extremely frustrating, especially when you are in the middle of a project. It may seem like your project has come to a standstill, but don’t worry. This is a very common problem that can usually be fixed with just a few simple steps.
First, I will go through some simple steps you can use to remove a rounded nut or bolt. That way you can move on with your project if you are in a hurry. After that, I will explain some of the most common reasons that they get rounded off so that you can try to prevent this in the future.
There are a few different methods and many different tools that can be used to solve this problem. I have experienced this problem many times and I am going to give you the steps of my “go-to” or preferred method. This method has worked for me 95% of the time and hopefully, it will work for you.
What you will need
- Liquid Wrench, WD40, or some other type of penetrating oil.
- A pipe wrench. I prefer a small 10-inch pipe wrench because it can fit in smaller spaces.
Steps to Remove a Rounded Nut or Bolt
- Spray the bolt with the penetrating oil. Try to get the oil to run into the threads of the bolt. This will help to loosen the bolt a little in case there is any rust in the threads.
- Let the penetrating oil set for about 5 – 10 minutes
- Wipe off any excess oil from the bolt.
- Place the open end of the pipe wrench around the rounded head of the bolt.
- Look at the teeth of the pipe wrench and make sure they are pointed in the direction you will turn the wrench which will be counterclockwise. You want the teeth to grip into the head of the nut or bolt.
- Tighten the pipe wrench as much as you can so it fits snugly around the bolt head
- Begin to slowly turn the pipe wrench counterclockwise
- The teeth of the pipe wrench should dig into the bolt head and grip it well
- The bolt should then break loose
- Remove the pipe wrench and remove the bolt the rest of the way with your fingers.
There are other tools you can try this with, such as vice grips ( also known as locking pliers ), or channel lock pliers. I prefer the pipe wrench because it gives you both the locking and biting of the vice grips along with the leverage you get with channel lock pliers.
There are also kits and special wrenches you can buy online or at a hardware or auto parts store. These generally work pretty well but they can be expensive.
The Causes of Rounded Nuts and Bolts
The best way to cure rounded nuts and bolts is to prevent them from getting round in the first place. Although not all situations can be avoided such as rust and heat expansion, most of them can be prevented. Here are some of the common reasons that nuts and bolts get rounded.
- Using an adjustable wrench or a crescent wrench. These wrenches are great for quick use, but they never quite adjust all the way to the bolt and they often move and slip while you are using them, thus rounding the bolt head.
- Incorrect wrench or socket size. Using the wrong size wrench will quickly round of a nut or bolt. Make sure you always use the correct size.
- Using the wrong type of wrench or socket. Many wrenches and sockets come in the 12 point type. These may be easier to use and fit on your bolt but they are more likely to slip and slipping most always causes rounding of a bolt head. If possible use 6 point wrenches and sockets. These fit more snugly and are less likely to slip
- A wrench or socket is used at an angle. Sometimes in hard-to-reach places, we don’t always get the wrench flush on the nut or bolt. If it is not properly fit on the bolt, it will slip. Again, any slippage is bound to cause rounding of the bolt head.
- Rust or heat expansion. Although these normally can’t be prevented, they are a big contributor. They cause the nut or bolt to stick, making it very hard to turn and you end up rounding them off. Use penetrating oil to keep them from rusting and make them easier to slide off.
A rounded nut or bolt is not only frustrating but may also seem like a difficult problem to fix. There’s no need to worry, there are many solutions to this common problem and most of them are quite simple.
Using a pipe wrench with penetrating oil is a quick and fairly easy method. The pipe wrench provides very good leverage while also gripping the nut or bolt head firmly and the penetrating oil helps loosen the bolt to help it come off easier.
There are other tools and methods that can be used to remove rounded-off nuts or bolts. The pipe wrench method is one of the most reliable.
The best method is to prevent nuts and bolts from being rounded off in the first place by taking precautions and using the correct tools. Sometimes rounded-off nuts and bolts cannot be prevented but there are ways to solve the problem.
I hope these tips help you to prevent rounded nuts and bolts and if you do have an issue, I hope that this can help you in solving the problem.