PROJECTS TO IMPROVE YOUR BOAT BY TOM NEALE
WHEN THERE’S NO DYNAMITE
Frozen bolts can be maddening. Tom suggests a series of tactics —
from lubricants to brute force — to get the darn things out
YOU’VE BEEN THERE. No matter how hard you try, that bolt won’t come out. This can turn a five-minute job to one that akes days, resulting in a horribly expensive mess. There are tactics and tools that will often solve this problem, although I admit I’ve sometimes longed for a stick of dynamite. Patience,
vibration, and wise use of force are key.
Doing the wrong things can wrench off the bolt head or strip the slot in the top of the bolt.
Hopefully your bolt will have a head, such as a hex head, around which you can fit a socket or
closed box wrench. If this isn’t what you have, most good builders use sensibly shaped holes,
such as the various Phillips type shapes, in the head for better tool gripping. Unfortunately,
a few builders still use bolts with straight-edge slots, which easily round out. These require
special caution. If your fastener has a rounded-out slot, you can often cut another slot into
the head with a Dremel tool. There is no limit to tricks that good mechanics use. Generally,
the information below applies to all bolts if you use the correct bit, socket, or wrench.
If your bolt doesn’t turn after moderate pressure, first spray on a product like PB Blaster or
CRC’s Freeze-Off. The former is representative of products that have a lubricant, which will
work its way into very tight corroded surfaces. CRC Freeze-Off also has penetrating lubricant
but adds the feature of contraction caused by temperature differential. This product, if used
Degree Of Difficulty
MATERIALS AND COSTS:
■ Tef-Gel, $14 for 12-oz. tube
■ Manual Impact Driver, $23 Craftsman
■ AC Impact Driver approx. $100 to $300
(depending on brand and store)
■ Propane Torch approx. $15 to $25
■ Cheating Bar — You probably already
have one ...
■ CRC Freeze-Off approx. $7 to $14,
depending on size
■ EZ-Out Set approx. $20 to $30,
depending on size of set
properly, significantly chills or even freezes
the bolt, causing it to contract, which hopefully facilitates entry of penetrating lubricant
and separation of the corrosion. Usually it
takes a lot of spraying, but when it works,
it’s worth it.
If the chemicals don’t work, begin
patient tapping to set up vibration. After
each tapping session, add more penetrant.
Depending on the situation, use a hammer
directly on the bolt or on a box-end wrench
that’s held squarely and securely over the
bolt head and torqued tightly by hand in the
“unscrew” (usually counterclockwise) direction. This tapping not only sets up vibration
but also, hopefully, tends to turn the bolt in
the right direction as the vibration begins to
separate the bind. Sometimes this process
may take a few moments, sometimes days.
Neither the hammer nor the blows should
be too heavy. The goal is to create vibration,
not immediately force the bolt to turn. If
your hammer can’t reach the bolt, you can
transmit its blows to the bolt using a heavy-
PHOTO: MEL NEALE
OCTOBER | NOVEMBER 2012