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How To Remove Rusted Or Broken Bolts Without Heat

Rusted or broken bolts are a common sight in some homes. If a bolt is in a wet environment, oxidization is bound to happen, and corrosion or rust is the result. A broken or rusted bolt is best removed. If you're unsure of how to do this without using heat, here's how building experts recommend you do it. 

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If you want to avoid using heat while removing a rusted or broken bolt, use a penetrant spray on the bolt and let it sit for some hours before knocking it around with a chisel and hammer.

You can also drill through the bolt and follow that up with an extractor, turning the extractor with a spanner to loosen the bolt

Sometimes you need to get rid of the rust and not the bolt itself. We have researched when this is appropriate, the best way to do it, and the occasional inevitable bolt removal. Keep reading to learn more. 

Rusty screw nuts and bolts on suspension bridge, How To Remove Rusted Or Broken Bolts Without Heat

How Do You Remove Rusted or Broken Bolts Without Using Heat?

Heat might not be suitable if the rusted bolt is embedded in a material that is prone to melting or inflammable. Luckily, there are other alternatives to using heat that work just as well for removing troublesome bolts. There are as follows:

Knock On The Edges

Using a chisel or center punch and hammer to knock on the edges of the bolt in a counterclockwise direction should loosen it sufficiently to be removed. Make sure the chisel is of a smaller size than your bolt.

You’ll find that a spray penetrant like WD-40 will come in handy here. Spray some on the problematic bolt, leave it for a couple of hours to provide the necessary lubrication, then apply the spray again, and leave it on for some hours.

WD-40 lubricant in a small woodworking shop

This should make the bolt more malleable to being knocked out by a chisel. 

Check out this WD-40 on Amazon.

Drill

An alternative to chiseling is drilling. This should only be a last resort, though, as a lot of bolts, especially high tensile ones, are very difficult to drill.

If you have to, use a magnetic drill (mag drill for short) with an attached drill bit that's the right size for your bolt, just small enough to drill a hole in its center.

Mag drills are a favored option because they are more accurate, stable, and faster than conventional drills. They can also be more easily maneuvered into needed positions.   

Drill into the center of the bolt and insert an extractor into the drilled center. Using a spanner, turn the extractor in a counterclockwise direction. That should get the bolt out. 

Watch the video below for more information on these methods.

What Is The Fastest Way to Remove a Rusted Bolt?

Using heat is pretty much the fastest way to remove a rusted bolt if you're comfortable with heat use. Using heat speeds up the removal. The bolt expands with the heat and contracts when it cools, making removal easier.

There are a number of methods that you can employ to remove rusted or broken bolts fast. You can use a welding gun or torch to weld a nut onto the broken bolt to make it easy to remove with a wrench.

Make sure to use a nut that's around the same size as the bolt. Once welded on, use a wrench on the nut and twist it off. The bolt should come off along with it.

Even without using a nut, the heat from the welding instrument will cause the bolt to expand. Upon cooling, it can be easily removed with a chisel and hammer. While using a chisel and hammer can be effective without heat, heat eases the process.

With a rusted bolt, rust-induced corrosion can make removal difficult. The first thing you want to do is get rid of the rust. A penetrant spray will help to clear corrosion, thereby making removal easier. Spray the penetrant on the bolt and let it sit for a while, then direct a heat source like a welding torch at the bolt. 

Ensure you thoroughly clean up oil any residue from the penetrant before using a heat source. This is because most penetrants are inflammable. After using heat, you can use a chisel and hammer to knock out the bolt.

How Do You Break a Bolt That Won't Budge?

Shiny wrench untighten the bolt on a dusty old chainsaw

In some instances, the bolt might too corroded to be removed with any of the methods already described. The only recourse you have in such instances is to break the bolt and try again to remove it. 

You can cut out the bolt by encasing it with a clamp and twisting it out. You can also use a saw or hacksaw to break a bolt that refuses to budge.

Will Vinegar Loosen Rusted Bolts?

While vinegar is effective at removing rust from a bolt, the bolt would need to be taken out and submerged in vinegar for a 24-hour period. This is clearly impractical if the intended use of the vinegar is to loosen the bolt in the first place.

While in theory vinegar has the capability to loosen a rusted bolt, the required method of application—submersion—is impossible when the bolt is embedded in another material. 

How Do You Free a Seized Bolt?

Your bolt becomes seized when its threads are stuck, making it impossible to rotate or free it. Applying force won't help here. What you want to do is get the threads unstuck. 

A spray penetrant will provide the right lubrication to loosen the bolt. Spray it on the bolt and tap the bolt with a hammer to help the formula penetrate better. You can finish off the removal process with a chisel or drill.

Check out the W-D40 specialist penetrant lubricant spray on Amazon.

How Do You Heat a Bolt Without a Torch?

If you want to heat up your bolt to remove it and you don’t have a torch nearby, or you want to avoid any fire hazards, a good alternative is induction heating

With induction heating, an open flame is not used. Rather, a metal coil is heated up through an induction process, which can then be used to supply heat to other materials. 

Simply place your induction heat tool over the bolt. This should get your bolt red hot and ease removal. 

Can WD-40 Remove Rust?

Can of spray on WD-40 with a no mess pen

WD-40 is quite versatile. While it can be used to remove rusted or broken bolts, it also serves well in preventing and removing rust. In fact, its original use was as an anti-corrosive on spacecraft. That’s really cool, right? 

If you’re dealing with a rusted bolt and have a can of WD-40 nearby, you need not go through the hassle of removing the bolt. Simply spray WD-40 on the affected bolt, and leave it on for about 10 minutes before wiping it off with an abrasive material like sandpaper or a scouring pad. 

If WD-40 does not succeed in taking off the rust, the stronger formula, WD-40 Specialist Fast Release Penetrant Spray, should do the trick. 

How Quickly Does WD-40 Work?

As a rust remover, WD-40 works in about 10 minutes. If you’re using it to remove a bolt, however, WD-40 would need to be left on the bolt for 30 minutes if you plan on using heat afterward. Sans heat, you’re looking at a couple of hours

Will a Propane Torch Loosen Bolts?

Gas torch burner in steel company

If you are comfortable using a heat source to loosen a bolt, you will find a propane torch much to your liking. Note that it is not an option if the bolt is screwed o\into combustible material. 

Before using a propane torch, use a penetrant like WD-40 and leave it to set for 30 minutes. Clean the residual oil, turn on the torch, and direct the flame at the bolt head.

Move the flame in a circular motion around the bolt for 30 seconds. Then use a wrench to pry the bolt out. If it doesn’t budge, repeat the above process.

In Summary 

If you're trying to avoid working with heat when removing a rusted or broken bolt, you should keep a penetrant spray handy. The penetrant will help clean up the corrosion on a rusted bolt and facilitate removal.

Also, while it might seem easier to completely remove a rusted bolt, WD-40 might work to get your bolt looking as good as new.

To learn more about bolts, we recommend these related articles: 

How To Remove a Stripped Allen Head Bolt 

What Size Bolt For TV Wall Mount