Seemingly simple projects can quickly become a complete nightmare when broken bolts, stripped heads and seized fasteners come into the picture. I know you've undoubtedly experienced this at some point, and when you least expect, it will happen again. Being armed with the knowledge to deal with the situation can save money, reduce downtime and, most importantly, keep your blood pressure in check. Penetrating oil and traditional tools don't always do the trick, and this is when you can count on ATV Rider to point you in the right direction.
Choose Your Tools Wisely
The best way to deal with stripped fasteners is to avoid the situation all together. Using the wrong tool during installation or removal is often the culprit to fastener malfunction. When removing difficult fasteners, an impact driver with the correct tip for your application is worth its weight in gold. An impact driver applies tension to the fastener while under pressure after being struck with a hammer. Impact drivers often come with multiple tips and can be outfitted with nearly any Phillips, flat, Allen, Torx or socket. Just be careful, because choosing to improvise and using the wrong tip will definitely result in a severely damaged fastener. If this is the case, you should proceed to the next tip.
Break It Free
If it's blue Loctite or light rust that has a choke hold on your bolt, it'll likely be freed if you can just initiate that first bit of movement. You can grind or file a small notch in the side of your bolt providing an area for a punch to press. Tap the bolt in the counterclockwise direction to break the bond.
If the head of your fastener is completely stripped and unable to be removed with conventional tools, it's time to get creative. In some situations a pair of Vise Grips can be used to get a bite on the outside of the fastener's head. It may be necessary to file two flat areas on the outside of the head to provide an adequate surface to grip. There isn't always enough room to use this method, so if your fastener is located in a confined area, you may want to get out your Dremel tool or hacksaw blade. A clean straight cut across the center of the fastener's head will allow the use of a large flat-head screwdriver to get things spinning. This does weaken the fastener, so if you are dealing with rusty or crossed threads, your problem has yet to be solved.
Keep Your Cool
Don't get discouraged or pissed off and start throwing tools across the shop. Acts like that are not appropriate and shouldn't take place unless you've pinched your fingers or had the wrench slip resulting in bloody knuckles. (In that case, avoid windows or flawless painted surfaces when throwing tools.) At this point your fastener probably has no head, or maybe this is where your situation began. If your fastener extends beyond the surface in which it is mounted, you may be able to grasp the threads from the backside and continue to twist the fastener passing it completely through the nut or threaded object. This may require the use of pliers, Vise Grips or two nuts locked together. It's a relief to see the excess threads protruding from the back side, and if this is what you've discovered, consider it a get-out-of-jail-free card. Next time you'll have to pass go without collecting $200 and go straight to jail.
Drill It Out
As a last resort, completely drilling out your seized fastener may be necessary. This is where the centered and straight hole drilled during the previous attempt will be appreciated. Anytime I'm drilling out fasteners, I prefer to start with a small bit and work my way up in an attempt keep my hole straight and centered. As your hole increases in size and reaches innermost portions of the threads you may discover that the remainder of the bolt's threads can be cleaned out with ease. If not, a tap can be used to finish the job. If this is done correctly, the nut or any threaded part of your ATV should remain in good working condition. I highly recommend cleaning the threads with a tap before installing a replacement fastener. I'd hate for you to unnecessarily go through this situation again.
Installation of fasteners is often the initial root of stripped threads. Always install fasteners with your fingers until you have made three to four complete rotations. Saving time by forcing a bolt into position with a ratchet or air wrench only creates more work when the threads are crossed. This damages the fastener as well as the object to which you are fastening, such as a costly frame or engine case. Rushing a simple job today could mean missing a ride weeks or months down the road.
Know Thy Thread Compounds
Before going crazy with any thread-locking compound or anti-seizing agent, know what you're working with. Blue Loctite is typically mild and allows fasteners to be removed by hand. If you're screwing small fasteners into a soft alloy like aluminum or magnesium, this mild blue adhesion could prove to be catastrophic. Red Loctite is designed for installing engine studs and such, which are not likely to be removed. This stuff is very strong and requires high heat to cause melting before the fastener can be removed. I love Loctite and use it on a daily basis, but I also have multiple types and know where they can be used. Always read your bottles carefully before dowsing your fasteners.
The head to your bolt is completely fried and all attempts to remove the bolt have failed. The time has come to put your screw extractor to good use. If your toolbox doesn't already contain a screw extractor, you can pick one up for a few bucks at any hardware or automotive parts center. A screw extractor works by threading into the center of bolts in a counterclockwise direction and binding. Once it has become bound pressure applied to the extractor will begin to twist and break the fastener free for easy removal. This requires drilling a hole into the center of the fastener. A center punch is recommended to keep your drill bit from walking, and a straight hole will come in handy in the event that the screw extractor fails. It's best to take your time and do the job right, which will hopefully prevent additional damage from occurring.
It's the little things that can be the difference between packing up and heading home or letting the sun set on your back as the day turns into night. If you have any tips that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you. Heck, you might even save someone's ride. We'll be sure to give you credit for your remedy here in the pages of ATV Rider Magazine. So get them to us! Don't miss the next issue when we continue this subject and cover thread repair. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail to:
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