How to Loosen a Stuck Nut or Bolt

A pipe cheater bar and propane torch used to loosen stuck nuts and bolts.
Using a pipe cheater bar and propane torch to loosen stuck nuts and bolts.

To loosen a nut or bolt that won’t come off, start by spraying the connection with penetrating oil. Allow the oil to soak in for a time, then try loosening it with a wrench.

To allow for more torque on the nut or bolt, slip a piece of metal pipe over the handle of the wrench to give you more leverage when turning it.

If the nut or bolt still refuses to budge, try heating it up with a propane torch. Heating the connection causes the nut and bolt to expand and contract, which can help break the bond between them.

Apply heat to the joint with the torch for several minutes, allow the nut or bolt to cool, then repeat. When heating a connection with a torch, make sure to keep all combustible materials away from the area to avoid a fire.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Joe Truini: What do you do when you have a nut or bolt that’s stuck on there, and you can’t get it off? Well, there’s a couple of techniques.

First, you can try putting a little penetrating oil on the nut or bolt and see if that loosens it up. Next, you can use what’s called a cheater bar, which is simply a pipe that slips onto the wrench handle—gives you extra leverage.

I’ve tried both of those techniques, and I still can get this bolt off. So I’m going to—what I tried to do next was add some heat. I heated this nut up a couple of times already, and I’m going to do it one more time.

But the heat expands the nut or bolt, and then when it cools off it contracts. And you do it again, and it expands and contracts. And that expansion and contraction will often break the bond that’s holding the nut and bolt in place.

So all you need to do is get a propane torch and light it up. And heat up, in this case I have a bolt right there. And you usually have to heat it for at least three or four minutes; but, like I said, I’ve already done this twice before.

So I’ll just show you—you know I just put it right, put the flame within almost an inch away. Make sure it’s turned off all the way, and then try. I may need to use a cheater bar on this. There you go, it’s loosened up.

Now this tip works great, but remember you’re working with an open flame, so be sure there are no combustible materials anywhere near the work site.