How to Remove Bolts with Stripped Heads – 2 Easy Methods

Removing bolts with stripped heads can be done using a few different methods, such as using pliers or an adjustable wrench to grip the edges of the bolt and turn it counterclockwise. Another option is to use a screw extractor tool to grip the inside of the bolt and remove it.

These methods can be effective in removing stripped bolts and getting the job done. Struggling with stripped bolts can be a frustrating experience, especially when you’re trying to complete a project or fix something. Whether it’s a rusty old bolt or one that has been overtightened, removing it can seem like a daunting task.

Fortunately, there are several techniques that can be used to successfully remove bolts with stripped heads. By following a few simple steps and using the right tools, you can save yourself time and frustration.

We will explore different methods for removing stripped bolts, providing you with the knowledge you need to tackle this common problem.

Impact Of Stripped Bolts On Projects

Stripped bolts can significantly impact projects, making it challenging to remove bolts with stripped heads. However, there are effective methods available to tackle this issue and ensure successful completion of the project.

Difficulty In Removing Damaged Bolts:

  • Stripped bolts can be incredibly difficult to remove due to their lack of grip and leverage.
  • The stripped heads make it challenging to effectively apply torque or use conventional tools.
  • There is a risk of the bolt breaking or snapping off entirely, further complicating the removal process.
  • Damaged bolts may require specialized equipment or techniques to extract them without causing additional harm.
  • Removing stripped bolts can be time-consuming and frustrating, requiring significant effort and patience.

Delays In Completing Projects:

  • Stripped bolts can cause significant delays in project completion.
  • When bolts cannot be easily removed, it can halt progress until alternative methods are found.
  • The extra time required to address stripped bolts can disrupt timelines and cause project schedules to shift.
  • Finding replacement parts or repairing damaged materials can also add to the overall delay.
  • The longer it takes to remove stripped bolts, the more it affects productivity and leads to potential cost overruns.

Risk Of Further Damage To Materials:

  • Stripped bolts pose a risk of further damage to surrounding materials.
  • The process of trying to remove a stripped bolt can result in scratches, gouges, or dents on surfaces.
  • Overly aggressive attempts at removal can cause collateral damage to nearby components or structures.
  • In some cases, the damaged bolt may need to be drilled out, which can cause irreversible harm.
  • Additional repair or replacement expenses may be incurred due to the secondary damage caused by stripped bolts.

Stripped bolts have significant impacts on projects. They present difficulties in their removal, resulting in delays and potential risk of further damage to materials. It is crucial to address stripped bolts promptly and with care to mitigate these challenges and maintain project progress.

The Causes Of Stripped Bolt Heads

Understanding the causes of stripped bolt heads is crucial when it comes to removing bolts with stripped heads. By identifying common causes like over-tightening or using improper tools, you can tackle this issue effectively.

With the right techniques and tools, you can successfully remove stripped bolts and avoid further damage.

Over-tightening of bolts:

  • Applying excessive force when tightening bolts can lead to stripped heads.
  • Some users tend to rely on brute force rather than following recommended torque specifications.
  • The pressure applied by over-tightening can cause the head to weaken and eventually strip.

Using incorrect tools:

  • Utilizing the wrong size or type of wrench or socket can result in stripped bolt heads.
  • Neglecting to use the appropriate tools can lead to insufficient grip, causing the head to round off.
  • Using worn-out tools can also contribute to the likelihood of stripping bolt heads.

Age and corrosion:

  • Bolts that have been in place for extended periods are prone to corrosion and rust.
  • The presence of rust weakens the integrity of the bolt, making it more susceptible to stripping.
  • The combination of age and corrosion can make it challenging to remove bolts without damaging their heads.

Poor maintenance practices:

  • Neglecting routine maintenance can increase the chances of stripped bolt heads.
  • Lack of lubrication on bolts and threads can create friction during tightening and loosening, leading to stripping.
  • Reusing worn-out or damaged bolts and not replacing them in a timely manner can also contribute to stripping.

Understanding these causes of stripped bolt heads will help you take preventive measures and ensure the longevity of your fasteners. By avoiding over-tightening, using the correct tools, addressing age and corrosion, and implementing proper maintenance practices, you can minimize the risk of encountering stripped bolt heads in your projects.

Method 1: Using Pliers Or Vise Grips

One effective approach for removing bolts with stripped heads is by using pliers or vise grips. These tools provide a strong grip on the bolt, allowing you to easily twist and remove it from the fastener.

Lets, discuss the step-by-step process for using pliers or vise grips to tackle this problem.

Step-By-Step Process For Using Pliers Or Vise Grips:

  • Assess the condition of the stripped bolt head: Before attempting to remove the bolt, carefully inspect its head. Ensure that there is enough material left on the sides for the pliers or vise grips to grip securely.
  • Choose the appropriate tool: Depending on the size and shape of the bolt head, select either pliers or vise grips. Pliers are more suitable for smaller bolts, while vise grips provide a stronger grip for larger bolts.
  • Position the tool: Open the pliers or vise grips and adjust them to the widest setting that still fits the bolt head. Position the tool’s jaws around the sides of the bolt head, ensuring a secure grip.
  • Apply pressure in the opposite direction: Once you have a firm grip on the stripped bolt head, turn the pliers or vise grips counterclockwise to loosen the bolt. Apply steady pressure to avoid slipping or further damaging the bolt head.
  • Rotate the bolt: Using the pliers or vise grips, continue to turn the bolt counterclockwise until it is fully removed. If the bolt is stubborn, you can try applying a small amount of penetrating oil to help lubricate and loosen it.

Tips For Ensuring A Secure Grip:

  • Clean the bolt head: Remove any dirt, rust, or debris from the stripped bolt head using a wire brush or compressed air. A clean surface increases the chances of a secure grip.
  • Choose the right size grip: When using pliers or vise grips, ensure that the tool’s jaws align properly with the sides of the bolt head. A well-fitted grip reduces the risk of slipping.
  • Apply additional grip: If the pliers or vise grips struggle to grip the stripped bolt head securely, you can use rubber bands or duct tape to create additional friction and improve the grip.
  • Use adjustable pliers: Opting for pliers with an adjustable pivot point allows for greater control and adaptability when working with different sizes of stripped bolts. Adjustable pliers provide a snug fit for improved grip.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of This Method:

Although using pliers or vise grips can be an effective way to remove a bolt with a stripped head, it has its advantages and disadvantages to consider.


  • Requires minimal additional tools, making it a convenient option for DIY enthusiasts.
  • Pliers and vise grips are readily available in most toolboxes or hardware stores.
  • Offers a firm grip on the bolt head, minimizing the chances of it slipping further.


  • May not work on severely stripped bolt heads with very little material remaining.
  • There is a risk of applying too much force and damaging the surrounding area if the bolt is particularly stubborn.
  • Limited accessibility in tight spaces where pliers or vise grips may not fit.

Remember, each situation may vary, so it’s essential to assess the stripped bolt head and adapt your approach accordingly.

Method 2: Freeing The Bolt With Heat

Method 2 of removing bolts with stripped heads involves the use of heat to free the bolt. By applying heat to the surrounding area, the expansion of the metal can help loosen the bolt for easier removal.

How Heat Can Help Loosen Seized Bolts:

  • Applying heat to a stripped bolt can expand the metal, breaking the rust bonds and making it easier to remove.
  • The heat loosens the bolt by reducing the friction between the threads and allowing the penetrating oil to reach deeper into the threads.
  • Heat can also help to break down any adhesive or loctite that might be holding the bolt in place.

Techniques For Applying Heat Safely:

  • Use a propane torch or an oxy-acetylene torch to heat the bolt. Avoid using an open flame near flammable materials.
  • Direct the flame towards the bolt head, focusing the heat on the area around the bolt.
  • Heat the bolt gradually, moving the flame back and forth to distribute the heat evenly.
  • Be cautious not to overheat the surrounding area, as excessive heat may damage other components or cause fires.

Precautions And Potential Risks:

  • Ensure that you are working in a well-ventilated area when using heat, as fumes can be toxic.
  • Wear protective gloves and goggles to protect yourself from sparks and hot metal.
  • Avoid using heat on bolts near plastic or rubber components, as excessive heat can cause them to melt or warp.
  • Allow the bolt to cool down before attempting to loosen it, as it can be very hot to touch.
  • Exercise caution to prevent accidental fires when using an open flame torch.

Remember, safety should always be a top priority when working with heat. By following the appropriate techniques and taking necessary precautions, you can effectively free up bolts with stripped heads using heat.

Method 3: Using Specialized Extractor Tools

Method 3 involves using specialized extractor tools to remove bolts with stripped heads. These tools are designed to grip onto the stripped area of the bolt, allowing for easy removal without causing further damage.

Here is a step-by-step process for using bolt extractors and some recommendations to help you choose the right tool for the job.

Bolt Extractors And Their Types

Bolt extractors are highly effective tools that can save you significant time and effort when dealing with stripped bolt heads. These extractors come in various types, including:

  • Straight Flute Extractors: These extractors feature straight flutes that are ideal for shallowly-seated bolts. They provide excellent gripping power.
  • Spiral Flute Extractors: Designed for deeper-set or tightly-wedged bolts, spiral flute extractors have a twisted shape that reduces the likelihood of the bolt breaking during removal.
  • Multi-Spline Extractors: With multiple splines or teeth, these extractors can provide enhanced gripping power for bolts with highly stripped heads.

To use these extractor tools effectively, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Step-By-Step Process For Using Bolt Extractors

  • Begin by selecting the appropriate extractor size for your stripped bolt head. Ensure that the extractor is a close fit to prevent slipping.
  • Secure the extractor tool into a T-handle or a ratchet using the square drive end. This will help you provide the necessary torque during removal.
  • Carefully align the extractor with the center of the stripped bolt head. Apply steady pressure and turn the extractor counterclockwise with the help of the T-handle or ratchet.
  • As you turn the extractor, you will start to feel it bite into the stripped bolt head. Continue to apply firm but controlled force until the bolt begins to loosen.
  • Once the bolt has loosened, switch to a wrench or socket to remove it completely. Be cautious not to remove the extractor from the bolt head prematurely, as this may cause further damage.

When choosing the right extractor tool for your specific needs, consider the following recommendations:

Recommendations For Choosing The Right Extractor Tool

  • Ensure that the extractor set includes a range of sizes to accommodate various bolt head dimensions.
  • Opt for high-quality extractors made from durable materials to ensure longevity and reliable performance.
  • Consider the type of extractor that suits your specific case. Straight flute extractors are suitable for shallowly-seated bolts, while spiral flute extractors are better for deeper-set bolts.
  • If possible, invest in a multi-spline extractor set, as these extractors provide versatile gripping power for a wide range of stripped bolt heads.
  • Read customer reviews and ratings to gain insight into the performance and reliability of different extractor tool brands and models.

By following the step-by-step process and taking the recommended factors into account, you can effectively use bolt extractors to remove bolts with stripped heads. These specialized tools are instrumental in saving time, effort, and frustration during the repair or maintenance process.

Maintenance Best Practices

Learn how to remove bolts with stripped heads using these top maintenance best practices. Discover the most effective techniques to tackle this common issue and keep your equipment running smoothly.

Removing Bolts With Stripped Heads:

When encountering bolts with stripped heads, it’s essential to follow proper maintenance practices to ensure successful removal and minimize any potential damage.

By adhering to the following guidelines, you can effectively address this issue:

Proper Torque Settings:

  • Before tightening any bolts, always consult the manufacturer’s specifications for the appropriate torque setting.
  • Use a torque wrench to apply the recommended torque evenly and prevent over-tightening.
  • Applying too much force can lead to stripped heads, so it is crucial to exercise caution and use the correct torque settings.

Regular Inspection And Lubrication:

  • Conduct periodic inspections to identify any bolts with stripped heads or signs of wear and tear.
  • Lubricate the bolts regularly to reduce friction and prevent them from seizing or becoming more difficult to remove.
  • Inspection and lubrication should be part of routine maintenance to catch any potential issues early on.

Suggested Maintenance Intervals:

  • Establish a maintenance schedule to ensure regular upkeep of your equipment or machinery.
  • Depending on the usage and operating conditions, consider scheduling maintenance intervals every few months or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Regular maintenance will help identify any bolts with stripped heads and allow for prompt repair or replacement.

By adhering to these maintenance best practices, you can minimize the occurrence of bolts with stripped heads and address the issue promptly when it arises. Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and consult professionals if needed to ensure optimal maintenance and prevent further damage.

Using Anti-Seize Compounds

To remove bolts with stripped heads, using anti-seize compounds is a reliable solution. These compounds provide lubrication and prevent corrosion, making it easier to loosen stubborn bolts and preventing future stripping. Ensure a smooth and hassle-free bolt removal process with anti-seize compounds.

In this section, we will explore the benefits of using these compounds, guidelines for applying them, and compatibility considerations.

Benefits Of Using Anti-Seize Compounds:

  • Prevents corrosion: Anti-seize compounds form a protective layer on the threads of bolts, preventing them from corroding. The compounds contain lubricating properties that not only make the bolts easier to remove but also reduce the chances of future corrosion.
  • Easy disassembly: By applying anti-seize compounds, you can significantly reduce the friction between the bolt threads and the surface they are fastened to. This reduces the chances of bolts seizing or getting stuck, making disassembly much easier.
  • Protects against galling: Galling refers to the damage caused by the metal surfaces of bolts sticking and tearing while being tightened or removed. Anti-seize compounds act as a barrier between the metal surfaces, preventing galling and preserving the integrity of the bolts.

Guidelines For Applying Anti-Seize Compounds:

  • Clean the surface: Before applying the anti-seize compound, ensure that the bolt and the surrounding surface are clean and free from dirt, grease, or residual materials. This will allow the compound to adhere properly and provide maximum effectiveness.
  • Apply a thin layer: Use a brush or applicator to apply a thin and even layer of anti-seize compound to the threads of the bolt. Avoid applying excessive amounts, as this can lead to clumping or interference with the fastening process.
  • Use compatible compounds: Different anti-seize compounds are designed for specific applications and materials. Consider factors such as temperature, pressure, and the type of metal involved when selecting the most suitable compound. Always refer to the product manufacturer’s guidelines for compatibility information.

Compatibility Considerations:

  • High-temperature applications: When working with bolts in high-temperature environments, ensure that the anti-seize compound you choose can withstand the heat without deteriorating or losing its effectiveness. Look for compounds specifically designed for high-temperature applications.
  • Metal compatibility: Some anti-seize compounds are formulated for specific metals or metal combinations. Take into account the type of metal you are working with to ensure compatibility and avoid any potential chemical reactions.
  • Electrical conductivity: In certain applications where electrical conductivity is required, it’s crucial to select an anti-seize compound that maintains conductivity to prevent any interference.

Upgrading Tools And Equipment

Upgrade your tools and equipment for easier bolt removal when faced with stripped heads. Improve your efficiency and get the job done quickly with the right tools.

Importance Of Using The Correct Tools

Using the correct tools is crucial when it comes to removing bolts with stripped heads. It not only makes the task easier and more efficient but also helps prevent further damage.

Here are a few reasons why using the right tools is essential:

  • Proper grip: Quality tools are specifically designed to provide a secure and comfortable grip, ensuring you have full control during the bolt removal process.
  • Increased torque: Upgrading your tools can enhance the torque you can apply, making it easier to loosen stubborn bolts without exerting excessive force.
  • Reduced risk of damage: Using the incorrect tool can lead to accidental slips or rounded bolt heads, causing additional damage. Selecting the right tool minimizes this risk and protects the integrity of the bolt and surrounding components.

Indications For Tool Upgrades

Upgrading your tools can greatly improve your chances of successfully removing bolts with stripped heads.

Here are some signs that it may be time for a tool upgrade:

  • Slippage: If you find that your current tools frequently slip or fail to grip the bolt properly, it may be a sign that they need to be replaced.
  • Wear and tear: Over time, tools can become worn, reducing their effectiveness. Look out for signs of wear such as chipped edges or dull surfaces. Upgrading to new tools can help restore their functionality.
  • Inadequate torque: If you’re struggling to generate enough torque to loosen stubborn bolts, it might be an indication that you need more powerful tools.

Recommending Quality Tool Brands

When it comes to removing bolts with stripped heads, it’s crucial to have reliable tools that can withstand the task at hand.

Here are a few highly regarded tool brands known for their quality craftsmanship:

  • Snap-on: Snap-on tools are renowned for their durability, precision, and ergonomic designs. They offer a wide range of options to suit various bolt removal needs.
  • Craftsman: Craftsman tools are known for their affordability and dependability. With a diverse selection of tools, they provide reliable options for removing stripped bolts.
  • Matco: Matco tools offer professional-grade quality and are particularly recognized for their strong grip and torque capabilities. They are a go-to choice for many mechanics and DIY enthusiasts.

Investing in top-quality tools can make a significant difference when it comes to removing bolts with stripped heads. By using the correct tools and upgrading as necessary, you can ensure a smoother and more successful bolt removal process.


When encountering stripped bolt heads, it can be quite frustrating and time-consuming to remove them. However, by following these helpful tips and techniques, you can make the process much smoother and more efficient. Start by assessing the severity of the stripping and deciding on the best removal method based on the options available.

It is important to use caution and the proper tools to avoid causing further damage. Soaking the bolt in penetrating oil or using heat can help loosen it, while alternative tools such as extractors or pliers can aid in gripping the bolt.

By carefully following these steps and remaining patient, you can successfully remove bolts with stripped heads and complete your project with ease. Remember, thorough preparation and the right approach can make all the difference in achieving a successful outcome.

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