A Step-by-Step Guide on How To Use a Bolt Extractor

If you do enough DIY work on your car, you are sure to find a problem with a stripped, sheared, or stuck bolt sooner or later. Whether it’s a bolt head that comes off when you’re replacing 15 inch hubcaps for a new look or a stripped nut when you need to unmount an engine part, it just happens, and you need the right extractor tools to solve the problem.

Gathering the Necessary Tools

A bolt extractor is not a single-piece tool you can just apply to the job. In fact, it’s actually a few tools that come together to do the work. You’ll need a good impact wrench to break a bolt that is stuck or sheared off free, as well as a drill and the tools to find purchase on stripped nuts, because not every bolt extraction encounters the same problems. 

Bolt extractor kits typically include the splines you will need as well as socket tools that fit over stripped nuts. In the case of stripped bolts that no longer work with tools like hex wrenches, drilling out the stripped portion is often the first step, which is why you need the drill and an appropriate bit. Last but not least, make sure you have eye protection and safety gloves to protect yourself while you work on bolt extraction. 

Selecting & Using the Right Size Extractor

The size and shape of the extractor you need is dictated by the size of the screw or bolt being extracted, and usually based on the pre-drilled size of hole you need to make. That also means each extractor will work on a range of bolt sizes, so it is not as simple as getting a 10mm wrench for a 10mm bolt is under normal circumstances. It does not help that extractors are not sized in conventional ways. As a result, extractor sets should have a chart showing you which extractor sizes work for which bolts.

By following the chart, you can easily discern the difference between situations that call for a #3 straight spline and those better served by a #2 spiral, for example. Extractor spline sizes are standardized, so if you have trouble finding the chart that goes with your extractor kit, you can usually find resources online that reproduce those guides very easily. Online guides like how to put hubcaps on and how to match your bolt with your spline size are invaluable resources.

Once you have the right size extractor, it is a matter of drilling out the center of the bolt, fitting the spline to it, and then using the impact wrench to slowly work the bolt free. The spline should grip the bolt securely if you follow through carefully with the drilling and fitment, providing the force you need to break things free.

Finding a Bolt Extractor Kit

If you search for bolt extractors online there are many types, some of which are made for heavy industry. There are differences to the assumptions behind automotive bolt extractor kits, those used for heavy machinery, and those you might find at a general hardware store. Look for the bolt extractors you need at the same places that pop up when you search hubcaps near me to find ones built to work with vehicle bolt sizes

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