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VW Broken Stud & Bolt Removal



During the lifetime of an old car, the fasteners that were originally used to assemble it tend to become crusted with rust, seized in their threads from years of just being there, or have been damaged from prior neglectful installation or repairs.  If great care is not taken in the removal of old hardware, they can snap off and make your “fun” time with your car turn into what seems like a nightmare.

First, I will cover the basics of careful bolt and stud removal, so you might not have to deal with the problems associated with removing broken studs and bolts.

Always lube before removal.   A good soaking with penetrating oil, and a little time can really help. Try to apply the oil to all of the fasteners several times on the day before removal.  This gives it time to work its way in, and loosen the rust that accumulates deep in the threads.  Even if the bolt is not rusted, this will greatly help in removal, and lessen the chance of damage.

Slowly and carefully remove fasteners.  Were not in a hurry are we?  While you’re removing a nut or bolt, loosen it slowly, feel for tight spots, and work the wrench back and forth if you encounter any.  When a nut or bolt tightens up during removal, its dirty, it needs more lube, or is starting to seize.  If too much torque is applied to a seized bolt, it will certainly break!

Heat it up.  If after all of the above is attempted, and the bolt, nut or stud will still not budge, Heat will usually do the trick.  Certain tools are required for these operations, but if you are in the middle of a restoration, you probably own torches and a mig welder already.  If not, you might think about buying one, or start being friendly with that neighbor that is always out wrenching on cars. 

The theory of using heat to remove a fastener is that heat expands metal, and therefore increases the area between the threads. The trick is to only heat either the nut around the bolt or the area around a stud or bolt that is threaded into any part of your VW (except the engine case, which is made of a Magnesium alloy and will burn if heated too much).   Heat the area up until it is Cherry red (but not melting), and carefully remove the offending bolt or stud.  While were on the subject of Studs, There are special tools designed to remove them, but often cause more harm than good.  These so called “Stud Pullers” pinch grooves in the stud and weaken it, often causing it to break.  The best way I know to remove them without damage is to use the “double nut method”. Just thread 2 nuts on the stud, tighten them tightly against each other, and use your wrench on the lower nut to remove the stud.  This method is also used to install new studs by tightening on the outer nut, and never damages the threads. 

Broken bolt and stud removal.  This procedure requires a mig welder and the skill to use it correctly.  Broken studs and bolts can be always be removed by this cool trick.  Vise grips hardly ever do anything but round off the threads, so if you just have to try them, please be careful. With a center punch, tap a divot in the exact center, drill a hole in the center about halfway down the broken stud or bolt, and weld a nut to it through the center of the nut.  This fills the hole that you just drilled and permanently attaches the nut.   The secret of this method is waiting long enough time for the heat to dissipate into the surrounding area.  This works even if the stud is broken off below the surface, is stripped or corroded so much that the threads are gone (like exhaust studs often do). This pretty cool trick gives you something to put your wrench on, remove the stud, and finally get back to the fun part of restoration.  If the nut breaks off, weld it back on and try it again. This method works wonderfully.

I have found that easy-outs work poorly at removing studs from aluminum or Magnesium, they often expand the stud, thus making it tighter and harder to remove.  When 2 dissimilar metals are attached for a long period of time, corrosion is formed that acts like glue, and takes a good amount of heat to detach the two.

Safety tips. When working with penetrating oil, torches or welders, wear eye protection and proper safety gear, remain fire conscious by never using open flames around gasoline or other flammable materials.

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