What Tool is Used to Remove Broken Bolts?



Tooling Breaks in Personal Applications, Shops and in Major Industry

In personal garages, while fixing vehicles, tractors, guns, and even bikes, broken bolts, taps, drills, screws, studs, and other tooling during a routing project has long been known to cause hours of frustration and scrambling to remove the broken tooling.  Many memes can be found across the internet referring to the state of hopelessness one may experience when this happens.  Forums are dedicated to the topic.  The question that keeps emerging is how do I remove a broken bolt (or stuck bolt, drill bit, carbide drill, etc.)

When it comes to broken tooling, easy out may be a common solution which is considered the cheap way to remove broken bolts and drills. Many of you may also be experienced in dealing with broken bolts.  Easy-out users have shared their negative opinion of this popular solution in their real-life situations experiencing broken easy out on top of a broken bolt or drill. One Jeep owner shared their frustration with why easy-out doesn’t work stating “I heard someone once say that the second hardest material known to man was an easy-out, the hardest was a broken easy-out flush with the bolt!!!”  Other users heartily agreed, saying  “Never use easy out!” With a broken bolt in a cast plate, a similar story was shared a broken bolt filled with hardened steel, after a failed attempt with easy-out.  Lamenting comments said things like, “I guess it’s too late to say, never use an easy-out on a frozen bolt”, among advice.

A Reddit user asked for advice on the best screw extractor when dealing with seized bolts, with similar feedback to the previous experiences, users recommended using left-handed drills and stating that easy-outs always break or cause worse damage.  Another Reddit user shared their experience in the mechanic’s forum with a stuck bolt and bolt extractor stuck inside, “I  don’t know what to do” the user said, and responses were full of similar woeful stories among the suggestions.  In the Cartalk Reddit forum, while working on a car, they snapped an exhaust stud flush with the head, then snapped easy-out flush in the stud… and asked now what?  Easy outs are your last resort one response stated, also suggesting a left-handed drill, chisel and hammer, cobalt drill and welding were among other proposed solutions.  In fact, a Toyota 4 Runner thread member asks, “how to fix pillar grab handle bolts that sheared off?” when he was trying to drill, use easy out, and eventually broke off a screwdriver trying to remove it and gave up, one of the responses also mentioned EDM VS MDM recalling a shop that offered broken bolt removal services with a metal disintegrator.

The common answer in all of these cases was always a metal disintegrator.  If you really want to save the part, take it to a shop with a tap extractor many users said from experience.  With the anticipation of needing a tap blaster to remove broken bolts, studs, and oil galley plugs from cylinder heads, Bill, on Practical Machinist asked for advice on inexpensive EDM machines. Metal disintegrator owners piped up with their own personal experience and cautioned that purchasing used metal disintegrators on eBay and other auctioneers, which would be in the affordable range may not work and need repair, but that they would always work better than cheap EDM machines marketed on Amazon.  Metal disintegrators have even been listed for sale on the Practical Machinist forums such as this 2-DBT that was listed for sale as a tap zapper  As a perk, owning one of these machines will also give you the opportunity to offer bolt extraction services.  The seller shared that he purchased it and didn’t need it anymore and also mentioned that the pump was still in good shape, which is a common problem with used metal disintegrators.  If they are stored with coolant in the pump, it will rust and the pump and motor will need to be replaced.  

On a welding forum, one user asked for plans to make your own metal disintegrator, other users mentioned that while there are a number of resources available for DIY EDM broken stud or tap removal machines, they will never be as fast or effective as a metal disintegrator like Electro Arc’s.

See Our Mini Servo Head in Action Below:

The Internet is Full of Questions About Removing Stripped, Snapped and Sheared Bolts

While a majority of user experiences requiring a tool like a metal disintegrator involve a snapped-off bolt, like Andrew who bought a used Kubota and found it came with a broken bolt, he asks forum users, “How do I get the threaded shaft out of the hole without boring it larger?” Other users may be dealing with a sheared-off bolt, stripped Allen bolt, broken valve cover bolt, or just a plain stuck bolt. Left-handed drills, welding, and other suggestions that have come up on these threads may work, but they may not. They do take a lot of time and effort and patience. Metal disintegrating machines were developed specifically because an aircraft carrier had such a huge problem with broken bolts that he paid a team to develop this tool. Electro Arc has been making these tools longer than any other manufacturer and the founder of Electro Arc was part of that team.

Tap Extractors May Complicate, Not Help Removing Your Broken Bolt

Broken taps seem to be the number two reason to scramble looking for a quick solution, and it is another scenario in which extractors are used.  Tap extractors can remove broken taps in blind holes including the #4 tap stuck 2″ deep in a blind pocket, EDM machines cannot help with removing these broken taps, but metal disintegrators are designed just for that job!  If your part is small enough, you may decide to send it to a shop that owns a metal disintegrator for tap removal service.  But if the part is too big, that’s when you’ll start wishing you were a metal disintegrator owner.  If not, perhaps a friend may allow you to use one of theirs.