For your part, the main thing you’re going to have to do is know roughly the size of the bolt that you’re trying to extract, and then you’ll grab the tool and get going. It’s a simple matter, and many people overthink it, but let’s take a look at 4 of the best bolt extractors on the market, and then we’ll teach you how to use these handy tools.
IRWIN HANSON BOLT-GRIP Bolt Extractor Set, 5 Piece
This five piece set from Irwin comes with extracting sockets ranging from 3/8 to 5/8 inches, making it perfect for most people working on a car due to the common bolt sizes included. The spiral bits are high-quality and will allow you to rip out stubborn bolts with a surprising amount of ease.
You’ll still need your own ratchet to drive them, but the universal design of the sockets means they’re sure to fit most standard sets. The bargain price makes them a must-have for anyone who works with vehicles in varying states of disrepair. This is one of the best bolt removers period.
Craftsman Impact Grade 10 Piece Damaged Bolt/Nut Remover Set
If you’re looking at the truly terrible side of bolts, then this Craftsman set is designed to meet your needs. They’re designed to be used with power tools without damaging your removers, and that means that you’ll be able to rip out that stripped, rust-ridden, painted-over bolt that’s been sitting in the block for half a century.
Grab a breaker bar or your air ratchet, and get that thorn out of your side without having to worry about the integrity of your sockets. This is a strong contender for the best bolt extractor.
IRWIN 25-Piece Hex Head Extractor Set with 5-Piece Bolt-Grip Extractor Base
If you’re working on a wide variety of differing machinery, then this is the set (see full specs) you’ll need. It comes with the 5 bolt extractors mentioned above, and also 25 different sizes of spline extractors which will allow you to make short work of a surprising array of bolts and screws. The spline extractors will cover you from 1/8” to 7/8” and the instructions are right there on the tools themselves. It’s hard to beat, even if it is a little pricey.
IRWIN Tools IMPACT Performance Series BOLT GRIP Deep Well Bolt Extractors
If you’re looking to conquer an entire rusted together engine block, you’ll need a wide variety of sizes to accommodate each and every bolt. This fourteen piece set (see full specs) is made for impact tools, so it’s guaranteed tough, and the spiral extractors are perfect for the task. Add in the fact that all of the sockets are deep-welled, and you’ll be able to have things apart in no time at all.
Give this one a shot if you’re looking for the best of the best bolt extractors. If you’ve got the dough, ignore the price tag because the time saved is nearly invaluable.
Using Bolt Removal Tools
There are two main types of bolt extractors, each of which has their own uses.
Socket extractors will allow you to extricate mildly stripped or heavily rusted bolts in your normal fashion. They’re super convenient since they’ll fit on your air tools, breaker bar, or even a ratchet without any modifications in most cases.
They have a tendency to mess up the head of the bolt a bit as well, but frankly the important thing with most stubborn bolts is just to get them out so you can get back to work.
Using them is the same as any socket. Stick them on the bolt and turn with the ratchet or pneumatic tool and they’ll grip down and the bolt will most likely pop free. While they tend to damage the bolt, they’re not actually a destructive method which can help if you’re working with rarer sizes and don’t want to have to order more of them.
Spline extractors, on the other hand, are a completely destructive method but they have a much higher chance of success and you can remove even a bolt with just a tiny amount of head left on them. You’ll need a drill as well to successfully use a set.
You’ll drill into the bolt itself, making sure you have everything sized correctly. Afterwards you’ll run the tool into the hole drilled, then extract it with a ratchet. It’s great for closed in spaces, and you’ll be able to get most bolts out without too much issue.
Prepping the Bolt
Don’t just try a destructive method before you can work on a bolt. There’s a couple of things you can do to make the whole process easier, even if you do end up using the extractor.
The first sounds counter-intuitive: hit the stubborn thing with a hammer a couple of times. This has a tendency to knock things “into place” and you’ll find you break a lot less bolts this way. Sometimes you’ll even be able to get them out with a standard socket afterwards.
One more thing to keep in mind is to use cutting oil if you have to drill a bolt. This will make things go a lot more smoothly and keep the bolt from expanding in the heat to fill the hole. Keep the bit oiled and you’ll run into less problems. The expansion from heat can make using even a specialized extractor an arduous process.
Multi spline extractors should be tapped into place lightly with a mallet after you seat them in order to take advantage of the grip as well. Trust us: this will make things a whole lot easier in the end.
Trust us, the best bolt extractors aren’t a luxury, they’re an absolute necessity. Once you’ve found a set that suits your purposes, you’ll wonder how you ever got things done without it. You don’t just need a set, you deserve a set of these great tools. Good luck!