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Hex-head screw from hell

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Old 10-14-06, 05:32 AM
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Hex-head screw from hell

I'm trying to remove my cheap rear V-brake to replace it with a much better one I picked up at the LBS. Unfortunately, the hex-head screw holding the brake is completely stuck. I soaked the area in WD40 and went at it with a hex screwdriver, which only succeeded in stripping the screw head. I then used a hammer to force in a flat-head screwdriver, which sat securely for a few full-on unscrewing attempts before stripping the head even worse. As I understand it, I can either go with a dremel to carve a groove in the screw, or use a drill and an "easy out" to remove the screw. Which is the better route to take? Or is there something else I could try?

I don't have either a dremel or a drill, so either tool would need to be bought. I assume a dremel would prove more useful around bikes in general, so I'm leaning that way.

Of course, even if I carve a groove in the screw head, will that really be much help? I haven't been able to make the screw budge at all.

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 10-14-06, 05:52 AM
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As a bike shop guy, I say take your bike to the shop. Having them deal with it may be cheaper than buying the tool. Knowledge of how to use the tool does not come automatically with the puchase. My education came from experience.

As much as I hate vice grips and will allow only one pair in my quiver of tools at the shop, sometimes they do come in handy. Try clamping a set of vice grips to the nut if there is room. If you don't have them, they are way cheaper than a dremel or a drill.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by CRUM
Knowledge of how to use the tool does not come automatically with the puchase.
Wise, wise words... I often think I'm much more mechanically capable than I actually am . Well, I was planning to go by the LBS again tomorrow anyway, so I'll see if they can coax it out somehow.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by gbcb
Wise, wise words... I often think I'm much more mechanically capable than I actually am . Well, I was planning to go by the LBS again tomorrow anyway, so I'll see if they can coax it out somehow.
Another thing to try. If you have a penetrant fluid or even WD40, you might try flipping the bike upside down and spraying some into the brake post from the back. Often there is enough room to fit the red nozzle in there. Let it soak for as long as you can stand it. My limit is usually an hour or so, but I force myself to wait longer if the offending bolt is really pissing me off.

This technique will often make the post and the brake come off together if it is an alloy frame. But then once the brake is off, you can either find a new post to re-install or destroy to caliper with a hack saw to salvage the old one.

If it is a steel frame, the post is usually welded to the frame and the fluid will work it's way to the bolt threads hopefully.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by CRUM
As a bike shop guy, I say take your bike to the shop. Having them deal with it may be cheaper than buying the tool.
But... will they give you the tool they used so you don't have to go to a bike shop and spend money again when a similar problem arises later?

As to the problem, dunno. Easy out sonds better than trying to create a usable slot in a very weathered bolt head.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:37 AM
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Allan wrenches, either the L-shaped type or those mounted in screwdriver handles, tend to round off after some use and then do real damage to the screws they are used on. This is a particular true with the small ones like 4 and 5 mm. Buy new good quality frequently which will reduce this type of problem.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by LóFarkas
But... will they give you the tool they used so you don't have to go to a bike shop and spend money again when a similar problem arises later?

As to the problem, dunno. Easy out sonds better than trying to create a usable slot in a very weathered bolt head.
I wouldn't give them the tool. But in regards to buying a tool for a very rare problem he may never face again, using the facilities of a repair shop may be a good choice. That said, I am the type to buy the tool. I love tools. I look for any excuse to buy new ones. I would buy them if for no other reason than to own them. The fact that I make my living using them is icing on the cake. But in an effort to help out, I offered an out that might not be so costly in case money was an issue.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:45 AM
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First of all, try applying some localized heat to soften the thread lock compound. A soldering iron works well to heat the bolt. This thread locker is applied at point of assembly (it's usually the blue variety) to compensate for the lack of post mushrooming torque. Then use whatever method you choose to remove the now mashed bolt. I would probably use the vise-grips, being careful not to simply twist the head off, leaving no choice but to drill.

If you suspect that it's corrosion that is hindering your attempts at removal, liberal use of a proper penetrating oil (of which WD40 is not) may help.

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Old 10-14-06, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Noam Zane
First of all, try applying some localized heat to soften the thread lock compound. A soldering iron works well to heat the bolt. This thread locker is applied at point of assembly (it's usually the blue variety) to compensate for the lack of post mushrooming torque. Then use whatever method you choose to remove the now mashed bolt.

If you suspect that it's corrosion that is hindering your attempts at removal, liberal use of a proper penetrating oil (of which WD40 is not) may help.
No WD 40 is not, but it beats a blank when the real thing is not on the shelf.
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Old 10-14-06, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by gbcb
I'm trying to remove my cheap rear V-brake to replace it with a much better one I picked up at the LBS. Unfortunately, the hex-head screw holding the brake is completely stuck. I soaked the area in WD40 and went at it with a hex screwdriver, which only succeeded in stripping the screw head. I then used a hammer to force in a flat-head screwdriver, which sat securely for a few full-on unscrewing attempts before stripping the head even worse. As I understand it, I can either go with a dremel to carve a groove in the screw, or use a drill and an "easy out" to remove the screw. Which is the better route to take? Or is there something else I could try?

I don't have either a dremel or a drill, so either tool would need to be bought. I assume a dremel would prove more useful around bikes in general, so I'm leaning that way.

Of course, even if I carve a groove in the screw head, will that really be much help? I haven't been able to make the screw budge at all.

Thanks in advance for any help.
WD40 doesn't always work the best, in the future try Liquid Wrench and let soak for about an hour then reapply, Liquid Wrench works better then WD40 but even it's not a miracle loosener. Since the screw head is already jacked then use the easy out.
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Old 10-14-06, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider
Allan wrenches, either the L-shaped type or those mounted in screwdriver handles, tend to round off after some use and then do real damage to the screws they are used on. This is a particular true with the small ones like 4 and 5 mm. Buy new good quality frequently which will reduce this type of problem.
+1. Then be sure to throw the old, worn one away. Resist the temptation to keep it as a spare.
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Old 10-14-06, 10:06 AM
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I hate Dremels. Seems like the worst compromise tool for almost every situation. I own one that gathers dust because there's rarely a time it can do the job, any job, for me. I'd grind some flats on the side of that head, and use a vise grip to get it out. A Dremel, large file or 4" grinder could make those flats quick enough. Use penetrating oil as has been mentioned. If the head rips off you'll need to buy an electric drill. I don't hold out much hope for the "Eazy Out" route.

Someday in your life, you'll have to buy an electric drill and some bits, so it might as well be now. Use a prick punch to spot the exact center of the screw, and start drilling with an undersize drill right down the center. You can work the drill left & right, up & down as it starts in, in order to get it going exactly down the center. Once you're through, follow it with the proper tap drill for that screw. I'm going to guess a 5mm drill for an M6 x 1 screw. You'll have to invest in a tap, and maybe a handle, to run through there to clean out the threads, but that will be the only exorbitant expense. You really need the other tools in your collection anyway.

Tap Drill Chart

BTW, this is a "Hex Head", and this is a Socket Head Cap Screw.

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Old 10-14-06, 11:28 AM
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PB blaster works well to unfreeze stuck bolts.

On the allen-keys, I always grind the tip flat on a grinder. This removes the taper at the end and helps them grip the bolts, even with new keys. The sharp corner really grabs bolts tightly.

At this point, you might to try channel-lock pliers. They have tremendous clamping pressure and the long handle gives you levers. Come in from the side with the pliers, squeeze hard and turn.
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Old 10-14-06, 01:50 PM
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Ornery: It's strange but I find my Dremmel is one of the most used tools in my workshop. From cutting stainless mudguard stays, to small drilling jobs or smoothing and grinding, I find it invaluable.
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Old 10-14-06, 02:08 PM
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People use those things for everything, because they can do everything... just not as efficiently as the "right tool for the job." I use a drill for drilling, grinder for grinding, and a various saws and sanders for other tasks. The Dremel is more of a tool for modelers, where full size tools don't spin fast enough or are too cumbersome.

I bought my Dremel to clean up corrosion on my wife's, car's alloy wheels, specifically around the valve. Waste of time. The correct procedure would have been to send them out for refinishing. I've found next to nothing else to use it on in over three years.

I once used it to grind flats on the tamper resistant screws on my car's mass air flow sensor. Not sure what I could have used instead, since it was such tight quarters... well, other than ordering the fancy torx bit.

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Old 10-14-06, 04:55 PM
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Those easy outs will do it. If you can use a drill and proper bit, drill a hole, and maybe find a left hand tap. THis will work to remove the bolt as well
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Old 10-14-06, 06:02 PM
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Just lastnight I had a stuck hex head resulting in stripping it. I knew it was going to happen, but I knew I could put a carbide wheel on my dremel make a line so deep to use a regular screwdriver with a big handle to turn it out with ease.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:13 PM
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Regular hand drills have all sorts of uses. I recommend throwing away the chuck adjustment key, which you will likely soon lose, & get one of the hand-adjustable chucks. They cost about $25 but will save you time & trouble searching for your key & going out to buy a new one.
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Old 10-14-06, 06:47 PM
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Most drills have a lanyard to attach the key to the cord. In my 35+ years of wrenching & drilling, I've yet to loose a chuck key.
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Old 10-14-06, 07:04 PM
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How can someone NOT have a drill ?? I could not EVEN go
through life without a drill..I just don't understand !!

You gotta have a drill, go get a drill fer cryin out loud
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Old 10-14-06, 07:06 PM
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Taking it to the LBS is sound advice.

But I have never been one for sound advice, and you'll
be missing an excuse to buy new tool(s). I say go for it!
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Old 10-14-06, 07:26 PM
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As a mechanic with lots of years dealing with frozen in hardware, skip the E-Z out. Last thing you need to do is break off the E-Z Out in the screw. If the hardware is frozen in tight enough to not come out on its own, it's probably NOT going to come out with an E-Z Out.

Thinks of the mechanics here, the tool's root diameter is smaller than the original hardware. If the hardware won't turn itself out, the tool probably won't either.
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Old 10-14-06, 07:38 PM
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I have ran across the occasional screw that, when the head stripped off, applying the drill, on forward, ran it right out the other side. I have also found that a set of 3/8" drive hex bits have given more leverage due to the ratchet handle length and have gently backed a screw out as opposed to stripping the head with other kinds of hex keys.
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Old 10-14-06, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by lopsided
I have ran across the occasional screw that, when the head stripped off, applying the drill, on forward, ran it right out the other side. I have also found that a set of 3/8" drive hex bits have given more leverage due to the ratchet handle length and have gently backed a screw out as opposed to stripping the head with other kinds of hex keys.
When I worked on motorcycles it was common to use those with a 3/8" drive hand held impact
wrench that you whack with a hammer to get the case bolts off.

If that didn't work you got the drill and the easy outs

If that didn't work you drill it all the way out and re-tapped the hole
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Old 10-14-06, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by dave80909
How can someone NOT have a drill ?? I could not EVEN go
through life without a drill..I just don't understand !!

You gotta have a drill, go get a drill fer cryin out loud
I don't have a drill since my nomadic lifestyle keeps me from buying too much stuff (though it didn't prevent me from buying that 15kg old Soviet typewriter I found at a market ). Thanks for all the helpful replies, everyone.

Originally Posted by Ornery
BTW, this is a "Hex Head", and this is a Socket Head Cap Screw.
Oops -- I did a Google seach before posting to confirm it was called a hex-head screw and still got it wrong . Thanks for the clarification
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