Broken Bolts (And what to do about them)

Broken bolts, in outdoor furniture, can be a real show stopper. Often, when trying to replace a ripped or torn sling, it is necessary to first remove the sling rails. These are typically bolted to the frame. Just use the appropriate sized wrench and “presto” the bolt is out. But sometimes it’s not so easy. You can have a stuck bolt. No matter how hard you try to twist the stuck bolt you just can’t make it budge. Apply too much pressure to a stuck bolt and you can round off the head or worse yet you can snap a stuck bolt off at the base.


There is nothing worse when you put a wrench on a stuck bolt, turn as hard as you can, feel it move and then turn really easy really fast. That’s when you know you have trouble. But fear not, there are things you can do.


First, before you try and turn any bolts on your outdoor furniture give them a shot of penetrating oil. By “penetrating oil” I mean real penetrating oil not WD40. WD40 is great stuff but it’s not so good as a penetrating oil. Give each bolt a shot of penetrating oil the day before you plan to strip your furniture. You will be surprised how well this works and how much less trouble you will have removing the old bolts.


Let’s say you didn’t do this and have already messed one up. Let’s say that you have rounded the head of the bolt and now the wrench just slips.You can try using a pair of Vice-Grips. These are a type of pliers with a locking jaw. You can try these but I don’t hold out much hope. If the bolt was tight enough to defeat your wrench what hope do the Vice-Grips have? I have found Vice-Grips to be more of an exercise in frustration.


I prefer to drill out a rounded bolt. Why? First because a rounded bolt is much easier to drill dead center. Second, because you have more bolt to work with. It is much easier to drill on the bolts center or to correct a mistake before you cut into the threads. The object in drilling a bolt is the relieve the pressure on the threads. Drilling straight down a bolt’s length, without nicking the threads will cause the bolt to loosen.

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