This post seeks to record the ways I generally go about removing a stuck bolt using a particular repair I did – Skip further down if you don’t want the background.
I recently agreed to help out a friend with her first car which she had bought for a few hundred pounds and then found out how much a cam belt replacement actually costs when you get a garage to do it!
The car in question was a fairly common 2004 Fiesta 1.4 – this is the Ford Sigma engine which was also used in the Puma and Focus. Having done a few different cam belt changes over the years I figured it would be comparatively simple. Turns out that logic was badly flawed due to a design “feature” included by Ford which makes the job very difficult. This “feature” is a single bolt which can be almost impossible to remove – the crank bolt!
To explain the technical problem you need a bit of background knowledge on how pulleys are normally mounted on shafts. The method normally used is called a Woodruff key, this is a lump of metal which goes into a slot on the shaft. A corresponding slot is machined into the pulley/gear to be driven preventing any rotation. The key can be seen on the bottom left of the shaft in the photo.
Now the problem caused by Ford on the engine I was dealing with was that to save money (machining that slot adds a manufacturing operation) they did not use a key and instead relied solely on friction. The Ford engine uses the crank bolt to not only hold the pulleys on the crank but actually tighten it sufficiently that the friction between the pulley and the crank prevents rotation. The down side being that the bolt has to be incredibly tight so it can be very difficult to remove and if replaced must be absolutely torqued to specification because if it allows the timing gear to slip the engine would likely be destroyed!
Removing a stuck bolt…
In terms of getting out a bolt start small and build up. In this case there’s no chance a ratchet will do it so I started with a normal short breaker bar and an 18mm deep socket (a slighly unusual size not found in most smaller kits) so I had to buy one) and not terribly surprisingly nothing happened. So I got out my big breaker bar – it’s 800mm long so allows a significant amount of torque to be applied. To get clearance to use this I had to use two long 1/2″ drive extensions so the bar could be positioned outside the wheel arch. Again this didn’t do as much as I’d hoped…
Normally at this point the common next step is to put a bar in place resting against a cross member and then crank the engine. This uses the torque of the starter motor with the mechanical advantage resulting from the starter ring gear to apply a very large torque. Unfortunately you can’t do this with this engine because of the above issue with the crank not having a key. The moment the bolt undoes the engine would lose its relative timing and would probably be badly damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t aware the crank had no key so we tried it anyway. After several goes on the starter and still having no luck I thought we might get more force into it by pushing the car rolling and having the driver let up the clutch like a bump start – using the inertia of the car as the force. Astonishingly even this didn’t get it moving (actually very lucky as it later turned out!).
Having exhausted hand tools I contacted a mate of mine who has an impact gun. It was a fairly basic one but rated at 220Nm should give the bolt a good beating and the percussive action will free up a good many stuck bolts but in this case it just wouldn’t do it!
I started drilling small holes in the bolt head to try to relieve some of the friction between the flange under the bolt head and the pulley. The idea being to remove enough material from the back of the bolt such that it relieves the force by the head flexing a little. After quite a bit of drilling and several goes with the gun it became apparent it just wasn’t going to cut it on this one!
Having accepted I needed a lot more force and having few ideas how to achieve this I decided I would finally splash out on a tool I’d been looking at for ages…
This is a Dewalt DCF899. The torque ratings for it are amazing for something of this size at 950 Nm continuous but it is a bit pricey. That said it will undo almost anything I’ve found and the batteries last forever!
So having bought this beast I gave it a go and after a number of goes at full power and some rust falling out the bolt still didn’t move! Careful inspection of the bolt head showed that the impact gun was hitting it so hard now for a comparatively small bolt head (18mm hex) the steel of both the bolt head and the socket we getting damaged. I made the choice to give it one last go and ended up rounding off the bolt head entirely!
Most people at this point would probably give up but I had one last idea I wanted to try! I realised that an M20 nut could be drilled out to a 20mm round hole and then it would fit over the rounded off bolt head. The benefit being an M20 nut is much larger hex than the original 18mm across flats bolt head at 30mm, this would replace the stripped head and resist a huge amount of torque before rounding off. I also needed to drill the nut half way through to 24mm as the m20 nut was much thicker and I needed clearance for the next part of the plan…At this point a mate of mine turned up so we broke out the welder and proceeded to join the combination of nut and bolt with weld. After a couple false starts where the new nut sheared off because we didn’t use enough weld we just filled up the head with weld as a last ditch attempt and once the whole bolt was glowing cherry red we used the big impact gun and out it came!
Spot the difference! The one on the left is the replacement ready to go in because on this engine the crank bolt should not be re-used.