Loosening a stuck bolt on bathroom plumbing?
January 27, 2004 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me! I'm sinking! How can I loosen a *really* stubborn nut that's holding my old bathroom faucet to the sink?

I've got a grainy picture of the nut in question posted, and it's on the hot water stem of the faucet, if that's relevant. I've been working on this thing for days (well, off and on) and it hasn't budged an inch. WD-40, a longer basin wrench, the works, and I just can't get this to break loose.

The faucet isn't held in place by one central nut like a lot of them, it had two, one for each water stem. And the other nut only came off because it had corroded enough to simply crumble and fall apart when I tried to loosen it. Any tips (short of having to remove the whole sink and/or destroy it) would be greatly appreciated.
posted by anildash to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Home Depot sells something called "liquid wrench" that is better for this kind of stuff than WD40 (make sure to give the stuff some time to work its magic...ideally a few hours). There's a couple other products along similar lines, and I can't recommend any of them specifically (ask the staff at your hardware store), but you can definitely do better than WD40.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:19 PM on January 27, 2004

Liquid wrench is good stuff. Knock it fairly hard after the liquid wrench has had a while to work.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:44 PM on January 27, 2004

Try heating it with a propane torch. Let it go through a few heat/cool cycles, that may loosen it enough for the basin wrench. If that doesn't do it, borrow a cutting torch.

Since you've been able to get the other nut off, can you slip a hacksaw between the sink and faucet on the other side? I'm thinking you could try to rotate the faucet instead of the nut. You're likely to get a lot more torque on it with a cheater pipe since it's out in the open. Or maybe just saw the thing off from the top.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:54 PM on January 27, 2004

Well, if it comes down to cutting it, reach for the Dremel before the cutting torch.
posted by NortonDC at 10:41 PM on January 27, 2004

Are you replacing the faucet/tap altogether? You could use a recripocating saw on the faucet as close to the basin as you dare and then drill out the bolt if you had to.
posted by thirteen at 10:48 PM on January 27, 2004

Or the Dremel which is less sexy (and quick) than the saw, but seems more practical. Plus it is fun. Wear gogles.
Good luck Anil.
posted by thirteen at 10:51 PM on January 27, 2004

I had a similar task a a month back. Here's how I solved it:
I measured how much space a had to work in and then bought a pair of off-brand locking pliers (Vise Grips)that would just fit in that space. I tuned them so that it took all my strength using both hands to clamp them to the nut. I then used all my remaining strength to turn the nut. I had to repeat the tighten/turn pattern about 8 times before I could switch to channel locks to take the nut off the rest of the way. Liquid Wrench will help if you can get it to where it needs to go.

Do NOT use a blow torch after you used Liquid Wrench.

The next to final resort it to cut through the fixture on the top (which is a LOT of work), and let the section of pipe drop through.

The final resort is to remove the sink.

To keep this from happening in the future, make sure you caulk around the new fixture.
posted by plinth at 3:01 AM on January 28, 2004

Maybe I'm not seeing it right, but it looks like you could get a socket onto it. A 3/4 inch drive would be best, but even a 1/2 inch socket wrench would probably work. Just slip a piece of glavanized pipe over the handle to extend it; you should then be able to apply enough force to either loosen the nut, or loosen the universe around it.
posted by Opus Dark at 4:24 AM on January 28, 2004

Before you break out the saws or the chemicals, try doing this:

Place your longest wrench (socket, preferrably,) around the nut (provided that it fits snugly). Then, take a hammer, and begin tapping the end of the wrench. You needn't beat the crap out of the wrench (in fact, you may just succeed in breaking the whole damn sink), but repeated, gentle tapping might nudge the nut loose, since you only need to break that initial seal. Wear goggles or some other eye-protection, of course.
posted by Avogadro at 7:57 AM on January 28, 2004

If you have time, soak the nut in oil. Then let it sit. Motor, transmission, vegetable it doesn't matter. Apply lots and wait.
posted by larry_darrell at 8:45 AM on January 28, 2004

I, too, vote for Vice Grips. They are like God's gift to the handy man...a wrench to fit many different sized whatevers. When applied properly, they will not slip on the bolt. One thing to beware of: it is possible to actually snap the screw off, as I've seen it happen before.
posted by jmd82 at 8:45 AM on January 28, 2004

Maybe I'm missing something, but have you tried a socket and a breaker/cheater bar?

And if you don't want to spring for a breaker bar, you can just use some lead pipe with an interior diameter larger than your wrench/socket.

Failing that, heat indeed works wonders. If a few heat cycles don't do it, make the expansion/contraction more rapid by using some cold water immediately after the torch.
posted by trharlan at 9:17 AM on January 28, 2004

If you are forced to cut it off, a dremel with a fiberglass cutoff disk works great on small bolts. Use an angle grinder with a metal cutting disk on big ones. Those metal cutting blades on recip saws are sortof useless.
Eye protection is critical.
posted by jjj606 at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2004

Maybe I'm not seeing it right, but it looks like you could get a socket onto it
Unless you have or can beg/borrow/steal/buy a long-reach socket, you will most likely not be able to use one, as the pipe protruding through the middle will stop the socket reaching the nut.

I, too, vote for Vice Grips.
Vice Grips are a great tool, but be careful in this situation - often using enough crush force to ensure no slippage on the nut will mean that you are crushing the nut onto the pipe, making it even tighter (possibly permanently).

If you have time to wait, use the penetrating oil trick (you can buy a special oil, but any thin oil will work) and keep re-applying it every few hours and trying to work the nut backwards and forwards a tiny bit. If you can't wait, your only recourse is to cut the pipe off either between the nut and the bottom of the sink or flush with the top of the sink (which will damage the sink quite a bit). If you do not have access to a dremel or angle grinder, use a hacksaw blade - wrap some tape around one end to form a handle and you can slide the blade flush with the bottom of the sink, cutting off the pipe and the nut, as the blade will flex enough to allow you to cut flush and still have room for your hand. If you cannot get at the nut sideways, you can cut vertically through the pipe and nut (using any of the aforementioned methods), which will allow you to pull the nut off in two pieces.

Do not apply excessive force to the nut using long bars on any sort of tool, as you run the risk of cracking the sink (assuming that it is porcelain), which would actually solve the problem for you, of course ;-)
posted by dg at 5:41 PM on January 28, 2004

heh heh heh. vice grips.

maybe that's why i can't stop drinking.
posted by fishfucker at 2:49 AM on January 30, 2004

Just for any future google-users:

The best Liquid Wrench type penetrant I have ever used is called PB Blaster. It's designed for mechanics, and mostly available in auto parts stores. Several applications of the Blaster, and a bit of elbow grease, can make (relatively) quick work of even rusted-on, heat-fused nuts on an old exhaust system. That plus the chisel-edged "extractor" sockets you can buy at Sears is an unbeatable combo, as long as you don't care about re-using the nut -- although based on your picture it looks as though you might not be able to fit a socket on there, in this case.
posted by jammer at 9:25 AM on February 3, 2004

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