If you are unequipped with no wrench (also known as spanner) and you have a hexagonal bolt whether it’s small, tight or big, that needs to be loosened but cannot be done by hand, there are various methods to help do this by using different household items!
Additionally, hacks and tips for loosening nuts and tightening bolts without a wrench or even loosening a bolt without a correct wrench will be looked at also.
How to Loosen a Bolt Without a Wrench
There are a variety of different methods that can be used to loosen a bolt. The following will use various common household items you may have which will allow you to loosen an average to large sized bolt (M8 or bigger). Before carrying out any of these methods, ensure the work piece that has the bolt you want to loosen is secured down. If it can freely move in any direction you will need to clamp it down securely. Also, if there is a nut on the other side of this bolt, you will need to keep hold of the nut as you try to loosen the bolt, use a clamp or the following methods to hold the nut in place to stop it turning with the bolt thus allowing loosening of the bolt.
- Tear off approximately 20-30 cm of tape
- Rip the tape long ways in half and stick one half on top of the other (one sticky side onto the smooth face). This will give the tape added strength.
- Overhang of tape over the bolt and wrap the tape around the bolt and tape the sticky sides together. Also ensure the tape is well adhered to the bolt to avoid it slipping when it gets used.
- Now wrap the remaining tape anti-clockwise around the bolt leaving at least 5-10cm of unwrapped tape.
- Now hold onto the excess tape and pull to loosen the bolt
- Get a cable tie, a length of at least 20cm will be ok (a longer one may be needed depending on the size of the bolt head). The longer the better as it will allow you to get a better grip of it
- Wrap the tie around the bolt and zip the cable up tightly
- Now wrap some of the excess tie around your fingers and pull the tie around the bolt anticlockwise to loosen the bolt.
- Get 2 coins and put one coin opposite sides of the bolt
- Now using the index and middle knuckle hold the coins against the bolt
- Now squeeze to essentially ‘clamp’ the coins together and rotate anti clockwise to loosen the bolt.
Bolt with 1 (or 2) nut(s) assembly (Recommended)
- Get a bolt size at least M10 and 5cm in length (thread or pin length, excludes the head). A longer length may be needed depending on the size of the bolt head you are taking off.
- Screw the nut onto the bolt and have the bolt you are trying to loosen ‘clamped’ in between the bolt head and nut assembly.
- Now hand tighten to clamp the bolt as much as possible
- Hold onto the excess length of the bolt and turn anti-clockwise to loosen the bolt
Note: should you not have a bolt that has a flat head on the bottom on your nut and bolt assembly, it is best to use two nuts instead to ‘clamp’ in between the bolt you are trying to loosen.
- Get a pair of pliers, ensure they are big enough to clamp the bolt
- Grip the handles and turn anti clockwise
If your Bolt is too tight for any of these methods, Than Perhaps it’s time just to get a wrench like this ( they are fairly Inexpensive and you will find a lot of use for it in future as well!)
Of course there are many different other methods which that you could use such as using a scrap piece of 5mm diameter rod/bar, bend it in half to the approximate width of the bolt and squeeze the ends to grip and rotate to loosen.
Alternatively, if you have a vice and the workpiece is small enough to carry, this will be used as your leverage. Simply clamp the bolt head into the vice and start turning the workpiece to loosen the bolt.
How to loosen a tight bolt without a wrench
If you have tried all the methods as above but with no success, there are added techniques to some of the methods that can allow you to loosen the tight bolt. On the cable tie method, should this hurt your hand or if it keeps slipping out, find a pair of pliers to grip onto the cable tie and pull. With the added grip and the pulling strength of yourself, it should be sufficient to loosen a tight bolt.
If you are using the bolt and nut assembly method, find yourself a longer screw, longer than 70cm should be sufficient. With a longer screw it will give you more leverage to loosen the tight bolt. You could use tubing to put onto the end of the bolt to give you some extra leverage. If the bolt is still tight, you can use a hammer and lightly hit the screw and nut assembly, which should jolt the overly tight bolt so it loosens. However, if you find the bolt you are using bending, it would be worth finding a larger size screw (M14 or bigger).
Should you not have a longer bolt, use the two nut method to clamp the bolt you are trying to loosen near the middle of the bolt length and then find a bit of scrap round tubing, put the tubing at either end (one at the head and one on the remaining screw length) this will now act as almost like a big corkscrew which you can use two hands to rotate.
As a last resort, applying heat to the bolt momentarily to expand the bolt which will then shrink when cooled to help loosen the bolt can be used in conjunction with the methods as previously mentioned. But be wary as this may damage your work piece too and should only be used on something that you will not be using again.
If you have a bolt which is under 1cm in width (M6 or smaller) it would be difficult to use some of the methods as you would for an average sized bolt. The methods: cable ties, pliers, bolt and nut assembly would be most suited for small bolts, using the same steps written will allow you to loosen a small bolt all the same.
How to loosen a bolt without a correct wrench
Should you have a wrench, but it is too big, it is possible to loosen a smaller sized bolt using the wrench you already have. You will just need some coins (depending on how much bigger your wrench is). Simply use the coins to fill the gap in between the wrench and the bolt, hold the coins steady and rotate. Should you not have any spare change, use a flat head screwdriver, scrap metal plate, washers to name a few (anything that is hard and flat), and use these to fill the gap instead. You may need a combination of a few of these to get a snug fit in the gap.
An alternative is to use the wrong size wrench with the bolt and nut assembly. This will act as good leverage for a tight bolt too, however this method will only work if you are using a ‘combination wrench’ which has the ring end.
If you have a wrench that is too small, unfortunately there is nothing that can be used with it but you can use one of the many methods mentioned previously.
How to loosen a nut without a wrench
Loosening a nut without a wrench works in the same way as loosening a bolt. Use any of the above methods to loosen the nut. You will not be required to hold onto the bolt, unless you find as you try to loosen the nut, the bolt turns as well, you will need to hold onto the bolt with something to counteract the rotation which will allow you to loosen the nut properly.
How to tighten a bolt without a wrench
Although this article has been heavily focusing on methods to loosen a bolt, you can tighten a bolt without a wrench too. Just refer back to the methods as previously mentioned. The best method would be to use the bolt and nut assembly along with some sort of leverage (tubing) to tighten the bolt properly.
Does wd40 loosen bolts?
If the bolt is sticking as you try to turn and loosen it or cannot be loosened at all, use some WD40 which will help lubricate it and break down any rust and make it easier for you to fully loosen the bolt.
However if you don’t have WD40, use vinegar or a fizzy drink (will help break down the rust a bit) and pour a little onto the rusted bolt, wait a few minutes, lightly tap the head of the bolt with a hammer and wait a few more minutes, then unscrew.