There comes a time for every DIYer to face the challenge of removing a bolt that has been treated with red high–strength threadlocker. When the factory absolutely does not want that bolt to EVER come out, they use it. It is usually necessary too, components that are critical safety items such as brakes, steering, and suspension items are often treated to a healthy slathering of the stuff. This means that you must fight it to repair or replace a damaged or worn-out component. Here are some tips on how to remove red threadlocker.
We recently faced this task when doing a brake job on a 2013 Chevy Suburban. The rear rotor had to come off, which meant removing the caliper bracket. The factory used high-strength thread locker on the bolts, and this was the first time the rotor had been removed, so lucky us. Even a high-powered electric impact wrench could not budge that bolt, and this wrench has 1,000 ft lbs of reverse torque, yeah, it is strong stuff.
So what is fear itself afraid of? Heat, the answer is heat. The only way to properly remove a bolt with high-strength threadlocker is to apply a generous helping of heat. For most applications, a simple propane or butane torch is good enough. You don’t want to melt anything, you just need to get it hot enough to plasticize the thread locker. It is designed to do this, but it has to be hot enough, 500 degrees to be exact. A lighter won’t get you there, but a small pocket torch or a propane bottle-top torch will.
The thing you have to be careful of when doing this procedure is to make sure that there is nothing around the flame that could catch fire. If there is an item that is at risk, either remove it or cover it with a heat shield (scrap metal, even a few layers of aluminum foil could do the trick). Under the Suburban, we had a clear path, so it was not an issue.
We fired up the torch and held the blue tip of the flame on the head of the bolt for about two minutes. Propane is not hot enough to melt the bolt; it won’t even get red hot, so there is not much to worry about. The surrounding area will get pretty warm, so be careful.
Once the bolt was sufficiently heated, we were able to use a box-end wrench to remove the bolt by hand, no special tools required. It was tight, but a medium amount of effort was enough.
After the part was removed and the servicing completed, the bracket has to be reinstalled. This means more thread locker. We cleaned the bolts off with a wire brush and applied more high-strength threadlocker to the threads and reinstalled the bracket to the factory torque specs. All done.
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A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.