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Stripped Bolt Repair

Yesterday was a good day, and a bad day, for vehicular repairs. Our Toyota Echo needed some extensive exhaust work done. There were cracks in the manifold, leaks at the manifold gasket and also at the rear flange. The rear flange and the gasket were no big deal. The flange was cut and a stainless steel sleeve was put in its place to fix the leak. This cost about $200 and I did not think it was too bad. On the other hand, the manifold was completely rusted and a new replacement part had to be ordered in. With the labour, this was another $500. All said, the car sounds a hell of a lot better today than it did for the last few weeks. Oh, and let’s not forget that I don’t need to deal with the deadly smell of exhaust fumes coming into the cabin anymore.

I should’ve taken a picture of the manifold cracks… The mechanic says it was one of the worst he’d seen on a 7 year old car. Enough of the bad, and on to the good (and the Sherpa).

One of the first few times I took the seat on and off, I accidentally – as if one would do it on purpose – stripped one of the seat bolts. It was a bit of an annoyance when I wanted to store the bike and take the battery out, but I was able to do that without taking the seat off. I researched a bit to find some information on how to remove a stripped bolt. Most of the information and YouTube video guides I found dealt with screws and bolts that had a stripped head, not stripped threads. So I gathered my tools and some courage and went out to the garage to see what I could do to get rid of this bolt.

Before attempting anything potentially dangerous, I wanted to try pulling on the bolt once again. The first time I tried pulling on the bolt, I couldn’t get the threads of the bolt to grip. I already had a good idea this would not work. At this point, I wasn’t sure whether the bolt or the frame was stripped. I certainly hoped it wasn’t the frame…

Arrrrrg why can't I just pull you out?!

Vise Grips holding on tightly to the bolt head.

Taking out drill and a 9/64″ drill bit, it was time to destroy this bolt. I tried to use the screwdriver with a single point to make an indentation in the center of the head and guide my drilling. I couldn’t get a good dent, so I just used the inside of the “7” on the bolt to serve as a guide.

Oh god, I hope this work.

Undertaking some drastic measures, drilling through the head of the bolt.

I would start and stop every once in a while to check on the progress. The drill bit seemed to do a good job ripping through the stainless steel. After about a solid 30 seconds of drilling, I had gone completely through. Not pictured above is the pair of Vise Grips holding the bolt so it did not spin freely while drilling.

Now, how do I get the bolt out?

Completely drilled through the bolt.

I wondered if I could just snap the head using the Vise Grips and surely enough it was very simple. Wiggle up and down a few times and the head broke off.

Ok, one step in the right direction.

Head snapped off clean.

At this point I was able to take the seat off the bike. I inspected inside to see if I drilled too far and caused any sort of damage; however, the drill could not reach anything on the other side.

Yes, but I still have half a bolt to deal with!

I was finally able to take my seat off for the first time in several months.

Once again, I wasn’t completely sure how to proceed. I assumed moving up to the next drill bit, 5/32″, and slowly drilling while pushing would get threads out of the frame. The bit eventually gripped the hollowed threads and it proceeded to unscrew itself out of the frame. Since I was pushing instead of pulling the threads out of the frame, I had to use Vise Grips to hold the threads while I reversed the drill and finally be done with this stripped bolt. I inspected the frame and the threads seemed to be intact.

Got it out, and no damage done!

Stripped threads.

The washer Kawasaki used on the bolt is fitted and was not removable. Since the bolt was hollowed I was able to easily take the washer off the remains by crushing the remaining threads. Being cheap, I did not buy washers when I got a replacement M6 bolt at my local Canadian Tire. Using a 1/4″ drill, I expanded the I.D. of the washer just enough to slip it on the new bolt. I used one of those foam sandpaper blocks to clean off the burrs.

I’m pretty satisfied with how this repair went down. Like I said, I could not find much information on the proper technique to remove a bolt with stripped threads. Because I did not damage the threads of the frame during the drilling, I consider this a success! And perhaps the best part of all, it only cost $0.35 to do the entire job which was covered with Canadian Tire money I found tucked away in the junk drawer.

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