Nuts & Bolts - Mick's Tech Tips 410

By: Mick McCrudden

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Doing up an engine? Go nuts and get fresh bolts

There are few things that look more ordinary than going to all the trouble of reconditioning an engine, then reassembling it with a batch of well-used and dodgy-looking bolts. And really, in this day and age there is no need to.

Now the more experienced among you may well be aware there are many different types and styles of fasteners out there, including the usual metric, SAE, Whitworth and so-on. The world was meant to go completely metric 30 or more years ago, but it never really happened. What we got was what they call a soft conversion – some areas ‘took’, others didn’t.

You can still get tools and components for all those types of bolts (though Whitworth has got tougher over the years), and you may need specialist advice, as this will often be beyond your corner auto store. A dedicated tool shop and/or bolt shop is often the go.

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You might have heard it before, but the right tool makes all the difference. So, use a metric spanner on a metric head, or an imperial/SAE on that sort of bolt. Mixing and matching never really works, particularly when there’s a bit of force required. Use the wrong one and you end up with rounded bolts and skinned knuckles.

Speaking of rounded bolts, I’m a fan of some socket kits sold by Wurth, which have a spiral-machined inner and are designed specifically for removing or nuts or bolts with damaged heads.

The maker describes them as twist sockets and they are incredibly tenacious. In fact, the kit is supplied with a little punch to remove the offending item from the socket, once you have it off. They’re not cheap – I recall around $250 for a set of 14, but I reckon it pays for itself the first time you use it. 

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When it comes to doing up an engine, I like to do a few things. For a start it pays to take the trouble to clean out the threads, so any new bolt isn’t picking up swarf or debris that does damage. Secondly, I like to send off the original bolts (if they’re still okay) to be cleaned and nickel-plated. They’re often kept as a stand-by, because I’ll also look at getting a fresh set of stainless bolts, particularly for areas that are on show.

You can get sets for a lot of engines and they don’t necessarily cost a fortune. It’s money well-invested.

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