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Bolt Extractor

February 23, 2015

It started simply enough, like these stories often do. We suspected our exhaust elbow of leaking and causing the saltwater corrosion on our motor mounts. Once we were sure that the situation was as we envisioned, we decided to remove the offending elbow and purchase a new one from Beta Marine. So easy to say. While unbolting the exhaust elbow, Dave commented on how snug the bolts were. Each time a bolt was finally freed there was that SNAP that we all wait for when loosening a stubborn fastener. Snap. Snap. Snap. Nothing. Dave isn't usually of the "get a bigger hammer" variety of fixers, but this last bolt had to be loosened, so he pulled the old trick of putting a make-shift extension on the already long handle of the socket wrench. Rather than the awaited snap, what I heard instead was a worried, "Uh oh" from Dave.
"Something's not right. It's loosening, but it won't tighten back up any more easily than it's loosening."
"You're not loosening it, are you? You're spinning the head?"
"Boy, I hope not."
Another twist or two and pop comes the head of the bolt and out come the expletives from Dave.

Forever the optimist, I tried to find a way to fix the problem, though I'm a motor neophyte.
"What is the exhaust elbow bolted into?"
"The heat exchanger."
"If we get that off can you take it in and have a machine shop remove that stud?"
"Probably."


Titan miracle tool

While he was unbolting the heat exchanger he glanced at the motor, the cabinetry nearby, the space in between, and the size of the heat exchanger.
"This is never going to slide off the motor, you know. There's not enough room. We'll have to lift the motor out to get it off."
No big deal. We've had that motor out a dozen times over the ten years of its life. It's nearly a routine procedure at this point.
"We'll just get the boom vang. No problem."
"Where is the boom vang?"
"In the aft cabin."
"No, it's not."
"Then it's back at the cabin. We must have taken it back with us for some reason."


The right tool for the job

Except it wasn't there, either. No boom vang, no easy way to lift the motor, no heat exchanger out, no way to get the stud out for the exhaust elbow.

Finally, Dave said our favorite word when we get overwhelmed: STOP.
"We're going about this all wrong. The missing boom vang is not the problem. The inability to get the heat exchanger out is not the problem. The problem is the broken bolt. Why don't we concentrate on the problem instead of digging deeper holes?"


The offending stud

A few minutes online brought us to a great discovery. There exists a tool called the "Stud Extractor" made by Titan and sold at O'Reilly Auto Parts (and elsewhere, I'm sure) for $25. (It is much cheaper at Amazon, but we paid a premium for our impatienct.)With some heat from a jewelry propane torch, some lube, and small increases of pressure, Dave had the stud out in under 5 minutes, saving us countless hours and a much greater expenditure. And the best part is, once we no longer needed it, we found the boom vang in the aft cabin where it's supposed to be.

A bit of advice on the use of this nifty tool. Dave doesn't believe it will work, or at least not as well, on left-handed threads since the tool will loosen as you try to loosen the bolt. With right-handed threads the tool simply tightens its grip on the stud as you try to loosen it. Which brings us to the next consideration. If you are in a situation where you will have to reuse the stud, you might want to try to find a different way to extract it, since this tool all but destroys the threads on the stud. But if your goal is to remove the stud without having to remove either cabinetry or the motor, it is the right tool for the job. Time to install our new exhaust elbow and get out of Dodge. See you out there.

I'm used to people reacting to Eurisko's interior with "Wow!" But I wasn't quite expecting it to be for this reason. MONDAY we'll explain how, in a boat yard, it has to get worse before it can get better.

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