Rusty nuts and bolts. We've all had 'em. We've all skinned our knuckles on 'em. We've all damaged other components whilst wrestling with truculent fasteners. And we're all on a mission to find a better/easier way to deal with 'em.
Our particular woes, in this instance, wasn't actually anything to do with motorcycles. That makes for a change because we're usually down on our knees praying at our temples to Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons and whatnot. But this time it was one of our 4x4s that was giving us trouble.
Specifically, the sidesteps had succumbed to a serious attack of ferrous oxide, aka rust. We'd known for a while that it was bad, but it wasn't until we were down there on the concrete giving it a proper inspection that we realised that no Band Aid was going to set this patient right. It was amputation time.
However, the 12 bolts securing each sidestep to the chassis were all badly corroded. Initially it looked as if a tight socket and a lump hammer—preceded by a couple of days treatment with penetrating oil—might sort it out. But it didn't. The bolt heads just rounded off one by one, and so we stopped at bolt number three or four and decided to think about it properly.
A few days later two sets of Grip Tite GT-Pro Series sockets arrived in the post. One set was metric. The other was imperial.
Here and there we'd heard about these grippy things, but we'd never used them. No special reason for that. We'd always simply managed with what we had in the toolbox. And when that failed, we resorted to a blow torch and/or a welding torch, and did all the usual things you do when nuts and bolts need extra special attention. However, sometimes a little more finesses is called for.
In this regard, the Grip Tite sockets were simply fantastic. We hate to say that quite so boldly because to some folk it might sound like we've been paid by the company who supplied 'em to utter these words. But believe it or don't believe it, we've got no other connection with this outfit—and sadly no money came our way. Quite simply, these sockets are the business.
The Grip Tite sockets in action
We hadn't actually expected them to work so well. In fact, we'd expected to break one or two before the day was out. But the technology was as simple as it says on the packaging. Select the appropriate size socket. Press it onto the bolt or nut. Wind up the socket with a ratchet or a breaker bar. Watch the nut/bolt come off with ease.
That, after all, is the biggest problem you're likely to have with these sockets. They grip too well and are likely to light your fuse before you've properly given the fastener a good drink of whatever oily freeing agent you favour.
A couple of our bolts, for instance, were almost completely round. But it made no difference. The Grip Tite sockets grabbed what little metal was available, and we gently took the bolt off. And notably, in one instance we found that a 17mm bolt had corroded so badly that it was now ungrippable by the 17mm Grip Tite socket. In other words, it was beyond tolerance.
So we tried the next size down (15mm*), but we couldn't quite get a purchase. The 17mm bolt head was just a fraction too large. However, the fix was simple. We simply opened the imperial set, selected the tightest fitting socket in the box (which was, as far as we can remember, 5/8th) and used that. Seconds later the rounded and reduced 17mm bolt came out obediently.
In another instance, we found that in order to get a grip, we needed to attack the bolt head with a hammer and cold chisel. That exercise deformed the bolt head and hitched up enough metal for the Grip Tite to do its duty. Remember; these doo-dahs are designed to operate when the shape, size and tolerances are shot. So a rounded bolt or a mangled bolt isn't necessarily a problem.
* 16mm sockets, we later discovered, are available depending on which set you buy.
So how do they work?
Well that's simple enough too—and if you've been looking at the images on this page, you've probably figured it out. The Grip Tite socket hexagons are designed with ramps that act as cams. As you exert a force (via your ratchet or breaker bar) the six hardened steel pins (for want of a better word) are forced up on the cams. That effectively shrinks the implied hexagon within the socket. Or, if you prefer, that squeezes the pins down on the fastener. The harder you force it, the harder the pins grips—right up until the bolt head shears.
We lost two bolt heads in the heat of battle—and it's worth noting that these two broke when we got lazy and didn't give the penetrating oil time to work. So if you're smart and patient, you'll splash some WD-40 or Plus Gas or Kano Kroil or 3-in-1 or Liquid Wrench. Or you can make up your personal formula as passed down by grandad, etc.
Regarding the strength of these sockets, we really did give them some serious abuse, occasionally by hammering them as we twisted and wrenched. Nothing broke, nothing cracked, and the pins looked perfectly serviceable after an hour or so.
Note that we made the mistake of ordering 3/8th-inch drive for the sockets instead of 1/2-inch, so we used a socket adapter. Therefore make sure you check this factor if it's important to you.
Another very convenient feature of these sockets, incidentally, is that they comfortably grip a nut or bolt head when you're trying to get one started. In other words, you're lying on your back or something, or maybe reaching into an awkward spot, and your regular socket keeps dropping the fastener before you can spin it on the thread. Well, the Grip Tite thingies are effectively spring loaded and will hold that fastener securely as you get started. Once it's on the thread you can switch back to your regular sockets and tighten in the usual way.
We review quite a few products here at Sump, and these sockets are unquestionably one of the most satisfying. We'll no doubt be dragging these out from time to time, and we'll update this feature as and when appropriate. In the meantime, if you're the kind of engineer/mechanic/bodger who occasionally needs to get a better grip (and that's pretty much all of us) check out these Grip Tite sockets.
The price (at June 2018) is £29 for the seven piece metric set, and £29 for the seven piece imperial. Prices include VAT and UK shipping. You might not use these sockets every day, or even every week. But when you need 'em, you'll be glad you had 'em to hand.
The bottom line is that for us, they worked. No fuss. No bother. Job done.
Buy Grip Tite Bolt Extractor Kits here
Think you know better? Good, drop us a line at Sump and we'll include your thoughts/experience.