How to Use a Die Tool

February 17, 2012

Using a die tool to remove damaged screws and bolts is a simple, step-by-step process that you can learn to do yourself.

Tap and Die Tool Set

When the threads of a screw or bolt become damaged, it is often possible to return them to usable condition with a die tool. But before you start, always examine the shank of the bolt or screw in order to ascertain whether it has been cracked or bent. If there is such damage, replacement is probably the best option.

A die is like a specialized nut, whose diameter and pitch are matched to the thread of the screw being repaired. It is essential that you utilize the precise, original specifications, otherwise irreparable damage to the screw will result.

Set the Die on the Screw
Place the tapered, threaded opening of the die onto the screw. As you hand-turn the die in the direction of the threads, be careful to guide the die squarely onto the shank, while sensing its engagement with any remaining threads on the screw.

Cut the Threads
Once the die is properly engaged, use a suitable wrench or die handle to turn the die past the point of resistance as it cuts and reshapes the threads. Do this with an alternating clockwise then counterclockwise motion, to allow the metal chips to fall free from the cutting grooves. Keeping the threads dowsed with light oil while turning the die will greatly ease the process.

When you are ready to reassemble, use only an undamaged, known size nut, or you may damage the threads all over again.

Using a Die Tool to Remove Damaged Screws and Bolts

In servicing a vehicle, a screw or bolt, you can be cross-thread or tighten so it literally becomes part of the engine. Here is how you remove a screw or bolt with a die tool.

Tools and Materials

  • A pencil and paper
  • A tap-and-die kit with appropriately sized dies
  • A multi-speed drill that can also act as a screwdriver
  • A set of properly sized drill bits or a multi-sized die bit/driver (several sizes in one bit)
  • A Torque wrench or screwdriver
  • A properly sized screw or bolt

Determine the Size of the Screw or Bolt
Determine the size of the screw or bolt you are dealing with. Write it down so you will remember the size die tool you need. Damaged screws and stripped bolts are among the most common problems you face in servicing a car because it is easy to over-tighten or cross-thread them.

Drill out the Screw
Use a multi-speed drill and case of multi-sized drill bits so you can start to drill out the offending screw. Using the thinnest drill bit, drive slowly through the over-tight screw or bolt. Work your way up through the drill bit sizes until you reach the size screw just below the one you are trying to remove. Now, running the drill slowly, insert the screw sized bit into the hole you have already worked to this point and push until it's about half-way in.

Remove the Screw with the Die Tool
Now, take the die tool bit from your tap-and-die kit and ensure that you can work it deeply into the hole you have drilled into the screw or bolt that is frozen. Make sure you have good contact and then, using a bit of WD-40 as lubricant, try to back out the stuck screw. If your purchase is good enough, you should be able to do this.

Clean out the Cross-Threaded Screw
Now take the properly size screw die out of your tap-and-die kit and, after inserting it into the screw-die-driver slowly clean the thread and bring it back to true, using WD-40 or another lubricant, if you need to.

Insert a Properly Sized Bolt or Screw into the Hole
Now, take a properly sized screw or bolt and insert it into your newly cleaned screw hole, tightening it until it is just finger-tight. Make sure you do not use unequal pressure.

Torque the Screw or Bolt
Use a torque wrench or screwdriver to tighten the new screw to the right specification and you are done.

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