Solution For Broken Bolt Head in Hitch Mount - Fiberglass RV



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Old 07-09-2019, 09:27 PM   #1
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Solution For Broken Bolt Head in Hitch Mount

I replaced my leaf springs and rear shocks over the weekend, and aside from the usual problems with that job, the worst thing that happened was this:

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As I was torquing the front bolt for the hitch, the head snapped off. The typical fix is to drill out the bolt and use an extractor, though that process isn't perfect and doesn't always work. The problem is that with the leaf spring there, there's no way to get a drill in at the right angle.

I took off the hitch to see if there was enough of the bolt body left to get pliers on and maybe twist out, but no.

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What would you do? There are only four bolts holding the hitch to my frame. I feel somewhat comfortable hauling the trailer around town, but that's it. I'm considering taking it to a friend and having him spot weld the hitch to the truck frame at this place, and leave the other bolts as they are. I don't see any time when I'll need to take this hitch off, and it's not like a weld is permanent anyway.

Thoughts? I have no interest in removing the leaf spring again...
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:25 PM   #2
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One thing that a skilled welder would try is to wend on the end of that broken bolt to build up enough material to grab it with vice grips. Or weld a nut on the end of it and use a socket to turn it out after cooling. The extreme heat of welding helps to free bolts like this.

Or, weld the bracket to the frame. But this would not be "spot" welded as you describe. It would be welded with a bead on each side of the bracket near the bolt.
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Old 07-10-2019, 03:36 AM   #3
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I'd just weld it. No matter what you do it looks like it is going to involve using a welder so if it's likely never coming off and it isn't hurting anything just do it.
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Old 07-10-2019, 05:24 AM   #4
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Depending on the frame many manufacturers do not allow welding on the new high strength steel frames.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:21 AM   #5
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Thank you. Yeah I had a feeling "spot" weld was wrong...that's more like a temporary weld just to hold something in place for a bit?

Alright. I'll see how busy my friend is. If he can't do it soon, I'll take it to a local shop and just let them do what they want to do. One way or the other, it's beyond my skill to get out.

This is on a 98 pickup, so I'm guessing its frame doesn't count as "new".

On the bright side, holy crap! I knew my springs were shot when I bought the truck, but used the band-aid approach of putting on new shocks and air bags. Well...with blown springs, if the air bags weren't pretty full, the shocks were getting compressed more than was good for them, and started leaking pretty early on.

I bought heavy duty leaf springs, whatever that means (same number of leaves), and I figured it would ride rough with them. Not at all. It's a completely different truck. All the little bumps I used to feel in the roads around town are completely gone. So nice. On top of that I have probably 2" of lift in the rear now, which I'm guessing will settle into maybe an inch. Probably just right for the hauling and towing I do.
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Old 07-10-2019, 11:18 AM   #6
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One thought. If a new bolt can be tacked on to the old one if you were able to run it up with your fingers it may come out fairly easily since what snapped it was the torque and that is gone. It wouldn't need to be as big a bolt so it would be easier to tack on. If you had to use a wrench to run it up then I'd look into welding to the frame.
If you need to weld I would consider taking it to a shop that specializes in hitches for a quote. They will know if it is safe weld it. They will probably weld it all if at all due to liability. It may not be expensive since everything is in place.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:24 PM   #7
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Don't weld on the frame. Get the bolt out and do it right.
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Old 07-10-2019, 02:25 PM   #8
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No way to get a drill on it with the drill motor you currently are using is the correct response. Because with the right drill motor it can be done.



You need a decent quality 90 degreee angle drill with a short drill bit for that job. Look on craigslist for a used one then sell it to someone else when the job is done. Or you can rent one. You will likely have to order the short length drill bit from an online source unless you have a specialty store nearby that carries them. The drill bit needs to be sized to match the requirements listed for the easy out.

Another alternative is to take it to an automotive body shop and have them extract the bolt. They will have the right kind of drill motor as well as the bit and extraction tool.
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Old 07-10-2019, 03:26 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone.

I have a right angle drill, and you're right, with a bit in it, it won't fit. A shorter bit? Guess I could just break a normal size bit...I'll check again tonight, but I think to fit the bit would have to be so small that it wouldn't really reach the bolt. Maybe if I jack the truck up a little it will give me enough room. But I did already try the right angle drill.
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Old 07-10-2019, 03:54 PM   #10
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Before you go to too much trouble trying to drill the broken bolt, try drilling the piece that broke off and see how hard it is. Is it simply a grade 5? Or is it a grade 8? Either way, you'll need some determination, careful centering of the hole, good quality high speed steel twist drills, and a proper Easy-Out type extractor.

During the process, you'll probably come up with some new words too! But you might find it unscrews easily and be done quickly.

It would be nice if you could access the bolt from the top and back it out with pliers or a vice grip far enough to grab it from below. That looks like a "C" section frame, and not a box. Can you remove the spare tire and reach in?

There is always someone ready to step up and tell you you "can't" weld on the frame, or some other restriction. But do any of them have the specs on your truck and the factory warning against doing it?

If you find you can fairly easily drill the broken piece, try it that way first.
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Old 07-10-2019, 04:15 PM   #11
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When I worked at an RV dealer the rule was you could weld along the length of the frame, but NEVER, but NEVER weld up the side of the frame, This makes sense because welding up the side of the frame will cause a weak area, subject to cracking or breakage. If it had to be mounted on the side it had to be bolted on.
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Old 07-10-2019, 04:39 PM   #12
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Many manufacturers weld a nut to the frame for hitch installation. If thats the case here, removing the nut might be a solution. Trying to drill a hole dead center to use an easyout is tough to do. And a broken easyout makes the problem worse. Grade 5 bolt? Grade 8 bolt? Drilling hardened steel is not easy. Especially on your back. Please share the solution for those of us that from time to time end up in the same pickle barrel.

Also if it were me, I'd wonder why the bolt broke in the first place. Fatigued bolt? Torque wrench out of calibration? Are the other bolts compromised?
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Old 07-10-2019, 05:54 PM   #13
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The right way? What kind of forum is this??

I wasn't sure if welding might not be as "right" as bolting, but that hitches bolt simply so that more people can do it at home. Requiring welding would be a pain. Sounds like responses are mixed as far as whether welding is a "right" way.

Either way, I got inspired and bought a drill bit for hardened steel on my way home. I jacked up the side of the truck as far as I could. Much more space, but still not enough for the drill and bit. But! I had just bought an angle grinder for the leaf spring job. So I clamped the bit and cut it small enough to fit in the space. Still, as you've pointed out, a serious pain trying to drill the bolt out.

To avoid that frustration, I decided I'd try pliers anyway, even though it didn't look like enough to grab. Well, it was. Luckily, as Terry pointed out, now that the head was gone the bolt was loose enough in there to start turning with vice grips. I got it out.

I did get the feeling that my torque wrench wasn't working quite right, at first. Seemed like using it a bit got it working better, but that could have been part of the issue. No idea. I took out the matching bolt on the other side and will bring that to the hardware store and hopefully find a grade 8 replacement (2, actually). No idea what came with the hitch originally.

I think for the last couple days I was looking at this with eyes still pretty tired from the leaf spring job, and was ready to give up a little too quick.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZachO View Post
To avoid that frustration, I decided I'd try pliers anyway, even though it didn't look like enough to grab. Well, it was. Luckily, as Terry pointed out, now that the head was gone the bolt was loose enough in there to start turning with vice grips. I got it out.
I had been prepared to mention my venerable Milwaukee 0375 angle-head drill, or perhaps using an extra long drill bit to go alongside the spring and improve the angle of attack (it's tough to see from the photos if this actually would have made sense).

Anyway, now I'll go have to find someone else that needs my useless advice!

I'm glad to see you got it fixed though. And likewise that the ride with the new springs made all the work worthwhile!
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