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Hagerty Employee

Wrenchin’ Wednesday: three ways to snake a bolt into an impossible spot

Sometimes you’re left swearing at the person who designed your car, scrambling to understand the logic of why the bolt had to go there. Yes, there, deep between a rock and a hard place — or more accurately, the engine and frame rail, or any number of impossibly tight squeezes. We’ve got three quick ways to make life easier when shooting into the abyss of any project:


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Pit Crew

For smaller bolts and screws I cut about 3" of electrical tale and punch a hole in the middle.  Stick the screw through with the sticky side toward the head.  Put it on the socket or screwdriver and stick the ends of the tape to the sides of the screwdriver.   Get the screw started in the hole and pull the screwdriver out and then rip the rest of the tape off.  Then finish tightening the screw.  

New Driver

Oh, absolutely great tip.  I've been using that trick for years.  Be sure to put a separate wrap of tape around the radius of the socket and up onto the extension or you may have the socket come off before the tape will tear from under the bolt head.  I can't believe this one was not included.


Another great DIY/Tips article! I've used the grease method myself a couple of times. Thanks. 


I have an old tool box from Sears holding an assortment of tools and one of the inclusions was a small plastic packet of an assortment of tiny, round magnets from Craftsman that would be inserted into the socket to hold the bolt in place. I must have them almost 50 years now and still use them. 

Intermediate Driver

Another method using masking tape or similar is to put the bolt in the socket and then wrap tape round the socket with enough overhang to wrap gently round the bolt and pinch the end loosely under the bolt head. Once you have the bolt started you just pull up and the tape should come up with the socket and you remove it and finish tightening.

Pit Crew

If you are concerned about the rare-earth magnet falling off you can always wrap tape around it and your socket or the extension for added insurance.


I too have used these methods and others that came to mind at the time. One trick I have used for several years when installing spark plugs in a difficult location or one that just doesn't want to line up with the threads is to push a short length of vacuum hose over the end instead of the socket. Of course if the threads aren't pristine you won't be able to thread it in very far but at least you can get it started. 


I've used the tape and magnet method numerous times but the grease is new to me. Great idea!


Another method is to put a strip of a flat rubber band in the socket with each end protruding and then insert the nut or bolt into the socket.  The rubber band provides the grip needed to hold the nut or bolt.  Once started or after tightening you can pull the socket from the fastener and the rubber band will either be in the socket or just fall out.  The band method avoids the mess of grease or the need to remove tape.

Intermediate Driver

Swearing at the designer!  Oh, how I remember the numerous tirades aimed at the folks responsible for the Triumph Spitfire!

Intermediate Driver

Sears tools had small magnets that would fit inside a socket to hold bolts, still have them and they do a good job.


I have made dozens of special tools to deal with bolts & nuts, offset, crooked and worse.  I'm known to weld 'handles' on bolts or nuts, only one tool needed, easy to get into place and hold, if it ever has to come off again it'll be a lot easier to do.  1/2 X 1/8 flat steel works best in most cases, I always keep it on hand.   I've replaced slotted bolts/screws with Phillips, replaced some with Allen head, especially the one that holds your condenser in, dropping that screw on a road repair trip at night can leave you sitting, been there and done it.  Allen head can save tons of problems.


For the purist, using original slotted head screws I'd advise buying/using the split-expand screwdrivers, these work great if the slot is clean, not damaged.  With old original slotted screws I usually put them in the vise using two pieces of alum' so as not to damage the threads, then a sharp hacksaw to clean and maybe deepen the slot a little.

Always clean rust from any bolt threads with the wire wheel, lube with WD40, I always lube bolts, nuts & screws before assembly, you may be the one that has to take it apart again someday ....      I always replace rust-prone bolts with stainless steel, saves a lot of misery in the long haul.


I have used Play Dough for small bolts. Works great and no mess.

Pit Crew

Commonally when you are trying to get a nut to go on a buried stud it gets pushed to the back of the socket and you cannot see if it is centered on the stud to get it started  or a short bolt that is not much longer than the socket is deep creates the same problem. To easily solve this I keep around some foam left over from a parts package. Use a utility knife to carve off a small piece to fit in the socket to make up the gap. The nut is now located right in the front of the socket and the end of the short bolt can be seen so you can guide it to get it started. The foam crumbles easily so it  does not impede tightening and the little crumbles often times provide  enough friction to hold the bolt or nut in place. A little dab of grease will do the trick if it doesn't.

Pit Crew

A small dab of contact cement on the end of a bolt/nut (especially for nuts) and on  a long finger works wonders when trying to position said fasteners.