If you have spent much time working on your car, you know that it is only a matter of time before you accidentally round a bolt head when trying to remove a fastener. We can tell you from firsthand experience that a rounded bolt head is one of the most frustrating experiences you can have when working on your car.
Rounding bolt heads can happen for a number of reasons. It can be caused by user error such as off-angle placement of a socket or oversizing a socket relative to the bolt head. It can also be a product of corrosion on the bolt, which weakens the material. Having oil on the head of your bolt can also increase your odds.
If you do round a bolt head, you have a few options but most of them aren’t very good. Most common is to try to drill the bolt out using a drill bit style screw extractor. This carries great risk of damaging the threads on the mating part. Fortunately, one of the better options we have seen are GearWrench’s Bolt Biter extraction sockets, which they kindly offered to send us for this review!
How Do They Work?
Using GearWrench’s Bolt Biter extraction sockets is extremely easy. For any rounded or stripped bolt head that you can’t get off with a normal socket, you just remove the normal socket and swap in the Bolt Biter in the appropriate size. From there, unscrew the fastener in the exact same fashion as you would using a normal socket. The difference is that the Bolt Biter has a fluted geometry with a specific taper that allows it to gain purchase on a rounded bolt head in situations when a normal socket slips. This works even for bolt heads that are extremely rounded. Finally, this geometry also allows you to separate the fastener from the socket once the fastener has been removed without too much trouble.
The GearWrench Bolt Biter sockets are feature rich, which we have come to expect from GearWrench. Made out of Cr-Mo alloy steel, these extraction sockets are rated for use with an impact wrench, as well as for use with traditional hand ratchets. They are extremely resistant to corrosion thanks to the black oxide coating. The size markings are laser etched into the coating which makes them extremely easy to read due to the high contrast. The sockets are dual sized, which means that they are compatible with both metric and SAE fasteners (for certain sizes). They are offered in sizes to fit 1/4” to 3/4” bolt heads (7mm to 19mm). GearWrench also offers minus sizes, which are slightly smaller than nominal to allow use on bolt heads that are extremely rounded. Depending on the socket size, they will fit 1/4” or 3/8” drive ratchets.
The sockets feature a tapered entry, which makes them very easy to seat on bolts, which is especially important for rounded bolt heads that may have small burrs. They come with a small rack that can easily be hung from a pegboard or stashed in a tool chest. If we had one minor gripe, it is that the rack allows for the sockets to slide around slightly, which requires a little extra care when putting them in a tool chest.
Overall, build quality is great! The materials are ideal for the application, the finish is very well done, and based on the couple rounded bolt heads we could try them on, the fit is great as well. Overall, the Bolt Biters are quality tools that achieve the task that they were designed for reliably. Based on the construction, we don’t have any concerns about the longevity of these extension sockets, and would expect them to last a lifetime. GearWrench agrees with us apparently, as they offer a lifetime warranty, which shows that they also stand behind their product.
When it comes to value, Bolt Biters are admittedly not inexpensive. However, when you compare against the cost of your time and agony associated with having to drill a hardened steel bolt out using an alternate method, the cost still justifies itself in our opinion.
We also take comfort in knowing that you only have to buy them once since you won’t likely ever have to replace them, owing to their build quality and lifetime warranty. As far as where to find the best price, Amazon tends to be pretty competitive so we suggest starting there first! We are confident that after these extraction sockets bail you out of your first rounded bolt head incident, you will be very satisfied and will never worry about a rounded bolt head again!