I, like an idiot, was using a socket wrench to remove the bolt from my idler pulley. I unscrewed the bolt too far, wedging the wrench between wheel well and the bolt. I could not even flip the switch to reverse the socket wrench. How can I remove the socket wrench?

  • 7
    Turn the car upside down and shake it a little. :)
    – xpda
    Sep 17, 2011 at 3:54

3 Answers 3


For completeness, if you haven't tried it yet, see if you can rotate the socket/bolt at all by hand to tighten it back in some. Now that you've broken the bolt open it may move by hand.

If not, the socket wall should be able to hold up to some moderate clamping force so I would try a set of vice grips or other locking pliers if you have those available.

If not, then a regular set of pliers.

Depending on the length of the socket (if a deep socket was used), possibly a strap wrench (like an oil filter wrench) could fit onto it.

Once you have a good grip on the socket, you should be able to rotate the bolt back in some to free the socket wrench.

Next, you need a shorter socket or finish backing the bolt out with a crescent, box or combination wrench.

  • That was the first thing I tried. It didn't work with vise grips or pliers.
    – kzh
    Sep 16, 2011 at 12:41
  • Seems like a pipe wrench on the socket would likely work, they are like a crescent wrench but have teeth in the jaws that will grip a pipe when turned one way, and spin free when going the other. Kind of like a socket, but it works by the jaws gripping the round pipe when it spins one direction. It'll likely chew up your socket a fair bit though. Sep 23, 2011 at 4:08

I tried numerous things. This is how I finally got myself out of the predicament: I jacked up the engine and then hammered out the socket wrench.

Other things I tried or thought of trying:

  • applying vise grips to the socket, didn't work
  • jamming something thin, yet strong in between the wheel well trying to switch the ratchet in reverse, didn't work
  • cut off the socket with a reciprocal saw, didn't work
  • cut off the bolt with a reciprocal saw, didn't try
  • fracture the ratchet head with a hammer and wedge, didn't work

I'm an idiot.


I ended up knocking it out with a hammer. No damage was done to my car, thankfully.

  • 4
    +1 for the self-diagnosis. Had a similar situation long ago and, when the socket wrench dropped out, it hit me in the face with the weight of half an exhaust manifold behind it. That was a lovely black eye and a delightful conversation with my wife. "What the hell did you do to yourself now?!"
    – Bob Cross
    Sep 16, 2011 at 13:24
  • 4
    @Bob: Wow, must have been something to break through your safety glasses and blacken your eye. :-D Sep 23, 2011 at 4:10
  • 1
    @SeanReifschneider, you can shut up now. Remember how militant I am about safety gear? Now you know one of the reasons why.... ;-)
    – Bob Cross
    Oct 18, 2012 at 15:36

Yes, cut the nail as much as possible.

Then place a long metal rod on top of the partially sawed screw, and bang it hard with a hammer!

  • can you expand and explain your answer in a bit more detail?
    – chilljeet
    May 4, 2015 at 5:05

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