One of the more tedious and time consuming jobs in a "from-the-ground-up" restoration
is to restore all the nuts, bolts & other fasteners to original or better condition.
Often times it is considerably easier and far less time consuming to simply buy brand-new
items (although locating all these can also be a time intensive and somewhat expensive
task). Unfortunately, an exact or even suitable replacement isn't always available
for a particular fastener, or if available the cost is often steep. Thus, if the
restoration or refurbishing of some or all of your old fasteners becomes necessary
or desirable, this edition offers some pointers to keep in mind.
The three most common ways that the nuts, bolts, and screws that were used on our
Falcons were originally protected from rust and corrosion are; 1) chrome plating,
2) zinc or silver cad plating, or, 3) black oxide finishing. In addition, a few fasteners
on these cars were made of stainless steel and required no plating or other finishes.
It is possible for fasteners to be stripped and painted or powder coated, but the
finish is easily damaged on the heads of bolts, nuts, and screws during the tightening
process and the finish on the threads will definitely be damaged during tightening
as well. This renders the fasteners easily susceptible to rust and corrosion, and
lends a look of overall poor appearance. These problems occur far less with chrome,
zinc/silver cad, or black oxide coatings since the coating is either electrically
or chemically bonded to the surface of the part, or, as is the case in black oxide
finishes, the finish is actually part of the part. All of these finishes are far
tougher than paint or powder coatings as far as fasteners are concerned.
If your fasteners are moderately damaged or worse then you really have no choice
other than to replace them with whatever you can find that will do the job. This
is especially true if the threads are physically damaged or are moderately to badly
rusted. Condition of the threads of nuts and bolts is critical to the performance
of the fastener. If the fasteners are used for any type of structural connection
the threads must be strong enough not only to tighten properly, but also to hold
that part in place while under stress. Threads that are even just lightly to moderately
rusted have already lost a great deal of their ability to tighten properly without
stripping loose, let alone also hold a part under stress. Such deteriorated fasteners
should never be used in any type of structural connection, but they can be used in
nonstructural applications, such as attaching decorative trim, as long as there is
enough thread left to tighten the fastener enough so it will not come loose. If,
after careful inspection, you find that the fasteners are undamaged or only have
minor damage, and/or have only surface rust, they can be restored to good as new
The word restoration means to return something to a state it was once in from a state
it is in now. When fully restoring a 35 to 40 year-old car, we assume (with good
reason) that many, if not most, of the fasteners we remove from such a car will be
in poorer condition than they were when originally installed. Most likely they are
not in a condition that we would want to install on this otherwise brand-new-condition
car. Our goal is to remove as many ill effects of 40 years of use and abuse on these
parts as we can. As mentioned above, depending on where the car has been driven over
the years, a percentage of the fasteners will have been damaged or otherwise deteriorated
beyond the ability to restore them. Cars that were driven in areas of winter weather
where salt was used on the roads will have a much higher percentage of non-reusable
fasteners than will a car that was driven exclusively in the desert southwest portion
of the United States. As an aside, a car that had a lot of oil leaks and a greasy
engine compartment and undercarriage will actually be a better candidate for a restoration
car since the oil & grease helps protect much of the car and its fasteners from rust
Another area of concern is physical damage to these fasteners. Some damage occurs
from the fastener being struck by something else, such as a bolt on the undercarriage
being damaged from the car bottoming out on speed bumps or pot holes over the years.
Other damage comes from less than optimal maintenance practices over the years such
as using channel locks to remove a bolt or nut rather than using the correct size
socket or wrench. Common damages as these include the stripping of phillips head
screws by using the wrong size screwdriver, cross threading or over tightening bolts
& nuts thus damaging or stripping the threads, using a hammer to force a bolt into
a tight hole thus damaging the threads, etc.
If you need or desire to reuse a particular fastener, inspect it carefully to assess
what if any damage you will need to correct before restoring the proper finish. Light
damage to threads can be repaired with a thread restorer. A thread restorer is designed
to "push" threads back up to their original position when they have been mashed down
flat (such as if the threads had been hit with a hammer, thus flattening the raised
threads). In this instance, a thread restorer should be used instead of a thread
cutting device such as a tap or die since these will simply cut away the flattened
portion of the threads, rather than restore them to their original height. One problem
with a thread restorer though is that of fatigue hardening. All of us have bent a
piece of sheet metal back and forth till it eventually breaks. This happens because
metal, when it is stretched, hardens and becomes less elastic making it more brittle.
When threads have been bent down once, and then bent again back to original position,
they have lost flexibility and become more brittle, thus they have lost some of their
strength. Before restoring damaged threads consider both the amount of thread damage
and the application the fastener will be used in. In a critical area such as head
or rod bolts in an engine, restoring damaged threads is not a sound practice, while
using this method on one of several bolts that holds on a fender would probably be
fine. Often, if threads are damaged, it is best to replace the fastener if possible.
Light damage to the head of nuts and bolts can be repaired with light grinding or
filing to remove rough or sharp edges. If the head is damaged such that you will
not be able to tighten the fastener properly then attempting to restore it is fruitless.
Rust and corrosion can ruin threads, the un-threaded shaft of longer bolts, washers,
and even the heads of bolts and screws themselves. Rust is actually oxidized metal.
Thus when rust is removed from a part, part of the original metal has also been removed.
As mentioned above, consider the application the fastener will be used in before
deciding whether to try and reuse one that has rust damage. Light pitting in bolt
shafts, washers, and heads is generally of little concern unless the fastener is
to be used in a critical area such as an engine. Moderate to heavy pitting of bolt
shafts, washers and heads will seriously weaken the fastener and it should be replaced.
Once all the physical damages have been repaired, it is time to consider restoration
of the correct or original finish to the fastener. Let's take a look at the different
fasteners used on Falcons and the restoration considerations for each.
Stainless Steel: These fasteners generally are very durable and most often do not
need to be replaced. Usually they can simply be cleaned up and reused. They can even
be buffed up to a chrome-like shine. Of course, if these fasteners are damaged beyond
reuse they will need to be replaced. There are many different grades of stainless
steel. Some stainless alloys are stronger but are more likely to rust. Other stainless
alloys are extremely rust resistant, but are not as strong. Most of the stainless
fasteners in our Falcons are used for trim attachment (mostly in convertibles and
hardtops) and seem to be of the type that is very rust resistant. These fasteners
do not require a great deal of strength so resistance to rust and corrosion should
be the main consideration here when looking for replacements. If reusing these fasteners,
and a nice shine is desired on the exposed head, they can be polished with most metal
polishing compounds (after filing off any sharp edges). I have also gotten a nice
finish simply by buffing them up with "0000" steel wool as will be seen below.
Chrome Plated: Chrome plating is a very durable, long lasting finish. If you have
fasteners that were originally chrome plated, you can simply buy new ones or have
the harder to find ones re-plated at a chrome shop. Often however, as is the case
with stainless, these fasteners can simply be cleaned up and reused. As with stainless,
they can also be polished or buffed with "0000" steel wool to restore their original
luster and shine.
Zinc/Silver Cad Plated: Zinc plating is an economical and fairly durable finish,
however it is not nearly as durable or attractive as chrome. These fasteners are
commonly available and almost any type and size of zinc/silver cad plated fastener
can be located. There are, however, vast differences in the quality of these fasteners
and the plating on them so expect to pay more for suitable quality. Lesser quality
fasteners will dull and rust far sooner than higher quality ones. If you cannot find
a fastener to replace yours with, zinc plating kits are available for use in your
home shop. For example, Eastwood offers a tin-zinc plating kit which costs around
$60. This is a simple electroplating process that uses two small "D" size batteries.
To plate a part, it is stripped to bare metal, a wire from the negative side of the
battery pack is attached to the part and it is immersed into an electrolyte solution.
Also in the electrolyte is a strip of tin-zinc metal that is attached to the positive
side of the battery pack. The current passing through this tin-zinc "anode" causes
some of the metal to leave the anode, pass through the electrolyte solution, and
(through electrical attraction) it is attached to the surface of the part. This is
the process of plating. The parts that come out of the plating are coated with a
dull gray film, and need to be lightly polished to restore the shiny look of the
original zinc plating (in fact, Eastwood includes a tube of metal polish with the
zinc plating kit). I had originally planned to purchase Eastwood's system and detail
its use on this site. However, after looking over the all zinc coated fasteners I
needed to replace or refurbish, I found that I could buy new replacement ones for
about the same cost as Eastwood's system and not have to go through all the hassle
of restoring each bolt and screw. As a result, most of the zinc plated fasteners
that I removed from the car have been replaced with new ones. The only ones I didn't
replace were ones that were still in excellent condition (such as ones that had been
used up under the dash or in the trunk and were never subject to heavy moisture or
Black Oxide: Black oxide is a fairly durable, but not dressy finish. The finish is
not applied to the surface of the metal as with chrome or zinc plating. Instead,
the surface of the bare metal is brought into contact with a solution that causes
a relatively stable oxide to form in the upper layers of the metal part. Thus, the
finish is actually "part" of the part, and it forms a hard, durable surface on the
part. Nevertheless, it must be noted that black oxide is still an oxide, just as
is rust. Even though black oxide is more stable than regular old rust, it still needs
some sort of sealer to keep moisture from seeping beneath the exterior oxidization
and starting new rust below. Even so, this process is far prefered to simply painting
or powder coating nuts, bolts, and screws. None of the black oxide fasteners I removed
from the car were still looking good. All had some level of rust, some had bad physical
damage, and others were rusted beyond reuse. I replaced all the black oxide fasteners
I could. Where these fasteners were damaged beyond reuse and I couldn't find exact
replacements, I went with the closest match I could find. There were, however, quite
a few of these fasteners that were still in generally good condition, and which I
was having a difficult time finding proper replacements for. As a result I decided
to purchase Eastwood's "Blackening System" to refurbish them. The system costs around
$30 and its use will be discussed in part two of this edition.
This is an example of physical damage to heads of phillips screws. These screws came
from the chrome trim around the windshield and are chrome plated steel.
The new screw on the left in the photos above is a new chrome plated steel screw
with a wax sealer on the threads. The screw on the right was removed from the stainless
steel and chrome trim around the windshield. It originally looked to me as if the
threads had rusted, but after seeing the screw on the left, and making a closer inspection,
I realized the screw had originally had a sealer on the threads just as the one on
the left. The sealer was used to seal the hole in the windshield frame so that rain/wash
water would not get into the frame and rust it. Unfortunately, the head on this new
screw is too large for the application, otherwise it would have been an excellent,
Many screw heads can be polished to restore luster and shine. One method is to use
a metal polish. Another is to use steel wool to buff it. I used a drill for the buffing
process. I gently tightened the threaded portion of the screw in the chuck (just
tight enough to hold it but loose enough so the threads are not damaged) and then
ran the drill while gently pushing "0000" steel wool on the face of the screw head
till a good shine is restored.
These screws hold the convertible top latching brackets. The screw on the left has
is as removed from the car. The one on the right has been buffed with steel wool
and a drill as previously shown. The color tint on the polished screw heads are a
combination of reflection and artifacts from JPEG compression--in real life the screw
heads are bright and shinny.
Another comparison: These screws are chrome plated steel. The one on the right has
been buffed with steel wool. I twisted some strands of the steel wool into a thread-like
piece about the thickness of a piece of yarn and pushed it into the phillips slot
while running the drill to clean and polish that area as well.
These are bolts for the structural cross member under the transmission that is only
used on convertibles. A couple of the heads had received minor physical damage over
the years but the threads were in excellent condition. After filing off rough edges
on the heads and and media blasting the rust away these bolts were refinished with
Eastwood's blackening system (using Eastwood's blackening system is covered in part
two of this edition). The left photo shows them after being degreased with solvent
and dried with compressed air. The right photo is after the process is complete.
This is what fasteners look like after media blasting. With all the protective finish
removed they obviously need to be finished with some sort protective finish or they
will begin rusting almost immediately, even from just the humidity in the air.
These nuts and brackets are used to secure the front bucket seats in place and are
installed from the undercarriage after the seats are in place. The nuts were given
a black oxide coat. The brackets were primed and painted, but they could also have
been given a black oxide coat quite easily. However, since the brackets do not receive
the same stresses that nuts & bolts do during tightening, paint or powder coat is
probably the best choice for durability.
Discussion & Procedure
Bolts & Fasteners
This is the end of the Restoring Nuts, Bolts, & Fasteners Edition Part 1
Feel free to save this page to your computer for your personal use and future reference--no
other use is authorized without prior written permission from me. All illustrations
from the 1964 or 1965 Falcon Shop Manuals used pursuant to permission granted by
Ford Motor Company. Disclaimer: This site is not intended to instruct or teach anyone
in proper or safe methods of working on or maintaining any type of vehicle or use
of any tool and the author takes no responsibility for the use of the information