How to Tighten a Bolt Without a Wrench

How to Tighten a Bolt Without a Wrench

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

We live in a world held in place. Nails, screws, nuts and bolts are the fasteners that hold everything together. From the houses we live in, to the cars we drive, down to the phones and watches on our wrists; there’s not much out there that isn’t held together by a fastener.

In this article, we’re going to cover the most robust member of the fastener family, the bolt; and how to tighten it when a wrench is nowhere to be found!

Is It Worth Trying to Tighten a Bolt Without a Wrench?

There isn’t a handyman or home mechanic out there who hasn’t run into this all-too common situation: a bolt needing tightening with no wrench in sight. Is it worth it to attempt to tighten it without one?

Most definitely, even if you are not dealing with a wing nut.

This can be accomplished with a bit of resourceful thinking using what’s within reach; this will save gas, time, and money. You can avoid a trip to the home hardware store to buy a wrench that may only be used once!

2 Handy Ways to Tighten a Bolt Without a Wrench

There are two main ways you can tighten a bolt when you don’t have a wrench handy.

#1: The Coin Method

One can find a coin or two without much effort, and it turns out they’ve got more use outside of a vending machine: a couple of coins can be turned into a makeshift wrench.

The process is easy, just follow the steps below:

  1. Find two coins of equal size and denomination. The larger the better, anything larger than a quarter.
  2. Place a coin on either side of the bolt’s head, the flat of the coins on the ‘walls’ of the head. Ensure that they are opposite one another, effectively ‘sandwiching’ the bolt head. Pinch the coins together to attain a good grip.’ Use both hands, pointer fingers on the top of the coin furthest away from you, and thumbs on the bottom of the coin closest.
  3. Squeeze hard and pinch the coins together, as if you were trying to make them touch. Take care to make sure that the coin surface and walls of the bolt head are flush against each other.
  4. Still squeezing, turn the bolt clockwise slowly. You may need to reset the coins after each turn.
  5. Turn until the bolt is tight.

This method comes with two main advantages. Firstly, it’s super handy since coins are everywhere. Also, most denominations of coins will accommodate nearly every size of bolt.

On the other hand, using this method might not result in significant tightness. It is also reliant on finger strength to be successful. This may be hard for younger users, or for those with joint related issues like arthritis. Lastly, specific conditions have to be met; cold temperatures or greasy environments will make it hard to accomplish.

#2: The Nut and Bolt Method

Another surprisingly clever way to tighten a bolt is to use none other but a nut and bolt!

Oftentimes when one is working with nuts and bolts, chances are good that there are loose ones hanging around. In the absence of a wrench, a simple nut and bolt combo make an effective substitute.

To use this method, you have to:

  1. Obtain a nut and bolt, the same nut and bolt dimensions as the one being tightened work best.
  2. With one hand, position the bolt horizontally above the bolt-head to be tightened. The bottom of the head should be touching one of the ‘walls’ of the loose bolt-head.
  3. With the other hand, thread the nut onto the bolt.
  4. Keep tightening the nut until the top of the nut touches the opposite wall of the loose bolt-head.
  5. Now we have a makeshift wrench! Tighten the nut until snug, there should be no ‘play’ between the set and the bolt-head.
  6. Holding the now-tight set by the threads, turn the ‘wrench’ clockwise until bolt tightness is reached.

The main advantage of this method is that it provides strong torque, and so bolts can reach significant tightness. The flexibility of bolt-head to nut distances on the ‘wrench’ ensures wide applicability to a variety of bolt heads too.

This method’s drawbacks include its reliance on the hope that another nut and bolt are handy and the fact that the small working surface area of the ‘wrench’ may lead to slippages, especially on bolt-heads that are worn.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Lastly, here are some extra tips to keep in mind.

1. The Right Way

Let’s start with the most important aspect first, which is the correct direction to turn the bolt. Although it seems like common sense, even experienced mechanics and repairmen can fall prey to turning the bolt the wrong way, loosening the bolt instead of tightening it!

This can be avoided by remembering that bolts and screws tighten with a clockwise motion, you turn the bolt in the direction the hands of a clock move on a watch. To loosen, turn it counter-clockwise, or the opposite direction.

A handy way to remember this is to keep in mind the simple, playful words: You want it tight? Turn it right. For our younger readers: “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.” You’d be surprised when this comes in handy, no matter what your age!

Remember, all of the above only works when the head of the bolt is facing you and the stem of it is facing away.

2. Don’t Overdo It

Although it may be hard to over-tighten using the aforementioned methods, the nut-and-bolt method offers surprisingly strong torque. Therefore, when the bolt feels tight and no longer moves, chances are that it’s time to stop turning.

To continue turning past an already tight bolt runs the risk of stripping the threads, effectively destroying the nut and bolt, a costly error in both time and money.

3. Before and After Tightening Tips

A tight bolt can be gradually loosened with popular garage staples like WD-40 spray lubricant; this breaks down that may have accumulated and aids in its prevention.

And to prevent a bolt from being loosened, thread-locking compounds like ‘Loc-Tite’ can be applied. These are applied to threads before tightening, and form a secure bond after drying that even actual wrenches will have issues with!


A moment of resourcefulness can save time and money when trying to tighten a bolt without a wrench, using makeshift tools from items readily available. With a simple nut and bolt or even pocket change, one can tighten a bolt without a trip to the hardware store.

That said, if you need to tighten and loosen a lot of nuts and bolts, then you are certainly better off making that trip and getting a wrench! If you decide to do so but are not sure how to use it, read my article about how to tighten nuts and bolts.