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Pop Rivets, drill out and reinstall


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If you haven't had much experience with these rivets here are a few pointers:

Before drilling out any rivets make sure you have enough replacement rivets plus a few extra. This fastener is unique in that you can remove it and replace it and have the same clamping force after the repair as the original rivet had from the factory.

Rivet sizes are measured in two ways: the first number is the drill diameter number that the rivet can pass through eg. 1/8" or 3/16" and the second number is the length of the shank which relates to the length of grab that the rivet can hold. Rivets on the can am are aluminum with a nail in the center that pops when you pull on it with the tool at the same time it folds over and grabs the material. Larger diameter rivets have a larger nail which requires more force to break the nail and more squeeze on the handles of the setting tool. Rivets can be bought with a black color or straight aluminum and you can by the larger flange (head) usually designated as LF in addition to the other numbers eg. 3/16 x 1/2 LF. You can different sizes of rivets at hardware stores, industrial supply, building centers etc. Just make sure they are the right ones. You can paint the silver ones black with a shot of quick dry spray paint.

The easiest way I have found to remove the rivet is to drill out the center of the head or flange with a sharp drill bit. Use a bit that is about 1/16" larger than the diameter of the rivet, center the bit on the nail hole and drill until you feel resistance. This will be the broken off nail that remains in the shank for strength. It is not necessary to keep drilling deeper and if you do, you risk going off center, enlarging the material and the hole you want to use for resetting the new rivet. If you use too large a diameter bit for drill out it may spin the rivet before you drill off the head making it much harder to remove. If this happens use a wood chisel or something similar to wedge under the edge of the head. If you hit the nail before the head pops off you can use a wood chisel etc. to pry it off. Once the head is off, take a punch that is the same size or slightly smaller than the shank of the rivet and give the part remaining in the hole a quick tap, the shank will pop out the other side. Count the number of rivets you remove and retrieve the ends that you tap out so they don't wind up lodging against something that rotates causing damage. The drilled off head looks like a washer and could be used for backing if the hole size isn't too large.

There are a number of different hand riveting tools; the cheapest has a fixed head, another one allows you to rotate the head to fit easier in tight spaces and the third is a pneumatic which I prefer in the larger rivet sizes.

Take the rivet and install it in the correct guide in the hand tool. The hand tools usually have 4 or 5 diameters for the different rivet diameters, make sure that your tool has a big enough guide to handle the rivet you need to install. Put the nail end into the guide; center the material over the hole you are going to use, put the shank of the rivet through the hole, press against the material and squeeze the handles. Smaller rivets may pop with one squeeze larger ones require you to reset the tool by releasing the handles and pressing the guide against the material, the second squeeze usually pops the rivet.

The attached picture shows a rivet in the hand held correct guide, a new rivet with the drilled off head on the shank on the box, a swivel type hand held riveting tool and a pneumatic one in the box. FYI😉


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  • 2 years later...

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Have you ever used anything different than the pop rivets on your belly pan? I was thinking of looking for some large flange self tappers pan heads with a hex head or something so you can take them out a lot faster than with a drill or two claw hammers in my case.

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you could use riv-nuts.  that way you can at least get them back off easily by just unscrewing them.  mainly for skid plates, there is a tool to crimp them so make sure you get it.


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