Can You Use a Torque Wrench as a Breaker Bar?

To the inexperienced, a torque wrench looks uncannily like a breaker bar. Still, these two are certainly not the same thing. 

You cannot use a torque wrench as a replacement for a breaker bar. Due to their design and material, torque wrenches cannot withstand high torque levels – doing so will risk breaking the torque wrench. Instead, you should only use it to tighten nuts and bolts to a specific amount of torque. 

Take better care of your tools by learning the difference between torque wrenches and breaker bars. 

Can You Replace Your Breaker Bar with a Torque Wrench?

You cannot use a torque wrench as a breaker bar tool. 

The key difference between a torque wrench and a breaker bar is its usage. Breaker bars are meant to loosen extremely tight nuts and bolts by applying a large amount of torque. On the other hand, torque wrenches tighten bolts to an exact torque value. In simpler terms, a breaker bar removes bolts while the torque wrench tightens them. 

You might be thinking, why can’t I use either a torque wrench breaker bar to tighten and loosen the same lug nuts?

Before we answer that, let’s give you some background information to make things easier to understand. 

Torque, in scientific terms, is the amount of force you need to turn a certain object on its axis. You can feel torque whenever you open a door or when you try to twist a screw using a screwdriver. 

You actually use torque nearly every day; one example is when you use torque to twist open a bottled drink. Speaking of bottled drinks, have you ever noticed that you need more force to open a bottle cap than to close it? That’s because the nearer an object is to its base, the more torque you’ll need to turn it. 

Does that sound familiar? That’s because breaker bar torque wrenches are specifically created to handle the difference in torque needed when tightening and loosening a bolt. 

Torque wrenches and breaker bars can apply and withstand different levels of torque. 

man using a torque wrench on tier
Video | ChrisFix

In general, breaker bars are made to apply a large amount of torque. Breaker bars are tougher and can loosen virtually any nuts and bolts. Still, it’s not typically used to tighten bolts due to the risk of overtightening them – which can damage the bolt and the object it is attached to.

Meanwhile, torque wrenches are used to apply a very specific amount of torque – enough to secure any lug nuts but not enough to overtighten them. It cannot apply nor handle torques that exceed its limit, doing so will risk breaking the torque wrench. 

With all that said, the main reason a torque wrench isn’t used as a breaker bar is that it can break during usage. 

Torque wrenches are precise and delicate tools that apply precise torque to a nut or bolt. Exceeding the torque wrench’s maximum allowable torque will certainly cause problems, if not break, its internal mechanisms. 

What is a Torque Wrench?

Torque wrenches use certain mechanisms to keep track of the total torque used to tighten a nut or bolt.

Torque wrenches are ideal tools for working with delicate equipment such as engines and other machinery. This is because torque wrenches can measure and alert you to the torque generated per turn. On average, a torque wrench can handle up to 150ft/lbs of torque, which is the maximum torque you can safely apply to any nut or bolt. 

The main downside is that torque wrenches are expensive yet fragile equipment. A decent torque wrench can cost around $100, with more advanced variants costing even more. Moreover, these tools are known to shatter or break off when the torque applied is too large to handle. 

There are three most commonly used variants of the torque wrench. 

1. Click Torque Wrenches

Most toolboxes have a click torque wrench, which is also the easiest and most affordable variant to use.

You can set the desired torque by twisting the dial or knob at the base of the handle until the indicator aligns with the correct torque value mark. The torque wrench will create a noticeable “click” sound once the nut or bolt is tightened to the desired torque. 

2. Beam Type Torque Wrenches

Many pros prefer the beam torque wrench for its affordability and high accuracy. 

Beam-type torque wrenches use a scale near their base to keep track of the total applied torque. Unlike most models, you don’t need to preset the desired torque before using the tool; keep tightening the nut or bolt until the value on the scale matches the desired torque. 

3. Digital Torque Wrenches

Digital torque wrenches are often used in delicate or highly technical projects. 

This variant is easily recognized through the digital display on its handle. It has a built-in sensor that records and displays the total torque applied per turn; some variants even have a removable memory stick that saves each reading. Digital torque wrenches are the most accurate and easiest to use of all torque wrench variants.

What is a Breaker Bar? 

Breaker bars, also called wrench breakers, are efficient tools to remove tight nuts and bolts. 

The secret behind the breaker bar’s efficiency is its elongated body made of heavy-duty metal. The extra length allows the user to generate more torque without needing more force. In general, longer breaker bars can produce a greater amount of torque. In most cases, a wrench breaker bar can effectively loosen any bolt within the first half-turn. 

Wrench breaker bars can produce up to 2,000 lbs of torque, enough to remove even rusted lug nuts. This, coupled with its solid design and a heavy-duty material, allows breaker bars to be continually used without the risk of any breakage. 

One risk that users have to look out for is producing too much breaker bar torque. 

Applying too much torque to lug nuts can cause them to break off instead of loosening. Moreover, the breaker bar’s driver head has a swivel mechanism that gives the user a better range of motion, the downside of this mechanism is that it creates a weak point. Too much torque can cause the driver to snap or get damaged. 

You should always try to use the best-sized breaker bar for your intended use or project. 

A regular-sized 24-inches breaker bar is enough to loosen most nuts and bolts. But if you’re working with trucks, large vehicles, and machines, you’ll need to use a 40-inches breaker bar. You can always ask around your local hardware if you need help determining what breaker bar size you’ll need for your project. 

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

Video References


Extraclass Official

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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