As a mechanic, you’re probably familiar with both a torque wrench and a breaker bar. Both of them are used to work on bolts and nuts, and they make your job easier because they each have a long arm that can provide a lot of torque. This poses a very important question: can you use a torque wrench as a breaker tool?
What most people fail to realize, especially newer mechanics, is that while both of these tools might function in a similar way, their actual use cases are quite different from each other.
So, can you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar? We’ll take an in-depth look into each of these tools to find out whether they can be used interchangeably.
A torque wrench is a tool that is used for precision, and it’s much more sophisticated when compared to a breaker bar. Its main use is to tighten bolts and nuts, as this powerful tool can give you precise control over the amount of torque that is applied.
Similar to a ratchet, these wrenches have a much smaller handle, which is why they don’t output as much torque as a breaker bar.
The main advantage of a torque wrench is the precision it comes with. A torque wrench will stop the further application of force once the preset torque has been applied.
What’s the Proper Way to Use a Torque Wrench?
These types of wrenches have sophisticated mechanisms inside them. You can change the torque setting using the adjuster nut at the back of the handle, which works within a set torque range. Due to the adjustment spring, the roller pin, and the bearing in the body of its handle, there is a resounding click once the desired amount of torque has been applied.
The purpose of a torque wrench is to prevent the over-tightening of a nut, which the click-type torque wrench achieves by producing a clicking sound that is an indicator that you should stop applying force.
Drawbacks of a Torque Wrench
Needs Special Care
A torque wrench is a tool that is used for precision, so special care has to be taken when handling or storing it.
For instance, if you drop a torque wrench or use it to over-tighten a nut beyond the maximum torque level, it might cause the adjustment spring to get loose. This will lead to inaccurate torque output, which means that the actual torque applied isn’t the same as the value you set using the locking nut.
On top of that, when storing these wrenches, make sure that there isn’t a lot of humidity, which can potentially corrode the metal and also lead to inconsistency in reading.
Reduced Maximum Torque
Another drawback of a torque wrench is that the larger wrenches of a 3/4 driver size can only output a maximum of around 250 ft/lb of torque.
Because the size of a torque wrench is smaller, applying more force than its maximum capacity can end up damaging the tool beyond repair.
A breaker bar is a simple tool that can really help you out when the fastener is too tight or rusted. With the help of a socket wrench, it can undo even the tightest of nuts that wrenches and ratchets cannot.
Unlike a torque wrench, which is used to tighten a bolt, a breaker bar’s main purpose is to loosen nuts and bolts.
Due to a breaker bar’s long handle, it can output a lot of torque without getting damaged. The handle has no machinery inside it and is made of solid metal, making it more robust.
What’s the Proper Way to Use a Breaker Bar?
Compared to a torque wrench, using a breaker bar is a piece of cake.
Simply find the socket size for the fastener that you’re trying to loosen and attach it to the breaker bar. Line the socket and fastener up and then slowly apply pressure from the far end of the handle of the breaker bar. Upon hitting a certain target torque, the fastener will loosen up.
The best thing about a breaker bar is that it can withstand a maximum torque of up to 2500 ft/lb without sustaining any damage. This makes it the ideal tool for most stuck or difficult-to-loosen fasteners.
Drawbacks of Breaker Bar
Lack of Precision
Due to the functional use-case of a breaker bar, which requires sheer torque, there is no need for any precision mechanism inside a breaker bar.
This has a potential drawback. If someone who doesn’t know how different tools work ends up using a breaker bar for tightening a nut, they could end up damaging the equipment irreversibly.
Can You Use a Torque Wrench as a Breaker Bar to Loosen a Nut?
Now that you know the inner workings, the use case, and the limitations of each of these two tools, the answer to this question should automatically present itself to you.
In short, no, you cannot use a torque wrench as a breaker bar.
When loosening a stuck fastener, the amount of torque needed to unfasten it is much more than the amount of torque that a torque wrench can provide. If you exceed the torque limit of your wrench, which you invariably will when loosening a nut, the wrench can get damaged beyond repair.
The intricate mechanism inside the wrench is built for precision, and if it isn’t used in the intended way, the accuracy of the mechanism will be reduced. In severe cases, the entire mechanism could get busted.
That’s why people should always get to know the proper functions of their tools, as well as their limits, before attempting to use them interchangeably. For instance, the size of a torque wrench for spark plugs is different, so make sure you know what tools work best for your use case.
Oftentimes, you find yourself a tool short. Maybe you place it somewhere and forget, and now you’re in a hurry to get done with your work.
If the missing tool is a breaker bar, then you may be questioning yourself: can you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar?
The simple answer to that is no. Apart from indefinitely damaging your torque wrench, you’ll fail to loosen the fastener as well, mainly because the output torque from a torque wrench isn’t high enough to loosen a tight nut.