TORQUE WRENCH VS. BREAKER BAR: How They Compare & When To Use Them

I. Introduction

A torque wrench is a tool used for tightening a bolt or nut to the recommended torque and a breaker bar is used to loosen tight bolts and nuts. This article discusses torque wrench v/s breaker bar from different angles.

When you discuss torque wrench v/s breaker bar, there is no winner, since each of them has its specific function.
< A torque wrench is used for tightening bolts and nuts to a recommended preset torque, and a breaker bar is used to break free a tight or rusted nut or bolt. We will discuss the function of the torque wrench and the breaker bar and how they differ in detail in the coming paragraphs.

II. Torque wrench VS Breaker bar

Both torque wrench and breaker bar look similar except that the breaker bar has a longer handle. However, the similarity ends there. Let us understand a torque wrench, and a breaker bar, and how they differ from each other.

What is a torque wrench? 

A torque wrench is basically a tool used for tightening a nut or bolt to the recommended torque in the user’s manual. You can set the torque wrench to the recommended torque and tighten the required bolt or nut. Normally you will hear a click sound when the set torque is reached.

A torque wrench is never meant for loosening a bolt or nut. You will find many torque wrenches and they differ by the minimum and maximum torque settings. You can also find a digital torque wrench on the market. A torque wrench eliminates the problem of over-tightening.

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What is a breaker bar? 

The construction of a breaker bar is simple. It has a strong and long handle with a male square socket at one end. The male square socket can be a fixed one or in some designs it can swivel within a fixed range of angle. You can insert the required size of the socket extension onto the breaker bar (please keep the extension length minimum).

A breaker bar does not break anything, what it actually breaks is the tightness of a screw. Yes, you use a breaker bar to break free very tight bolts and nuts like the nuts/bolts of a heavy automobile wheel. The long solid handle of the breaker bar gives the leverage to apply the required high force and torque. The long handle provides the mechanical advantage and leverage to break loose the rusted tight bolt/nut with optimum effort.

After pushing the socket into or onto the nut/bolt you can use your strength and body weight to loosen the rusted and tight nut/bolt.

Let us summarize the differences between a torque wrench and a breaker bar:

Torque wrench v/s Breaker Bar
No Torque wrench Breaker bar
1 Function
A torque wrench is a tightening tool to tighten a bolt or nut to the recommended preset torque (you can preset the recommended torque on a torque wrench).

A torque wrench is never meant for loosening a nut or bolt. A torque wrench stops overtightening.

A breaker bar is mainly used to break free a tight or rusted nut or bolt. However, you can also use it to tighten a bolt or nut.
2 Available leverage
The length of a torque wrench handle is sufficient to apply the maximum torque capacity of the torque wrench. The breaker bar has a long solid handle and the long handle provides the mechanical leverage/advantage to loosen the tight rusted bolt/nut with optimum effort.

A breaker bar has a longer handle compared to a torque wrench and its leverage is much higher than a torque wrench.

3 Amount of torque that can be applied
The amount of torque that can be applied for tightening the bolt/nut is limited by its designed maximum torque value.

The torque range of a normal manual automotive torque wrench is up to 250 feet-pounds.

You can apply more torque (up to 2000 feet-pounds) using a breaker bar and the amount of torque depend on the physique of the person using it.

With the same breaker bar, a strong and heavy person can apply more torque compared to an average person.

4 Cost
Torque wrenches are costlier compared to breaker bars
5 Variety
You can find a variety of torque wrenches in the market eg. Torque wrenches with different minimum and maximum torque settings, torque wrenches with digital reading, etc. A breaker bar is a simple tool and you do not have much choice or variety.
6 Durability
Both torque wrenches and breaker bars are durable and last longer. However, you need to take additional care in respect of the torque wrenches since they are like precision instruments.
7 Which one should you buy a torque wrench or a breaker bar?
The function of a torque wrench and a breaker bar is different and you will need both of them if you are in the profession of servicing automobiles or other machinery.

However, if you have a tight budget start with a breaker bar and then buy a torque wrench as soon as you can afford it.

III. Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1 Is it possible to use a torque wrench as a breaker bar?
No. A torque wrench is designed to tighten a bolt or nut to the recommended torque and you can preset the recommended torque on the torque wrench. A torque wrench is never used for loosening a bolt.

If you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar you may seriously harm the parts and settings of a torque wrench.

2 How much torque can I apply when using a breaker bar?
The maximum torque that can be applied using a breaker bar is up to 2000 feet-pounds. However, the maximum torque applied with a breaker bar depends on the physique of the person using it.
3 Can I use a breaker bar for tightening and loosening bolts and nuts?
The main function of a breaker bar is to break free or loosen a tight nut/bolt. However, you can use it for tightening also.

IV. Conclusion

In the previous paragraphs, we have discussed torque wrench v/s breaker bar and the conclusion is both are the winners. If you are in the field of servicing automobiles then you must have both torque wrench and breaker bar in your tool kit.

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