Torque Wrench VS. Breaker Bar (When To Use Them)

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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 vs breaker bar from a few different angles.

When you discuss torque wrench vs breaker bar, there is really no clear 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.

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Torque Wrench VS Breaker Bar

Both torque wrenches and breaker bars 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 service 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.

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 then insert the required size of the socket extension onto the breaker bar.

A breaker bar does not “break” anything, what it actually breaks is the tightness of a screw.

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 minimal 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.

Key Differences: Torque Wrench vs. Breaker Bar

Let’ u’s summarize the differences between a torque wrench and a breaker bar:

Torque wrenchBreaker bar
FunctionA 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 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.
Available leverageThe length of a torque wrench handle is sufficient to apply the maximum torque capacity of the torque wrench.

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

Amount of torque that can be appliedThe torque range of a normal manual automotive torque wrench is typically 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.
CostTorque wrenches are costlier compared to breaker bars.Breaker bars are generally less exspensive.
VarietyYou 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.
Durability/MaintenanceTorque wrenches need to be re-calibrated periodically.Breaker bars will last for a long time and are very durable. Maintenance is not typically required.

Can you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar?


A torque wrench is designed to tighten a bolt or nut to the recommended torque. You can preset the required 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 damage the parts and settings of a torque wrench making it less accurate.

How much torque can you apply when using a breaker bar?

The maximum torque that can be applied using a breaker bar is usually up to 2000 feet-pounds.

However, the maximum torque applied with a breaker bar depends on the physique of the person using it.

Can you 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 too.

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