It’s essential to know how to use your tools, but it’s also crucial to understand how not to use your tools.
A common question we are asked here at MadeInUSA about torque wrenches is their relationship with being used as a breaker bar.
Can you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar?
You can use a torque wrench as a breaker bar in certain situations, but generally, this should not be done and avoided as much as possible. These situations include emergencies or the cost of recalibrating your torque wrench is justified.
Torque wrenches are powerful and accurate tools.
These tools need yearly care to ensure their accuracy, and using them the wrong way could potentially hurt their future worth and accuracy.
More information about torque wrenches, breaker bars, and a general overview of calibration is below.
When to use a Breaker Bar?
You can use a torque wrench as a breaker bar, but this should not be done and should be avoided as much as possible.
Using your torque wrench as a breaker bar can potentially throw off the calibration or damage your torque wrench.
A torque wrench is purchased for its precision and calibration, and some higher-quality models can become very expensive.
Using your Torque Wrench for anything other than tightening puts this calibration at risk and runs a high chance of ruining future torque calculations due to the inaccurate calibration.
Torque wrenches tightening to a highly accurate and specific torque can be life-saving, and using this tool when it is not correctly calibrated right can be very dangerous.
Also, since these tools are generally more costly, it makes little to no sense to use your torque wrench as a breaker bar.
Average Cost of a Torque Wrench Calibration
To see how much a calibration costs, I called around some local places to get an estimation of their costs.
As we can see, messing up the calibration in your torque wrench is an expensive mistake.
|Foot-pounds||Torque Wrench Calibration||Electronic or Adjustable Torque Wrench Calibration|
|0 – 50||$75||$113|
|51 – 250||$100||$150|
|251 – 1000||$150||$225|
|1,001 – 2500||$225||$338|
These costs are if I drop off the torque wrench and pick it up.
Shipping for these places was sometimes over $50 and is not listed in the table above.
Average Cost of a Breaker Bar Compared to a Torque Wrench
Here is a comparison of the cost between a breaker bar and a torque wrench.
Both of these items are of the same brand and size.
As we can see, the torque wrench is nearly 7x more expensive.
|Item||NEIKO PRO 03709B 1/2″ Drive Adjustable Click Torque Wrench||NEIKO 00200A 1/2″ Drive Extension Breaker Bar|
Why is a Torque Wrench More Expensive Than a Breaker Bar?
A torque wrench is much more expensive than a breaker bar due to the different internal makeup of the torque wrench.
A torque wrench has a coil spring inside that is attached to the bottom dial.
When the collar is turned, the handles move up the shaft tightening the spring.
This is a form of linear force that becomes stored in the spring.
At the top of the spring, between the tail of the ratchet head and the top of the spring, there is a piece of steel called a pivot block.
When the amount of rotational force is greater than the amount of force that is stored in the spring (the value that you’ve set with the handle), the pivot block will pivot and “click” – the signal that you’ve reached your desired torque.
These internal mechanisms are why the cost of the torque wrench is so much more than a breaker bar, which is a much simpler tool.
With this level of sophistication, we can see why a torque wrench would need to be recalibrated every year to maintain its accuracy.
Knowing which torque wrench to buy is also pretty tough.
We built a guide that goes over the numerous USA Made Torque Wrenches that could help you make the right decision.
When to Use a Torque Wrench as Breaker Bar
We know that you can use your torque wrench as a breaker bar, but it is an inappropriate and costly mistake.
However, there are times when you should use your torque wrench as a breaker bar.
For example, if you are stranded with a flat tire that needs to be replaced, you should probably use your torque wrench as a breaker bar.
Even if this does potentially throw off your calibration, in the end, it will be well worth it to protect you and the people you are with.
If you are too lazy to walk from the garage to the shed to grab a breaker bar, then you should not use your torque wrench as a breaker bar.
Knowing when to do it is a gut feeling, and it essentially breaks down to “Is using my torque wrench as a breaker bar right now worth the calibration cost.”
If it is, then you should do it.
If not, we suggest walking to the shred and grabbing your breaker bar.
Here is some information on How to Use a Torque Wrench, one of our most-referenced articles.
How to use a Torque Wrench to Loosen Bolts
So you’re in an emergency, and you need to use your torque wrench as a breaker bar to loosen some bolts.
You use a torque wrench to loosen bolts by attaching the torque wrench to the bolt the same way as if you were tightening it, but instead of rotating it to the right, you will push the lever the opposite way (left).
You will not get any accuracy measures, and the dials, calibration, and ratcheting aspects of your torque wrench will become useless.
You should turn until the bolt becomes loose enough to finish it off, then do the last couple of turns with your fingers.
You should finish off the last couple of turns of loosening a bolt with your fingers because using a tool to finish it off means it could potentially fall onto the ground or inside whatever you are working on and become lost.
Luckily, a torque wrench still has a long enough lever to take advantage of leverage, making it easier to loosen bolts in emergencies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Breaker Bar vs. Impact Wrench
A breaker bar and an impact wrench are excellent tools to have in your toolbox. A breaker bar is usually used to loosen bolts or lug nuts and isn’t used for tightening. This is different from an impact wrench, which is directly used for tightening. Also, an impact wrench is a power tool while a breaker bar is not. To use a breaker bar, you will need to exert a ton more effort to loosen the bolt.
Can a Torque Wrench be Used to Loosen Bolts?
Yes, a torque wrench can be used to loosen bolts. However, this should only be done in very specific situations, including emergencies and situations where the cost of recalibration is justified.
Can you use a Torque Wrench to Loosen Lug Nuts?
Yes, a torque wrench can be used to loosen lug nuts. However, Using a torque wrench to loosen lug nuts should only be done in particular situations. These situations include emergencies and situations where the cost of recalibration is justified.
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