Breaker Bar vs Torque Wrench: Which One is Better for You?

The breaker bar and the torque wrench are two of the essential tools for anyone dealing with fixing a car. It’s crucial to know the difference between breaker bar vs torque wrench to understand when to use which tool.

The key difference between a breaker bar and a torque wrench is their purpose of usage. A breaker bar helps loosen stuck bolts with mass torque. In contrast, a torque wrench is useful for tightening bolts with a specific torque.

These tools share more dissimilarities. Continue reading the article as we discuss the key differences between a breaker bar and a torque wrench. Don’t forget to check our opinion in the end about which one of these tools will be best for you.

Breaker Bar vs Torque Wrench: Quick Comparison Chart 

Basis of comparisonBreaker barTorque wrench
PurposeLoosening stuck boltsTightening nuts with a specific torque
AutomationNoneYes
LeverageHigh outputAverage output with the same force
ControlLowHigh
Max torque2,500ft/lbs150 ft/lbs
AccuracyLowHigh
CostCheapExpensive

Breaker Bar vs Torque Wrench: Key Differences 

A breaker bar or a power bar is a long non-ratcheting bar used with wrench-style sockets to break securely tightened bolts, nuts, or screws. Torque wrenches refer to a specific type of wrench that has a function to set a specific torque while tightening fasteners.

The most significant differences between a breaker bar and a torque wrench are:

Purpose

As the name suggests, the main purpose of a breaker bar is to break. Metal is susceptible to rust, and often bolts get stuck due to rust or overtightening. 

Unscrewing such connections may seem tough with general wrenches. A breaker bar’s main usage is to break such connections by applying extra force.

Some connections, especially in automotive, require specific torque for optimum performance. A torque wrench has a unique feature that allows you to use a specific torque. The main purpose of this wrench is to secure a connection with the required torque for the best performance.

Leverage

The leverage of the wrenches depends on the length of the handlebar. Larger handles mean more leverage or output. You can produce a higher amount of torque by applying the same amount of force in a large handle.

Breaker bars have larger handles compared to torque wrenches. That’s why the output of a breaker bar is higher than the torque wrench output. This is the main reason why car mechanics use a breaker bar.

Automation

If you are looking for a smarter tool, then a torque wrench is exactly that. You can set a specific torque, then put it on a bolt and simply push. The bolt will automatically get secured with a specific torque.

Compared to a torque wrench, a breaker bar wrench is quite a simple tool. There are no extra features or any fancy functions. Put it on a bolt and turn in a direction to loosen the bolt.

Control

Once again, a torque wrench stays ahead of the breaker bar. You have more control over a torque wrench. It has a clip and swivels function to control an accurate torque and a specific direction.

You do not get such control over a breaker bar wrench. The good thing is that its non-ratcheting technique prevents any accident from happening.

Cost

Despite the fact that a breaker bar produces more power, it is cheaper. You can get a good breaker bar set within $50.

The main reason torque wrenches are expensive is their advanced mechanisms. You can buy the torque wrench set for under $100. Moreover, you will need to buy a torque wrench socket set for using the tool.

Can I use a torque wrench as a breaker bar? 

After discussing the differences between a torque wrench and a breaker bar, the answer is crystal clear. You can not use a torque wrench as a breaker bar. A torque wrench will not be able to produce the mass amount of torque a breaker bar can.

Why can’t you use a torque wrench as a breaker bar?  

Trying to use a torque wrench as a breaker bar will damage the torque mechanism. If you forcefully try to get extra output from a torque wrench, it can drop the accuracy of the tool by 30%.

Hence, never try to use a torque wrench as a breaker bar. Torque wrenches are simply not made with such intention. In fact, it’s never a good idea to use a torque wrench, breaker bar, or any other wrench alternatively.

What size breaker bar is best? 

What size breaker bar is best depends on where you’re going to use it. The key factor here is what size bolt you will be loosening. From our experience, the following two sizes are most efficient:

  • Breaker bar 3/8

A ⅜ inch breaker bar with a 12 or 15-inch handlebar is quite flexible to get the job done quickly and conveniently. The breaker bar with the larger handle is more than enough to produce the torque you need.

  • 1/2 breaker bar 

You are most likely to use a breaker bar for larger bolts. A ½ inch breaker bar will be the best choice for such situations. Although we recommend you go for a 24-inch handle for maximum performance, the 18-inch handle may also serve your requirements.

Are all breaker bars the same?

All breaker bars are not the same as they come in different sizes and lengths. Most breaker bars have drive sizes of ¾”, ½”, ⅜”, and ½” with different lengths of handles such as 12″, 15″, 18″, 25″, etc.

How much torque can a 3/4 breaker bar take?

If you are using a good quality torque wrench, a ¾” breaker bar can approximately 800ft/lbs. For comparison’s sake, a ¼” breaker bar can take about 30ft/lbs, a ⅜” about 100ft/lbs, and a ½” about 230ft/lbs. The exact number depends on the length of the handlebar.

What is the maximum torque a 1/2 drive can withstand?

½ inch drive usually can withstand a torque between 180 to 230 ft/lbs. Let’s say if you are using a quite high-quality heavy duty breaker bar, it may withstand a maximum torque of close to 500ft/lbs.

How to use a breaker bar torque wrench?

To use a breaker bar for producing torque, first, you need to set the socket on the drive head. Then insert on the bolt you are trying to lose and turn the handle with pressure to get the job done.

Can you tighten with a breaker bar?

You can tighten bolts with a breaker bar. But you need to be extra careful as excess leverage of a breaker bar can over tighten or worse, damage the connection.

Final Words

Both breaker bar and torque wrench are useful to serve their purpose. If you need to apply specific torque while tightening a bolt, go for a torque wrench. Use a breaker bar tool when you need to loosen an extra tight or stuck bolt.

From the comparison between breaker bar vs torque wrench, it is crystal clear that you will need both the tools if you regularly repair cars or motorcycles. Using the tools alternatively is never a good idea.