How to Torque a Bolt Without a Torque Wrench [3 Steps]

Some bolts in car and bike engines require specific torque for functioning properly. If you are going to use a torque wrench only once a year, you may not want to buy one for $100. Now you must be looking for an alternative way to torque the bolt without a torque wrench.

How to torque a bolt without a torque wrench? You can use the foot-pound method to torque a bolt without a torque wrench. You will need a breaker bar, a measuring tape, and a fish scale. It may not give you accurate torque, but it’s the best method you can try.

We will discuss the process in detail throughout the article. Scroll and read till the end to know whether it’s a good idea not to use a torque wrench or not.

How to torque a bolt without a torque wrench?

Torquing a bolt without a torque wrench is quite simple. You will need the following tools:

  • Breaker bar (longer than a foot)
  • Measuring tape
  • Fish scale

Once you have all the tools ready, follow the steps below to torque a bolt:

Step 1: Insert the breaker bar

First, prepare the breaker bar wrench with a proper size socket. Then insert it onto the bolt you want to apply torque. Keep it straight to the ground. The angle should be around 0° or 180°.

Step 2: Hang the fish scale

Next, hang the fish scale to the breaker bar handle. Put it exactly one foot away from the square driver. Take the measurements via a measurement tape.

Step 3: Take torque reading

Finally, take torque measurement by observing the fish scale. You will get the reading as foot-pounds torque. For example, if you push the breaker bar to 10 pounds, the torque is 10 foot-pound.

Applying more force to the handle will increase the bolt tension. You can see the increased torque in the fish scale.

How to measure bolt torque without a torque wrench?

There is no appropriate method to measure the torque without a torque wrench. Even the most experienced mechanics use torque wrenches for such works.

If you are ready to break some bolts, you may try the trial and error method. Continue tightening the bolt until it strips off. After you get an idea of when it breaks, put a little less force next time for a proper connection.

Do you really need a torque wrench?

You must need a torque wrench if you want to measure and apply proper torque. Some experienced mechanics may avoid using a torque wrench in case of emergency.

After fixing thousands of connections, they have got a mere idea of what torque is too much and what is too less. If you do not have such experience, you must use a torque wrench.

No other tools have torque setting features except for a torque wrench. And till now, there has not been any alternative to a torque wrench invented.

What happens if you don’t torque a bolt?

Manufacturers recommend using torque wrenches for some obvious reasons. If you don’t torque a bolt, two problems can happen. You either apply too much or too little torque.

Over tightening a bolt with excess torque can strip off the bolt. Leaving it loose will result in a leaky connection.

That is why manufacturers measure and fix a specific torque for certain connections, especially spark plugs. It is recommended for you to use a torque wrench to avoid bad connections.

Is a torque wrench necessary for bikes?

Modern bikes use a lot of light aluminum and carbon fiber. If you overtighten the clamps, it will damage not only the clamp but also the bike component. Hence, it is necessary to use the best torque wrench for bikes.

How much torque does it take to remove a lug nut?

Car lug nuts will require approximately 100 to 120 ft-lbs of torque to remove. It is not essential to use a torque wrench to loosen such connections. A breaker bar or an impact wrench will provide a much better result. But if you are tightening, using the best torque wrenches for lug nuts could be a great solution.

Do you need a torque wrench for a valve cover?

It is not always necessary to use a torque wrench for a vehicle valve cover if you have previous experience. You can use your previous experience to set the valve with guessed torque.

However, most of today’s valves are made of light materials such as plastic. Applying too much torque can easily break the cover. Using torque is recommended to avoid unwanted circumstances.

How long can you leave a torque wrench set?

You may wonder how long you can leave a torque wrench set if you do not use it much. After 5000 cycles of use, you may need to inspect it for accuracy.

Most torque wrench sets will easily pass one year without any problem. If you take proper care of the tool, a torque wrench set will last for several years.

Is the foot pounds method a viable option to torque without a torque wrench?

You can buy good quality torque wrenches for only $100. If you want to avoid that cost, you will need to invest in three other tools that we mentioned above.

A breaker bar costs around $50, a measuring tape is $10, and a good fish scale costs approximately $30. Together you will need around $90; still, you can not get accurate torque measurements.

Hence, we recommend you better go for buying a torque wrench. If you can not afford quality ones, you may try budget options that come at a cheaper rate.

In short, using the foot-pounds method is not trustable. You may use the method only when you have the items with you, and it’s an emergency situation.

Final Verdict

We have discussed in detail how to torque a bolt without a torque wrench. It is clear from the discussion that the best way is to use a torque wrench, even if you may need it only once or twice a year.



Shawkat is a passionate home and auto mechanic who enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. He has been working on cars and homes for over 9 years and has a wealth of experience to share. From indoor tools to outdoors, crafting to automotive, you will see his passion for tools. And he is not alone here, either. He collaborates with other users to give you the best possible tool experience. As the founder of Geartoolsbuddy, Shakat is always happy to help people with their queries and doubts about power and hand tools.