Breaker Bar Vs Torque Wrench | Which One Do I Need?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 20, 2022
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Torque wrench and breaker bar are two of the useful tools every workshop should have, especially if the workshop’s purpose is to deal with automobiles.

It is a common thing to compare the two to determine and get the best tool for one’s workshop. In this article, we will compare the breaker bar vs. torque wrench and see which one is more useful.

Frankly speaking, calling out a winner is a tough task in general. It is even more so in this case. However, we will break things down to get a better idea of the tools to help you decide. But first –

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What Is A Breaker Bar?

A breaker bar is exactly(almost) what it sounds like it is. It is a bar that breaks. The only catch is that it is not to break bones. Although it is actually good at that, the main purpose of the tool is to break free rusted nuts and bolts.

A breaker bar is as simple as a tool can be. It is essentially some sort of a bolt socket welded at the edge of a long handle. As I mentioned before, it is mainly used for applying a massive amount of torque on rusted or worn-down bolts and forcing it to break free of the rusts and come out normally.

The tool is sturdy enough to allow you to smack the nuts or bolts if need be without worrying about damaging the tool itself. And if you happen to need to, you can also smack someone’s head pretty efficiently. I was just kidding.

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What Is A Torque Wrench?

A torque wrench is a tool to measure the amount of torque being applied on a bolt at the time. However, it is mainly used to apply a specific amount of torque rather than counting. In essence, they are the same thing, but the latter is a smarter way of handling.

There are several types of torque wrenches out there. For simplicity, I will categorize them into two sections. There are those that simply give you a reading of the amount of torque being applied, and there are those that you program beforehand to allow only a specific amount of torque to be applied.

The second category is simple. You will usually have a knob (or buttons if you are using an electric torque wrench).

Use them to set the amount of torque you want on your bolt. Then use the torque wrench as a normal wrench. As soon as you hit the magic number, the device will simply stop turning the bolt no matter how much you try.

That’s really simple, right? Well, the first category is even simpler. Keep an eye on the scale and keep turning until you see the right number.

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Similarities Between Breaker Bar & Torque Wrench

The two tools are similar to each other in many ways. The first thing is their work section. Both of the tools are used to tighten and loosen bolts and nuts. The general shape of the two tools resembles the other one quite well. And thus, the working mechanism of the torque wrench and the breaking bar is same.

Both of the tools have a long metal handle that allows the user to get a tremendous amount of force on the bolt simply by putting a decent amount of pressure on the handle. It’s called the “lever” mechanism, and both a torque wrench and a breaking bar utilizes this very well.

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Difference Between Torque Wrench & Breaker Bar

How is a breaking bar different from a torque wrench? Well, to be fair, the number of differences between the two tools is significantly higher than that of similarities. They differ from each other in –

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1. Leverage

A breaking bar usually has a significantly longer handlebar compared to that of a torque wrench. If you are a student of science, you’d know right away why that’s a good thing and a big deal. The leverage/ efficiency of a tool directly depends on the length of its effort arm, as they call it, or in our case, the handlebar.

So, the breaking bar, having a longer handle, is capable of generating more torque compared to a torque wrench from the same amount of force applied. Thus, a breaking bar is more efficient at locking or unlocking screws.

2. Automation

If you want to be fancy, a little more than just turning the bolt, a torque wrench has a lot to offer. A breaking bar is just as simple as it can get. There is not much room for improvement other than attaching different bolt sockets for different screws.

A torque wrench, on the other hand, goes a long way. Getting to know the exact amount of torque is the first and most obvious step. Tightening up to the exact amount is one step further.

And if you want to take another step ahead, there are electrical torque wrenches that offer more control, more speed and make the boring task a bit… I mean, not really fun, just a little less boring.

3. Utility

In terms of utility, a breaking bar has the upper hand by a significant amount. I am talking about stuff the tool can do beyond the intended purpose. A torque wrench has some limitations. At least a few models are not well suited to unscrew bolts. They excel at tightening, but it is not the case when it comes to unscrewing.

A breaker bar does not break a sweat to screw or unscrew. All the models and all the brands alike. Rather, if sweat needs to be broken, a breaker bar is perfectly equipped for that.

Their ability to take stress is remarkable, most often surpassing the user. At the same time, you are pretty limited to work in a specific torque range with a torque wrench.

4. Control

Control is a whole different story from utility/usability. The wind turns instantly in favor of the torque wrench. A typical torque wrench lets you adjust the torque very precisely. This is a must when it comes to working with automobiles. In the engine block, the torque is one of the most important factors to maintain properly.

A torque wrench is just made for control. A breaker bar, on the other hand, does not offer much control at all. All the control you have over torque is the feeling on your hand, how hard it is pushing in your hand.

There is one more factor I have to mention. Remember when I said a breaker bar could break free a rusted bolt that would otherwise be a hustle? If you consider that, that’s a special trait, only a breaker bar offers you.

5. Price

A breaker bar costs a lot less compared to a torque wrench. Despite some limitations, and in some situations, straight off being outplayed, a torque wrench does have some lovely traits that you can never have with a breaker bar.

Control and battery-powered automation is something that is irreplaceable. Thus, a torque wrench costs slightly more than a breaker bar. However, in case your tool breaks or simply needs a replacement, a breaker bar will be easily replaceable.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, we all can come to the conclusion that in between a breaker bar and a torque wrench, there is no single best one to have and call it good. Their usage is more or less situational, and both are essential for the situation.

Thus, rather than conflicting between the two for the winner, it will be smarter to have both of the tools and play them at their strength. That way, you will be able to make the most usage out of them both. And that concludes our article on breaker bar vs torque wrench.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new equipment, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.
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