Breaker bar? Or the impact wrench? Which tool is the best for unscrewing nuts and bolts?
To put it simply, do you want the expensive option or the cheaper one? Do you want more power or enough leverage with minimum strength?
You could have wondered which tool to use for your next DIY project—no need to wait anymore.
This article explains what each tool aces in, their not-so-great features, different types of each tool, and how to use them the right way. Are you ready for the breaker bar vs. impact wrench showdown? Let’s get on with it!
Difference Between Breaker Bar and Impact Wrench
If you’re looking for a new tool to add to your garage arsenal, then either an impact wrench or breaker bar may be just what you need. The two tools are designed with different purposes in mind and it’s important that the user understands these differences before making their purchase. This blog post will discuss the difference between an impact wrench and breaker bar so users can make an informed decision about which one is right for them.
What’s a Breaker Bar?
A breaker bar is a long bar that comes with a wrench-like socket. They are sometimes also known as power bars.
The longer handle can have a swiveling head or a socket attached to it. The swiveling charge and socket ones can apply more torque to loosen bolts without using much of your strength. 180-degree swivel breaker bars are the most convenient to use, as they allow you to work from any angle.
Breaker bars are strong themselves. They are made of polished chrome steel. So you won’t ever hear it breaking. Even if it doesn’t, replacing is cheap, and you can get it in any hardware store.
To accommodate the numerous sizes of bolts and donuts, the breaker bars are also designed in different shapes and sizes. You can even find the angle in various lengths.
Usually, the longer handles can exert more torque and can remove stubborn and frozen nuts and bolts. I recommend the ones that are 18 to 40 inches in length. An 18-inch breaker bar is short enough to unfasten smaller nuts and strong enough to eliminate lug nuts from wheels safely.
What Do You Use a Breaker Bar for?
This tool is quite popular in unfastening nuts and bolts. So, you can call this the upgraded version of a standard-length socket wrench. But, you have to use a breaker bar along with a socket wrench to remove nuts.
A breaker bar is handy when it comes to replacing type iron. You should always have one in your trunk. It doesn’t take up too much space, and the handle gives good leverage. You can even use it as a hammer when it is time to belt something!
Furthermore, breaker bars are lighter than electric impact wrenches, making them easy on your arms and back. Besides, a 150 feet pounds breaker bar can snap a ⅜-inch drive, whereas a 300 feet pounds breaker bar can crack a ½-inch drive.
Demerits of a Breaker Bar
Although a breaker bar is a convenient tool in undoing impossible nuts and bolts, it doesn’t have a ratcheting mechanism. Therefore, use this bar to loosen the nuts, then let a ratchet remove the rest of it.
Additionally, you can’t use a breaker bar to tighten nuts and bolts. Its usability is very one-dimensional. If you attempt to pull something with it, you may damage the tool or the other object.
How to Use a Breaker Bar
The process is quite simple, and I bet some of you have already tried it. So, let’s first locate a tough nut, for example, on your car wheel.
You know how tough some of those nuts can be. You can try to blow a torch or use an impact gun, but nothing beats the leverage provided by a breaker bar!
You must be patient when you get down to activities like this. Sometimes, loosening nuts takes a few minutes, while sometimes it takes hours. So, take a few breaths, and remember that your safety is the priority.
You can also use a galvanized pipe with the breaker bar to unscrew a frozen nut. Then, place the breaker bar on the stubborn nut, and push the pipe on the breaker bar down to the bottom.
Bend the combined device parallel to your vehicle. Slowly twist it, and you will notice the nut unscrewing.
Need a video demonstration? Watch it here.
What is an Impact Wrench?
Just like a breaker bar, an impact wrench is a must-have for every mechanic. It has the same purpose as a break bar, to loosen lug nuts with a lot of torque.
There is a hammering mechanism in impact wrenches that dispatches jolting quick blows to unscrew lug nuts. On the positive side, these tools can be used to tighten nuts as well. But you must be very careful not to overtighten or stretch the threads.
What separates an impact wrench from a breaker bar is the speed. Since it is a pneumatic-powered tool, it is a beast compared to a manually operated breaker bar.
You can find an impact wrench in different shapes and sizes as well. ½-inch square ones are the most popular at the moment. In terms of the supply source, these tools can be powered by electricity or compressed air. Also, they can be corded, cordless, or pneumatic.
What Do You Use an Impact Wrench for?
Like a breaker bar, an impact wrench is used to unscrew lug nuts and screw them back. This tool is used in the automobile industry and construction, hardware, furniture, manufacturing, and maintenance. I bet an impact wrench is a standard garage item in every household!
Moreover, you can even use this tool like a drill! I’m not saying go full-time drilling with an impact wrench. You can drill a hole in softwood or light-gauge steel, maybe. But it would help if you always used an impact wrench with an impact socket.
Because this device has so much power, you have to be careful how much energy you are using for the task at hand. For example, to remove lug nuts from the wheels, you don’t need as much torque.
Beware that the impact wrenches can’t remove frozen lug nuts. You will need a breaker bar for that.
Demerits of an Impact Wrench
The loud whirring sound of an impact wrench is as annoying as it gets. A breaker bar makes no such sound, though. Because an impact wrench is extremely loud, you will need hearing protection before operating it.
This tool uses power during operation, so you are consuming a significant amount of electricity. Therefore, safety hazards are something you should watch out for because corded impact wrenches can be dangerous.
On top of that, you must be careful about the amount of torque you are using for the task at hand. Some work requires less torque and some more torque. Therefore, additional training is necessary before getting started with an impact wrench.
How to Use an Impact Wrench
I’m going to use the same medium to test an impact wrench on a car tire. This way, you will understand the differences and similarities in utilizing a breaker bar and an impact wrench to unscrew a lug nut.
For a 100-foot pound lug nut, an impact wrench of 400-foot pounds is sufficient to get the job done. Fit the impact socket to the mouth of the impact wrench. Don’t use the chrome-plated socket as that will break.
Add a few drops of oil to the air inlet of the impact wrench. Then, if you are using an air compressor impact wrench, connect the air compressor hose to the twist. Turn up the setting to 90 psi and make sure the wrench is in the reverse position by selecting ‘R.’
Set the mouth of the impact wrench on the lug nut, and press the power. The nuts will come off in seconds!
To screw the nuts back in, thread them by hand initially. Use a torque stick first, then finish off with the impact wrench.
Want a video demonstration? Check it out here.
Now here you have it, the battle of breaker bar vs. impact wrench. Based on what you have read, which one do you think is stronger?
When it comes to power and usability, I say there is no beating the impact wrench. The breaker bar can only be used manually. But there is no threat to physical safety, noise pollution, or hazards with the breaker bar.
It is a difficult decision, to be honest. The breaker bar is beginner-friendly, whereas the impact wrench needs some training beforehand. Either way, I guess it is upto the user now!