An Extendable Breaker Bar Makes Loosening Stubborn Nuts and Bolts a Breeze
ILLUSTRATION BY BROWN BIRD DESIGN
Start working on cars, and you quickly begin to realize how often you have to deal with stubborn bolts. Wheel bolts, brake caliper bolts, subframe bolts, you name it. Living in the northeast, it’s especially common for me to be stopped dead in my tracks by a piece of hardware that just won’t break loose, even while performing standard maintenance. That’s why I always keep an extendable breaker bar nearby.
Breaker bars are exactly what they sound like: bars designed to break bolts loose. They’re big, solid, often long pieces of metal that allow the user to apply as much force as possible to any nut or bolt you can fit them to. Breaker bars are wildly simple; on one end sits a male attachment point for a socket on a swivel, while the other end is a handle, sometimes with a rubberized grip. Because there’s no ratcheting mechanism on the socket attachment point, you don’t have to worry about shearing teeth from the gears inside. Just place the socket on and apply as much force as you need to break that stubborn bolt loose.
I know what you’re thinking. “Brian, why would I need a breaker bar if I just spent several hundred dollars on a new impact wrench? Can’t it do all the same stuff?”
Most of the time, yes. But not all the time. Impact guns are fantastic, wildly useful tools that I recommend every DIYer keep in their arsenal. But there are some bolts impact wrenches just can’t break, despite their impressive torque ratings. Leave a car outside for a few years untouched in the northeast, and rust will fuse everything together, making bolts nearly impossible to remove. Impact guns may deliver a shock that breaks the bolt, but a breaker bar allows the user to deliver just the right amount of finesse to extract it without causing damage. I’ve found that breaker bars help for loosening especially tight wheel bolts, suspension attachments, and subframe bolts. There are places on a car where an impact gun simply won’t fit. It’s those places where breaker bars truly shine.
Extendable breaker bars are that much more useful at handling tough nuts and bolts. The longer the bar, the more torque the user will be able to deliver to the socket. So being able to extend the bar makes it even more effective. And because extendable breaker bars are collapsable, they’re easier to store in tight places, like drawers or cabinets. Not to mention how much easier they are to keep in your car while you’re on the move.
Because breaker bars aren’t terribly complex, they’re affordable. Even high-quality extendable bars can be had within the average DIYer’s budget. The one we use, Gearwrench’s 1/2-inch drive extendable unit, is on sale right now on Amazon at $44.07. If you’d rather not have an extendable version, Gearwrench also makes a fixed 1/2-inch breaker bar, on sale for around the same price. If you think your DIY plans will involve a lot of breaker bar usage, you can get a whole set of bars with 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch drive attachments for just under $70.
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