Can A Torque Wrench Be Used To Loosen Bolts: Spoiler Alert, Don’t Do It

Having a set of torque wrenches on hand is important for any DIY dynamo, but they’re not multi-use tools. Can a torque wrench be used to loosen bolts? Technically, you can accomplish the task. However, that might be the last time your torque wrench is useful for tightening things down. Since this tool is more specific than some, you should always use them for the stated purpose. Use a regular wrench to loosen your bolts instead. I’ll explain more about how your torque wrenches work and how best to use them. Plus, I’ll offer some useful tips and tricks for calibration and how to loosen those troublesome bolts as well.

Can a torque wrench be used to loosen a bolt? A torque wrench cannot be used to loosen a bolt. Torque wrenches are precision tools made for tightening things down. Hence, using them for the opposite can damage their precise capabilities, making them useless. Never use your torque wrenches for unintended purposes, or you’ll quickly discover you need to replace them. 

What Is The Best Wrench To Use To Loosen A Bolt

When you need to loosen a bolt, put down the torque wrench. Grabbing the wrong tool can ruin a great wrench. Alternately, it could damage the bolt making removal much more difficult.

Though it may seem like more points means you get a better grip, you should leave the twelve-point wrench and socket in the tool chest as well. Instead, grab your trusty six-point wrench. Fewer points are less likely to strip the bolt.

For tightening nuts and bolts, I recommend the GearDrive Quarter Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench. This incredible, reversible torque wrench works in tight spaces. Moreover, it has a laser engraved dual-range scale, so you can easily read it even in low light. Plus, at +/- four percent, this tool is easy to use and highly accurate. Learn all about the features on Amazon by clicking here. 

How To Calibrate A Torque Wrench

If you have been loosening bolts with your torque wrench, you can fix it by recalibrating. Sending your wrench to a professional for occasional calibration is always a good plan. However, you can also DIY reset at home to help keep it working between trips.

To calibrate your clicker-style torque wrench, you will need a twenty-pound weight, a rope, a piece of paper, a vise secured to a table, a marker, and a tape measure. I suggest using a kettlebell because they are easiest to tie onto the rope, but a standard circular disk weight with a hole in the center will work the same. Please don’t use a handheld dumbbell.

Steps To Calibrate Your Torque Wrench

  1. Measure from the center of the square drive and mark a line about three inches down. Make sure you record your measurement.
  2. Lock the working end of your wrench into the vise securely, but do not damage the tool. You want the handle to be free to move.
  3. Calculate the foot-pounds using this formula: #of inches you marked off x # of pounds in the weight = inch-pounds.
  4. Calculate the setting with this formula: inch-pounds / 12 = your foot-pounds
  5. Tie the rope over the mark on your wrench and secure the weight. You want this hanging above the ground.  Watch your toes! It’s best to do this carefully and wear steel-toed boots in case of accidents.
  6. If your wrench didn’t click at all, it is calibrated. For every click, it is off by a foot-pound.
  7. Tighten your spring and repeat as necessary until the weight tied on the mark doesn’t make the wrench click.

To avoid permanent damage and frequent need to calibrate, stop using your torque wrench to remove bolts. I’ll give you the proper method below.

How Do You Loosen A Tight Bolt

There are several ways to remove a stuck-on bolt. Instead of a torque wrench, grab a six-point standard wrench. You can use the following techniques to get that bolt loose.

First, a breaker bar is an obvious choice, but there are other ways to loosen that bolt. A good wire brush will get any caked-on debris off your bolts for easier removal. The worst method is to remove the head with a hacksaw and drill into the bolt to get it out.

Better options include tapping on your wrench with a hammer or an extension pipe, aka ratchet. Another good choice is to heat it with a propane torch and then allow the bolt to cool. Alternately, you can try penetrating oil and rocking the bolt back and forth.

Can A Torque Wrench Be Used As A Breaker Bar

A torque wrench should never be used as a breaker bar or any other tool. Although you can remove a bolt with your torque wrench, doing this or using it improperly in other ways will damage the torque mechanism. At best, you’ll need to recalibrate. At worst, you just turned a precision tool into scrap.

Additionally, these surprisingly delicate tools may need calibration if you drop them. A single short drop may not be a big deal, but a larger fall or repeated drops will also screw with the mechanism. One good fall can put your wrench off by thirty percent. If you have been treating your torque wrench wrong, it’s time to replace it.

A TackLife 3/8″ Drive Click Torque Wrench Set isn’t a good breaker bar, but it makes quick, accurate work of those hard-to-reach nuts and bolts. You get adapters for half and quarter-inch, a calibration certificate, extension bar, and adapters. You’ll appreciate the all-steel construction body and comfortable handle. To read the excellent Amazon reviews, click here. 

Can You Over-Torque A Torque Wrench

When you’re used to handling regular wrenches, the idea of over-torquing seems silly, but it happens all the time. You can use a standard wrench to loosen bolts, but a torque wrench should not. A non-torque wrench might strip a nut, but it’s not going to take severe damage from doing its job. The key here is that a normal wrench is made to tighten and loosen.

According to HotRod, you can exceed the maximum torque load of your wrench easily.  Breaking bolts loose may cause this phenomenon. Although your wrench will still work, exceeding the pre-set limits will throw off the calibration. In this case, you need to recalibrate for safety.

Though you can technically use your torque wrench to break bolts, it doesn’t work the way you’d expect. When you put a bolt in with a specific torque amount, it typically is not sitting there motionless. As your car or other bolt-bearing item moves, the bolt moves with it. Not only can motion tighten or loosen a blot, but it will also collect dirt and debris.

All that adds up to a messy and potentially far tighter bolt than you began with. Sure, a regular wrench can take the pressure, but a torque wrench is a precision instrument with one job. Getting a bolt on correctly isn’t as simple as it seems.

When you put too much pressure on your bolt, it can cause it to fail. Meanwhile, loose bolts that aren’t stretched properly can come loose, leading to dangerous mechanical failures. Because metals can stretch, albeit only thousandths of an inch, a bolt isn’t just screwed on like a loose-fitting child’s toy. Instead, the steel is stretched taut.

Elasticity is what provides a consistent clamping load. As the bolt fights itself to get back to the original length, it remains clamped on long after the wrench that put it in place is put away. That’s why race cars and other correctly bolted objects don’t simply fall apart over time. Even under intense vibration and stress, your torque wrench gave the bolt precisely the amount of stretch it needs to stay in place without causing damage and breaking.

The Tekton 1/4 Inch Drive Dual-Direction Click Torque Wrench from Amazon comes with a product manual, torque conversion chart, and a convenient zipper case. For your convenience, the finely geared 72-tooth ratchet head is reversible to reach any nut or bolt. Not only does this wrench emit an audible click when you reach your preset, but you can feel it as well for easier access. Best of all, this wrench ships pre-calibrated, so you don’t need to worry about it. Get yours by clicking right here. 

Final Thoughts

Although some tools have a million uses, a torque wrench is not one of those. Nevertheless, having a good set of torque wrenches can save the day for many projects. Some builds require a specific amount of torque to keep a nut or bolt in place for safety reasons.  It can be tough to tighten the nuts and bolts properly, but these clever wrenches have that all worked out if you use them correctly.

Precision tools are delicate. Sure, you can calibrate a torque wrench, but once it’s ready, you should never intentionally mess it up again. If you do, you’ll find they don’t calibrate as well the next time. That can leave you without the tool you need at an inopportune moment.

Using the right tool for the job is important when it is built to handle one specific need. A torque wrench is not a hammer, or a standard wrench, or any other tool, so treat it right, and you’ll always be able to tighten down nuts and bolts safely.

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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