So, you’ve got a stuck bolt. It happens to all of us from time to time when working on our cars. It doesn’t matter how hard we tug on our wrench, it just won’t budge. It’s more likely to happen on your old Jaguar or Triumph than your new Audi or Mercedes, but it can happen anytime, anywhere. Sometimes the bolt in question just has an extremely high torque spec that overwhelms your arm strength even with your longest ratchet. Other times, age related corrosion has taken its toll and the bolt is physically bonded to the mating part.
There are a few ways to get your frozen bolt off, some of which are legit and some of which aren’t so legit. The not so legit ways include using a cheater bar on the end of your ratchet or striking the handle of the ratchet with a mallet to loosen the bolt. These methods will occasionally get the job done, but you risk damaging the moving components in your ratchet which weren’t designed for that kind of abuse and it can also be dangerous. Smarter ways to unfreeze the bolt including loosening it up with some good penetrant (which breaks up the rust) or using a good impact wrench.
Another great way to remove a stuck bolt is with a breaker bar. A breaker has a similar look and feel to a normal socket wrench, with the exception that there is no ratcheting mechanism. There is usually an extremely robust swiveling head that you can attach sockets to. Breaker bars are typically longer than a standard ratchet wrench, which allows you to apply significantly more torque with the same amount of strength. Since they have no moving parts, they can also withstand significantly more abuse. In addition, if you do happen to break one, they are much cheaper than a ratchet to replace. As such, we recommend that every mechanic have a set of breaker bars (at least 1/2″ drive and 3/8″ drive) in their tool box to spare their ratchets from unnecessary abuse when loosening sticky screws and nuts.
The Best Breaker Bar
When it comes to the best breaker bars, there are a whole bunch of options out there. In reality, there isn’t a ton of difference functionally across brands because these tools are so simple. The main differentiating factors are quality of fit and finish, the socket attachment point, and cost. As such, there’s no need to spend an arm and a leg on a breaker bar because you can get a good one on the cheap.
When it come to quality yet inexpensive tools, Tekton is quickly emerging as one of our favorite brands. Tekton makes a variety of breaker bars ranging from 3/8″ drive to 3/4″ drive. The Tekton breaker bars are fabricated from chrome vanadium steel and feature a swivel head that rotates a full 180 degrees, allowing you to access bolts and nuts from a variety of different angles. The anvil on the end of the flex head features a spring loaded ball bearing so sockets snap in with a satisfying click and stay put once installed. Tekton’s bars also come in a few different lengths, so you can custom tailor your lengths to suit your needs (longer bars allow you to create more torque to loosen bolts). The finish is polished and feels smooth to the touch, which makes these bars really easy to clean after you are done using them. Finally the ergonomics are totally functional and comfortable, so nothing to worry about there.
Overall, Tekton makes one of the best breaker bars around for the money. It is going to treat you well over the long term. We can’t recommend them enough, especially when you take the awesome price into account. As for where to buy, we recommend Amazon.com as they have a free shipping deal that makes their price the best around as well as they stock all sizes. That said, there are many different options out there when it comes to breaker bars so if you aren’t sure the Tekton is the best breaker bar for your application, have a look at some of the other options to help make up your mind. Happy wrenching!