Can You Use A Torque Wrench To Loosen Bolts? [Here Is The Truth]

A torque wrench is not designed to loosen a bolt but rather to tighten one. What you need to understand is that a torque wrench is a precision tool. As such, it should always be used as the manufacturer intended or you risk damaging it. 

If you continue using torque wrenches for the wrong applications, you may find yourself replacing them a lot sooner than you had anticipated. 

How to Loosen Bolts

Now that we do not recommend using a torque wrench, what can you use in its place? Below are ideas to get you started. 

  1. Get yourself an impact driver. This should be paired with a hex shaft that would fit the size of the bolt. Using ordinary chrome might not just work as some models are cheaply constructed to a point they can just shatter when too much stress is applied. 
  2. Stuck fasteners are another great pick for those who want to deal with stubborn bolts. We recommend wearing gloves as the stuck fastener might snap off the bolt likely causing injury. 
  3. Use a pair of locking pliers. You may have heard about these pliers also being called Vise-Grip. Well, there are other brands that make equality good locking pliers. Just ensure the jaws of the pliers grab the nut or bolt correctly so that you can turn the bolt with ease. 
  4. Pipe wrenches can also be used on nuts and bolts. Having a long handle and also aggressive teeth would make pipe wrenches good for dealing with the stuck bolts. 
  5. Heating the bolt is mostly the last solution someone opts for when the other tools are not working. Have the bolt soaked with a penetrant and try heating it to loosen it further. Once heating is done, use your locking pliers or impact driver to remove the bolt. 
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Here are additional tips to consider

YouTube video

How To Use A Torque Wrench For Loosening A Bolt

As much as we have said not to use a torque wrench for loosening bolts, some people might still use it. If you are going to use it, then keep the following in mind;

  • Do not exceed the recommended maximum torque of the wrench. This is because you may damage the wrench making it hard to achieve the maximum torque in the future.
  • In case it is a stuck bolt, ensure to heat it with an open flame first. Heating the bolt loosens it a bit so that you do not use a lot of force to loosen the bolt. 
  • Consider applying enough penetrating oil to the stuck bolt first. Give it like 15 minutes for it to loosen the grip the bolt has before trying to open with a torque wrench. 

Here is a video with tips on using your torque wrench properly.

YouTube video


Can you use a torque wrench in place of a breaker bar?

That is not highly recommended. You are advised to use the torque wrench as required to avoid damaging the torque mechanism. 

Can you calibrate a torque wrench?

Yes. It depends on the model you get. Each manufacturer would have steps for you to follow to calibrate the torque wrench. 

How much torque is necessary to loosen bolts?

It largely varies based on the condition and size of the bolt. On average, wrenches would need lesser torque to loosen the bolts rather than tightening. 

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