Torquing It to the Limit with Breaker Bars

Real Tool Reviews compares four leading brands

 

Real Tool Reviews takes breaker bars to their limit, comparing four top pro-grade brands with ½ inch drives – Pittsburgh Pro (available at Harbor Freight Tools) along with Snap-On, Matco and Mac Tools. For those of you unfamiliar with what a breaker bar is:

A breaker bar is a long non-ratcheting bar that is used with socket wrench style sockets. Breaker bars are used to break loose very tight fasteners because their additional length allows the same amount of force to generate significantly more torque than a standard length socket wrench. The use of a breaker bar also prevents damage to the ratcheting mechanism of a socket wrench. Often, after the first half turn of a fastener, the fastener is then loose enough to be turned with a socket wrench.1

Common applications include freeing lug nuts on vehicle wheels, freeing a variety of bolts in car repair and maintenance where rust is a common problem, manufacturing applications, home renovating projects and any other instance in which a bolt has become frozen in place.2

Now that we’re all up to speed on breaker bars, let’s dive into the review.

First off, length. Length is a key component of breaker bars since it’s the leverage provided that enables the user to generate significantly more torque compared to a standard wrench. Note that the Pittsburgh Pro brand is advertised as a 25-inch breaker bar and the other three as 24-inch breaker bars. The actual measurements are as follows:


Pictured top to bottom: Matco, Pittsburgh Pro, Snap-On and Mac

Length
Snap-On: 23-3/4 in.
Matco: 25-1/2 in.
Mac Tools: 24-5/8 in.
Pittsburgh Pro: 25 in.

The weight of each breaker bar was also measured.

Weight
Snap-On: 2 lbs., 3 oz.
Matco: 2 lbs., 4.5 oz.
Mac Tools: 2 lbs., 3-1/2 oz.
Pittsburgh Pro: 2 lbs., 7 oz.

Next, the drives were shown side-by-side.


Drive ends of the four brands

The Matco and Mac breaker bars have black ends while the Snap-On and Pittsburgh Pro versions have chrome ends. This really seems to be an area of preference with no discernable difference in terms of performance.

The handles, however, have the potential of making a significant difference.


Breaker bar handles

Each breaker bar handle has a two-piece design to secure a good hold—the colored portion is comprised of hard plastic with the black portion made of a softer rubber overmold, though the Pittsburgh Pro’s black material is respectively firmer than the other three. The handle lengths vary as well.

Handle length
Snap-On: 5-1/8 in.
Matco: 6-3/4 in.
Mac Tools: 4-5/8 in.
Pittsburgh Pro: 5-3/8 in.


Handle center positions marked

Leverage is a significant factor to consider and that’s why the length of a breaker bar is so important—applying the same amount of pressure or weight on the end can generate more torque respectively. Bar length alone though does not provide the working “length” in terms of leverage—Real Tool Reviews marked the center position of each handle which is where the user’s hand would naturally rest (see picture above). Taking the handle center points into consideration, the Mac breaker bar actually had the most length from the pivot point which suggests it would provide the most torque. But the real proof comes next.


Deflection and torque testing

The review moved on to testing the deflection of each breaker bar (how much the tool bends when applying force) and the resulting torque generated. The results may surprise you …

Torque
Snap-On: 281 ft. lbs.
Matco: 266 ft. lbs.
Mac Tools: 276 ft. lbs.
Pittsburgh Pro: 298 ft. lbs.

With the performance testing completed, the final comparison was on price. That’s where the results varied the most …

Price
Snap-On: $148.47 (with tax and free shipping)
Matco: $146.67 (with tax and shipping)
Mac Tools: $121.08 (with tax and shipping)
Pittsburgh Pro: $16.84 (using 20% coupon and no shipping cost – picked up at store)

Snap-On, Matco and Mac breaker bars are between seven and nine times higher in price compared to the Pittsburgh Pro brand, yet, as the torque testing revealed, Pittsburgh Pro generated the greatest amount of torque.

In conclusion, the performance of all four was similar with the Pittsburgh Pro coming in with the highest torque generated, 32 ft. lbs. higher than the Matco breaker bar. The handles differed from brand to brand but the biggest difference was on price. The review noted that all the breaker bars tested come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. Pittsburgh Pro is clearly the best value.

Click here to see the Real Tools Review breaker bar video and see for yourself how the Pittsburgh Pro breaker bar provides unyielding performance while breaking down the competition on price.

1/2 in. Drive 25 in. Professional Breaker Bar
item#62729

 

Source material:
1Wikipedia
2wiseGeek

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