can you loosen bolts with a torque wrench

Can You Loosen Bolts with a Torque Wrench?

When I was planning out a mechanical, home DIY project recently, I realized that I had quite a few bolts that needed to be tightened and loosened. Looking down at my torque wrench, I wondered if I could actually use it for this purpose. So, I did some research online to find out if my handy little tool could help me out of this jam.

Can you loosen bolts with a torque wrench? While it is possible to loosen a bolt with a torque wrench, it could potentially be more difficult than using another tool. This is due to the reason that most torque wrenches will only turn in one direction, limiting its functionality in comparison to its similar counterparts.

Torque wrenches are relatively versatile tools that can be used for a variety of projects, including the task of loosening bolts. However, are torque wrenches as useful as they may seem for this purpose? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about loosening bolts with a torque wrench.

Can You Loosen Bolts With a Torque Wrench?

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If you have ever been faced with the task of loosening a bolt for one reason or another, while you probably used one to tighten the bolts into place, you might not have reached for your torque wrench in efforts to find a solution to your problem.

However, most people would be surprised to learn that torque wrenches are actually very useful when it comes to removing bolts as well as fastening them. While it is not the most traditional method of loosening bolts, it certainly can be done.

If you are stuck in a position where you need to get rid bolts and all you have is a torque wrench, just like I was, you can follow the step by step instructions below for some guidance.

How to Loosen Bolts With a Torque Wrench: Step by Step

  1. Inspect the wrench for any damages
  2. Unlock the wrench
  3. Adjust the direction (counter-clockwise)
  4. Double check the required torque range
  5. Set the wrench (from low to high)
  6. Lock the wrench
  7. Fit the appropriate socket to the end of the wrench
  8. Place it into the targeted bolt
  9. Turn the handle in a counter-clockwise direction
  10. Repeat until the bolt has been successfully loosened

The first thing you will need to do before using a torque wrench for any purpose will be to inspect it for any damages to the outside. If there is nothing wrong, you will begin by unlocking it to adjust the settings.

In order to remove the bolt instead of tightening it, you will need to be able to move the torque wrench in the opposite direction that it usually moves. To do this, the wrench will need to be set for counter-clockwise rotations. Otherwise, you will just be tightening the bolt more.

During this process, you will need to double check that the required torque range has been selected. It is important to make sure that you do not exceed the maximum torque level of the wrench, which will be indicated in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Since bolts are usually secured into place very tightly, you will most likely need the highest torque level possible for this task. To set the wrench, you will turn the dial from low to high before you lock it back into place.

Next, you will need to attach the appropriate socket to the end of the wrench that will be connecting to the bolt. The extension you choose must be able to hug the bolt tightly in order to move it from its position at all.

The actual action of loosening the bolt will begin by placing the socket onto the targeted bolt directly. To remove it, you will need to turn the handle in a counter-clockwise direction until it has been successfully loosened.

This could take several tries, however, and you will not want to apply pressure to the tool by overturning it too much.

Tips for Loosening a Bolt with a Torque Wrench

While it is true that torque wrenches can be used for loosening bolts instead of just securing them into place, it is important to keep a few things in mind before you start.

First of all, torque wrenches are technically meant for tightening bolts, and follow a specific torque limit that should not be exceeded for any reason. Since bolts are secured into place very tightly, they will most likely require more torque to loosen than the torque wrench will have to offer.

It is vital that the maximum torque levels are not ignored, as it could cause permanent damage to the wrench and limit its functionality after the task has been completed.

If you must use a torque wrench to loosen a bolt, however, you can follow these tips to preserve your tool as much as you possibly can. Take a look at the list below for some helpful guidance before you begin.

Tips for Loosening Bolts with a Torque Wrench:

  • Do not overextend the tool or exceed the maximum torque
  • Heat the bolt with an open flame before loosening
  • Apply penetrating oil to the surface

The first tip for loosening a bolt with a torque wrench, as mentioned above, is not to overextend the tool or exceed the maximum torque by any number. You should be very careful, while operating the torque wrench, not to damage it or fasten the bolt in even tighter than it was before.

In order to make the task of loosening a bolt with a torque wrench easier, putting less strain on the tool as a result, you can apply some additional pressure using other methods.

The first method to relax the bolt a little more is to heat it with an open flame before you try to unscrew it. This can be done with any kind of blow torch, or even just a lighter.

Once you have applied direct heat to the bolt for a long enough period of time, it should make it easier for your torque wrench to loosen it quickly and easily, without putting too much unnecessary force on your tool.

Penetrating oil, on the other hand, can be used to unfasten bolts that have been rusted or corroded together. When applied to the surface and left for several hours, the oil will soak into the bolt, separating the bolt from the surface it is screwed into.

All of these methods will help you to successfully loosen a bolt using a torque wrench, without causing any lasting damage to the tool.

Torque Wrench Vs Wrench

With all of the information that was given about torque wrenches in the previous sections, you might be wondering what the difference is between these specialty tools and the traditional wrench. Take a look at the lists below to compare and contrast the two.

Torque Wrenches:

  • move in a clockwise direction only
  • Will require multiple turns to loosen
  • Could possibly exceed torque limit
  • A tight bolt can permanently damage the wrench


  • Move in both directions
  • Can rotate in a full circle
  • No torque limit
  • Built for loosening tough objects like bolts

Torque wrenches can be used to loosen bolts, but this task is truly a job for the traditional wrench, due to its versatility and shape.

So, now that you’ve learned that torque wrenches can, in fact, be used to loosen bolts as well as tighten them, does that necessarily mean that you should do it? While it is true that it can be done, it can also cause a lot of significant damage to the tool that shouldn’t be there.

To conclude, you should avoid using a torque wrench to loosen things whenever possible, and operate it according to the manufacturer’s instructions at all times. As far as loosening bolts, you should leave that to your wrench instead.

Related Questions

– Can you use a torque wrench as a ratchet?

While a torque wrench is different from a ratchet, it can technically be used for the same purpose. Torque wrenches are used for tightening objects such as nuts and bolts, with an even amount of pressure due to the sockets that fit onto the objects perfectly. Therefore, a torque wrench can do a neater job than a ratchet.

– Is it better to have a torque wrench or a regular one in my tool box?

Both torque wrenches and traditional wrenches serve slightly different purposes, and should each be used in their own unique situations. However, this does not necessarily mean that one of them is better than the other. In fact, they are each good for opposite problems, and should both be kept handy in your tool box in case of emergencies.

– What is a click type torque wrench?

A click type torque wrench serves the same purpose as a regular torque wrench, but the handles on these tools require force to be applied in order to set the torque. Once this is done, the tool will make a clicking noise for every pass it makes over the bolt that loosens or tightens it.