Can A Torque Wrench Be Used To Loosen Bolts?

Bolts are supposed to be tightened with the right tools. During tightening, you can use a torque wrench. Using a torque wrench, you only tighten with the precise amount of torque needed. But can a torque wrench be used to loosen bolts? If so, how can you go about it step by step? What are some valuable tips for loosening a tight bolt? Is the loosening torque the same as the tightening one? In this article, we are going to discuss these questions.

can a torque wrench be used to loosen bolts

Can a torque wrench be used to loosen bolts?

You can use a torque wrench to loosen a bolt, but you can also do this with other tools. As the purpose of the wrench is to tighten a bolt, It is a tool used for tightening a bolt up to a specific torque. That is why it is a precision tool. A torque wrench usually comes with one direction of rotation. However, you can use a wrench to loose a bolt.

How to loosen bolts with torque wrenches: Step by Step

There are situations where you are constrained to use a torque wrench for loosening bolts. This is not recommended. But if you have to use it, here are some steps you can follow:

Step 1 – Inspect the torque wrench and bolt:

By inspecting the tool, you ensure it does not have bruises, cracks, and other signs of damage. Inspect the bolt as well. Look out for damaged corners and rusted or bruised edges.

Step 2 – Apply penetrant liquid:

Penetrant liquid will clean up the rust. This way, you will not struggle to loosen the bolt.

Step 3 – Change the direction of rotation:

This is a straightforward process. You can swing the selecting knob or button to pick the anticlockwise direction.

Step 4 – Select a high torque specification:

Tune the adjusting knob from low to high and lock. You allow the wrench to work securely when you lock your torque wrench. Use appropriate socket to the end of torque wrench and place it at the targeted bolt.

Step 5 – pull the wrench in an anticlockwise direction:

As a general rule, stand in such a way that you will pull the wrench towards you. Continue until it rotates in an anticlockwise direction.

torque wrench to loosen

Tips for loosening a tight bolt

Loosening a tight bolt that has not been worked on for a long time can take time and effort. But there are tips you can use to achieve this with less stress. Here are some tips on how to loosen a bolt:

  • Use an extension safely: An extension will lessen the effort you apply. It will allow you to loosen the bold with less force. But always remember to work safely with it.
  • Apply heat to the bolt: This is always the last option. But it is a beneficial method. You can use a flame to heat up the bolt. This way, it will loosen up.
  • Use anti-rust liquid: Most bolts are too tight because they are rusted. Apply it if you have an anti-rust, anti-seize grease, or penetrant liquid. Spray around the bolt until you see excess spillage flowing away.
  • Stick to the specified torque: If you are using a torque wrench, work within the limits. Stay within the recommended torque. Otherwise, you will damage the wrench in no time.

Is it bad to use a torque wrench to loosen a bolt?

Yes, it is not good because a torque wrench is meant for tightening bolts. Even the direction of rotation of the tool when put to use suggests the same. By misusing it, you can cause it to fail faster. In extreme cases, you can even see the tool failing while in use. The clicking sound indicates that you have reached that set torque. Never ignore that warning.

Why it is not recommended?

We do not suggest to use a torque wrench for loosening bolts due to below reasons:

1. Potential Damage: Using a torque wrench to loosen bolts, especially those that are overly tightened or rusted, can damage the internal calibration of the wrench. This can compromise its accuracy, which defeats the primary purpose of the tool.

2. Wear and Tear: Regularly using a torque wrench for loosening can accelerate wear and tear, reducing its lifespan.

3. Efficiency: Torque wrenches are not designed for freeing stuck bolts. There are other tools, like breaker bars, that are specifically designed for this purpose and are more efficient.

The Right tool for loosening

While a torque wrench can loosen bolts in a pinch, it is always advisable to use the right tool for the job. Regular wrenches or ratchets are more suitable for loosening bolts as they are built to handle the varied stresses involved in the process without affecting any calibrated settings. Keeping a separate tool for loosening tasks ensures that your torque wrench remains in optimal condition for its intended use, delivering accurate results every time it is used for tightening.

How to tighten a bolt without a wrench?

A wrench is an effective tool for tightening bolts. But if you do not have a wrench, there has to be a way out. All the methods you can use require working with maximum safety. Otherwise, look for a tool and leave the rest. Here are two methods to tighten a bolt during emergency tire changing when there is no wrench.

Use two wide coins:

Make sure you have two large coins. The coins should be wide enough for the task. Place the coins on two opposite flat surfaces of the nut. Grip the sides of the coins and twist them in the tightening direction. Kindly note that in this case, you can manage to lock the bolt. Continue until it is tight enough.

Make use of a cable or Zip tie:

This method can also be used for loosening a tight bolt quickly. You start by strapping the tie around the periphery of the bolt. Pull the free end until it is tightly secured. Then, notice the tightening direction. Pull the free end of the tie in the direction of tightening. For most bolts, it is clockwise. To give your pulling force extra support, use a pair of pliers.

Is loosening torque the same as tightening?

No, the two torques are different. Tightening requires typically more torque. This is because tightening constantly increases the opposing force offered by thread friction. Loosening requires unlocking the mechanism. When the mechanism is unlocked, the subsequent torque is reduced. The loosening torque is 30% lower than the tightening one.

When using precision tools like torque wrenches, this should be considered. Exceptional cases come in when dealing with rusted bolts. These require extra torque when loosening after a long time. In such cases, the first loosening procedure will require higher torque. But after that, the normal relationship will apply.


Can a torque wrench be used to loosen bolts? It is always safe to use the right tools. A torque wrench is a tool for tightening. When used for loosening, it is misapplied. But if you have to use a torque wrench for tightening, follow the proper procedure. In this case, it could be that you have no other option. Even then, you have to handle this tool with extra care. Follow the tips needed to loosen your bolts. When you follow the procedure, you preserve the tool and also make your work easier.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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