Tom’s Tips About Cheating Bars

By Tom Neale, 8/23/2007

1. A cheating bar is something that you shouldn’t use, but that most mechanics end up using occasionally.

2. It’s essentially a metal pipe that you can fit over your wrench or over the ratchet handle of a socket wrench. It’s considerably longer than the tool with which you use it, thus providing much greater leverage. How much longer depends on how much you want to risk REALLY messing things up.

3. A major risk of using a cheating bar is that it’s likely to break off the head of the bolt you’re trying to back out.

4. Only use it as a last resort, after you’ve tried other methods such as applying a solvent like PB Blaster, tapping and exercising lots of patience.

5. Usually heat is far better than using a cheating bar, but there are many jobs, as in the engine room or around fuel, or where there are other safety issues, or where it’ll harm plastic or rubber, where heat isn’t an option.

6. If you use a cheating bar, it’s critical that the wrench be seated securely on the bolt head and snugged down all the way and that the wrench be lined up squarely over the bolt so that the torque is applied directly over the bolt, as though to an imaginary extension of the bolt. If the torque is applied at an angle to the bolt shaft, there’s a far greater chance of snapping off the bolt head. It’s not good to use a cheating bar with an open end wrench.

7. You’ll have much more power, so proceed cautiously, increasing torque only a bit at a time and holding the wrench in place over the bolt. Holding the bar/handle down in the direction you want to turn to back out the bolt and tapping it lightly with a hammer, before applying much torque, may be a good idea, depending upon the circumstances.

8. An experienced mechanic can usually tell if the bolt is beginning to loosen or if its shaft is twisting to break off. Usually, in my experience, if it’s the former, it’ll suddenly free up. If the bolt seems to be turning “softly” it’s likely to be breaking.

9. Be extremely careful that the extra long tool handle doesn’t impact any source of electricity or cause other safety issues or damage.

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Copyright 2004-2010 Tom Neale