Wrench Tip: Cheap Breaker Bar
The saying goes “you need the right tool for the right job.” Truer words are seldom spoken. But what happens when you don’t have the right tool? Sometimes you need to improvise. As a broke, fresh-from-college nerd, I don’t own a breaker bar. But I do have three cars to take care of (a CR-V, a 240SX, and an Integra), as well as both of my parent’s cars, AND my dad’s Morgan. Most of those cars are pre-2000 and that means old, rusty bolts that don't like to budge. But I don’t have a breaker bar to bust said nuts and bolts. So what's a car guy to do?
That’s right a piece of 1” pipe I bought from the nearest hardware store. This 18” long pipe is only a couple of bucks and fits right onto the handle of most 3/8” drive ratchets. It also works with certain 1/2” drive ratchets as well.
This gives me enough leverage to even torque wheel nuts properly (though only in emergencies. For safety reasons you should use a proper torque wrench whenever possible. However a pipe is a great addition to pathetic OEM emergency lug wrenches). Alright, for most MotoIQers, this isn’t much of a tip since you already own a breaker bar. But for those that worship at the church of Coleman and go junkyard diving, there is a point to this. See part of the art of the SSJY is packing light. And breaker bars don’t usually fit inside of most hand held toolboxes. But this 18” chunk of pipe sure does. Also, if you lose or break a piece of pipe, it’s nowhere near the headache that losing a breaker bar is.
This is the toolbox I carry in my daily driver (the byproduct of driving a 17 year old car). It carries the basic screwdrivers and pliers, as well as a set of wrenches, sockets, and a set of allen keys. There are also a couple of screwdriver bits rattling around
just in case those drivers don't work. The 18″ long pipe perfectly squeezes in, allowing this simple box to tackle a surprising number of jobs. This is also the box I bring with me when I junkyard dive. In fact you can still see the yard map from the last yard I went through.
I've also used leftover chromoly tubing from my school's SAE cars with the same results (protip, make sure you're using 0.095 wall tube and not 0.035). Best of all this nondescript piece of pipe has multiple uses.
Tie rod fork too short? Pipe it! The standard fork does work, but it sits uncomfortably close to the front fender. Slipping the pipe on helps save those hard to find Silvia fenders.
In case you're wondering where the fourth tire is, it's in the spare tire well. Who needs a donut spare when you have DOT legal slicks?
If you drive your car to the track instead of trailering it, the pipe trick is another useful one for packing light. Even with a relatively spacious autocross car such as a 240SX hatchback, space is tight with four tires, tools, jack, drinks, rollbar, and a passenger. Fortunately, my little toolbox lets me perform most minor service in the field. Having that extra bit of leverage has made tons of jobs possible and saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
And yes, a real breaker bar is on my Christmas list this year.