Wrecking Bar: A Complete Guide

A wrecking bar is a tool that has a long metal shaft and various shaped ends depending on its type and use. They come in a wide range of sizes, from under a foot to over 5 feet in length. In this article, we will look at the different types of wrecking bars and their uses, as well as the many names they have been given. 

What is the Difference Between a Wrecking Bar, a Pry Bar and a Crowbar?

what is the difference between a wrecking bar and a pry bar

In truth, they are all pretty much the same thing with different names. A wrecking bar is used chiefly to pry something apart, as does a pry bar. Some types of wrecking bars are used to lever larger heavy objects.

Crowbars were given the name due to the shape of their end, but the general function remains the same. 

A few subtle nuances will become more apparent as we look at the different types below. 

What is a Wrecking Bar Used for?

Primarily they are used to pry things apart. I use them a lot for dismantling pallets or pulling out nails from wood. They are also helpful for jobs like lifting drain covers or leaving out large rocks.

The different lengths and ends make them more suited to specific jobs. One of my favorites is an alignment bar, also called a sleeve pry bar. These are very long. Ours is around 5 feet and has a thick shaft of about an inch and a half. 

They are designed to straighten bolts having a pointed end and a flat end that is slightly angled. I use them for starting holes for the wooden posts when I’m repairing a fence or levering logs to get a chain around them when clearing woodland.

Nail pullers or cat’s claw pry bars are much smaller. They have flat ends with splits that are at a 90-degree angle to the shaft. These are used to remove nails and are very common on worksites. 

How to Use a Wrecking Bar?

All types of wrecking bars are designed to give additional leverage. Depending on the task in hand, one end is placed on the object that needs to be levered, and the shaft is then pushed downwards to produce the force required. 

When nail pulling, it can be helpful when removing longer nails to add a block of wood near the nail that you lever the bar against to increase the amount of leverage.

If the bar is being used to make holes, the sheer weight is generally enough to make a hole when the pointed end of an alignment bar is thrust repeatedly into the ground. 

I accidentally actually managed to cut straight through the mains water pipe doing precisely this, which was an unfortunate and costly mistake! 

Are There Different Types of Wrecking and Pry Bars?

There is a wide range of bars available. Let’s take a look at some of them here: 

Heavy-Duty Wrecking Bars

These are designed with stronger shafts and ends. The metal is reinforced and can be struck with a large hammer. They come with a wide range of heads, so you can generally find one that is suitable for a specific heavy-duty job. 

This type of pry bar is useful where a considerable amount of force will be used that might otherwise break a regular pry bar. 

Gooseneck Pry Bars

Although in appearance, a gooseneck pry bar will look almost identical to many other types, the main difference here is the length of the shaft, which is longer. They usually have a forked claw end and a flat prizing end, although this can vary.

The additional length is to allow for more force to be given, as the amount of leverage they provide is greater. 

Their primary use is in dismantling things, such as old interior stud walls. 

Digging Pry Bars

These are similar to alignment bars and are extremely long and straight. They are explicitly designed to dig or remove objects that are embedded in the ground. They can have a variety of ends, but one is almost always slightly spade-like. The other may be a spike or a claw, or even a ball. 

Rolling Head Bars

These have two ends with different heads. One of the heads will always be shaped like a hammer, either with a flat tip or a rounded one. Like the gooseneck bars, they are designed to provide a lot of leverage for various jobs around a worksite. 

Molding and flat Pry Bars 

These are tiny and look more like a paint scraper. A molding pry bar has a specific job, which is to remove molding from cabinets. You’ll find them in the tool kit of decorators, carpenters, and even sometimes car mechanics. Flat pry bars are sometimes a little larger than molding ones but look very similar. They are used for opening things or scraping paint.

This video shows a few different types of pry and wrecking bars and talks about their uses:

How do I Know Which Wrecking Bar to Get?

If you need a wrecking bar or a pry bar, then there are a few factors to take into consideration:

  • Length – Depending on the amount of leverage you need for the job you’re going to do, remember the longer the bar, the more leverage you’ll have. However, if you just want to remove nails from wood, then a really long bar probably isn’t going to be necessary, and a shorter one will do just fine. 
  • Type – Choose an appropriate type of bar for what you want to do. Not all wrecking bars are the same. The different shaped ends make them more suited to specific tasks, so be sure to pick one that will be the most useful. 
  • Quality – Not all wrecking bars are made the same. Cheap imported ones may be manufactured from weaker metals that are more likely to snap under pressure. Try to find ones that tell you what they are made from. Ideally, they should be made from steel or be carbon-heavy. 
  • Branding – You don’t always need to buy a big brand name in order to get a quality product. However, it can assure you that what you’re getting is up to the job. 
  • Cost – The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is often true. However, finding high-quality products that are on sale is a great way to bag a bargain, so keep a lookout for any offers.

How do you Care for a Pry Bar?

Like all tools, when well cared for, your pry bar will not only do the job better but last longer. 

Proper maintenance can significantly expand the life and usefulness of your pry bar, and it takes little time and effort to achieve.

  • Sharpening – As with any blunt tool, the usefulness is diminished. If your pry bar has a bladed end, keep it sharpened. 
  • Cleaning – By wiping off any mud, dirt, sap, grease, etc., that accumulates on your pry bar, you’ll help prevent it from rusting or becoming unpleasant to use. Ensure you dry it off if it gets wet.
  • Storing – When you store your pry bar, you can wipe over the ends with a thin coat of grease to help prevent rust.
  • Pressure – Never exert so much pressure on your pry bar that it begins to bend. If it does stop, as there is a danger that it may snap. This could cause serious injury to you and damage to what you are working on. 

What Can be Used Instead of a Wrecking Bar?

Depending on what you need to do, a hammer with a split end for nail pulling, a paint scraper for removing paint, or a screwdriver for prising open tins. To lever objects from the ground, a pickaxe or even a shovel may get the job done.

How Did a Crowbar Get its Name?

There are a few theories behind how a crowbar got its name. Crowbars usually have a bladed end that is split into two halves. This makes it helpful in prying things open and pulling nails. Due to the shape of the split end, which may slightly resemble a crow’s foot, it is believed that this is the most likely reason a crowbar is so named. 

However, there remains some dispute about this, as others think the name is derived from such a tool being used in the crow’s nest of a ship. This dates back to the 1400s, so the real reason is unlikely to ever be discovered. 

Can You Carry a Pry Bar in Your Car?

As pry bars could cause some serious harm if brandished as a weapon, you could potentially get into trouble for carrying them. It is illegal to have them on your person if you are not using them as a work tool. 

Keeping a pry bar in your vehicle is a bit of a gray area, and it would depend on the state and local laws and why you have it.  


Whatever you wish to call them, pry bars, crowbars, or wrecking bars, they can be incredibly useful tools to have. We have six in total, all of different shapes and sizes, with varying uses. 

For stripping down pallets, taking out old nails from wooden planks and beams, prising rocks out of the pasture, or starting holes for fence posts, they are invaluable.

Having at least one mid-sized pry bar with a flat-bladed split end that is 90 degrees to the shaft and a slightly angled straight bladed end makes a handy tool for various jobs, and I highly recommend them. 

To learn more about other useful tools, you can find further articles on our website. Why don’t you have a look at the following guide to spanners?

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