How To Stop Engine Spin When Removing Harmonic Balancer [Explained]

Replacing a harmonic balancer may not seem difficult at first. Once you start removing it, you’ll find that its bolt can often get stuck and the engine keeps spinning. So, how to stop engine from turning when removing harmonic balancer?

how to stop engine from turning when removing harmonic balancer

The easiest way to go about it is using an impact gun. But that doesn’t always work and you may even damage the engine components if you’re not careful.

So, it’s better to use a breaker bar, a tie-down strap, vise grips, or a puller if you want a safer option.

We’ll discuss how you can implement all these methods in detail here in this guide. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

How To Stop Engine Spin When Removing Harmonic Balancer

Still wondering how to stop crankshaft pulley from turning? We’ll discuss all the widely used methods to remove a harmonic balancer without turning the engine in this section.

Note: You can also read what to do after replacing crankshaft sensor.

1. Using An Impact Gun

If you want to know how to remove harmonic balancer without puller, using an impact method is a fairly common way of doing it. The impact gun you plan to use should be strong enough to counter the torque settings of the bolt.

using an impact gun

Use some PB blaster on the bolt if it’s rusty before you attempt to remove it. The impact gun is normally so powerful that it’ll get the bolt off in no time.

You won’t have to worry about the engine turning when using it. You can borrow air compressors and impact guns if you don’t have them.

Pro Tip: There are usually different torque settings you can go for depending on the gun you have. Choose the settings in such a way that it matches the torque of the bolt.

If you can’t get the bolt to come off just by using the impact gun, don’t keep on trying as it may take a toll on the internal components. Move on to the next method to get it done.

Be warned that many mechanics recommend not using an impact gun if you aren’t familiar with how it works. It can be harmful to the other engine components if you don’t know what you’re doing.

2. Using Breaker Bar

Want to know how to remove harmonic balancer bolt without impact guns? The method that’s practiced most often to remove a harmonic balancer and keep the engine from turning is using a breaker bar and socket.

You can use a breaker bar and turn the engine over to remove the bolt.

 using a breaker bar

This method is highly liked as you don’t have to remove the engine or take off the belts connected to the harmonic balancer to remove it. Here are the steps to doing it:

  • Get a socket that fits on the bolt of the harmonic balancer and place it. Don’t use cheap sockets as they don’t have the ability to transfer the energy of the impact.
  • Stick the breaker bar to the end of the socket and find out which way the engine turns. You can know it by seeing the direction of the fan. Both the engine and the fan will move in the same direction.
  • Turn the breaker bar in the same direction and wedge it against something solid so that it doesn’t move. As the bolt is a right-hand thread, it’ll start to loosen up as you turn the engine.
  • Put your key in the ignition and crank the engine to loosen the bolt. Once that happens, you can take it off by hand.

This method is much more convenient than removing the radiator, the AC, and other components to make room for your air impact wrench. To pull the harmonic balancer all the way, you’ll need the puller.

You may be worried that your radiator or other components can be damaged if the breaker bar comes off. So, make sure that you’re wedging it against a good spot so that it stays in its place.

3. Using Tie Down Strap

Another way to keep the engine from turning when you’re trying to remove the harmonic balancer is to use a tie-down strap or a ratchet strap. Mount the strap on a sturdy metal component in the engine.

using tie down strap

Don’t place it in any shaky stuff as that can cause the strap to come apart and damage something in the engine.

Once the strap is latched, get it tighter and give a few wraps around the bottom if you want to loosen the harmonic balancer.

The next step is to wedge a breaker bar if needed to keep the engine from turning and taking off the bolt using a wrench. That’s how you can remove the harmonic balancer.

4. Using Vise Grips

If you want to know another method of how to remove crankshaft pulley bolt without impact gun, you can try using vise grips.

Take off the transmission inspection cover and lock the flywheel with a pair of vise grips.

using vise grips

You can manually turn the bolts of the harmonic balancer as the vise grips should keep the engine from turning.

It’s also okay to use a prybar or screwdriver for this job if you don’t have vise grips.

5. Using A Harmonic Balancer Puller

Harmonic balancers can be really difficult to remove at times. If you tried the more common methods like wedging a breaker bar, bumping the starter, using impact guns, and increasing the air pressure on the compressor and that didn’t work, don’t worry.

using a harmonic balancer puller

If you want to know how to remove stuck harmonic balancer bolt, remember that using a puller is by far the most effective way to do it.

They are shaped like a duck’s foot and that’s why they’re often called duck-foot pullers.

Here’s how you can remove the harmonic balancer with this tool:

  • Remove all the belts connecting the harmonic balancer to the other engine accessories. These components are usually the alternator, fan, and power steering. Loosen the tensioner on each belt to do it.
  • Use a breaker bar or a rattle gun to make sure that the washer remains in place and remove the bolt in the middle of the harmonic balancer.
  • The flat side of the puller will be facing the engine. Thread the large bolt through the center of the puller and clip the cone-shaped piece onto the end.
  • Take bolts of the right size to match the threads on your vehicle’s harmonic balancer and insert them through the puller.
  • Thread the bolts to the same depth so that the harmonic balancer doesn’t get pulled at an angle. Crank the bolt with a socket and visually inspect that the balancer is being pulled out evenly.
  • Hold the balancer with one hand as it reaches the end of the crankshaft and then, remove it.

You can also have a custom puller made for your vehicle for a fraction of the price if you don’t already have this tool.

Taking a piece of steel and cutting it to match the shape of the bolt and holes, you can tighten the harmonic balancer.

custom made puller

If you don’t have the required tools to cut the steel, you can ask someone who has experience with this stuff to do it for you.

Rest the steel against the bracket to the motor mount so that the engine no longer turns.

You’d still have to use a breaker bar to make sure that the harmonic balancer stays in place and you can get the bolt loose. That’s all you have to do to remove a stuck harmonic balancer.


What does the harmonic balancer do?

When the crankshaft in an engine does its motion, it creates a lot of vibration. The main job of a harmonic balancer is to absorb these vibrations and reduce their bad effect on the engine.

What are the signs of a bad harmonic balancer?

A bad harmonic balancer will create excessive vibrations in the engine and can result in unusual noises and leaking engine seals. It can also lead to premature engine failure in a few cases.

What else is a harmonic balancer called?

The name- harmonic balancer isn’t appropriate is its main job is absorbing vibrations rather than balancing anything. It’s also called a vibration balancer, torsional dampener, vibration dampener, and crankshaft dampener.

Can you use a screwdriver instead of a breaker bar to keep the engine from spinning?

Placing a screwdriver somewhere between the teeth of the flywheel may be enough to keep the engine from turning and removing the harmonic balancer. But if it doesn’t work, a breaker bar will be more effective.

Are a crankshaft pulley and harmonic balancer the same?

The name of the two components are used interchangeably but they are two different things. The crankshaft pulley is connected to the harmonic balancer and it provides power to the fan and belts. But, the harmonic balancer absorbs the shocks of the crankshaft.


Now you know how to stop engine from turning when removing harmonic balancer using many different methods. It’s a satisfying feeling when you finally get the bolt loose as it’s not an easy task by any means.

Use the method that suits you the most to loosen the bolt of the harmonic balancer and get it out.

Let us know which one worked for your vehicle and comment below if you have any more questions. Good luck!

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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