Have you ever had to pay a mechanic to do repairs on your wheels due to over-tightened bolts?
If so, you need to invest in a torque wrench. If you like doing some do-it-yourself auto repairs, a torque wrench is one of the tools that you must have.
This simple tool can help you tighten nuts and bolts that require specific tightness to prevent over-stretching and breaking or to ensure that they do not come loose. The level of precision that the torque wrench provides makes it a fantastic tool for everything from connecting rod bolts to tightening the ones on the engine cylinder head.
But, as helpful as the torque wrench might be you still need to know how to use it correctly. Failing to use your torque wrench well will not only expose your bolts and nuts to the possibility over or under tightening, but you can also damage it.
You do not want to keep buying a new torque wrench after every few months neither do you have the time to take it for recalibration often, do you?
Well, to save you the hassle of recalibration and the extra expense of buying a new one this piece explains everything you need to know to use it correctly.
Purchasing a Torque Wrench
Well, you obviously need to have a torque wrench to be able to use it. You can always borrow one from that friendly neighbor, but we all hate 'begging' for tools, don't we? And so it is a good idea to own yours.
But how do you pick the right one for your needs?
It depends on how you intend to use it and your budget. Some of the common types are the beam, hydraulic, digital electronic and click torque wrench.
The beam torque wrench is the oldest, most basic and common type of the torque wrench. It is also the cheapest, and it is a good choice when you want something low cost. The torque wrench gets the name from the fact that it consists of two beams. One acts as the lever for applying the torque, and the other is parallel to it and serves as an indicator beam.
Hydraulic torque wrenches have a specific design for applying torque to fasteners. When using it, the pressure will be applied to the head of a bolt or nut. The pre-calibrated torque is then used to tighten the screws or nuts. These types of torque wrenches can exert a lot of power and pressure, and they are best suited for use when working on automobiles.
The electronic torque wrenches are the modern type of these handy tools, and you can program them to a set limit to determine the torque level. Many will also come with an LED to display your torque settings.
They will even come with a chip that has a memory stick to save the torque settings that you use often. Although these are also the most expensive types of the torque wrench, it is also possible to convert your regular wrench into a digital one using a digital torque adapter like the ACDelco ARM602-4.
The click torque wrench allows for users to preset the torque using a clutch mechanism. When the tightness desired, or torque level is reached, the clutch will start to slip to indicate this.
It is a highly accurate torque wrench, and this is more so if you get a high-quality one like the TEKTON 24335 Clique Torque Wrench. With this torque wrench, you will get a very efficient mechanism for preventing the nuts and bolts from over-stretching or over-reaching to the point that they can break.
Calibration is a term you are likely to come across many times when shopping for a torque wrench and also if you use it a lot.
So what does it mean and why is it important?
Calibration is setting your torque wrench to ensure repeatable accuracy and that it adheres to the international standards. Also, calibration will ensure that your torque wrench operates at peak performance and that you always get accurate measurements and safe results. And so it is essential to buy a torque wrench that is already calibrated and make sure you recalibrate it at least once yearly depending on your usage.
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Using a Torque Wrench
How you use a torque wrench depends on the type. But since they all serve almost the same purposes there are some simple steps that you should always follow when using one.
So what are these steps? Let's jumps straight to them.
Obviously, you already know what you want to use the torque wrench to tighten. But, before you get started it is always important to find out the specifications of the nuts, bolts or screws that you are using.
The importance of this is that it will make it easy to set your wrench to the correct setting to prevent over-tightening. Also, different bolts may require more attention when tightening due to their material and so you have to be careful with the torque settings.
Before you get to use the torque wrench, it is vital to set the fasteners in place. You should then thread them before you use the wrench. For regular bolts and screws, you can do it by hand as you do not need to get them tight.
But, make sure that they are on the threads securely. And once you do this you can now attach the socket to your torque wrench.
With the wrench and fasteners in place, the next step is tightening. Although all the steps are vital, tightening is probably the most important because it is the reason why you use the torque wrench in the first place. You should start by putting the socket head over the fastener.
But, once you start tightening, make sure that you do it slowly. As your bolt tightens the wrench will start slowing down, and once you get to the desired tightness, you will know depending on the torque wrench you are using. For a digital electronic one, you only need to look at the readings on the LED.
So how do you know when your wrench gets the correct torque when you are not using a digital one?
Simple, just wait for the click. For most torque wrenches the click will not be very loud, and so in many cases, you will feel it rather than hear it. When you hear the click, it will be an indication that you need to remove the wrench.
However, if you do not feel the click and end up going beyond the set torque, you will over tighten the fastener. And so you should unscrew the bolt and retighten it because it can cause problems if you leave it over-tightened.
If you are working on your car or any other project that involves several bolts you should repeat the steps above for all of them. If you are dealing with similar bolts or screws, the first one is always the hardest as you are still not sure what to do or how the click will feel. But the rest should be pretty easy and quick.
Now that your bolts are all in place and tight, what next? Do you just put away your torque wrench and wait for the next project? No!
You have to reset it first. Resetting your torque wrench is a critical step when using it because it keeps it in good shape for long and you will not need frequent calibration. Although many tool manufacturer will provide instructions on how to reset your torque wrench the best idea is always to reset it to zero if there are no specific directions from the manufacturer. Resetting reduces the pressure on the spring so that it remains calibrated.
Torque Wrench Care Tips
- Always clean any rusted or dirty threads before doing any fastening. However, avoid lubricating them unless the manufacturer instructs you to grease.
- When you finish using your wrench always dial it back to zero and never beyond zero. And this is so even when you use it to fasten just one bolt.
- Store it in the case or the container provided by the manufacturer.
- Never use the torque wrench in place of breaker bar because this will almost always damage the torque mechanism.
- Make sure that you tighten your fasteners in two steps which are first to the half torque and then finish with the final torque.
- Take extra caution when carrying your wrench torque because even a single fall from just a few feet will cause it to lose its accuracy by up to 30%. And in case you drop it, always get it recalibrated before the next use.
- Recalibrate the torque wrench once or twice every year and as many times as necessary if you use it regularly.
The torque wrench is one of those tools that you should have around if you are a DIYer that likes to work on automobiles. It makes fastening bolts accurate and easy and ensures that you never have to deal with broken bolts and nuts as a result of over-tightening.
And now that you know how to use a torque wrench it’s up to you to go out and buy the right type for your bolt and screw tightening needs.