Whether you’re a veteran mechanic or just getting started with auto maintenance, a torque wrench is an indispensable tool. Unlike a typical wrench, a torque wrench can tell you exactly how much force is on the piece you’re tightening. An indicator on the handle lets you know when a nut or bolt is properly tightened to a car manufacturer’s parameters.
Why Torque Wrenches Are Important for Automotive Work
General contractors, construction workers and HVAC technicians all use torque wrenches, but they’re especially important if you’re working on cars. A torque wrench is the only way to be sure that you’re distributing force evenly along a vehicle’s components.
One common use of a torque wrench is tightening the lug nuts and lug bolts on a set of tires. While it’s possible to change tires without a torque wrench in emergency cases, you should calibrate the torque correctly within 100 miles to avoid damaging the wheels of your car. The precise tightness of these nuts and bolts ensures even weight distribution for a safer and more stable vehicle.
Re-torquing tires isn’t incredibly difficult with the right tool, such as the Duralast 3. First, check the manufacturer’s instructions to find the correct torque values. Then, clean the lug nuts and lug bolts and begin threading them by hand. Finally, use the torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts and bolts until the indicator on the handle shows the correct value.
Don’t try to work on an engine without a proper torque wrench. When you seal off cylinders by tightening cylinder head bolts, each torque value must be balanced. Uneven torque can cause stress on the engine parts and ultimately, engine failure.
Trying to tighten these bolts by hand can often lead to over-tightening. Too much torque causes dangerous vibration within the engine components.
On the other side of the coin, under-tightening the bolts can cause head gasket failure. If the head gasket fails, the engine leaks coolant rapidly and can break via overheating. Get the proper values across cylinder heads by using an accurate torque wrench and working through each bolt in multiple stages.
Types of Torque Wrenches
Torque wrenches are so useful, there are four different varieties to choose from. Each comes in a range of sizes for different tasks. The four types of torque wrenches are:
Beam and dial indicators have a torque meter built into the handle so that you can see exactly how much torque is on a bolt. Clicker torque wrenches are popular because they are intuitive to use and click when they reach the correct value. Digital wrenches are the most expensive, but the most accurate, with sophisticated machinery inside the handle and a digital display. If you’re not sure which type you need, your local store can give you a loaner torque wrench.
Torque wrenches are a must when dealing with a vehicle’s complex machinery. Just remember never to loosen a bolt with a torque wrench — That’s what your regular wrenches are for.