(Updated on April 22, 2020)
A torque wrench is an invaluable tool for automotive work. Most commonly used for tightening wheel lug nuts to exact specifications, it can be used for many auto repair and maintenance tasks. In this article, we’ll go over what a torque wrench is, the four different types of torque wrenches, and how to use a torque wrench.
What is a Torque Wrench?
Torque refers to a twisting force which causes something to rotate. You often hear the word “torque” be used to describe various components of an automobile, especially its internal combustion engine. But torque can refer to any part of a car which either rotates on its own or needs someone else to rotate it. These don’t necessarily need to be big parts either. They can be as small as things like nuts and bolts.
A torque wrench is regularly used by mechanics when they’re making repairs to a vehicle. It is a special type of wrench which differs from a standard wrench because it is calibrated to provide the appropriate torque for tightening a nut or bolt. In most cases, the torque wrench is a socket wrench which makes fastening and unfastening nuts and bolts a breeze.
There are several areas of a vehicle which require the use of a torque wrench when making repairs or replacements. For instance, there are lug nuts which connect the rim of a tire to the wheel. Anytime you need to change a tire, you need to use a torque wrench to remove the nuts. And when there’s more intensive mechanical work, you need a torque wrench to remove the bolts of cylinder heads, transmission parts, and engine parts.
Of course, these are areas where you should let a mechanic take over. The only thing you should ever do is change your tires with the torque wrench.
4 Types of Torque Wrench
There are 4 different types of torque wrenches: beam torque wrench, electronic torque wrench, click torque wrench and dial torque wrench. The cheapest and easiest one to use is the beam torque wrench. The most accurate one which also lasts the longest is the click torque wrench. The biggest difference between all of them pertains to how they adjust and how they read.
Dial Torque Wrench – The dial torque wrench is great for measuring torque. As you use the tool, there is a built-in gauge which lets you see how much torque is being applied or has already been applied to something like a nut or bolt. This is helpful if you want to verify torque or test it for yourself.
Beam Torque Wrench – The design of the beam torque wrench is quite old-fashioned, but some people like it that way. The beam torque wrench is easy and simple to use. There are no gauges or digital screens, though, so there is no way to measure the torque amount. But it is a great wrench to use for basic automotive use, such as tightening or untightening nuts and bolts.
Electronic Torque Wrench – The electronic torque wrench is one of the more modern wrenches. It has a digital screen which displays the current torque of the wrench as you’re using it. You can also set the wrench to make a sound, blink, or vibrate when the preset torque is reached as well. There are sensors which detect the amount of twisting force being used.
Click Torque Wrench – The click torque wrench has an adjustable scale which lets you change the current setting of its torque to accommodate various applications. It is a high-quality wrench which can fasten and unfasten nuts and bolts very quickly. It is also affordable and is used in many automotive and industrial facilities.
How to Use a Torque Wrench
The design of your average torque wrench is simple. It is a steel handle with a cylindrical fastener at the end of it. The fastener has a deep groove which you place on the nut or bolt. Then you just twist the handle with your hand as you would with any other wrench. However, you will find the torque wrench to be much easier to use than a standard wrench because of the shape of the fastener. It fits perfectly around the nut and bolt that you’re trying to loosen or tighten. That way, there is no chance of slippage like what often occurs with standard wrenches.