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Torque wrench usage

The Proper use of a Torque Wrench

Many times I have heard people complain that these come loose (Control arms are an example). I ask if they torqued to factory specs and I always get the "Yes I did..", then I ask if they adjusted for the preload (frictional drag torque) on the nut. "Huh???" There torque is inevitably lower than factory because they forgot this point.

Stated torque measurements factor in the frictional force of clean parts, so make certain that everything is clean, and has no burrs. Measuring for Pre-load (frictional drag torque) is fairly easy in theory. The textbook way assumes that you are screwing the nut onto a stationary bolt or thread; we all know this doesn't work, since our stuff is not stationary. Here is the easiest way to do it. Jam the bolt head with a wrench against something so that it won't move. Don't hold it in your hand, since you will have some give there, and may get an inaccurate measurement. Take the nut and screw it on until it stops (hand tight), then take the torque wrench and turn the nut. Start with the lowest setting and work your way up if you are using a micrometer torque, if you are using a beam style, just watch the pointer, the point at which the nut turns is the pre-load (frictional drag torque). You then just add this to the torque you want to go to. i.e. 10ft/lb pre-load (frictional drag torque) + 100ft/lb torque setting = 110ft/lb setting on the torque wrench. There is another pre-load computation for bolts based upon tension/torsion/bolt stretch/ friction/ etc... I really don't want to get into that side, since it really doesn't have a purpose in our application. For those of us with torque wrenches, here is something that I forget to do also. Something to keep in mind when we use them.

Preloading a torque wrench is an important to the overall accuracy. It must be performed each time the torque wrench is used after periods of non-use or whenever torque direction is changed. There are several reasons for preloading your torque wrench. First, it will set internal components so that when force is applied, torque begins immediately with no internal settling. Second, it distributes lubrication to moving internal parts.

How to do it:
1. Set torque wrench between 50 percent and 100 percent of full scale.
2. Mount torque drive in a stationary fixture (i.e. socket welded to bench, vise).
3. Exercise the torque wrench three to five times in the direction you will be verifying.
4. Perform torque measurement.

Remember to store torque wrenches (click-type) in the low setting. Otherwise calibration will be needed at shorter intervals. You should have your torque wrenches calibrated yearly for accuracy, but it can be costly, so most of us don't do it. I admit that mine have not been calibrated in a long while. Though if you ask my wife, replacing them after I accidentally run them over counts as calibration.

This page last updated: 16-Apr-2008

Content and Design © 2002-present WanderingTrail,  Ron Seegert
Common Sense and Safety should always be observed when working on your vehicle or doing modifications. Jackstands, wheel blocks, disconnecting the battery are a few of the basic safety precautions that should be used and may not be mentioned in the write ups on this site. You are responsible for your own installation, these write ups are a helpful guideline and should not be taken as an official installation instruction. My write up may be different from the kits currently out there, so alwasy double check the manufacturers installation instructions when installing anything. I try to keep the site up to date with changes that have occured as I discover them, but may not have the latest unless someone lets me know. If you feel that an install is above your capabilities after reading my write ups, I recommend getting together with a club and getting some help. Only a few times have I needed to employe some actual help from a shop to get something done. Usually welding or A/C work.
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