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Take a walk down the hardware aisle at Home Depot, or open a few drawers of a home mechanic’s tool chest, and you’re going to see more types of wrenches than there are flavors of Hot Pockets. Box wrenches, ratcheting wrenches, flexible wrenches, socket wrenches, the list goes on and on. 

Some of these tools were invented to ease the work with features designed for convenience, while others have specific niche purposes. The torque wrench is one such tool and something that every single home garage should have. 

The experienced team at Car Bibles has been wrenching for decades and has seen every type of torque wrench there is. Let’s break it all down into simple terms.

Guy using torque wrench to remove the wheel

What Is Torque? 

Torque is the label for the measurement of the amount of force needed to rotate or twist something on an axis.

What Is a Wrench? 

A wrench is a metal tool used to grip something, typically bolts, and apply torque.

What Is a Torque Wrench? 

A torque wrench is a calibrated device that can simultaneously measure the amount of torque being applied while you are using the wrench to apply that torque.

Why Do I Need To Use a Torque Wrench? 

On select parts of your vehicle, such as the lug nuts, a specified torque is best for the health of the parts involved. Under torquing could lead to parts coming loose or rattling off. On the opposite end, over torquing the part could lead to damage such as cracks, stripping threads, chips, or snaps. The correct torque tucks the part in like a little baby bear after a wonderful bowl of medium-temp porridge. Cozy. 

Types of Torque Wrenches

As time has ticked by, different types of torque wrenches have been invented. The most common type is the clicking torque wrench, but let’s breakdown the rest too. 

  • Click

A click-type torque wrench features a long shaft with a rotating dial at one end to set the desired torque. When the desired torque is reached, the wrench will click to alert the user.

  • Beam

The cheapest of the bunch, a beam-style torque wrench is a simple analog device that directly reads the applied torque out on an attached linear gauge/scale that will point a small arrow at the torque number. This type of wrench will not alert the user when the desired torque is reached.

  • Slip

A slip-style torque wrench will notify its user that it has reached the desired torque by slipping, as to prevent over torquing.

  • Dial

A dial torque wrench features a small dial/gauge on its handle that looks like a little thermometer or watch. As torque is applied, it reads out on the dial. 

  • Digital

The most modern version of the torque wrench is digital, like everything else in the world. Rather than using a mechanical or analog method to set and view the torque, everything is done with buttons and a small digital display embedded within the wrench handle

Woman changing the front tire using torque wrench

Here’s How To Use A Torque Wrench

Let’s do this! 

  1. Look up the manufacturer-specified torque for the bolt you’re about to wrench on. You can find that number in your manual.  
  2. Attach the correct socket to your torque wrench.
  3. Set the desired torque using the dial, buttons, or method you have at hand.
  4. Place the socket onto the bolt and torque the bolt until you reach the desired number.
  5. Rinse and repeat for any other bolts that require the same torque. 

That’s it! Be sure to keep your torque wrench is stored in a safe place where it won’t get too dinged up. Something as simple as a slight bend could alter the trueness of the torque wrench’s readings.

FAQs About Torque Wrenches

We might not be Jeeves, but you can ask Car Bibles anything, and we’ll have the answers. 

Q: What Should I Set My Torque Wrench To?

A: This depends on what you’re doing and what you’re wrenching on. Look to your manual for the specific number to set your torque wrench

Q: Why Doesn’t My Torque Wrench Click?

A: You might not have a click-type torque wrench. Do you see a digital gauge on your wrench? Do you see a 

Q: What Can I Use if I Don’t Have a Torque Wrench?

A: You can use your smarty-pants phone to search for your local auto parts store so you can go buy one.

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