How to Use a Torque Wrench Properly

By Richard S. Clark | Last Updated: February 18, 2022

A torque wrench is an accurate piece of equipment that is available in different styles. The most common is the click type. Other types include a dial, slipper, beam type, and no hub. Regardless of what type it is, owners of torque wrenches are advised to prevent it from dropping them. Also, you should not use them as a Johnson bar to loosen the tight fasteners. Keep them clean, and do not forget to return the scale to its lowest range.

The function of a Torque Wrench

The tool is used in many industries like home repairs and maintenance, construction, and automotive. It is a must to use this tool when dealing with loose screws and bolts. The tool allows the user to measure the pressure needed to apply to fasteners to match the task’s suggested specifications.  

For instance, in the car industry, the right amount of torque must be applied for all fasteners on a vehicle to keep it protected from those who come near it.

How does Torque Wrench Works?

The torque wrenches are calibrated to apply the right torque to a fastener, and it will depend on the force on the handle and the wrench length. The formula in determining the torque is force x length.

The handle has an internal mechanical indicator that is connected to a calibrated scale. Once the indicator determines the needed torque has been obtained, stop twisting the bolt.

To display the amount of torque applied, it has an easy-to-read display screen. It is measured in pound-foot (lb-ft) pound inch (lb-in) or Newton meter (N-m)

Steps on Using a Torque Wrench

Step #1 Setting the Torque Wrench

To set the torque wrench, it should have a lock that needs to be disengaged, then rotate. For instance, you are dealing with a 1998 Ford Ranger with a wheel torque spec value of 100 lb-ft. Rotate the handle, then line it up on the scale correctly. There will be bigger increments on the barrel scale, around 10-lb ft in between each number.

In setting up a single value increment, it requires the scale around the handle. The handle should be aligned on the number line with the centerline on the barrel. Let’s say it is 100 lb-ft, and the handle number line is 0.

Step #2 Make Sure to Apply the Lock

Check if you have locked it. If not, you might move the setting while torquing a fastener. Hold the pivot in place with your one hand, and then your other hand will be holding the handle. Slowly rotate the torque wrench until you hear it click. You will not just hear it click. You can also feel and see it click. Once the click is activated, stop turning right away. All you need to hear is one click. Excessive turning could lead to over tightening the fastener. 

Step #3 Tightening the Nuts and Bolts

Put the correct socket on the head of your torque wrench. It is a must that the socket will fit the nuts or bolts perfectly. If you are using an adaptor or extender, you can slide that in the head’s opening. 

Torque wrenches are available in various sizes because it is quite expensive, but the sockets’ size is interchangeable. 

Step #4 Turn the Nuts or Bolts By Hand

Before you can use the torque wrenches in tightening the nut, you have to turn it first manually until it reaches the threading on the screw. Turn the nut or bolt clockwise until it doesn’t turn by hand.

Note: Do not use the torque wrench if the nut or bolt hasn’t reached the threads on the screw yet. Because torque wrenches provide lots of power, it could destroy the threading on both the nut and screw, mainly if it is not perfectly aligned. 

Step #5 Fit the Socket

Place the socket on top of the nut or bolt you are tightening. Hold the torque wrench’s handle using your non-dominant hand. Guide the socket, extender, or adaptor using your dominant hand. Slide the wrench over the bolt or nut until the two pieces are flush. 

Step #6 Tighten the Nut or Bolt

Rotate the wrench handle clockwise to tighten the nut or bolt. There is no need to reposition the torque wrench as it has automatic return functions. Move the wrench counterclockwise to reset the tool. If you are using a manual wrench, reposition it on the bolt or nut to continue tightening it down. 

Once you hear a clicking sound upon returning the handle counterclockwise, it means you have an automatically-returning torque wrench. 

Step #7 Stop Turning the Wrench

The clicking sound you hear when you turn it counterclockwise indicates tightening the nut or bolt. But when it clicks when you turn clockwise, it means that you have to stop tightening. It means that you have achieved that needed torque level. For a manual wrench, you have to stop tightening if the tool resists. 

So if you set the handle to 100 lb-ft of torque, you will hear the clicking sound once it achieved the indicated torque level. It means that the nut or bolt is tight enough, and it won’t fall off once the car starts moving. 

The manual wrenches will stop turning after the nut or bolt has been tightened to the required torque level. 

Final Thoughts

A torque wrench is a must-have if you have a vehicle. You cannot use an ordinary wrench to tighten the loosen nuts or bolts in your car as it might damage them or the right torque level is not applied. If you are worried about how to use a torque wrench properly, follow the steps above, and you will be done tightening fast and worry-free. Price could be a factor since the tool is not cheap, but the fact that you will be safe when on the road is worth it, even it cost you a lot.

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