torque wrench inquiry


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Old 06-17-13, 10:38 PM
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torque wrench inquiry

This may not be the proper forum category to post this inquiry, as it has to do with a manual tool and not a power tool. I'm looking to purchase a clicker type torque wrench, 1/2" drive, with a general range of about 10 to 150 ft lbs. It's for my occasional do-it-yourself auto repair/maintenance chores. I happen to be getting ready to do a head gasket change-out so for one thing I need one I can rely on for decent accurate performance for tightening the head bolts. Plus, just in general I'd like to have a mid-range torque wrench available as necessary for various tasks when working on cars. Looking/shopping at some of the online sites for such torque wrenches there is a big difference in price depending on the brand, and of course I realize generally the higher the price the better the quality. I've been advised to stay away from anything other than made in the USA as far as torque wrenches but don't really know if that's absolutely the case. I don't need top-of-the line professional and of course don't want to over-spend, but whatever I choose I would expect it to be reliably accurate and reasonably well made. I know I can read reviews etc but sometimes some people will say a particular torque wrench is great while others will say just the opposite about it. Any comments/advice/recommendations? thanks

Also I was thinking perhaps I should "cross-post" this into the automobile repair category of this forum, or is that generally frowned upon here and not a good idea?
 
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Old 06-17-13, 10:46 PM
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I think you posted it in a good place. Most of us cruise around all the forums so that everything gets spotted. I have a 1/2" Snap On that was extremely expensive and I have several Craftsman toque wrenches that have served me well.
 
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Old 06-17-13, 10:53 PM
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Ok thanks PJmax I'll keep Craftsman in mind. Does your Craftsman have the plastic handle grip by chance? I kind of think I don't like the plastic handle grip type, and f t new Craftsman ones I've seen pictures of seem to have that. Not sure if that matters at all and probably nothing particularly wrong with that style/design, but I have in mind just the plain chrome grip handle type.
 

Last edited by sgull; 06-18-13 at 12:07 AM.
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Old 06-18-13, 12:04 AM
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Also, I'm a little unclear on which size/range torque wrench might be a good choice for tightening head bolts which require three passes of torque going up to a maximum of 78 ft lbs. I'll be needing to torque head bolts on the first pass to 29 ft lbs, then to 51 ft lbs, then finally up to 78 ft lbs. What I understand is that I want to pick a torque wrench that will be primarily used in the "middle" range of adjustment. For example, if a particular torque wrench has a range from 20 ft lbs to 150 ft lbs, it is apparently going to be most accurate between 70-90 ft-lbs. So in that case it will be great for the final adjustment of 78 ft lbs but apparently not so great for the other two lower torque pass settings mentioned.
 
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Old 06-18-13, 10:30 AM
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Mechanical torque wrenches are specified to be guaranteed accurate in the 20-100% range meaning a 150 ft-lb wrench will be (typically) within 4% of setting from 30 to 150. Since you're not concerned with the accuracy of the lesser torques as you sneak up on the final value, that 150 wrench will be a good choice.

A 2-wrench kit with a 3/8-drive 75FP + a 1/2-drive 250FP would cover almost anything a handyman would encounter and ensures both wrenches would be accurate for any task from 15 to 250.

I haven't found much difference in the quality and accuracy based on origin. Even the cheap Harbor Freight wrenches will meet the 4% tolerance when new. The real question is how long will they maintain that accuracy? I would avoid them, and that kind in general (the type with the small knurled locking knob on the end of the handle).
The Craftsman wrenches are likely imported but are well made and a real bargain. Don't worry about plastic handles--it's not a hammer. Many of the wrenches with plastic grips (they're still steel beneath) have very easy to read scales.
 
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Old 06-18-13, 10:46 AM
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Great. Thanks guy48065. That narrows down my decision among choices a lot. So at this point I'm strongly considering what you mentioned, a 2-wrench set (if such indeed comes as a set) as you described seems like a logical way to go for me. And price-wise and quality-wise probably a good all around value would be the Craftsman. So, then, just to be clear, the 1/2" drive 250FP would be a perfectly suitable size/range to cover the final torque value of my head bolts (78FP)? thanks again

Edit: After going here Micro-Clicker Torque Wrench 3/8'' Drive: Get it Tight Right with Sears and reading some of the negative reviews about it being junk and not working right out of the box etc I'm having second thoughts about this model Craftsman now.
 

Last edited by sgull; 06-18-13 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 06-18-13, 03:06 PM
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I don't know if torque wrench technology has changed much in the last 20 years, but there was a time when the Navy opted to trash every "clicker" type torque wrench because of their inaccuracy and unreliability. We threw them in the dumpster by the hundreds. The problem with that type of wrench is that if it is stored with the spring compressed the spring will take a set and the calibration is lost. The Navy later changed policy to allow the use of clicker models but they issued maintenance bulletins requiring that the wrench micrometer be set to
<20% FS after use.

If long term accuracy, simplicity and reliability are what you are looking for then you might look at a beam or deflecting beam style.
 
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Old 06-18-13, 03:16 PM
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Well if I do opt for the clickable type I'll be sure to store it properly without the spring compressed, as I realize the importance of doing so.

I have tried those beam style, the type that flex and you try to watch the needle. I didn't like using that style. But then again it was an old and probably abused one I borrowed from my brother-in-law that he said to "just keep it if you want". One of those kind. But still, I'll keep the beam style under consideration. And I am, as you mention, looking for long term accuracy, simplicity, and reliability. Thanks Wayne.

Edit: And affordability too.
 
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Old 06-18-13, 07:42 PM
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Disappointing to read the bad reviews of the Craftsman wrench. Especially troubling is that this CRAFTSMAN tool only has a 1-year warranty. I still feel it's a good value but I'll step back from recommending one :-/

The problem with recommending anything these days is manufacturers change the source or quality so quickly. Yesterday I had a 1 year old Husky (Home Depot) torque wrench and was impressed with the quality. On the way home I stopped at a store to see what they sell for ($80) and the wrenches had changed already to a completely different mechanism.

Want a slam-dunk sure thing? Get a SnapOn or CDI clicker. It might be wiser to buy one Made in the USA, Lifetime Guaranteed tool. I know many mechanics who have bought theirs off eBay and even if there's a problem with it, the company will support it.
 
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Old 06-18-13, 07:57 PM
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Want a slam-dunk sure thing? Get a SnapOn or CDI clicker.
Yeah, unfortunately that's what it's narrowing down to. Most expensive. $napOn.
 
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Old 06-19-13, 07:32 AM
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I'll let you in on a trade secret (don't tell anyone). Buy a used SnapOn, Matco, MAC, Proto, CDI, Norbar...mostly all made in the US--but check. After you get it send it to Angle Repair Services in Beckly, WV. Typical repair + calibration costs $60. You really can't beat that for experienced professional calibration. That's where I send wrenches that need more than I can give.

NEVER trust an uncalibrated used torque wrench.
DON'T send them an import without calling first. Used to be they wouldn't touch an asian tool but that may have changed with the recent proliferation of them.

Or roll the dice on a new import from Craftsman, Husky (HD), Cobalt (Lowes), SK, Armstrong, K-D, GearWrench. It WILL be as accurate as the expensive brands and MAY last as long. That's my opinion after calibrating all brands for 15 years.
 
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Old 06-19-13, 09:40 AM
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guy48065,

The idea of buying a used model of one of the top quality brand wrenches you mentioned and having it professionally calibrated sounds like a good way to go instead of spending full price for a new one of those brands. Although shipping cost to the service location in you suggest in WV from my location (Alaska) and back here would of course have to be considered as part of the overall cost factor too if I were to go that route.
Thank you for sharing your opinion from experience as stated at the end of your post. I'll likely go ahead and "roll the dice" on a new import, one of the ones you mention, maybe not Craftsman though.
 
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Old 06-19-13, 10:43 AM
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If long term accuracy, simplicity and reliability are what you are looking for then you might look at a beam or deflecting beam style.
Much as I don't want to drag out the topic here too excessively, what about just opting for a beam style, maybe this one. I don't seem to do enough automotive work that often that requires precision torque, although on my upcoming head gasket job (torque up to 78FP as mentioned previously) I definitely want to have something I can rely on for that particular job, and of course for future sporadic periodic use.
KD Tools 2957 Beam Torque Wrench (0-150 Feet/Pounds 1/2-Inch drive) - Amazon.com
 
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Old 06-19-13, 12:02 PM
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Different types of torque wrenches have different plusses & minuses. At the low end are the beam type--rugged and dependable but only as accurate as your eyesight. No tactile indication so you have to use the wrench where you can watch it which is not always possible. Are you going to lay on your side in the driveway as you torque the nuts on your wheels? In-car exhaust manifold studs? Fuggetaboutit.
Click-type wrenches typically have 4% CW & 6% CCW accuracy and have the feature of not only clicking when you reach a pre-set torque, but also they "break" at that setting. Meaning the force applied drops off significantly so it's hard to overshoot the desired torque.
Next in accuracy are the dial-type units with typical accuracy of 2 or 4% either direction. Again you must be able to see the dial but these usually have a pointer that the needle pushes so as to give you a peak reading. These are the most fragile so bouncing around in the toolbox in your truck isn't advised.
Electronic wrenches are the most accurate, have no springs or wear parts to fail. They use lights or sound in addition to a digital display to indicate torque and on some the buzzer actually vibrates the handle so you can be blind AND deaf and still hit the target. They don't "break away" when the setting is reached so you have to be careful to go slow when nearing the desired torque. These are usually the most expensive but China is changing the game.

Even the spring type clickers will last a lifetime if not abused.
 
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Old 06-19-13, 02:10 PM
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Plenty to consider, that's for sure. Thanks for all the helpful and informative replies from everyone here.
 
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Old 06-20-13, 09:05 AM
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Just curious, sgull, all your specs are hard numbers.. I've never seen that in a modern shop manual, what are you working on? These days manufacturers specify a range of torque for any given nut and bolt. As long as you're within the range, you are good.
 
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Old 06-20-13, 09:14 AM
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what are you working on?
Working on my car, a 92 Accord. I especially need a torque wrench as I'm getting ready to replace the head gasket and of course the head bolts need to be torqued to spec. I have a Chilton repair manual published in 1995 that specifies in no uncertain terms that these bolts be tightened in three "passes" to the ft. lbs. of torque I've mentioned (29, 51, then finally 78). These hard numbers specified.
 
 

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