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The Torque Wrench: The Most Important Tool For The Home-Gamer

Picture of mechanic using torque wrench to tighten bolt on camshaft bearing cap

Look, we know that there are thousands of arguments as to why we're wrong about this subject, but frankly they can all (kind of) get stuffed. Put simply, a torque wrench (in our opinion) is the single most important tool for any home-gamer.

What does a torque wrench do?

In layman's terms, a torque wrench is a tool that allows you to tighten a fastener to a specific torque to allow for maximum clamp loading without exceeding the material strength or stretch loading of a component or bolt.

In words that actually make sense, it's a tool that lets us know when a bolt is tight enough to hold properly without damaging the bolt or material it's going into.

Why is a torque wrench important then?

Because of its function, a torque wrench is (potentially) the single most likely tool to save your life (and money) when working on your own car.

With so many components on modern cars being made of plastic or aluminium, it has become easier and easier to cause significant damage while doing work that used to be considered simple.

Leaving a bolt loose can cause issues from brakes and wheels falling off (endangering yourself and others) through to destroying motors. Additionally, the cost of repairing damage from overtightening bolts is absolutely insane and it's not uncommon to pay $200-$500 just for a single bolt removal (if it's repairable at all).

But, shouldn't a decent jack or jack stands be my first purchase?

Even though both of these items are massively important for keeping you safe, you only begin to need a jack or jack stand when going under or lifting the vehicle and there are many service items that can be done without ever needing to lift the car including spark plugs, filters and more.

Though jacks and jack stands are the most common recommendation for home-gamers, we might argue that buying all 3 as a kit is really the best bet.

What are some good options for a torque wrench?

As with most automotive tooling, the best options often seem to be the most expensive ones. However with that in mind, you can pick up a surprisingly good torque wrench for between $100-$200 that will (likely) never let you down.

The secret is to look for a deflecting beam style torque wrench.

We've tried a number of cheap brands of ratcheting torque wrenches and the story across all of them is about the same. Either they are out of calibration by the second use or the whole ratcheting head just falls apart at the third. However, we have it on good authority that the deflecting beam torque wrench is the least likely to succumb to damage or lose calibration, even after years on the job.

Our hot tip is to look for Warren & Brown and buy a 3/8" and 1/2" variant to cover most light vehicle applications.


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