Tool Q&A

Questions on the selection, use and safety of hand tools may seem like they warrant no-brainer answers, you'd be amazed at the amount of unsafe and improper use of hand tools that goes on every day. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission...


Questions on the selection, use and safety of hand tools may seem like they warrant no-brainer answers, you'd be amazed at the amount of unsafe and improper use of hand tools that goes on every day. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that emergency treatments for injuries due to the misuse of hand tools amounts to around 150,000 each year. If you're an entry-level tech, the following information will help you get started on the right foot. If you're an experienced tech or shop owner, this might be a good opportunity to learn the errors of your ways and get back to basics.

Q. We recently hired a new tech and want to get him started on the right path about proper tool use in the shop. Where can I turn?

A. You can always refer to the Hand Tool Institute at www.hti.org for good basic information related to use and safety. As an example, the Institute provides basic guidance on proper wrench usage such as always pull on a wrench, never push. Don’t use extensions such as a pipe for added leverage and never use sockets intended for hand use. You can also ask your tool reps for any information they may have available.

Q. What’s the best type of torque wrench for my shop?

A. Although there are subtle variations, torque wrenches fall into three main categories: bar style, dial type and micrometer style. The right wrench depends upon the type of work you do, the types and range of torque specifications you’ll most often encounter, and, to some extent, personal preference. Since most shops work on a wide range of applications with different torque requirements, it’s likely that the best solution will come in the form of several torque wrenches. 

Q. Does a torque wrench require any special type of care or maintenance?

A. There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to the care and feeding of a torque wrench. First, you should restrict use to final tightening only; never use a torque wrench for disassembly like you would a breaker bar. Next, when tightening, support the head of the torque wrench with your other hand (the hand not doing the pulling) to maintain the proper pulling angle and contact with the fastener. When finished with an adjustable torque wrench, position its torque setting at its lowest reading before putting the tool away. Otherwise, the accuracy may be affected. Finally, torque wrenches are delicate instruments and need to be calibrated at least once a year — more often if dropped or used in a production environment.

Q. One of the techs in my shop questions whether it’s worth the time to use a torque wrench on fasteners. His theory is that there’s a large margin of error on torque anyway, so why bother?

A. Although tightening fasteners to their specific value has always been critical, now it’s crucial. When tightened, fasteners stretch ever so slightly to provide a clamping load on their related parts. With advanced materials and torque-to-yield (sometimes called “stretch”) bolts, this is especially so. In many cases, these types of bolts must be replaced after being tightened to specifications and cannot be reused.

Q. We install dozens of sets of tires every day. Tightening lug nuts to specifications is important, but we wish there was a faster way to do the job. Any thoughts?

A. Your shop sounds like it would be the perfect environment for torque sticks or wheel torque extensions. These carefully calibrated extensions and sockets apply a rated amount of torque and then begin to slip. There’s no need to change torque settings for different applications. You simply grab a different torque stick for a different size and tightening requirement. Torque sticks come in numerous drive and socket sizes and are color-coded for quick identification. There are even some torque sticks available for special vehicle wheels.

Q. Do I have to compensate the setting on a torque wrench when using extensions on the drive end?

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