Your Tool Set Isn't Complete Without a Torque Wrench

A quality torque wrench is a workshop essential. Here's why.

torque wrench tips
A quality torque wrench is the best way to ensure that important fasteners are properly tightened.Julia LaPalme

Torque wrenches are sometimes considered specialty tools, but their use is so common and critical that they should really be classified as basic equipment, just like screwdrivers and open-end wrenches.

A quality torque wrench is the best way to ensure that important fasteners such as axles, caliper bolts, and drain plugs are properly tightened. We say tightened, but what we’re really after is the clamping force created by tensioning the bolt. Believe it or not, bolt shafts, their threads, and the threads of the material they’re screwed into have some elasticity. By stretching those parts, we’re able to produce the clamping force that’s needed to keep rear wheels from shifting in the swingarm or oil from seeping past the case covers.

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Feel free to cheap out on your screwdrivers or sockets if you want, but just as with helmets, torque wrenches are important enough that it’s worth investing in a good one. This $160 wrench from CDI, a subsidiary of Snap-on, is made in the USA and checks all the right boxes for a reasonable price. The 20-to-100 pound-feet range is well suited to motorcycle work; it’s accurate to plus or minus 5 percent of the selected setting (that doesn’t apply to the lower 20 percent of the torque wrench), and it comes with a storage case to keep it safe.

That case is important because, while torque wrenches might not be specialty tools, they do require special care. Always unwind the handle to the lowest setting after use, and never exceed the wrench’s capacity or use it to break loose fasteners (that’s what a breaker bar is for). Additionally, most manufacturers recommended getting the wrench recalibrated every year, 5,000 cycles, or if the tool has been dropped.