Torque Wrench vs. Socket Wrench: Best Value for your Money

By Yvonne

March 12, 2017 Home Improvement No comments

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Purchasing a new tool for your workshop is not always a simple and direct decision, especially when there are many different brands and product features to choose from. Even for a task as simple as tightening and loosening bolts and nuts, you have to identify the right tool for the job from different types of torque wrenches and socket wrenches.

Torque Wrench vs. Socket Wrench
Which Tool Gives You The Best Value For Money?
Every workshop has at least one of every type of these tools that they use on a regular basis. Open and combination wrenches are very common for basic tightening and loosening tasks. Socket wrenches are more versatile. They resemble a small steel tube with ridges on one end that fit tightly around a fastener (bolt or nut). The other end has a square socket (1/4, 1/2, or 3/8 – inch) where you connect a similarly-sized square peg on the ratcheting handle, with a small ball detent to secure the connection.
This means you can use a single handle to turn fasteners of many different shapes and sizes of socket wrenches, saving on storage space and costs.
Most torque wrenches use the same handle-socket mechanism as ratchet wrenches. However, the two differ in that the handle for torque wrenches is designed to indicate and/or limit the amount of torque being applied to the fastener via the wrench. Since a regular socket wrench does not have an adjustable torque setting, you can only gauge the tightness of your work using your own assessments.
When using a torque wrench, you can preset the specific amount of tightness of nuts and bolts in either Newton meters (metric) or foot pounds (English), to ensure that all the fasteners are tightened to the same exact amount of pressure as recommended by the manufacturer, which would otherwise be imperfect when using a regular socket ratchet.
The torque-indicating mechanism is fairly expensive to manufacture and calibrate, so the handles are typically usable on a wide range of fasteners, including existing socket wrench equipment. Torque wrenches can be used for different applications for both industrial and automotive use, with sizes and capacities ranging from small to large.
Finding The Right Torque Wrench Range For Your Application
Depends on the specific application, the torque range for small size models is usually between 30 and 200 in. lbs (4 to 22 Nm), and comes with a ¼ or 3/8-inch square drive. This type of wrench is suitable for most daily tightening and loosening applications. The torque for medium size models ranges from 20 to 30 ft lbs (17 to 34 Nm), while that for large size wrenches is about 250 ft lbs (332 Nm).
There are larger capacity wrenches with a range of up to 1,000 ft lbs (1320 Nm) for heavy industrial and automotive applications.
There are three steps to finding the best torque wrench for your application:
Step 1: Find the recommended torque setting
Identify the torque pressure that should be applied to the fastener you wish to tighten. It is usually indicated by the manufacturer in torque foot-pounds.
Step 2: Set the torque setting on the wrench
Once you find the torque specification for your fastener, adjust the dial on the end of the handle to the appropriate setting.
Step 3: Tighten the fastener
Tighten the bolt or nut as you would with a normal wrench until it makes a cracking noise or “breaks”. The clicking sound indicates that you should stop tightening the fastener as you have reached the set torque amount.
After you have used your torque wrench for 5000 cycles or 12 months, it is recommended that you recalibrate it. However, you can calibrate sooner or later depending on the frequency of use, standard of care, storage conditions, torque tolerance of assembly being fastened, and other factors.

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