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  1. #1
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    torque wrenches - how important?

    I've been buying parts for my new bike, and just about every part's installation instructions now list torques necessary for tightening stuff.

    I've never used a torque wrench, but i've been doing basic wrenching on my bike (everything except for headset, bb, and hubs) since i was 13 or 14. I feel like i have a good feel for how tight to make a bolt, with an eye to the materials in play (steel into steel, steel into aluminum, titanium into aluminum, etc). I've never stripped a bolt, nor have things fallen off my bike.

    I put beeswax on threads i don't want coming loose, and grease on everything.


    Do i need to get a torque wrench, or is it overkill? I don't think even the LBSes around here use them.

  2. #2
    SALLGUD
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    Buy one

    If you plan on doing some wrenching yourself, buy one ASAP.

    I bought one and use it religiously. It will shock you how far off your "this feels about right per my hand" torque value is when actually compared to a torque wrench. Note that you will need one that reads pounds/inch, NOT pounds/foot.

    You are right about the majority of LBS not using torque wrenches. That doesn't make it right though. That just indicates laziness or a desire to be "old skool". Whatever.

    As an aside, I had a set of tires put on my '02 Explorer this past Thursday and immediately went home, stood on a lug nut wrench (with breaker bar in two cases) to break them free, and PROPERLY torqued those nuts down. Now I, or my better half, will be able to change the spare should the need arise.

  3. #3
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    How many torque wrenches do you have? Just one, or two?

    I was looking at them online (non bicycle specific ones.. ya just have to multiply the ft-lb number by 12 to get the in-lb equivalent), but most of them are designed for far greater torques than you'd normally use on a bike.

    Also, a bit pricey.. $30-80 plus all the bits you'll need.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    but most of them are designed for far greater torques than you'd normally use on a bike.

    .
    -Torque wrenches come in an almost endless variety to meet the needs of any application. You are looking at the wrong wrench for the application.

  5. #5
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    Ya this is a tough one. I hate the cheapie beam type torque wrenches. Useable clicker types start around $125 and good ones don't appear till the $225 mark. You will need 2, an inch/pound one and a foot/pound one. I'd rather spend the money on bike parts, so i have neither in my tool box.
    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    .......... I feel like i have a good feel for how tight to make a bolt......
    Hoping not to sound too trollish but if you haven't extensively used a torque wrench to hone your feel, I'd be surprised if you are hitting the factory recommended marks. I got to the point where i could tell if a wrench was 5-10 ft/lbs off or 10 in/lbs off, but I have galled many threads and busted many bolts learning.
    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    ... I don't think even the LBSes around here use them.
    Whenever anyone touches my bike i generally have to loosen the skewers, what ever bolt they touch, and my shock settings. Most people (bike mechanics included) overtorque everything.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    I've been buying parts for my new bike, and just about every part's installation instructions now list torques necessary for tightening stuff.

    I've never used a torque wrench, but i've been doing basic wrenching on my bike (everything except for headset, bb, and hubs) since i was 13 or 14. I feel like i have a good feel for how tight to make a bolt, with an eye to the materials in play (steel into steel, steel into aluminum, titanium into aluminum, etc). I've never stripped a bolt, nor have things fallen off my bike.

    I put beeswax on threads i don't want coming loose, and grease on everything.


    Do i need to get a torque wrench, or is it overkill? I don't think even the LBSes around here use them.
    I personally feel that a quality torque wrench is a necessity either "Beam" or "click",
    Wrenching on todays bikes and components, a torque wrench can be a lifesaver.
    It's one thing to tighten to a "feel" and another to "gorilla torque" a component.

    And a torque wrench eliminates any guesswork.

    Rather than go into a long winded explanation of thread engagement, bolt stretch, dry vs. lubed, here are a few links that will enlighten and explain.

    http://www.bsn.com/Cycling/Torques.html

    http://www.arp-bolts.com/pages/tech/fastener.html

    Synopsis:

    Under torqued,....component may loosen and fail, with the possibility of damaging adjacent components.

    Over torqued,....stripping, galling, difficult to eventually remove, great possibility of damaging "bosses" and critical fastner receptacles.

    A torque wrench and application of mfg. torque values eliminates problems.

    "nuff said"

    Live Long,...Ride Hard

    Ol' DirtDawg
    Last edited by Ol' DirtDawg; 07-09-2005 at 06:47 PM. Reason: spell check

  7. #7
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    Get the clicker, not beam

    Craftsman has the inch pound version in 3/8" drive, and it is NOT a beam type. I got mine through the Craftsman store on eBay over a year ago for less than $50. Works great and I use it constantly on my three bikes. Keep in mind that a foot pounds torque wrench is useful for putting on your cranks and bottom brackets as it really reduces squeaks and clicks!

    I just did a quick search on eBay and came across a bunch of'em. Some new, some refurb. Starting prices at around $25. Here's an option:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...392131975&rd=1

    HTH,
    Michael

  8. #8
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    There's a lot to be said for beam wrenches.

    For starters, beams inexpensive compared to a clicker or a dial indicator (a dial indicator is basically a beam wrench in disguise). Sears sells a Craftsman 3/8" beam with a 0 to 75 ft-lb scale for $25 which is identical to Park's TW-2, other than a ft-lb/NM scale (Park's uses in-lbs.).

    I like clicker types for repetetive tightenings in engine & automotive work, but the soft click kills me at lower torque settings, or even when I'm turning smooth and slow and the click turns into a gentle bump.

    Beams, on the other hand, suck for getting a fastener started and snugged (I'll use a regular ratchet or a driver for that). But for tightening, I like being able to watch the beam gradually deflect and build towards the final torque value -- no surprises. I feel this is especially important on lower torque bolt, and isn't really a hinderance since a bike is relatively "open", i.e. no tight, cramped spaces to get in the way of eyeing the needle.

    And finally, beams are dead simple and therefore highly reliable (relative to the price paid). The indicator is showing how much a metal bar of known properties is deflecting under load -- no springs, levers or balls to introduce errors. Recalibration is as simple as bending the pointer back to the Zero indication. Gotta like that.

    speedub.nate
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  9. #9
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    If i only wanted to get one torque wrench, would something like this be suitable?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...392125087&rd=1

    It goes between 5 and 80 ft lbs, which is 60-960 in lbs.

    That should cover most bicycle related torques, right?

    The Avid BB7 instructions give between 55 and 90 in lbs, while the RaceFace BB instructions give 35 ft lbs.

  10. #10
    A wheelist
    Reputation: Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    torque wrenches - how important? Do i need to get a torque wrench, or is it overkill?.
    You need one if you can't guage acceptable torque without one. I can. I don't strip/break bolts and they don't come loose which proves I don't need one.
    Mike The Bike's home wheelbuilding info - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilder information and motivation.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    You need one if you can't guage acceptable torque without one. I can. I don't strip/break bolts and they don't come loose which proves I don't need one.
    Read my first post. That's what i thought too. Now i'm not so sure.

  12. #12
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    Honestly, I wouldn't trust that wrench on the lower torque stuff -- even moreso because it's used. If I were determined to try it, I'd buy it new from Sears so at least I could return it if it didn't meet my needs.

    Then again, 5 ft-lbs is only the 2nd tick mark on the Craftsman beam I linked to -- very "fuzzy" accuracy, but I'd still trust it more than a 5 to 80 pound clicker.

    The highest torque requirement on a bike is typically 50 ft-lbs at the bottom bracket.
    speedub.nate
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    Read my first post. That's what i thought too. Now i'm not so sure.
    Your first post said "I've never stripped a bolt, nor have things fallen off my bike."

    So why are you not so sure that you don't need one? I've had the same results as you and from the same age - for the past 43 years too. So why do you need one now? I don't.
    Mike The Bike's home wheelbuilding info - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilder information and motivation.

  14. #14
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    If you got the money to spend get yourself some torque wrenches, especially if you are using carbon fiber parts.

    If you really don't have the money you can wrench like 99% of us and not use a torque wrench but at least borrow one so that you know how correct your feel is.

  15. #15
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    After a few days scouring ebay, i got lucky this afternoon and scored a used Craftsman beam type wrench, 0-100 ft lbs (0-1200 in lbs) for $0.99, with $6 shipping. Should be good for the BB, cranks or other big stuff.

    Also bought a giant 100 piece set of bits (including metric hex and torx) for $15 shipped, and i have my eye on some low torque wrenches (<150 in lbs), although those are in the $30-40 range at the minimum, it seems, but i'll try to get one, as the low torque wrench would probably get more regular use on a bike.

    It's not that i have much money to spend (especially after buying all the parts for my new bike), but i figure i'd sleep better at night knowing my parts were torqued on right, and it's one more reason not to go to the LBS, which means the wrenches should pay for themselves eventually.

    -robin

  16. #16
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    Just found this site after extensive Googling of torque wrenches: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...temnumber=2696

    They seem to have very good prices on clicker style torque wrenches. Better prices than eBay, for the most part, and MUCH cheaper than Sears or others. Dunno about the quality, but i'm sure even a cheap torque wrench is better than no torque wrench

  17. #17
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    Keep your eyes on the ball! There's good stuff on ebay if you're willing to wait it out. It took about three months plus the help of AuctionSniper.com for me to catch an S&K dial indicator 0-150 in-lb wrench for about $35.

    Harbor Freight -- eh! I'm always leery of cheap clickers.
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  18. #18
    L1MEY
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    I've been looking at getting a torque wrench as well. I'm probably going to pick up the Craftsman beam wrench for $25 to use on the big torque stuff though. For the little stuff, is something like this any good? http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...sPageName=WD1V

    I knew my tools pretty well in the UK, but US brands are all different

    - Jen.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
    Harbor Freight -- eh! I'm always leery of cheap clickers.

    Well, i just won an auction for a cheap clicker.. $34 shipped for a 20-200 in lb clicker that looks just like the Harbor Freight one.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinmiller
    Well, i just won an auction for a cheap clicker.. $34 shipped for a 20-200 in lb clicker that looks just like the Harbor Freight one.
    I have used some of the Harbor freight wrenches and the seem to work ok. The snob in me said they weren't as good as a Snap-on or SK but they seem to be as good as the $75 Craftsman ones and actually maybe better since they don't have the cracked plastic handle or lock ring.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratt
    I have used some of the Harbor freight wrenches and the seem to work ok. The snob in me said they weren't as good as a Snap-on or SK but they seem to be as good as the $75 Craftsman ones and actually maybe better since they don't have the cracked plastic handle or lock ring.
    Thanks, good to know. I figure, it's a bicycle, not a rocket engine. Even if the readings are 10% off, it's probably just fine. Most of the torque specs are given as a range anyway, like 70-90 in lbs for the caliper on my Avid BB7s. If i go for 80 in lbs, 10% off either way is still within range, and even if it's a little beyond that, i'm sure it's fine.

    I just hope they ship the damn thing quickly, since i just know i'm not going to be able to wait on assembly once my frame gets here.

  22. #22
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    I have a 1/2" drive Harbor Freight clicker torque wrench & have used the heck out of it on my Jeep. No problems w/ bolts coming loose. For $9.99 on sale it was worth every penny. The equivalent Craftsman was over $70. Now that I'm getting back into riding I do plan to pick up a 3/8" HF in/lb wrench too. True, you do have to be careful about some of the stuff at Harbor Frieght, but these wrenches are worth the coin.

  23. #23
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    Just wanted to report that i got that cheap clicker (the one that resembles a Harbor Freight one) a couple days ago, and i'm not very happy with it. I don't have anything to test it's accuracy with, but it feels somewhat crude and the force required for it to 'click' at low settings seems awfully high. I was installing a front derailleur and was happily ratcheting away waiting for the click when i saw that the clamp had totally bent around the seat tube! I guess the wrench decided not to click just then..

    i dunno.. I used it with some higher torques (installing disc brakes), and it did click, but i'm really not sure if it clicked at the right torque..

    I think i might try to unload this on eBay and get a better quality one.

    The used Sears one i got for $7 seems fine, but it's a beam type for much higher torques (up to 100 ft lbs). Only problem with the beam type is that when i'm cranking down on something, it's hard to see the torque reading.

  24. #24
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    (biting my tongue...)

    When I bought my used S&K dial torque off eBay, I didn't completely trust it until I took it in to a local calibration shop who certified it across its range. Only then did I have real peace of mind.

    I don't recall exactly, but the certification was relatively expensive -- on the order of $25 or $30, which is almost what I paid for the wrench.

    Shops that have certified torque wrenches laying around -- aircraft maintenance shops comes to mind -- might have digital toque testers that'll let you know if you're in the ballpark, if you can convince one of the A&Ps to let you use it.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
    (biting my tongue...)

    ......Shops that have certified torque wrenches laying around -- aircraft maintenance shops comes to mind -- might have digital toque testers that'll let you know if you're in the ballpark, if you can convince one of the A&Ps to let you use it.
    This makes me wonder if you could just make a crude lever where you could put weights on the end and test the clicker yourself? Does 1 ft/lb = to 1 pound at the end of a 12" lever?

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