Tools of the Trade

Set­ting clamp­ing force, the best way we can

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Ari Hen­ning

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.

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.

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