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How Do Torque Sticks Work? (The Truth)

Torque sticks are not something you hear about all the time; even though these things are pretty rare, everyone is always wondering how they work and if they’re useful.

I’m here to tell you they exist, and they have some pretty cool uses.

How do Torque Sticks Work?

Torque sticks work by latching onto the end of an impact wrench and applying only the specified torque to the nut/bolt. Even if the impact wrench applies higher torque to the torque stick, the torque stick will still only apply up to the specified torque.

It is crucial to understand how torque sticks work and if they will help you out next time you’re in the garage or in a tight situation.

Below is a complete break of torque sticks, their accuracies, some other cool torquing devices, and a frequently asked questions section to break down any questions you could have had.

You may see an impact wrench referenced as an impact gun if you’re doing another search online.

What is a Torque Stick

A torque stick is an extension piece for an impact wrench, and what this will do is cap the amount of torque that the impact wrench can place on the bolts or nut, etc.

These torque sticks are made of materials from softer metals at the cheaper end and high-grade steel at the more expensive end.

Torque sticks tend to last a decent amount of time, and usually, the manufacturer will let you know how many rotations it’s suitable for in the product description.

Remember, you can use a torque stick more than once.

torque stick

Torque sticks will have one torque setting that they can torque to; this is different from a torque wrench that can torque to whatever torque you set it to.

We go over the basics of torque wrenches here how does a torque wrench work.

For example, a 40 foot-pounds torque stick will only torque up to 40 ft-lb.

These items are great to keep in the car or a go-away to a box if you need to make an emergency change of a tire or some handlebars.

If you’re changing wheels out, check out Is a Torque Wrench Necessary for Wheels before making any changes.

The Science Behind Torque Sticks

You’ll want to attach your torque stick to the end of your impact wrench; torque sticks do not work with manual devices.

This is complex, but basically, because manual devices apply rotational force at a constant pace compared to an impact wrench’s high peaking rotational force.

Torque Sticks then store this high peaking rotational force from the impact wrench into the material by slightly twisting.

how does a torque limiter work

This force is usually extremely high, twisting the metals in the torque stick. 

This twist will then express itself as torque onto the bolt or lug nut. 

Depending on what type of torque stick you have, it will only store enough energy to torque to label product descriptions.

This makes them a potentially cheaper option than a torque wrench, especially if you already have an impact wrench.

Here is our article on our choices for  USA Torque Wrench. It could help you find what you need!

Impact Wrench Torque Stick

To use your torque stick, you will need an impact wrench.

Torque sticks were designed to be used with an air impact wrench

This doesn’t mean that an electric impact wrench doesn’t work; know that you will be sacrificing some accuracy.

 Impact Wrench Torque Stick

Place your torque stick on your impact wrench and attach it to your nut or bolt.

The torque stick will protect your nut/bolt from being over-torqued.

If you have some concerns about the accuracy, bring over your calibrated torque wrench and make sure it’s torqued to your desired ft-lbs.

Are Torque Sticks Accurate?

It’s pretty common knowledge that torque sticks aren’t very accurate.

You can increase the accuracy of your torque stick by making sure you use an air impact wrench with it.

Standard usage of torque sticks ensures that over-torquing does not happen.

Many will place a torque stick onto the end of their impact wrench and torque the nut/bolt.

They will then come in with their torque wrench to finish off the last couple of turns.

Are Torque Sticks Accurate.

This saves time by leveraging the rotational force from the impact wrench and protecting the bolt from being over-torqued by utilizing the torque stick.

Before using your torque wrench as a breaker bar, check out Can you use a Torque Wrench as a Breaker Bar.

How does a Torque Multiplier Work?

Some bolts and nuts need a ton of torque to be tightened correctly.

If you think you’re going to successfully tighten a manual transmission output shaft nut with just your standard ½” drive ratchet, you are sadly mistaken.

The natural response to this is what everyone always thinks “I’ll just use my  impact wrench.”

Doing this on some bolts can ruin them due to Brinelling. Brinelling Is a whole different topic but basically, contact stress onto the bolt is greater than that specific materials hardness limit.

This means that we need to use manual devices and get to extremely high torque numbers.

To do this, we use a torque multiplier.

A torque multiplier works due to the torque multiplier’s advanced gear settings.  

As you torque the back of a torque multiplier, this energy is converted in the gear system and expressed on the other side. 

How Does a Torque Multiplier Work

This is exactly what we want because the converted side will be attached to the targeted bolt we are trying to tighten or loosen. 

This energy conversion comes in many different shapes and sizes.

Sometimes you’ll see a 64 to 1 or the famous 4 to 1 torque multiplier.

Remember, you’ll pay the penalty for using torque multipliers, as the energy conversion isn’t perfectly efficient.

You can expect to lose between 10 to 20% torque on the other side of your torque multiplier.

For example, please don’t be shocked when you’re expecting a torque of 400, and it comes in somewhere between 320 and 400.

Testing a torque wrench is easy; we wrote a guide on testing a torque wrench.

4 to 1 Torque Multiplier

The 4 to 1 torque multiplier means you’ll have to turn the backside four times to get one turn on the other side of the torque multiplier.

For example, you will have to torque the 250 torque backside four times to get one rotation at 1000 torque.

The torque multiplier always has a torque penalty, meaning you should expect the above conversion to end up at around 800 to 1000 torque due to the 10 to 20% torque penalty.

How to Torque a Bolt without a Torque Wrench

How to Torque a Bolt without a Torque Wrench

Torquing without a torque wrench is very easy.

Just use a ratchet to tighten the bolt. 

How to Torque a Bolt without a Torque Wrench

However, you will not know what specific torque you torqued the bolt to, and you run into the risk of stripping the bolt or ruining the material behind the bolt due to over-torquing.

You could also under-torque the bolt, creating a dangerous situation where the bolt falls out.

Have you seen Power Torque Tools around? We wrote a complete guide going over the entire history.

Final thoughts on Torque Sticks

Torque sticks work by latching onto the end of an impact wrench and applying only the specified torque to the bolt/nut. Even if the impact wrench applies higher torque to the torque stick, the torque stick will still only apply up to the specified torque.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Estimate Torque Without a Torque Wrench

It would be best if you never estimated torque without a torque wrench. If you are in an emergency and need to tighten a bolt to a specified torque, you should torque the bolt until it is tight, find a way out of the situation and then later use your torque wrench to ensure that the proper torque is applied to the bolt. Sometimes, you will need to torque without a torque wrench in emergencies.

Can You Use Torque Sticks with Electric Impact

Yes, you can use torque sticks with an electric impact wrench, even though this is not the standard way of using torque sticks with an impact wrench. If you’re concerned with the accuracy, use your torque wrench afterward to check if you’ve reached your desired torque. Remember, Keeping your torque wrench calibrated is incredibly important; we teach you how to calibrate a torque wrench here.

Another Word for Torque

Another word for torque could be tightness. When you place torque on a bolt you’re measuring the tightness of the bolt.

How does a Torque Limiting Extension Bar Work

A torque limiting extension bar works by latching onto the end of an impact wrench and applying only the specified torque to the bolt/nut. Even if the impact wrench applies higher torque to the torque limiting extension bar, the torque limiting extension bar will still only apply the specified torque.

How does a Torque Limiter Work

A torque limiter works by latching onto the end of an impact wrench and applying only the specified torque to the bolt/nut. Even if the impact wrench applies higher torque to the torque limiter, the torque limiter will still only apply the specified torque.

Stewart Kaplan
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