Wheels overall are very expensive, no matter what type of vehicle or bike you’re currently working on.
The last thing you want is to ruin the wheels when you are changing them out.
We receive a ton of questions about torque wrenches, and one that keeps coming up pretty frequently is
Is a torque wrench necessary for wheels?
While it is not mandatory to use a torque wrench for wheels, torquing to the specific metric specified in the manual will help keep your brake rotor from warping. Over torquing your wheels is a common reason for a warped brake rotor.
Is a Torque Wrench Necessary for Wheels?
Torque wrenches are fascinating, especially when you consider how much maintenance there is to do on your vehicles and other things around the house.
More information about torque wrenches with wheels, what wheels need torque wrenches, and an overall discussion of torque wrenches is below.
Do you Need a Torque Wrench to Change Tires?
Most shops in the real world are reinstalling your tires with an impact gun.
It isn’t an immediate need for you to have a torque wrench to change tires, but having one will allow you to torque to specified foot-pounds requested in the manual, potentially saving you from more repairs.
Sometimes if there’s an uneven torque placed on the tires, this will cause a weird vibration in your brake rotor. This vibration has been known to ruin brake rotors and cause more frustrations in the future.
Sometimes having a torque wrench doesn’t make sense, for example, if you are on the side of the road changing your tires.
We would suggest quickly changing your tires with whatever tools you have available and later, when you’re back to your torque wrench, measuring and assessing the amount of torque placed on your bolts to protect your brake rotor.
There are a ton of questions surrounding torque wrenches, and we solve the most basic one in How to Read a Torque Wrench
A typical rotor has a chain that runs over the rotor in a nice fluid, straight motion.
Once this warps, the chain has extra space and no longer travels in a straight path.
This fluidity in the path creates the rattling motion felt in most steering wheels whenever the brake rotors are warped.
Rotors Brakes When to Replace
It is a good idea to replace your brake rotor whenever it is warped (duh).
If you’ve recently been on the drive and felt some shaking in the steering wheel at higher speeds, it’s probably time to replace your brake rotor.
If you haven’t felt this and you’re wondering how you can go about testing your brake rotor, here are a few tips.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to drive around a bit because you need your brakes to be warm. Sometimes a cold brake rotor will not show signs of being warped.
Get up to a decent speed that is within the legal limits, and you feel comfortable with this speed, let go of the wheel slowly and see if there’s any shaking in the wheel.
If your wheel is shaking at this high speed which is usually a good indicator that your brake rotor is warped and needs to be replaced.
There is another simple way to see if your brake rotor is ruined if you cannot drive the car but still want to check on your brake rotors.
First, remove the wheel so that the brake rotor is fully visible. Rotate the rotor and check for rust spots or any chips.
Even small brushes will cause the brake pad not to have a firm grip during braking, which is one reason why many people feel pulsating when braking with a bad rotor.
This pulsating feeling is an excellent indicator that your brake rotor is warped and needs to be replaced.
What Size Torque Wrench For Car Wheels
When purchasing a torque wrench for car wheels, you’ll want to avoid digital torque wrenches.
This is because sometimes it is hard to see the screen when you are torquing the lug nuts on the tire.
I will admit to over-torquing a couple of times with my digital torque wrenches.
A click-style torque wrench is going to work best here.
For car wheels, we suggest ½” drive with a wide range of ft-lbs that goes at least over 150.
Some smaller cars aren’t going to need over 150 ft-lbs, but it makes a lot of sense to spend a little more and get a torque wrench that can handle torque into the 200s+ that can repair things outside of just car fixes.
If you own a big truck, you should get a torque wrench that is over 200+.
We have a buying guide if you are looking for a torque wrench.
Knowing how to Buy the right torque wrench is critical in making the correct decision.
However, if you’re looking for a quick recommendation, we recommend the TEKTON 1/2 Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench (25-250 ft.-lb.) sold on Amazon.
Dirt Bike Torque Wrench
You want to ensure that you use a torque wrench on your dirt bike.
Your dirt bike manual will come with torque-specific settings that you should review depending on what repair you are doing.
Nothing is more dangerous than a loose bolt when you’re out on your dirt bike.
Some common repairs that you’ll need a torque wrench for are the bolts around the handlebars that sometimes come loose, the wheels, and the brakes.
Remember, dirt bikes are mostly made outside of the United States in countries that still use the metric system.
This means that you probably aren’t used to seeing things in N.m instead of ft-lbs.
Some companies will try to take advantage of the fact that some manual listings are listed in newton-meters, which many people haven’t seen.
Any decent torque wrench will have foot-pounds and Newton-meters listed on the tool.
I would not freak out about the Newton meters, convert them to ft-lb, and continue with the repairs.
You should check the torque wrench you have in storage, as it probably has both Newton-meters and Foot-pounds listed on it.
FT-LB To NM Conversions (Table)
For Dirt bikes, you will want to get a torque wrench that ranges from 40 to 200 Newton-meters.
This will cover most of your repairs over the whole life of the bike.
Best Torque Wrench for Harley Davidson
A torque wrench is essential for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and it would be best if you did not tighten a bolt on the brakes, suspension, or end engine components without a torque wrench.
Most of the bolts on these parts are attached to sensitive components calibrated to within very tight specifications.
Over tightening a bolt due to not using a torque wrench could easily throw off the calibration in any of these parts.
One of the most common errors we see with Harley Davidson repairs is stripping of the sump plug.
Many people will try and tighten this without a torque wrench and end up destroying the threads of the soft aluminum the plug goes into.
Using a torque wrench here will help avoid this common error as you will not be over-torquing your sump plug.
Is a Torque Wrench Necessary for Wheels?
While it is not mandatory to use a torque wrench for wheels, torquing to the specific metric specified in the manual will help keep your brake rotor from warping and ensure that the bolts on your wheels are correctly tightened.
Over torquing the bolts on your wheels is a common reason for a warped brake rotor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Check Torque Wrench Accuracy
There are a couple of ways to check your torque wrench’s accuracy. The first way is to tighten a bolt to specifications set on your torque wrench, then use either your friends or another torque wrench to check if this bolt has been torqued to the specified number. The second way is to send it to a repair shop to have the calibration checked.
Good Brand Torque Wrench
There are many excellent torque wrench brands, but the best is snap-on by far.
Cycling Torque Wrench Recommendations
For cycling, you’re going to want a torque wrench with a socket set that fits your bike and has a 2 to 20 Newton-meters range.
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