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Harbor Freight Torque Wrenches

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Are these at all accurate (for $20) or are they best used for letting the kids play with? Keep in mind, for me, they might get used once every 5 years or so.

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I've got a 3/8" and 1/2" drive one. Both of mine are pretty close to the fairly expensive 1/2" clicker my dad bought years ago, one that we've considered "close enough" and hasn't caused any issues. I haven't had a single issue with either of my HF torque wrenches and have used them for about five years.

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They are fine for wheels, but if I was doing a head gasket I would not rely on a 20 dollar torque wrench.

 

They are not calibrated, can not be calibrated, do you really want to save 30 bucks on a tool for a job that would cost you 2000 at the dealer?

 

I have a Matco, and it cost a bundle, but I can take it to the Matco man and have it re-calibrated year after year so that I know when I torque a cylinder head to spec that it is in-fact in spec.

 

 

A torque wrench is a precision instrument, just because it looks fine on the outside doesn't mean its accurate on the inside.

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A good point made. I would say, though, that for 90% of the work you'd do at home, the cheap one is probably fine. It doesn't need to be perfect for, say, suspension work.

 

To be honest, I feel that a torque wrench is the best tool you can buy to act as a safety valve. If you use it semi-properly, you can't possibly wang something down way too tight and break it. Also, in that you have to look up the specs and set it, I think it reinforces careful and methodical behavior in doing repairs.

 

For precision work like heads, yeah it's probably better to get a "real one."

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I have used my $20 HF torque wrench for a bunch of head gaskets (back before I started doing this "for money"). None of them have had any issues. But I consider myself lucky. It's definately not a quality tool.

 

For my money, there is no beating the CDI products. CDI Torque Insturments is owned by Snap-On and makes all the Snap-On wrenches. But they also make a private label product that is just about as good IMO. I have two of their units - a 3/8" inch-pounds wrench, and a 1/2" ft-pounds unit. Both are very high quality. The little one was $110 and the bigger one was $130 or so. I got both of mine from eBay and am a very happy customer:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/CDI-TORQUE-WRENCH-1503MFRMH-1-2-DRIVE-20-150-LBS-/140325979396?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20ac148504

 

And

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/CDI-Snap-On-3-8-Torque-Wrench-30-250-in-lbs-2502MRMH-/370475266125?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item56420bf04d

 

I use my HF wrench for lug nuts, etc. I feel it is accurate enough for that and I don't wear&tear on my good stuff.

 

From a professional standpoint - calibration at regular intervals with documentation is ESSENTIAL. Allow me to relate a little tale.....

 

I was "training" (on the job training) on a peice of equipment - a compressor pump worth about $17,000. I was using a 3/8" Snap-On torque wrench owned by my employer. I needed 14 Ft/Lbs. It never clicked. My boss was watching over my shoulder and I expressed my concern that I was likely in the 30 to 40 Ft/lb range and no "click" was occuring. We checked the wrench and sure enough - it was broken. No clue how this happened. Probably broke and someone put it away like that. So per his instruction I removed the bolt, he inspected it, and said it was ok. We put it back using another torque wrench.

 

Long story short - that bolt was stressed a little too far. It looked alright - but lasted only 3 hours in operation. It caused $25,000 worth of damage when it broke. Luckily I was not on the hook for any of it because my boss made the call to reuse that overstressed fastener. I was very happy when I left that meeting unscathed!

 

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder

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Doing some quick research the expensive ones are not terribly more accurate than the cheap HF one, 4% vs 3%

 

However at 150 ft/lbs that is the difference between 4.5 ft/lbs off or 6 off.

 

New they will probably be very similar, but after years of hard use, the higher quality wrench will be closer to the 3-4% than the cheap one.

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I keep one cheap chinese set for lug nuts. Yea it's bad to leave it set, but it's 20.00 and Chinese.

 

I own decent Sears 3.8 & 1/2 inch clickers and a few old beams.

 

Can't bring myself to buy a torque wrench that takes batteries but they are nice. Sometimes I borrow one to do HG's just to see how close the bolts end up to each other and they can measure both directions.

 

It's amazing after all those fractions of a turn how close they end up - middle's are tighter IIR.

 

Anything I care enough about to check the torgue on isn't gonna be from a HF product.

 

Check CL for used or Ebay - I get a lot of tools on Ebay.

 

BTW a lot of times it's cheaper to get a new one rather than one calibrated. However I have seen "home methods" to check the accuracy but never done it.

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I don't trust the accuracy on the cheap ones. I use Snap-On and MAC, clickers. I also have a old snap on with a needle dial on it. There are some reports out there showing accuracy, you cannot trust the cheap manufactured specs, need to do real world tests, not a company claims.

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I don't trust the accuracy on the cheap ones. I use Snap-On and MAC, clickers. I also have a old snap on with a needle dial on it. There are some reports out there showing accuracy, you cannot trust the cheap manufactured specs, need to do real world tests, not a company claims.

 

 

DING DING DING! Right there's what it all comes down to.

 

I mean you could get a good look at a T-bone by sticking your head up a butcher's ***, but, wouldn't you rather take his word for it?

 

Point is, manufacturers LIE. Give anyone the budget to run these test, tell them what you want the results to be, and TADA! You've got your scientific results.

 

For some reason $20 doesn't project the image of a moving precision instrument to me. I'm a fan of HF for some stuff, but, spend the extra money to get a good one, and take care of it.

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I've got the HF 3/8 and 1/2.

 

The 3/8 is very accurate.

 

How do you know this? And no - you aren't allowed to list the specs from their web site....

 

I used it for my head gaskets and they're still holding.

 

That really doesn't meant a lot. One isolated case does not a statistic make. I noted that I have used mine for (quite possibly a couple dozen) Subaru head gaskets and haven't had a failure - but that doesn't mean the thing is anything like an accurate insturment. Just means it's in the ball-park and I've been lucky.

 

I trust it.

 

I get that you trust it for your own personal use - but would you trust it if you were charging $800 for that head gasket job? Personally - that's too much risk for too little gain. Over the life of the wrench that will amount to pennies against each job. It's just not worth saving $80 to $100 on such a critical measureing device.

 

As I noted above with my little tale about the $25,000 "mistake"..... that was a Snap-On unit. Very high quality. Still broke on us and wasn't at all apparent till we examined the operation of the wrench in detail (the damage was internal).

 

GD

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How do you know this? And no - you aren't allowed to list the specs from their web site....

 

 

 

That really doesn't meant a lot. One isolated case does not a statistic make. I noted that I have used mine for (quite possibly a couple dozen) Subaru head gaskets and haven't had a failure - but that doesn't mean the thing is anything like an accurate insturment. Just means it's in the ball-park and I've been lucky.

 

 

 

I get that you trust it for your own personal use - but would you trust it if you were charging $800 for that head gasket job? Personally - that's too much risk for too little gain. Over the life of the wrench that will amount to pennies against each job. It's just not worth saving $80 to $100 on such a critical measureing device.

 

As I noted above with my little tale about the $25,000 "mistake"..... that was a Snap-On unit. Very high quality. Still broke on us and wasn't at all apparent till we examined the operation of the wrench in detail (the damage was internal).

 

GD

 

I'm allowed to do as I please. I don't need to be interrogated for posting my experience with the tool that was asked about.

I didn't give any advice. Only my own experience and opinion about the tool so the OP could make up their own mind.

I don't think that was out of line.

 

Hook it to one of the older style with the needle and gauge and check when it clicks. Not the most accurate way but it makes me feel better.

I check mine occasionally at 20 and 80 percent of their range.

 

I trust it for more than personal use.

I use it almost daily at work. I use it for jobs that are well over $800.

 

For the record, I wouldn't use any HF torque wrench if I wasn't sure about it's accuracy. My 1/2" is not accurate at all. It stays in the toolbox.

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I'm allowed to do as I please. I don't need to be interrogated for posting my experience with the tool that was asked about.

I didn't give any advice. Only my own experience and opinion about the tool so the OP could make up their own mind.

I don't think that was out of line.

 

Dude! I never said it was out of line - I asked you to tell the board how you check it for accuracy and if you would trust it for a paying job rather than your own personal head gaskets.

 

I'm allowed to do as I please also - which includes challenging people's opinions and asking they explain how they do stuff.

 

Hook it to one of the older style with the needle and gauge and check when it clicks. Not the most accurate way but it makes me feel better.

I check mine occasionally at 20 and 80 percent of their range.

 

You are right that it's better than nothing. But if I were going to do this I would try for a beam-style wrench rather than a dial-indicator wrench as they are easily calibrated (bend the needle arm till it zero's :rolleyes:).

 

I trust it for more than personal use.

I use it almost daily at work. I use it for jobs that are well over $800.

 

I'm just saying that's a risk I'm not willing to take. My former employer bought their own (Snap-On is all they would buy) torque wrenches for the shop to use. As I noted though - the cost of our jobs could not be trusted to a sub-standard insturment.

 

For the record, I wouldn't use any HF torque wrench if I wasn't sure about it's accuracy. My 1/2" is not accurate at all. It stays in the toolbox.

 

Cool - well at least you check the accuracy. All I was saying is that statements to the effect of "It's very accurate" and "I trust it" are pretty vague and useless without some supporting information. The "how" and the "why" were missing.

 

GD

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But if I were going to do this I would try for a beam-style wrench rather than a dial-indicator wrench as they are easily calibrated (bend the needle arm till it zero's :rolleyes:).

 

All I was saying is that statements to the effect of "It's very accurate" and "I trust it" are pretty vague and useless without some supporting information. The "how" and the "why" were missing.

 

GD

 

That's the kind I meant. I didn't know the name for it.

I use a 3/8 drive socket that's meant for 3/8 square fasteners to connect them.

 

A difference of opinion then. I don't think it was useless at all and I didn't think it was necessary to muddle the thread with validations and evidence. The statements were true and I have no interest in convincing someone I'm right. Just presenting my experience and trying to contribute to the forum, since I've gotten plenty of help from it. It can be taken however anyone wants.

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heh.. I knew this would be trouble when I saw the thread open.

 

The same kind of debate has been kicked around on other boards and beat to death.

 

I have used a 3/8" HF click type. I found on mine the click is pretty subtle, and seems sensitive to how it is gripped. Not a good choice for someone that doesn't have a feel for just how far you want to push aluminum threads..

 

The one I own does seem to agree with my Husky 1/2". I confess that I've never taken them in for calibration, so that may be nothing to go by.

 

I've seen some suggest just getting one from a tool rental place. If I were to do that I would be asking the counterman if it had ever been calibrated. I worked at a place that had one on the shelf- when it was brought back, it just went back on the shelf. No thanks.

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Here's my rule about HF: If it has more than one moving part, it'll probably fail you. I bought a torque wrench from HF and it fell apart on some lug nuts. Granted, I'm sure my friend may have used it for a hammer at times.

 

HF is great for jackstands, gloves, and simple machines like pliers, screw drivers and hammers. I just never buy anything from them and expect it to last, however, my 2.5ton floor jack is still holding up after 6 years, but it has a slow leak when there's pressure on it.

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Finally, a use for my physics degree! :banana:

 

Clamp the business end of the torque wrench in a vise, with the handle sticking out flat horizontally. Hang a known weight off the end of the handle. Measure the distance between where it's clamped into the vise and where the dangling weight is. Now you have 'feet' and 'pounds'. Multiply those numbers and you have exactly the foot-pounds of torque at that moment. Well, you have to account for the wrench weight itself, but that is minor, compared to lots of ft-lbs that you are working with.

So, say you want to check the wrench at 50 ft-lbs. Hang a 50 pound sack of sand, 1 foot out from the business end of the wrench, and the clicker should just click, there. You can get more elaborate and hang a 5 gallon bucket out there and start filling it with water until the wrench clicks, then measure the distance and weigh the bucket on a bathroom scale. Now you have feet and pounds. Check that against the setting you had the wrench dialed in to. cnc

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Finally, a use for my physics degree! :banana:

 

Clamp the business end of the torque wrench in a vise, with the handle sticking out flat horizontally. Hang a known weight off the end of the handle. Measure the distance between where it's clamped into the vise and where the dangling weight is. Now you have 'feet' and 'pounds'. Multiply those numbers and you have exactly the foot-pounds of torque at that moment. Well, you have to account for the wrench weight itself, but that is minor, compared to lots of ft-lbs that you are working with.

So, say you want to check the wrench at 50 ft-lbs. Hang a 50 pound sack of sand, 1 foot out from the business end of the wrench, and the clicker should just click, there. You can get more elaborate and hang a 5 gallon bucket out there and start filling it with water until the wrench clicks, then measure the distance and weigh the bucket on a bathroom scale. Now you have feet and pounds. Check that against the setting you had the wrench dialed in to. cnc

 

I love learning new things! Thank you for explaining that it made a perfect picture in my head and now I understand waaaaaay better.. :clap:

 

Hooray for physics!!!

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Finally, a use for my physics degree! :banana:

 

Clamp the business end of the torque wrench in a vise, with the handle sticking out flat horizontally. Hang a known weight off the end of the handle. Measure the distance between where it's clamped into the vise and where the dangling weight is. Now you have 'feet' and 'pounds'. Multiply those numbers and you have exactly the foot-pounds of torque at that moment. Well, you have to account for the wrench weight itself, but that is minor, compared to lots of ft-lbs that you are working with.

So, say you want to check the wrench at 50 ft-lbs. Hang a 50 pound sack of sand, 1 foot out from the business end of the wrench, and the clicker should just click, there. You can get more elaborate and hang a 5 gallon bucket out there and start filling it with water until the wrench clicks, then measure the distance and weigh the bucket on a bathroom scale. Now you have feet and pounds. Check that against the setting you had the wrench dialed in to. cnc

 

Yep, that's how I check mine. It's a HF and it's accurate.

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