Torque Sticks – What Are They and Do I Need One?

When you mention a torque stick to the average mechanic, you tend to get one of two responses: “Yeah I love those things!” or “What is a torque stick?”

While some old-school mechanics may stick by the idea of the “hand tightened lug nut,” the truth is that hand tools simply aren’t the best option for meeting lug nut torque specifications. While a good torque wrench is most commonly used, there’s actually another option.

Here, we’ll take a look at the value of torque sticks and discover how they can make a mechanic’s job much, much easier.

How Do Torque Sticks Work?

Torque sticks, also referred to as a “torque limiting extension bar,” are an extension for your impact wrench, and they basically act like a shock absorber. They work on a torsion theory, which is just a fancy way of saying they flex at a certain rate, then stop applying torque when they reach a specified flex point.

Don’t let the simple design of the torque stick fool you – this handy little tool can make a big impact for busy mechanics. Not only will a good torque stick help you avoid over-tightening lug nuts, you’ll also see a few critical benefits, including:

  • Speed – Perhaps the biggest benefit of a torque stick is that they are very quick to use, allowing mechanics to significantly speed up a project without sacrificing quality or safety. Almost all torque stick sets include an easy-to-use color-coded chart that tells you which stick is needed, without having to look up separate torque requirements. This handy feature lets you grab the right stick, plug it onto your impact wrench, and go.
  • Accuracy – When used correctly, a quality torque stick offers mechanics a high level of precision and accuracy. Keep in mind, though, that it’s considered best practice to double check the torque settings with a torque wrench once the vehicle is on the ground. Remember, safety is your first priority!
  • Convenience – Few things are more frustrating than having to stop multiple times during your project to change tools or make adjustments. It can really hurt your concentration and interrupt the flow of your work. A good set of torque sticks lets you choose the option you need and run smoothly through the entire lug nut tightening process.

Who Needs a Torque Stick?

Simply put, torque sticks are a great addition to any mechanic’s toolbox, right alongside your impact wrench.

Note: torque sticks are designed only for use with impact guns; they will not limit your torque with hand tools.)

If you do a lot of wheel work on a regular basis, investing in a good quality set of torque sticks will have a huge pay off for you. You’ll be able to finish tightening your lug nuts much faster, without sacrificing quality or safety.

Torque sticks are very simple to use, but keep in mind that they are not foolproof. As with any tool, please be sure to follow the usage guidelines carefully. Improper use can lead to problems like loose lug nuts, broken wheel studs, or even warped brake rotors.

How to Find the Best Torque Stick

Interestingly enough, many mechanics have found that buying the most expensive torque sticks doesn’t always give you the best quality tool.

To find the best quality torque sticks for your projects, look for the following features:

  • Torque settings – Most torque stick sets cover 65, 80, 100, 120, and 140 foot pounds. If you tend to work on special projects, make sure the set you choose covers the settings you need.
  • Fastener types/sizes – Some sticks were designed to fit only a single size fastener, which means you may need to buy multiple sets to work with all of your projects. Instead, we recommend finding a set with universal fittings, which should work with any impact gun you may buy in the future.
  • Color-coded system – Look for sticks that are color coded and engraved with the torque setting values, so you can quickly find the stick you need and you’ll never have to guess if you’re using the right setting.
  • Accuracy ratings – Before buying a set, do a quick search for review from other mechanics, to make sure it produces accurate results. While most torque sticks on the market are extremely accurate, some brands can fall short on this important feature.
  • Carrying case – Many sets come packaged in a quality case that makes it easier to keep your sticks organized, move them around the shop without losing one, and store them in your toolbox.

Here are a couple of good torque stick sets we recommend:

To learn more about torque sticks and how they can help with your next tire project, check out this video:

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