Chances are, you’ve never heard of a torque stick. These handy tools are an important addition to your collection when speed and accuracy are needed. Often referred to as a torque limiting extension, torque sticks may quickly become your best friend.
What is a Torque Stick?
These tools literally resemble an extension for your impact wrench. Considering how useful these deceptively simple tools are, it’s likely garages have been keeping the existence of torque bars a secret to ensure you keep coming back. The good news is, this little trade secret’s finally out of the bag.
How do Torque Sticks Work?
A torque stick can be added to your impact gun when tightening a bolt. A socket (heavy duty impact socket) is then attached to the end of the stick. The stick is designed to provide a specific amount of flex. Once the specified amount of torque is reached, the stick will stop flexing and refuse to turn further.
Most torque stick sets are color coded and include an at-a-glance chart, allowing you to quickly grab the stick you need without having to constantly reference torque requirement data. They also eliminate the need for pauses, as an impact wrench torque stick is designed in a way that eliminates the need for mid-project adjustments.
NOTE: Torque sticks are meant to be used with an impact gun and will not limit a torque wrench. However, manual torque wrenches may be used to verify the torque once a suspended vehicle has been lowered to the ground for added safety after using a torque stick and impact wrench.
Are Torque Sticks Accurate?
Because of the way these torque bars are designed, they will never need to be re-calibrated unlike many types of torque wrenches. When used properly, a stick can prove to be quite accurate but if you’re looking for the highest level of accuracy, a torque wrench is recommended.
Speed is the biggest advantage torque sticks offer over torque wrenches. This alone makes them an excellent addition to many garages, although we suggest keeping a torque wrench on-hand for times when clearance is an issue or you need to double-check the torque setting.
Using a Torque Stick
When using a torque stick (or tightening lugs in general), you should always work in a star pattern, slowly tightening each lug to keep even pressure on the entire wheel. Tightening a lug nut too far without spreading the torque is one of the most common causes of poor final torque accuracy.
Best Torque Stick Sets
Now that you know why these obscure tools are so useful, here are a few of the best torque stick sets around to get you started.
This ten piece set of torque bars is constructed of high quality chrome-molybdenum (Cr-Mo) steel and given a matte finish. Each of the 1/2″ drive pieces are eight inches long and color coded for quick reference. The foot-pound torques this set covers are 65, 75, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, and 150.
Built to be durable, you can feel the quality each time you heft one of these extensions. The set is especially well-received in shops where torque wrenches would require frequent adjustments. Best of all, the set comes with a sturdy carrying case so you won’t have to worry about getting these tools dirty or greasy between uses.
While the warranty on these is only for one year, many owners have been using this set with their impact sockets in a professional setting for years without any issue.
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Made of Cr-Mo steel, the set offers coverage for 65, 80, 100, 120, and 140 foot-pound applications. The storage case is extra-sturdy and perfect for your car’s emergency tool stash or a garage tool chest.
These sticks work really well and accurate to within +/- 2-5 pounds of their rated capacity. If you’re hesitant to use these, you can always use a lower capacity stick to tighten to a certain ft-lbs and finish off with a manual torque wrench. You’ll still save a ton of time.
While this smaller set may not be the best for a commercial setting, it’s perfect for the autocross track or drag strip, or simply for swapping out your winter tires for summer ones. This excellent gift idea is covered by a lifetime warranty
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Another small set, this 1/2″ drive, premium impact grade Cr-Mo steel set is designed to take some abuse. The male end has a spring-loaded ball to help ensure secure socket connections. As with the Capri set, the 02450A comes with 65, 80, 100, 120, and 140 foot-pound rated pieces, each with a color coded ring and laser-etched sizes.
There have been some reports of vibration or torque variance with this set, but other users have suggested these issues are related to higher compatibility with certain types of impact gun over others. As noted before, battery-operated impact guns are less accurate than air-powered models when using torque sticks.
Overall, this set is pretty sturdy and gets great results despite the low price tag, making it an excellent set for both first-time and veteran users.
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