Torque them wheel bolts!

Harbor fright or fruit or whatever sells a torque wrench for $10 – $15 that you can use to make sure your lug bolts are properly set. There is some debate about cheap and so on but it appears that the HF wrench is reasonably accurate and can be considered disposable compared to the usual $100 medium and $300 pro models.

Scott, on the Ford Trucks discussion forum posted what looks like some good advice for Torque Wrench Users:

Here’s what the Air Force taught us missile maintenance techs about proper torque wrench use:

1. Store torque wrenches in a warm environment (preferably in a container) – cold affects accuracy. …

2. Always store them at their lowest torque setting.

3. “Exercise” them at their lowest torque setting before applying necessary torque. If using a “clicker”, click it through it’s lowest setting at least 4 times before setting at needed torque and applying that torque. …

4. The lowest 20% of the torque range is the least accurate. If you need to torque a fastener at 20 ft. lbs, don’t use a 20-150 ft. lb torque wrench – …

5. If you drop the torque wrench on a hard surface (like concrete), it is advisable to have it recalibrated. Of course, distance dropped will be a factor – try to never drop your torque wrenches.

6. Avoid using extension bars – this will affect the accuracy of the applied torque.

7. Always apply torque in a smooth, jerk-free manner – this also affects torque accuracy.

I usually “double-click” but not in rapid succession – for instance, if I’m torquing lug-nuts, I’ll click once on each, then recheck the torque again after I’ve torqued the last one – IMO, double-clicking will NOT over-torque, because the torque-wrench is designed to release at a preset torque value – so if it released (clicked) at 45 ft-lbs, the first time, it will immediately release when torquing pressure is applied the second or subsequent times without providing additional torque – UNLESS you do it in a jerking motion, in which case, you may indeed apply torque beyound the click. Once it’s clicked and you keep applying pressure, you’re basically holding a breaker bar instead of a torque wrench, that’s why it’s important to apply the torque smoothly and slowly – let the wrench do what it’s supposed to do.

Your lug bolts will probably need a 3/4 or 13/16 inch socket for a half inch drive ratchet. It might be a good idea to pick up a half inch socket set at HF with the torque wrench as this will have the lug bolt socket as well as some sizes you might need for your hitch bolts.

Odds are that you will still need a special socket for the ball nut and that that socket will be for 3/4 drive. That one, and a socket for the hub nut to use when doing bearings might be worth adding to the socket set with the appropriate adapters, too.

By this time, the standard socket set, half inch drive set, torque wrench, plus special sockets gets to be a rather extensive toolkit to carry around. The inexpensive kits work well to keep in the garage for occasional use but probably aren’t really needed for you to carry on the road.

On the road, you can check lug bolt tightness with a simple tug on a standard spare tire lug wrench. A good sized (12″ or so) crescent wrench will usually take care of any big bolt emergencies. So plan on what to take with you for what you will need and feel comfortable using. Then get good roadside assistance insurance. Odds are pretty good that your RV friends on the road – even the ones you never met before – will be able to help you out if you need help to take care of an unexpected contingency.

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