What Is a Split Beam Torque Wrench and How Does It Work?
Torque wrenches are the go-to precision tool that most seasoned workshop veterans use to tighten fasteners to the recommended torque specification. If you don’t already own a torque wrench, it is time to add one to your arsenal. You’re probably wondering, “What is a split beam torque wrench?”
While there are several kinds of torque wrenches, each with pros and cons, our topic for discussion today is the most accurate class of torque wrenches: beam-style torque wrenches. Specifically, we’ll cover the split beam torque wrench.
To that end, we have made this in-depth guide talking about everything there is to know about split beam torque wrenches. So, let’s get right to it.
What Is a Beam Torque Wrench?
The traditional beam torque wrench is a favorite amongst automotive enthusiasts for its precision and durability. It is designed with a flexible handle, which flexes and deflects more with increasing torque. And as the name suggests, it has a beam that acts as a plumbline.
It comes with a bulky and somewhat intimidating analog scale attached to the handle, which is calibrated to read applied torque values against handle deflection.
When you turn the torque wrench, the scale shifts with the flexing handle, and the plumbline that stays intact is used as a pointer to read torque values from the scale. Reading this scale is what most beginners have difficulty with, but this is the only pitfall here.
If operated properly, because of its direct use of flex to give torque values, the beam torque wrench yields highly accurate results. It gives results under a 2% accuracy range. Because of its simple design, it is very durable, doesn’t lose its accuracy over time, and is very easy to maintain.
Improved versions of this traditional torque wrench come with a gauge to make reading easier. But reading the scale while tightening and making sure to stop at the required torque specification can be difficult. There could be operating errors even in experienced hands.
This problem was addressed by introducing a new member of the beam torque wrench family: the split beam torque wrench.
What Is a Split Beam Torque Wrench?
Does your job require tightening to exact precision with no error for overtightening? A split beam torque wrench will do it for you. It belongs to the aforementioned beam class of torque wrenches but has several special features that make it the choice of many professionals.
Split beam torque wrenches, like other beam-type torque wrenches, have two beams. One has the handle and acts as the main beam to apply the force, but the second one is connected to the head inside an indicator assembly that reads the torque values.
Additionally, newer split beam torque wrenches come with:
- Adjustment knob with a locking feature, which you can use to set the maximum torque to your desired specification, eliminating any risk of overtightening.
- Clicking feature that informs you with a clicking sound when the desired torque specs have been reached, even without looking at the indicator.
- Push button release mechanism for quick socket swaps.
- High-contrast dial and indicator gauge for easy readability.
The sturdy construction, excellent design, compact form factor, high precision, durability, quick learning curve, and ease of operation of a split beam torque wrench make it one of the most sought-after precision tools amongst experts and many in the automotive industry.
Five Tips to Set and Use a Split Beam Torque Wrench
Beam-type torque wrenches, such as the split beam torque wrench, are generally very accurate, durable, and reliable, but proper handling is necessary to avoid operator errors and get optimum results
Here are five tips to set and use a split beam torque wrench properly:
- Get a set of ratchets, and always ensure that the right size is used for the job.
- Begin only after the fastener has been tightened by hand.
- Make sure that you start with the gauge reading zero and set the required torque spec beforehand. You can check out our detailed guide to learn more about torque settings.
- Remember turning in a clockwise direction tightens (righty-tighty), and turning in a counter-clockwise direction will loosen (lefty-loosey).
- Once you start tightening, keep a watch on the scale or indicator. Once it reaches the proper torque, the job is done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Split Beam Torque Wrenches Accurate?
The split beam torque wrench is a precision tool and is designed to be very accurate. It offers accuracy from +/- 2% to +/- 4% depending on the quality and manufacturer of your precision tool.
Do Split Beam Torque Wrenches Require Calibration?
Yes, most split beam torque wrenches come with two security screws, usually placed near the adjustment knob. One of the screws has an access hole for the adjustment mechanism, which you can use to calibrate the torque wrench.
Should a Torque Wrench Be Set to Zero After Use?
It depends. If a torque wrench is in regular use, it does not need to be wound back. When storing it for extended periods without use, it is recommended by tool manufacturers to wind the torque wrench back to the minimum scale marking (usually 20% of the maximum), not zero, as it adversely impacts the calibration of the wrench.
If you came here asking yourself, “What is a split beam torque wrench?” then we hope this guide has quenched your curiosity.
In essence, if you are looking for a tool to get exact torque with every fastener and you want a long-lasting, durable, easy-to-use, and easy-to-maintain precision tool for the job, a split beam torque wrench is the precision instrument you need.
It comes at a cheaper price point than electronic gauge torque wrenches and offers better precision. Its large torque range (40 to 250 lb/ft) makes it a versatile tool!