Dear Tom and Ray:
My father taught me a lot about cars by having me do the work while he "supervised." I don't remember how old I was, maybe 8 or 10, but I was young enough that I had to stand on a crate to reach over the hood to the engine. The lesson of the day was how to change spark plugs in the old family Chevy. I was determined to show my dad how "big and strong" I was, so I cranked on the plug probably more than he thought I could at my young age. As he was standing there smoking his pipe and watching, I snapped that baby off in the block. He never yelled, just kept looking at the engine, and finally said, "Run in and tell your mother we'll be a little late for dinner." That started the next lesson, on how to use a torque wrench (he spared me the task of extracting the old plug and fixing what I had done). I am now 53 years old, my dad is long gone, and I still have the torque wrenches of my dad's that I made sure I got when he passed. They have been treated with respect, and are both the "bar" type and the "clicking" adjustable type. Can I still trust them? Is there any way to check or calibrate them? I still get emotional every time I use them, remembering my dad and the many automotive lessons he taught me. But I know he would be upset to learn that I was using a tool that was no longer fit for the job. Thanks for any advice you can offer.
TOM: Your dad sounds like a wonderful, patient man, Jim. My dad was like that, too -- until my brother came along.
RAY: You have two different types of torque wrenches, Jim. The old "bar and pointer" type were never extremely accurate. But the good news is that they almost never went out of calibration from where they started. And they're good enough for most automotive work. So I think you can continue to use those for things like spark plugs and wheel nuts.
TOM: Right. If you were writing to us about working on your Exelon pressurized water nuclear reactor, we might be concerned. But your bar-and-pointer-style torque wrenches probably are still fine.
RAY: The "click" type are more accurate, but they can go out of calibration over time. Those should be recalibrated if you're doing any kind of precise work.
TOM: If you go online and search on Google for "torque wrench calibration," you'll find a number of labs that you can send your wrenches to. They'll recalibrate them and send them back to you.
RAY: There are even some that will come to your house or place of business and do the calibration on the spot. And since your wrenches are irreplaceable and have great sentimental value, you might want to do that, rather than take the chance of having them get lost in transit somewhere.
TOM: You also can ask at a good local auto-parts store. They may have somebody nearby whom they recommend. Then you can stand over him, and make sure he doesn't mess with Dad's torque wrenches. Good luck, Jim.