Dirt bikes require a lot of maintenance, and the tool that you will be using the most is a torque wrench. Whether you're simply tightening your seat bolts after cleaning your air filter, or carrying out more complicated tasks like replacing engine bolts after a rebuild, a torque wrench is essential.
I've lost count of how many sheared off bolts I've had to remove for riding buddies over the years. I even made the mistake of guessing torques myself in the beginning, and I paid the price of snapping an engine bolt, and stripping the thread off a head bolt.
When this happens the bolts are super difficult to remove, and you might even end up paying somebody else to remove it for you. So a quality dirt bike torque wrench is a worthy investment for any riders tool box, and it could save you a lot of money in the long run.
The torque wrench I'm currently using is the Bike Hand digital torque wrench (link to Amazon). Check it out at the link, or keep reading to find out more about torque wrenches, and why I'm using this particular one.
What is a torque wrench?
I don't expect everyone to know what a torque wrench is.. In fact, most riders are unfamiliar with them, and they guess their torques until the unthinkable happens.
A torque wrench is similar to a regular wrench, but it has a mechanism inside that lets you know when you've reached the desired amount of force. It's basically used to help you gauge how much force you are using to tighten a nut or bolt.
When you work with regular wrenches, spanners, or allen keys, there's no way of knowing exactly how much force you're applying to that tiny bolt. Most of us use far too much force rather than too little, and this very often leads to damaged tools and bolts, and could leave you with a sheared bolt that is very difficult to remove.
When to use a torque wrench
If you look at your workshop manual, or the service and maintenance section of your dirt bike's user manual, you'll see that there isn't a single bolt that doesn't have a specified torque setting.
With this in mind, you should be using a torque wrench for all of your repairs and maintenance.
If you don't have a user manual then you really need to get one, or you won't know what torque setting to use. Most manufacturers will let you download the manual for free from their website.
CHOOSING A TORQUE WRENCH FOR DIRT BIKE REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
Looking at the manual you'll see that some of the nuts and bolts require a very low amount of force to tighten them, these are usually the smaller nuts and bolts, and the bigger nuts and bolts require a much higher torque.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to find a torque wrench that will cater for both low and high torque settings, so you'll need to buy two.
For example, engine cover bolts only require about 4-5 Nm of force, so you will need to get a torque wrench that covers the lower range. But a torque wrench that works for values this low will only be suitable for torques up to about 25 Nm, and will not stretch to the higher values required for wheels etc, which will require forces of up to 130 Nm.
The majority of nuts and bolts will be in the lower torque range, and these are the the ones that are most likely to shear. So if you can only afford one torque wrench at the moment, then make the lower range a priority.
The most important things to look for in a dirt bike torque wrench:
- Make sure it covers the lower values: you'll find that 2-25 Nm is the most common torque range you'll find on dirt bikes. A torque wrench that covers this range will be suitable for the majority of maintenance you'll be carrying out.
- Digital display: this isn't essential, but I've found this type of torque wrench to be much more accurate than mechanical wrenches. They're also easier to use, and they have more options; like storing torque settings, and switching between different torque units.
- A backlit display: if you decide to buy a torque wrench with a digital readout, be sure that it also has a backlit display. When you're assembling your dirt bike in a dim garage, or if you need to make a repair in a dark forest in the middle of an enduro you'll be glad of it.
- Various torque units: I've found that different dirt bike manufacturers quote torque settings in many different units in their manuals. This is why I always look for a torque wrench that has more than one option - the more the better. This way you won't have to buy a new wrench every time you get a different dirt bike. Digital torque wrenches always have more options than mechanical ones. Look for the most common torque measurement units: Nm, Kg-cm, lb-ft, and lb-in.
RECOMMENDED TORQUE WRENCHES FOR DIRT BIKES
Torque wrench options for the lower values
Whether you're heading out to hit the trails, or spending a day at the track, you'll want to take a torque wrench. Bicycle torque wrenches are a perfect option as they're small, and they cover the lower values.
There's quite a few different types to choose from, but I always prefer to use the digital type as they offer a nice clear display, with a much more precise readout. Digital torque wrenches do tend to be more expensive than the mechanical type, but if you cheap out you'll inevitably loose quality and accuracy.
I chose the bikehand digital torque wrench (link to amazon) as its torque range goes down to 1.25 Nm and stretches to 25 Nm. This makes it perfect for the most common nuts and bolts on your dirt bike. It's small and compact, so it easily fits in enduro fender bags etc, and the digital readout is accurate to +/- 3%.
Digital torque wrench adapter: if you're looking for a cheaper alternative to a digital torque wrench, a digital torque wrench adapter will fit onto the end of a regular wrench or ratchet.
These will work for many of your dirt bike assembly and maintenance needs, but beware that they will lengthen the wrench. This means they may not fit into smaller spaces. Take a look at them on Amazon HERE.
Standard click wrench: a common torque wrench option is the click-wrench type. You set the wrench with a rotating handle, and during tightening it will click or slip when you have reached the desired torque.
Click wrenches can be cheaper than the digital types, but they will loose their accuracy much quicker, so you will need to send it off for regular calibration.
Beam and pointer type wrenches: I recommend that you avoid beam and pointer torque wrenches for dirt bike assembly. If they are used on the lower range of torque settings they will be very inaccurate. Beam and pointer torque wrenches are most commonly used in the automotive industry.
Torque wrench options for the higher values
Things like wheel nuts, swingarm nuts, suspension bolts, and most nuts and bolts of 8 mm and above usually require more force.
I mentioned that you will need to get yourself a second torque wrench to use on the bolts that fall outside of the range that the smaller wrenches cover.
You'll want a much stronger wrench to cope with the higher forces, so you'll need to step up to a 1/2" drive. Remember that accuracy is just as important on the larger nuts and bolts, but this second wrench will be used much less, so you may want to spend a bit less and try an analogue type.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR DIRT BIKE TORQUE WRENCH
It's important to keep your dirt bike torque wrench functioning reliably and accurately, so it's important to look after it. Follow these tips to keep your wrench happy:
- When it's not being used, always store it in its protective case to help avoid any damage.
- Avoid dropping it, throwing it around, or using it as a hammer! A simple knock can both damage the wrench, or put it out of calibration. This will lead to inaccurate tightening of nuts and bolts, which could lead to them shearing off, or even loosening while riding.
- For click type torque wrenches, always release the tension by turning it anti-clockwise after use. If you leave the torque wrench under tension for extended periods, it can weaken the mechanism, resulting in loss of accuracy.
- Be sure to send your torque wrench off for calibration periodically, especially if you believe it's become inaccurate. Or if you'd rather, you can also calibrate it yourself quite easily. When it comes to dirt bikes, correctly torqued bolts are very important, so always do your best to keep the wrench functioning accurately.
- Use the torque wrench for tightening bolts only! Never be tempted to use it for loosening bolts, always have a regular wrench, allen keys, and spanners handy.
Go get your torque wrench!
You should now have a better understanding of what a torque wrench does, and when to use one. A torque wrench is a super important tool for your tool kit, so be sure to use one whenever you need to replace a nut or bolt.
When you have your torque wrench, GO HERE to find more tools and essentials for your tool kit.