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Changing the range of a torque wrench.
Adjustment correction when using extensions.


Copyright, 2014, R. Fleischer

There are only a few places on an BMW Airhead motorcycle that require torque settings over 72 foot-pounds.   Common ones that are over 72 foot-pounds are the transmission output flange center nut; the ring nut & input nut on the rear drive, & the exhaust finned nuts.   The swing arm locking nuts can be 72 to 75 ftlbs, not critical. The finned exhaust nuts should be done by feel (IMO).  I do NOT torque them as tight as the factory says.   Cheap beam wrenches are adequate for most higher torque areas.  NEVER use a cheap beam wrench for the cylinder stud nuts or other critical places.

It is possible to increase the torque from a common tubular clicker type wrench, which is the type most Airhead owners have.   It is also possible to increase the range of a beam wrench.  These all done the same basic way.

In a few instances (one being the driveshaft U-joint bolts at the transmission output), unless you are doing the tightening by feel (in that instance, a 'good grunt' on a 6 inch long box end wrench) you will need to use a special or modified wrench, and when you do that, and decide to use a torque wrench with it, the extension, if used straight out, will multiply the torque shown on the torque wrench by a factor.   You CAN set the extension at 90 and avoid any mathematical corrections.  BUT, if the wrench is used straight-out, then you must compensate for the added leverage, by setting the torque wrench to a lower value than the specification.  Under no circumstances should you ever use an extension at anything but either straight-out, or, 90.

This article explains how to use an extension for the purpose of INcreasing the range of any torque wrench; and, this article also explains how to use an extension for such as the U-joint flange bolts, where you simply cannot get a torque wrench withOUT an extension to fit properly, due to the limited room between the bolt and the U-joint body.

Note that you might have just one torque wrench, say one that reads to 75 or 100 foot-pounds, and you desire to increase its operation to much higher.  That is also easy to do with the proper length extension!  In order to increase the output of a torque wrench beyond its maximum setting, you must increase the leverage.  This is done by EXTENDING the working end of the torque wrench...and NEVER by extending the handle in ANY way.   In most instances the EXTENSION is used straight out, that is, parallel, in-line, with the wrench.   A calculation you may need is how much the torque is INcreased.  TYPICALLY, however, you will just want to know how to set the torque wrench for a specific torque value.  

In the instance of such as the U-joint bolts, you are LIKELY to not be interested in extending the torque wrench beyond its maximum setting; rather, you are interested in calculating what setting to use on the torque wrench, for a specified actual torque on the bolt. 

Nearly the very same process and calculations are used for both of these ideas.

Beam type torque wrench design ASSUMES that the point of pressure is a 'pivot' point that is centered under your hand.  Many of these types have an actual pivot, that the outer handle is affixed to; that is, the handle moves angularly a bit.  Some do not. The center of the hand applied force is assumed, however, and in every instance I know of, it is the CENTER OF THE HANDLE LENGTH.  In some instances the owners manual tells you there is a mark of some sort on the handle, used for measuring purposes, such as you will now learn in this article.

Tubular 'clicker' torque wrench design is different for SOME types, but the assumption remains for that same pivot point, whether it an actual pivot, or effective pivot point....or not.


1.  Measure the distance in INCH MEASUREMENT from the middle of the handle (so-called handle pivot
     point) to the center of the 1/4" or 3/8" or 1/2" square male drive.   Write down the measurement,
     call that measurement "L".

2.  Measure the distance of the extension, from the center of the drive to the center of the output. The
     extension output could be a square drive or could be a hex, such as the box end of a box end wrench,
     etc).    As in the previous measurement, do it in inch measurement.  Write that down. Call that
     measurement "E".

THINK!!      With the torque wrench added extension extended straight-out, whatever READING YOU
on the torque wrench MUST BE LOWER than the ACTUAL applied torque that you want!!  
     RESTATING: This means that in setting the wrench for a specific torque you want to apply to a
     bolt or nut, the torque wrench must be set to LESS than the value the books or literature ask
     for, since the straight-out extension is a multiplying factor, it gives more leverage.

4.  Most commonly you want to know what setting to use on a torque wrench to get some specific torque, when using an extension.

     The torque you wish to apply is found by dividing L into the sum of L + E and then applying the result
     as a correction factor.

       L + E
     Example:   You want to torque the U-joint 10 mm bolts.  The value of torque you want is 26 ftlbs. You
                      measure your torque wrench from the center of the handle to the center of the 3/8" square
                      drive & find it to be 12.75 inches, that is L.  You are using an adapter/extension that is
                      being used straight out from the torque wrench, just as in the example sketch.  The
                      center-to-center of that extension is 1.5 inches.   E is then 1.5".

      L + E is 14.25.   Dividing that by L gives you 1.118, rounded.      THAT is the correction factor!

      You WANT 26 foot-pounds, so, divide 26 by the 1.118 correction factor.  The answer is 23 foot-pounds
      to be set on the wrench.

If you use the torque wrench with E (extension) at 90 to the torque wrench, you do not need calculations.  This usage can be awkward however.

Calculations can be done to calibrate your wrench using a known weight.  Those weights used with gym barbells are fine for this, hang, slowly releasing the weight pressure, from a rope from the handle center, square drive locked into a vice, handle horizontal.



07/16/2006:  Slightly revised for clarity
06/13/2011:  Because of three math-challenged folks who have contacted me; I have revised this article
10/06/2012:  Add QR code; add language button; update Google Ad-Sense code; simplify article once
                    more, clarify a few details.
10/19/2012:  Revise some for clarity.  Remove one multiplying formula, condense and clarify methods, add
2013:  language button removed due to javascript problems.
08/16/2015:  Clarify a few details, and make the example one for a very common TW and common aftermarket
03/05/2016:  Update meta-codes and layout.

Copyright, 2014, R. Fleischer

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Last edit of THIS page: Tuesday, April 26, 2016