How to Torque With A Spanner

How to Torque With A Spanner


In a recent conversation that I had with some of my friends in construction this week, I heard them briefly mention the topic of torquing with a spanner. Since I don’t know much about these topics myself, I decided to do some of my own research to come up with a guide on how to torque with a spanner.

How do you torque with a spanner? In order to torque with a spanner, you will begin by tightening the bolt always with the manual spanner. You will then torque to completion using the torque spanner to finish up the job for the best results.

Once this is done, you will always need to set the dial values on the spanner back to zero in order to relieve the pressure that is being exerted on the tool.

If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you need to apply a certain torque to an object but you do not have a specialized tool to do so with, you might not have thought about using a spanner. Luckily, I have put together all of the information on this topic in an easy guide.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how you can safely and properly torque using a spanner.

How to Torque With A Spanner

When talking about spanners, the term torquing is used most often in reference to powered spanners. The term refers to a measure of the force that can cause an object to rotate about an axis.

Although the term is used in reference to the powered spanners, it is clear from the definition that in order to cause a bolt or a nut to loosen or tighten, it must be made to rotate, even in manual cases.

In this section, we will cover how to properly torque a spanner that is powered and one that is manual. I start with the powered spanners.

How To Torque a Spanner:

  1. Tighten the bolt halfway with the manual spanner
  2. Torque to completion using torque spanner
  3. Set dial values back to zero to relieve pressure on tool

Powered spanners also known as torque spanners/wrenches are strictly tightening tools. They offer great precision when tightening bolts or nuts, but should never be used to loosen bolts. In other words, these tools are very sensitive.

In using a torque spanner one should always use just one hand and apply constant and steady pressure. There are usually indications on where pressure should be applied to torque.

Due to the fact that the torque spanner is very sensitive in nature, you should always avoid using extension pipes with it. Doing so may prevent the set pressure value from being correctly signaled.

Although torque spanners generally prevent over-tightening, it is still possible to do so. Once the set value for tightening has been reached, the torque spanner produces a clicking sound. If the device is not removed, then over tightening will already have occurred.

When this happens, the correct course of action is to loosen the nut or bolt and to tighten it again. On the same note, it is equally important to read the object manufacturer’s details to ensure that you tighten the bolts to the exact specifications.

One should always tighten bolts in two steps.

Preferably, you should tighten a bolt halfway first using a manual spanner. After you can torque to completion using the torque spanner. When done you should set the dials value back to zero to relieve the pressure on the torque wrench and to keep it calibrate.

Manual spanners come in many different shapes and sizes. However there are a few general guidelines to consider when manually torquing using these devices.

Safety Precautions To Remember:

  • Choose the right tools
  • Place jaws in direct contact with nut/bolt before applying pressure
  • Apply force in pull direction (not push) to prevent injuries
  • Use the heel of your hand to push the spanner
  • Use a longer shaft if needed
  • Do not hit spanner
  • Never use a damaged spanner

Initially, as a precaution always make sure you chose the right tool for the job. Once again, manual spanners come in many different shapes and sizes and are highly specialized.

Before applying pressure on a spanner, always make sure that the jaws are in complete contact with the nut or bolt.This may go a long way in preventing injury and wearing of the bolts.

The force applied when torquing should always be in a pull direction rather than a push. This prevents injury.

In other words, position yourself in such a manner that you are pulling on the spanner rather than pushing.In circumstances where pushing is the only way to go, do so using the heel of your hand.

When torquing manually avoid using leverage. There are several reasons for this caution. First of all, the added torque generated by the leverage may bend the spanners shaft.

Secondly, the added torque may round the edges of the bolt. Thirdly leverages such as cheater bars may slip, rewarding you with a trip to the emergency room. Instead of using leverage, use a spanner with a longer shaft to get the job done.

On a similar note, avoid hitting your spanner to add more torque. The concentrated energy absorbed by only one part of the spanners shaft may lead to its damage or even breakage. If desired tightening is not achieved through conventional manual spanners, invest in a torque spanner.

Lastly, as a precautionary measure, you should never use damaged spanners to torque. The tool that you are using should always be in tact before you put it to use.

What Else Can Spanners Be Used For?

In general, all tools must be used for their intended purpose.This prevents personal injury and any damage to the machines and equipment that are in use.

Spanners are used for tightening or loosening bolts or nuts by applying torque force. Even though that is their primary use, spanners are highly specialized and matched to many specific types of applications.

In this section, we will be going over some common types of spanners as well as their individual uses. Take a look at the detailed list below to discover these tools.

Types Of Spanners And Uses:

  • Adjustable Spanner

This kind of spanner has an open end used to attach to the bolt or nut. However unlike other spanners, it is adjustable, hence its popularity. With this spanner it is possible to turn many size bolts and nuts because at the open end it has a screw that can be turned to adjust the distance between the bottom pincer and the top pincer.

  • Hex Key Spanner

This is a male type spanner, meaning it inserts into the bolt or nut to be turned. Hex Key spanners come in T-shape and L-shape variants. They come in  different sizes depending on the size of the object to be turned.

  • Box-Ended Spanner

These spanners, usually female in type, have depressed loops at both ends, so as to be able to turn nuts in a hollow space without rounding them off. The loops at each end are usually of different sizes and may fit either square or hexagonal bolts. They are often sold in sets.

  • Combination Spanner

This spanner is a cross-breed of the open-ended and box-ended spanner. On one end there is a U-shaped opening, while on the other, a closed loop.

It serves to loosen very tight nuts. The closed loop, which usually has more contact points, loosens the nut while the open ended side, which can inserted and removed with more ease, removes the nut quickly.

  • Crowfoot Spanner

This is a specialized form of an open-ended spanner. Interestingly it doesn’t come with a handle. Being handle-less it can be used to access deeper placed nuts since at its base it has an opening to insert a vertical handle.

  • Impact Spanner

This spanner resembles a power drill. The similarity arises because this type of spanner is powered.

It comes in two variations air impact and cordless impact. The former uses compressed air to increase torque while the latter uses a replaceable battery. They are especially useful in operations where many nuts need to be loosened and/or tightened.

  • Lug Spanner

You may commonly find this type of spanner in your car repair kit. It is responsible for removing the nuts on your car’s wheels when you intend to replace your tire. These spanners come in either L-shape or cross shape variants.

The L-shape variant may come with an open-ended opening on one end and a loop opening on the other. The cross shaped variant commonly comes with four socket type ends on each of the four ends.

  • Oil Filter Spanner

Another spanner that you can find in your car repair kit is the Oil Filter spanner. As the name suggests, this spanner is used to change a cars oil filter. It comes in four different shapes depending on the model of the car. The first has a loop and a handle. These come in two variants; the chain loop and the metal loop.

When the loop is adjusted it clumps the oil filter, allowing you to turn the oil filter loose or tight.

The next is known as a claw spanner  which functions similarly to the adjustable spanner. When adjusted, the bottom pincer moves closer to the top pincer thus hooking the oil filter.

The last is a socket-style filter spanner. It essentially looks like a cup with an opening to attach a vertical handle that can then be used to twist the oil filter loose or tight.

  • Open-Ended Spanner

This is one of the most common type of spanner. They come with two U-shaped socket type openings on each side, which are often of different sizes.

Although they may come in handy when dealing with nuts that are hard to access, because they have a less secure fit than the close-ended variant, they are more liable to round of the edges of the nuts.

  • Pipe Spanner

This one is often used by plumbers. It resembles and functions much like the adjustable spanner. While the latter is used for nuts this one is used by plumbers on pipes and fittings. It is sturdier and has grooved pincers.

  • Ratcheting Spanner

This one is a cross between a combination spanner and a ratcheting end. As the comparison suggests, it has an open ended side, and a closed ended side with a ratcheting mechanism that allows the user to tighten or loosen nuts without having to remove the spanner each time. This allows for efficiency and ease.

  • Socket Spanner

This spanner is of the male variation. That means that it is inserted in a nut or bolt as opposed to attaching around them. Unlike the hex key, which is also of the male variant, this one has a ratcheting mechanism that allows the user to remove nuts or bolts more efficiently.

  • Torque Spanner

The torque spanner  has similarities with the impact spanner. Both spanners are powered, in order to apply more torque. The two fundamental differences between the two devices are that the torque spanner is not indiscriminate in the amount of torque it provides.

To allow for precision one can set the precise amount of torque needed to adjust a given bolt. Secondly, it is smaller and more nimble than an impact spanner.

Spanners Vs. Wrenches

Spanners and wrenches are essentially the same and for the most part, meaning they do the same thing.

Spanners And Wrenches:

  • Loosen/tighten objects
  • Usually work with nuts and bolts
  • Work as levers
  • Grooves at mouth openings to provide grip
  • Tools are turned at right angle to do so

In definition, a spanner and wrench is a hand-operated tool whose function is to loosen or tighten nuts or bolts. The science behind such tools is that they work as levers. These tools have grooves at their mouths, or openings, which when attached to a specific nut or bolt and turned at a right angle, either loosen or tighten it.

Nowadays, they are highly specialized to the type, size and function of the nut or bolt. Like most other tools, the invention of the spanner and wrench is a rocky one, to be honest.

Some suggest that an African American man by the name Jack Johnson was the first to invent this tool. In fact they go on to say that it is because of his racial background that the common wrench known as the monkey wrench got its name.

Historians have however disputed those opinions, because there are citations of the term ‘monkey wrench’ being used even before Johnson’s time. In actuality, not only is the monkey wrench not the first wrench to be invented, but it was actually invented by a man named Charles Monchy, a mechanic in Baltimore around 1858.

Solymon Merrick first invented the wrench in Springfield, Massachusetts, which is where the American term wrench comes from. Merrick was awarded a patent for this tool as early as 1835.

The history of the tool’s invention, however, does not shed light on the semantic difference between the tool in North American and the U.K. The question still remains; Why do the North Americans call the tool a wrench and the British a spanner?

The term wrench, derivative of old English wrencan, means to turn or bend. On the other hand, the term spanner derivative of old English spannan means to join, link, clasp, fasten, bind, connect; stretch or span.

Therefore, since both words mean almost exactly the same thing, and are used in basically the exact same way, then perhaps the difference in their usage occurs merely as a matter of chance.

As mentioned earlier in this section, there are many different, specialized kinds of wrenches and spanners. In addition to these differences, the distinction between the two tools lies in how they are used.

In conclusion, torquing with spanners can either be done manually or automatically with powered spanners as needed.

While doing this, care should be taken when torquing to avoid personal injury and harm to the machine. Spanners are primarily used to tighten or loosen bolts and nuts in normal circumstances.

As such, these tools must be used for their appropriate purpose for the best results and optimum safety, although it is possible to torque with these tools as well given that all proper safety precautions are being taken.

Spanners and wrenches come in many shapes and sizes and are specialized in different applications. While there is no difference between a wrench and a spanner when it comes to their uses, the difference in terminology is merely semantic, as you now know.

With the help of the steps and safety tips that were outlined in this article, you will be on your way to torquing with a spanner quickly and efficiently in no time.

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