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At Pickens Technical College, you’ll learn to use all the tools at your disposal to do your job effectively and efficiently. Of course, using the right tools the right way in the right situations is only part of the story of being a professional in any field, so before we get too far into using the magnificent torque wrench to loosen stubborn screws and bolts on motorcycles, let’s go over the Motorcycle Technician program at PTC one more time.

Instructor Tom Laing sees it as his mission to put his students in a position to succeed in many job positions within the motorcycle technician field at many different skill levels. Laing has been a PTC instructor for 16 years and worked in the industry for 14 years before that. He has experience working in all parts of the American and Metric Motorcycle dealership, mostly as a line mechanic and a service manager.

Most recently, Laing was recognized as PTC’s Advisor of the Year in 2017 for his work with his students in the Skills-USA Student Organization. He has taken students to multiple Motorcycle Technology competitions at the local, state, and national levels, and his students have finished in the top ten every year at the national level from 2001 to 2016.

Laing loves to teach his students how to solve problems for customers by knowing which tool to use in which situation. For stubborn screws and bolts that are difficult to remove with a common screwdriver, motorcycle technicians use the torque wrench.

Chances are if you think you’ve never seen a torque wrench before, you probably have. Torque wrenches usually have long handles and a box of differently-sized screw settings designed to handle different kinds of screws and bolts. Usually, you can take these screw fittings off and on with a small switch either on the wrench handle or on its head.

Some torque wrenches have ‘torque settings’ on the handle, allowing you to choose how tight you want the bolts to be. You might think that the tighter the better for things like tires and other key parts of motorcycles, but most amateurs tend to overtighten these bolts, causing broken bolts, stripped screw and bolt threads, and damaged equipment. Overtightening is so common, in fact, that many torque wrenches make clicking noises when they reach your desired torque or when they are simply tight enough. Torque wrenches usually come in four types: clickers, bending beams, dual beams, and digital. All have their own mechanisms (with varying accuracy) for avoiding overtightening. Dual-beam and digital wrenches are the most accurate, but also by far the most expensive.

When untightening and re-tightening lug nuts on a wheel, for example, the best way to avoid damage or overtightened nuts is to spin the lug nuts back on the stud (a threaded screw-like place where the wheel attaches and is held on by the lug nut) by hand, then tighten down with the torque wrench. Laing and his fellow motorcycle technicians warn users to avoid coating the stud with grease. This is unnecessary to get the lug nut to turn with a torque wrench and can cause premature loosening.

Obviously, if you want the full story of how to use a torque wrench properly to work on your own bike, or to use it professionally, you’ll need to see Laing himself in the motorcycle shop.