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Tool Time: Precision Instruments

Posted in How To on December 11, 2013
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Split Beam Torque Wrench Photo 68812764 Split-Beam-Torque-Wrench

Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Craig Perronne

It was a frustrating experience to say the least as our torque wrench decided to take a permanent vacation at the most inopportune time. An internal mechanism failed and the wrench would simply, and quite hopelessly, rotate without applying any torque. Adding to the frustration was that this particular wrench was a relatively fresh replacement for an identical one that had failed a year earlier. Further throwing fuel on the proverbial fire was that we now knew from the previous failure that the famous “lifetime warranty” that this brand was so well known for did not apply to its torque wrenches. Swear words were colorfully strewn together and said wrench was hurled at the garage wall. The saying goes “you get what you pay for,” and honestly, we didn’t pay a lot for our busted-up torque wrench. Looking to upgrade, we began to explore options but, being more hobbyist than professional, we didn’t want to make the financial commitment that such high-end brands like Snap-On require. However, we didn’t just want to keep replacing wrenches every couple of years either. Surely a middle ground had to exist.

Our search led us to Precision Instruments and their line of torque wrenches. A rather specialized company, Precision Instruments was founded in 1938, manufacturing what was the first torsion-bar-style torque wrench. Since then, the company has expanded both in size and in its offerings, but has not strayed from its torque wrench roots. Remarkably, the company only manufactures torque wrenches and some closely related products. Also, for the utmost in quality control, it monitors all aspects and processes of building its tools from start to finish at its plant in Des Plaines, Illinois.

For us, all of those aspects were major pluses, and Precision Instruments even reportedly used to make torque wrenches for Snap-On before offering them for sale to the public. With pricing just right without being excessive for a quality tool and positive reviews online, we plunked down the coin for a C3FR250F split-beam click torque wrench. This particular model features a torque range from 40-250 lb-ft along with a flex-head design in a ½-inch drive. The split beam can also be had in a fixed-head with sizes ranging from 3/8-inch all the way to 1-inch drivers. While some might confuse a split-beam clicker with a cheaper beam torque wrench, they are quite different in design. Just like a micrometer wrench, the split beam clicks when it reaches the desired torque setting. However, its main advantages are that is has fewer moving parts and is less sensitive to being dropped, making it ideal for getting tossed around our garage. It also doesn’t have to be reset to zero after every use, and there is no need to break it in before using it either. Another plus, for those who use torque wrenches a lot at high torque settings, is that you don’t have to work against the pressure of an internal spring to set it.

Upon receiving the C3FR250F the very first thing we noticed was its weight. This is no plastic-shod junk torque wrench, but an all-metal monster. The only non-metal part is the handle, which is a combination of plastic and softer, more rubbery feeling material in the grip. While we haven’t used it long enough to comment on its durability, its construction definitely appears stout. It also gives a nice audible click and is extremely easy to adjust. We expect to get years of service out of it, and the C3FR250F can be found for right around $150 online.

Adjusting for different Torque levels is as easy as rotating a dial and the C3FR250F does not need to be reset to zero .

Precision Instruments Photo 67322515 Adjusting for different Torque levels is as easy as rotating a dial and the C3FR250F does not need to be reset to zero .
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