Rail moved $184 billion dollars worth of freight in the U.S.A. in 2017. Veining all throughout the nation, our rail lines provide channels for the lifeblood of our country. Rail moves goods from a broad range of domestic industries, from bulk agricultural goods to specialized freight like generators, turbine blades, automobiles, and aerospace components. Hundreds of thousands of carloads are transported every month. Who keeps these carloads on the rails? The service department.
The repair of rolling stock is a heavy matter. Train cars must be able to safely transport tons of material for thousands of miles over changing elevations and temperatures and despite heavy vibrations. Simply put, they take a beating. At the same time, keeping cars on the track is critical, whether they’re carrying relatively benign cargo like grain or hazardous materials like natural gas. To keep the bolts in their housing and the wheels on their axles, repair technicians working on railroad rolling stock turn to powerful torque tools.
Tightening Down Rolling Stock With Torque Tools
The structural components, couplings, brakes, and wheel assemblies of rail cars are all often held together by screws and bolts. Subjected to heavy loads and environmental stress, these fasteners have to work hard in tough conditions. If any of these components wears out, it increases the pressure on every other component. Detachments or derailments can occur as a result of a failing screw or bolt.
Applying the right amount of torque to each fastener maximizes its holding potential. When too much torque is applied, it can strip or crimp threads, damage the fastener, or harm the assembly. This can cause the bolt to fail outright or a thousand miles later. At the very least, it renders the bolt impossible to remove the next time it goes in for service, especially if rust has collected while in the yard or on the rail.
Applying too little torque to a screw or bolt isn’t better; it could work free and fall out. For multi-fastener assemblies like spring housings and brake systems, each fastener needs to be tightened to the right amount in the right sequence to balance the load. To perform this tightening accurately, operators must rely on torque wrenches capable of applying the high amounts of torque needed for rolling stock repair.
Heavy Torque Tools for Rolling Stock Repair
When repairing rolling stock, you need power and accuracy. Both hand wrenches and power tools can be effective. Pneumatic tools, like pulse drivers, work faster than hand tools but are dependent on nearby air compressors. Hand tools, while slower and more labor-intensive, can apply even higher amounts of torque than air tools, and are also portable.
Discontinuous pneumatic tools such as pulse drivers allow users to quickly apply a high amount of torque to a fastener. By delivering forces in a series of sharp pulses, pulse drivers don’t build up momentum, which protects the operator’s wrists when the tool cuts off at the designated torque. This frees them to apply more force than continuous air tools, making them effective for replacing large bolts on rolling stock.
With hand tools, repair workers gain power but lose speed and accuracy. For power, click wrenches are unmatched. The largest click wrench models can deliver significantly more torque than a pulse wrench. However, these wrenches do not actively prevent over-torque conditions. When torque is reached, they emit a loud “click” and deflect three degrees. It’s up to the user to hear the click and stop applying torque.
For large nuts and bolts that require a higher torque output, torque multipliers are the ideal choice. These rugged tools provide precision tightening and loosening for all heavy-duty fastening connections. The torque multiplier shuts off when the pre-set level of torque is achieved. These tools are also non-impacting, rotating in a smooth, continuous fashion. Using a torque multiplier increases speed and productivity because they are faster (and less expensive) than hydraulic wrenches.
Correctly tightening and replacing the heavy bolts used in train cars takes strong, precise tools. The problem is that tools that can apply enough force to turn these thick bolts are also powerful enough to easily overturn them. Using wrenches which can detect and limit the amount of torque applied ensures each fastener will hold out for long miles down the tracks.