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I hear this alot in many trades. I'm a Plumber and Electrician. Many of the codes call for torque settings that pretty much anyone that has been doing it for awhile will simply ignore. It's not so much arrogance of the skill, but getting a feel for it's intended use and the materials used. Different qualities of copper and plastics will except torque better then others. Experienced hands have a feel for what the materials you are putting under pressure are actually doing.

A good example is hydraulic pumps. Large ones have torque specs listed that are entirely useless. Red permatex can be your best friend. Fittings calling for 35 fp's of torque will sometimes require less force to seal properly, but most times due to quality of seals and machining of the fittings, more is required to get a proper seal. Turn the wrenches long enough, you will grow to understand what your wrench is telling you and getting close under many circumstances is better then what the books are telling you.

I doubt your mechanic is just being a lazy ass about the important parts like crank bolts and such, but probably experience has shown him how to feel his way through the rest. Alot can be said for the ability to feel the subtleties and finesse of the materials used simply from years of experience.
 
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