No. There is no sure substitute for a quality torque wrench. They aren't expensive and can save you lots of headaches and money. You'll need an 'inch pound' wrench. Preferably one with a 3/8" drive.
Most of the complaints about "cheap hardware' can be traced to over tightening the fasteners by not using a torque wrench. I will admit that experienced mechanics who have been turning wrenches for years can have a good 'feel' for what is tight and what is too tight but that is a skill that only comes with experience and constant use.
Personally I stay away from discount tool stores and only buy quality tools that I can trust and that will last. You'll hear differently but I stand by this advice.
I totally back all this advice.
The "pros" learned by using a torque wrench for years as an apprentice and then again by making expensive mistakes that sent them back to the torque wrench. The Beam type is cheaper and more reliable than the "click" type. I am a "pro", I've made my living by knowing all about twisting wrenches. If it is important at all, I still use a torque wrench.
so i got me a torque wrench from autozone! anyway my new engine is garbage tried to tightened headbolts they would only go so tight then they would start turning! think my head bolt holes are stripped HERE WE GO AGAIN
Ditto on the acorn nuts.
The factories don't listen and continue to put those stupid things on the engines they build and sell. They, next to the spark plug boot are the cause of many problems new builders encounter. The acorn nuts will bottom out on the studs and distort the threads before they tighten against the cylinder head. Get rid of them, use them for sling shot ammo and replace with hex nuts, preferably a shouldered or flanged nut that has an integral washer. Some even come with serrations that help keep them tight.
You'll need to check the torque after a couple of heat/cool cycles.
Can't back Tom enough here, yet again. Also, go through and replace every bolt, nut, stud, lock washer, flat washer, screw, etc. with grade 8 or higher American made steel hardware. If you run the 'stock' rag joint set up, here's a tip worth pounds of excedrin migraine, put a lock washer under the head of the bolt before installing, add the second lock washer in the normal location, top with an American grade 8 ny-lock nut, tighten equally with sprocket centered, check torque after 10-15 miles. My set up was worry free for a few thousand miles.
I did similar with a Whizzer clone sheave pulley. I was unhappy with the purposely distorted inner threads of the clamps that came with it. If I ever needed to disassemble the sheave the threads would not back out on some I tried. Dremel to the rescue.
So I drilled through next larger thread size and used stainless steel hardware. One side of clamp hex drive screw with flat washer. Other side of clamp flat washer, split lock washer, regular hex nut torqued down. And to boot a nylon insert hex nut torqued down.
The reason for using studs is:
1) to assure a bolt does not bottom out (and break the case) in the short case threads.
2) on long reach, studs give more consistent retaining tension for holding the head
3) studs more easily allow for assembly height variation, which gets back to #1
Ideally lock washers are used on through bolt & nut applications where the assembler cannot reach around to hold the other side. A bolt and lockwasher is applied, assembler goes around to the other side and applies a nut and flat washer. The lockwasher holds the bolt while he tightens the nut.
Since that original application the human imagination grabbed on them as a retention device. Salespeople seized on this misconception and found an opportunity to move more "value added" product. Don't fall for it!
Washers in most applications are there to
1) spread the load evenly on the clamped article, so the surface isn't damaged.
2) present a smooth surface to reduce the twisting bind during tightening for consistent and long lasting tightening torque.
Aluminum especially needs a flat smooth washer surface to prevent damage and to get a good consistent torque. If the bolt or stud is torqued properly it is unlikely to loosen.
Spring lock washers do a poor job of supplying a smooth surface and preventing aluminum damage. Putting a spring washer on top of a flat washer is completely useless unless you need it there as a spacer.
Properly torqued, head bolts or studs will not loosen off (unless there is another problem, and then retaining compound or lockwashers will not help) so Locktite or tite-bound-blue or any other retaining compound is not needed. It can be used to hold studs in the case so they do not come out when removing the head, but makes stud removal more difficult when they do have to come out. These compounds can also be used for threads corrosion resistance in corrosive environments like salty roads.
Although it doesn't mention washers and is mainly a sales vehicle for SKF's hydraulic tensioning system, look up SKF Bolt-Tightening Handbook as an excellent primer in fastener basics.