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If you have a problem with over-tightening bolts and nuts, we have the solution. Whether you’re a professional or a DIYer, whether you need something to tighten a cylinder head or a gear train of a racing cycle – a good torque wrench will meet all of your tightening needs. However, finding one isn’t so easy. We’re here to make it much easier.
When you’re doing repairs on a vehicle, you need to know your tools are accurate, reliable, and safe. That way you don’t have to worry whether your tool meets the manufacturer’s settings, or whether it will damage or even shear bolted joints on your car. After all, damage like that can seriously jeopardize vehicle safety if you’re working on the suspension or brakes.
The Best Torque Wrench
Let’s take a look at some of the better options available:
1. Best Overall Torque Wrench
TEKTON Drive Click Torque Wrench
When it comes to affordable torque wrenches, they usually only give a single scale; however, this one is different. You get measurements in both Newton meters and foot pounds. Its range is from 10-150 foot pounds or 13.6-203.5 Newton meters. The scale on this model is marked in one-foot-pound increments, and it is wonderfully easy to read. However, bear in mind that it measures torque only in a clockwise direction. The price to quality ratio is one of the many reasons this is the best torque wrench.
The all-steel construction of this TEKTON model guarantees durability, and the handle provides a decent grip. There are no plastic bits that could get worn out or break. The reversible ratchet head of this model drives in both directions.
When it comes to using a torque wrench, accuracy is incredibly important. This low-cost wrench boasts having an accuracy that many high-end models don’t. With an accuracy of +/-4%, this torque wrench is incredibly competitive and definitely good enough for everyday use.
Functional, light, and very user-friendly, this torque wrench will work like a charm. It’s great for lug bolts, suspension, and replacing brakes. It weighs only 6.5 pounds and is 26 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 2.5 inches tall.
- Pros: Heavy and durable feel. Easy to read settings. Long enough to make torquing easy. Seems to be quite accurate. Reasonable Pricing.
- Cons: After each use it’s important to unload the torque to the minimum settings in order to maintain the calibration.
2. Best Value Torque Wrench
ACDelco Digital Torque Wrench
When it comes to digital models, this is our favorite. It has the most applications, and it requires no guesswork. Its LCD screen makes readings effortless, while the buttons that let you choose whether you want foot-pounds or Newton meters are super-simple to use. The screen always shows values in real time, so it’s not something you need to think about.
The range of this torque wrench is ideal for smaller jobs. Its torque capacity is from 4-99 foot-pounds. This little guy is handy and reliable for bikes, as well as everyday maintenance and repairs of your car.
What we like here is that this model comes with both audio and visual alarm that warns you when you reach torque. When this happens, you will both see that the LED is flashing, and you will hear the buzzer. It also comes with other useful features. You can set torque, choose between four different measurement scales, choose mode settings, and use the peak & trace option.
When it comes to accuracy, this torque wrench guarantees +/-2% clockwise. When it comes to quality standards, this product meets or exceeds ISO 6789 and ASME B107.14-2004. It also comes with ACDelco limited one-year warranty for defects or workmanship issues.
This torque wrench weighs 4 pounds, it’s 17 inches long, 1.5 inches wide. The batteries it uses are lithium ion, and they are included.
- Pros: Audible and visual alarms for reaching torque. LCD readouts for easy reading. Great accuracy (+/- 2% clockwise)
- Cons: It’s a smaller torque wrench for smaller jobs (4-99 ft-lbs)
3. Best in Torque Range
CDI Industrial Micrometer Wrench
If you ask professionals which torque wrench is legendary in their circles, they will tell you about this CDI model. Its durability and quality are noted among mechanics. Although this is not officially a premium product, it is highly respected for the accuracy it offers. Lightweight and large, this torque wrench is something you can set quickly and use rather easily.
The plastic handle this model comes with is not only durable, it is also rather comfortable, and it provides excellent grip. When it comes to the torque wrench itself, the steel build is quite durable, and we’ve never heard of one of these breaking down. Its torque foot-pound capacity range is from 30-250. It has a dual calibrated scale for adjusting strength, and a quick release button if you need to replace the socket size.
When it comes to accuracy, it officially has a tolerance of +/-4% while users claim that it is a lot less. If you want a tool that will last you for years, this is a good purchase.
- Pros: Large torque range of 50-250 lbs. Calibrated dual direction with calibration certificate. Ergonomic grip handle. Large handled yet easy to use.
- Cons: Some have reported the numerals are hard to read.
4. Best in Torque Accuracy
Precision Instruments Split Beam Wrench
The Precision Instruments torque wrench is incredibly precise. Their name isn’t empty boasting because this torque wrench has the latest innovations when it comes to precision reliability. Although it is a ½” torque wrench, it is easy to use, and it takes the guesswork out of the equation. For this model, you don’t need to use a ton of force to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts.
Another great thing here is the fact that is doesn’t need recalibration; you can use it as-is whenever you need it. You can also increase the wrenching speed with this tool’s spring-loaded mechanism.
22 1/8 inches long, this tool provides a lot of leverage for its user. We like the nickel and chrome finish with an ergonomic grip handle; it makes the torque wrench easier to use. It weighs a mere 4.5 pounds and offers +/-4% accuracy. It also has a torque range from 40-250 foot-pounds.
- Pros: You don’t have to unload the torque before storage. Easy to adjust settings. Pronounced clicking.
- Cons: Clockwise usage only.
5. Best Wrench on a Budget
Tacklife Torque Wrench
If you’re looking for a torque wrench at a reasonable price and while still having great accuracy. This Tacklife model is among the most accurate, with guaranteed +/-4% accuracy.
What we like even more is the fact that this model comes with a carrying case, which means that as long as you’re using it, you don’t have to worry about calibration. Another plus is the socket extension bar, as well as a reducer. That is what makes this tool more versatile than we expected it would be at ½”.
With all-steel construction, these are durable, while the fact that you can choose clockwise and counterclockwise rotation makes them useful in every situation. The torque range of this Tacklife model is from 10-150 foot-pounds.
- Pros: Works both clockwise and counterclockwise. Socket extension and reducer. Click sound when you reach desired torque.
- Cons: Socket adapters not as durable as the wrench itself.
How to Choose a Torque Wrench?
A torque wrench is a must-have tool. It is perfect for tightening and loosening bolts and nuts, but not every model will fit every need. In order to get the right one for you, there are several things you need to decide on.
If you need a torque wrench for your bike, you’ll need one size, while it’s a completely different size for your car or a truck. So, here’s how to pick the size.
-1/4” drive is perfect for shorter nuts and bolts. You’ll need it if you’re working on things that require between 50 and 250 inch-pounds. So this is perfect for small bolts and screws on a motorcycle or a car.
-3/8” drive is what you need for most jobs. It has a range from 15 foot-pounds to 75, and it will serve for most nuts and bolts on cars and light trucks. Although it doesn’t cover everything, this is the most versatile torque wrench size.
-1/2” drive is the size that fits larger nuts and bolts that are important in suspension, transmission mounts, and engine mounts. If you’re working on suspension most of the time, this is the torque wrench you’ll need the most.
-3/4” drive is the one you need for trucks and larger automotive parts. You might need it for specialized uses like center lug wheels. It isn’t a necessity for most people, so you need to consider whether you’ll need it or not.
Believe it or not, this is essential. You want a torque wrench with a high-quality, durable gripping material. Why? Well, mostly because your hands can’t be perfectly clean while you’re working on a vehicle, and some grease or engine fluid is bound to end up on them. When that happens, you don’t want to have a torque wrench that will slip right out of your hands.
Every type of torque wrench has its advantages, and every one is used slightly differently. You need to choose between these four types.
One of the best models for everyday fastening use, as well as for beginners. Good design combined with digital readings makes for a reliable device that leaves no room for guesswork. Digital models usually come with visual, acoustic, and sensory signals that alert you when you achieve the desired torque.
Classic torque wrenches, just with an added dial that helps you measure the amount of torque. These are useful for testing, auditing and verifying torque of a joint.
On this model, the pointer beam is linked to the head of the torquewrench. The beam stays in position when the wrench applies torque, and the scale under the pointer shows the amount of torque applied. These are best if you need to take your torque wrench with you.
Each click model has a clutch that allows you to set it appropriately. These are best for fastening bolts or nuts.
The Range and Accuracy
When buying a torque wrench, you want a tool that will be as accurate as possible. So, you should check the manufacturer’s statement and see how much the FS (Full Scale accuracy) or the IV (Indicated Value accuracy) is. You want a wrench that will be at least mostly accurate on the bigger part of its range.
The range is relevant because you need to know where and how you can apply your wrench. So, if you want a torque wrench that works from 20 to 200 foot-pounds, you should check how accurate it is over the range. If its average accuracy is 5% FS, that means that it might be less accurate on some points of the range, and more on others. On the other hand, if its average accuracy is 5% IV, it will never be more than 5% imprecise on any point of its range.
How to use a Torque Wrench
It’s quite hard to explain this without being able to physically hold a torque wrench. Here are a few quick tips as well as a video by Chris Fix on how to use a torque wrench:
- Unless otherwise stated, always unload your torque wrench after usage.
- Apply torque in a slow manner until you hear a click or audible alarm from digital models.
- Try to avoid dropping your torque wrench as you may lose calibration.
- After around 5000 cycles or a year of usage. Check with the manufacturer for what they recommend.
Picking the best torque wrench highly depends on what you need it for. If you want to do an occasional repair, then the TEKTON model is the best for you. If you want a model that can last you a lifetime, the CDI model is what you should go with. On the other hand, if you want a torque wrench that will do most of your work, then you should go with the ACDelco model.
If you’re still having trouble, the breakdown of what to look for should help you determine what you need. We hope we managed to give you enough information so you can decide which model is best for your needs.
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