If you’re into DIY projects or even if you’re a well-experienced mechanic, a torque wrench is a critical tool. If the task involves tightening fasteners, not using the right kind of torque wrench will result in damaged nuts and bolts.
There are four main types of torque wrenches so it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is the best for your needs. Let’s take a look at these four wrenches and see what makes them different as well as when to use each.
Different Types of Torque Wrenches
1. Electronic (Digital) Wrench
An electronic torque wrench comes with an LED screen that displays the current torque, which makes accuracy an advantage. You can easily preset these wrenches to the torque levels you’re after. You can also increase and decrease the torque required when tightening fasteners using the buttons available on the wrench.
The two features that will come in handy when you’re using an electronic torque wrench are sound and physical alerts. Beeps and vibrations will indicate that you have reached your desired level of torque. However, because it comes with these added features, you may find this type of wrench a bit more expensive compared to mechanical alternatives.
2. Beam Torque Wrench
Developed in the late 1920s, the beam torque wrench may look a little old-fashioned, but it is the simplest and most basic option to choose from.
What separates the head and the handle of the wrench is a flexible lever arm that allows the user to apply a precise amount of torque needed. Still, unlike the electronic wrench, a beam torque wrench does not have a digital screen, so there is no way to determine the amount of torque you’re applying. As you apply pressure to the arm, the scale moves.
Although the beam torque wrench is cheaper in comparison to the electronic option, it will last just as long.
3. Click Torque Wrench
The click torque wrench is an extremely nifty tool, especially for auto repairs, construction, and machine maintenance. In cases where the tightness of the bolts is important, this tool will definitely come in handy.
The indented mechanical scale on the handle of the wrench is easy to read and determines the torque. When the wrench gives an audible click, this means that the desired level of torque has been reached.
Some people also “feel” the click. However, if you continue tightening your bolt after you hear it, you may damage your fastener.
4. Mechanical Dial Torque Wrench
A mechanical dial torque wrench helps inspect and authenticate the amount of torque being applied. A dial torque wrench also works as a tightening wrench, but it is also more than that. Tightening a bolt until it ‘feels’ right is too risky a move for safety’s sake. Thus, a dial torque wrench helps test and verify the amount of torque at specific joints.
A memory needle will reveal the maximum torque value of the joint. Some models also come with auditory and visual feedback, which help indicate the maximum torque value achieved. This, in turn, assures you that your nuts and bolts are safely fastened.
What Makes These Wrenches Different?
Different types of torque wrenches have varying degrees of accuracy. Nevertheless, the wrench has to be at least 95% accurate. The clarity of the scale of the wrench is also essential. If you feel that the wrench is not accurate enough, you can always re-calibrate it.
When choosing a wrench, consider the different head sizes. For small nuts and bolts, use a ¼-inch drive, and for cars and trucks, opt for a ⅜-inch drive. For bigger nuts and bolts, use a ½ inch drive. However, when in doubt, choose a wrench that has various head sizes.
Pay close attention to the materials used as most wrenches are made up of a significant amount of plastic parts. While they may get the job done the first few times, these wrenches may not last very long. Conversely, heavy-duty materials may be too cumbersome to use.
Most people may not find this important, but grip is an important when choosing a torque wrench. Grip ensures safety and precision when applying torque.
To maintain your tool’s accuracy and precision, you need to keep it in a secure area, or storage case. Most torque wrenches will come with a case, if yours doesn’t you might considering buying one. Also, remember to turn the settings of your torque to the lowest before storing it. This helps keep the spring intact.
Although there are a number of torque wrenches out there, be sure to determine what sort of features your project requires. If you can’t decide, a classic beam style torque wrench is usually more than enough. With that said, newer features like auditory beeps and clicks are great to have for safety reasons.