Torque wrenches are vital for any kind of auto work. They are used in plenty of other industries as well, but here we’ll focus on torque wrenches for working on vehicles. Sizes used for most automobiles include 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, and 1/2 inch. If you’re working on cars, pickups, jeeps, or SUVs, you’ll probably never need 3/4 inch, so we haven’t included any of that size.
It’s important to get a torque wrench you’ll always be happy with, because they’re supposed to last you many years, maybe even a lifetime. Picking out the best one for your own purposes is not easy without testing it out first. It would be arbitrary to choose one without knowing anything about it. That’s why you should read through this guide and make sure your hard earned dollars are being put into the best torque wrench on the market.
Buying tools online is not only cheaper, it’s more convenient, so we’ve included links to the cheapest merchant’s webpage for you. Make sure you get something well worth the money by choosing one of the models we’ve already shortlisted for you.
Where Do Torque Wrenches Come from?
The torque wrench was first invented in 1918 to prevent putting too much torque on bolts on the water main and steam pipe lines underground New York City. In the mid twenties, Walter P. Chrysler patented the deflecting beam torque wrench, which is somewhat similar to the design still in use in modern beam torque wrenches, and put it into production.
What are the Different Kinds of Torque Wrenches?
There are several different types of torque wrenches. The four most common kinds are: beam style, click type, dial type, and digital. There is also a somewhat less common type called split beam that is kind of like a mix between a clicker and a beam torque wrench.
How are They Different from One Another?
Beam torque wrenches are the simplest and cheapest option, but they’re also the least accurate. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily inaccurate, but if you really need precision, they’re not the best for that. They do however offer the best value for your money if you just need something functional. To read more about beam torque wrenches, click here.
Click type torque wrenches are a step up from beam type in terms of accuracy. They’re the most common kind used, although most auto shops or engineering facilities have a beam type or digital option as well. Some facilities or businesses might even use their beam style torque wrench for calibrating purposes, which goes to show you durability translates to dependability. Click type wrenches have far more moving parts, so some might think that in the long run beam type will hold up better.
Click type torque wrenches function by way of a spring-loaded lever. You twist the handle to set your desired reading. The spring-loaded lever breaks free when your setting is met, which makes a ‘click’ sound, hence the title.
A dial indicator type functions quite similarly to beam type. They have a dial attached that measures twisting force. Dial type torque wrenches can be used to measure dynamic torque. So if you wanted to measure how much force is needed to turn your engine over, this is the best type for you. As you rotate your engine you can find out peaks and valleys in terms of high amounts of torque needed and low amounts of torque.
Digital, also known as electric torque wrenches, are the most accurate and also include the most settings, but of course, they’re the most expensive. They range from $80-$500+. They’re battery operated and are generally considered to be the most convenient to use. To read more about electric torque wrenches, click here.
Split beam torque wrenches also make a ‘click’ sound when you reach your desired setting, but they incorporate a dial and a thumbwheel for easier setting. Their operating mechanism relies on measuring the deflection of a set of split beams that are embedded in the housing.
Understanding Accuracy Tolerance
Accuracy tolerance is the system for measurement that is used to compare the accuracy of different torque wrenches. With an accuracy tolerance rating, you have a plus and minus percentage that looks like this: +/-3%. This means that the reading compared to the actual torque is give or take 3% short of perfect accuracy. Anything at or below 4% ought to be fine for common use. Some high end digital torque wrenches on the other hand have an accuracy tolerance of as little as less than 1%.
How Much You Should Spend on Your Torque Wrench
Before deciding on a budget, you should keep in mind that with a lower price, there might be a trade-off. Longevity is a priority, especially if you won’t need to use your wrench that often. For users that work very often or even daily on vehicles, a high quality product with added features would be best, that way you’ll get plenty of use out of it and really be able to take full advantage of its benefits rather than have it sitting in a tool box for years at a time in between uses.
You should also consider how much time you can save with the added features of a digital torque wrench. If using one will speed up your work, then it might pay for itself in hours over the course of a few years or possibly even a few weeks depending on how much you will have to use it.
Top Torque Wrenches on the Market
TEKTON 24335 1/2-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench
When it comes to affordable tools, Tekton is number one. Tekton is a Taiwanese company that makes quite good, high value tools. This particular model is one of the top sellers online. It’s consistently garnered high reviews, having over 1,000 write-ups with a four and a half star average rating. It has been praised for its excellent value and quality, but costs only about $40.
The Tekton 24335’s range is 10-150 foot pounds (13.6-203.5 Nm) and it has a middle of the road +/- 4% accuracy tolerance. Setting your desired torque is easy with the scale being clearly marked. It measures torque only when tightening (clockwise). For a quick and affordable 1/2 inch option that is proven to satisfy, the Tekton 24335 is the obvious first choice.
CDI 1002MFRPH 3/8-Inch Drive Adjustable Micrometer Torque Wrench
The CDI 1002MFRPH has a range of 10 to 100 foot pounds and an accuracy tolerance of +/- 3% clockwise, and less importantly, +/- 5% counter clockwise. It includes a quick release button for improved socket retention and easy removal. The grip is notably comfortable and is much more comfortable than the grip on any average wrench. The CDI 1002MFRPH goes for roughly $135 online.
Snap-On Industrial Brand CDI Torque 2503MFRPH 1/2-Inch Drive Adjustable Micrometer Torque Wrench
Snap-On is the top pick for high performance vehicles. Snap-On products are used at speedways, race tracks, and in other motor sports. They’re known for being the best hand tool brand there is, and they’re also one of the most expensive. This torque wrench costs less than $220, but if you need top of the line, this is your best bet. The CDI model above will do pretty much just as well, but as with any kind of product, if you want a top of the line brand name rather than second best, you have to pay extra for it.
The Snap-On 503MFRPH has a torque range of 30 to 250 foot pounds. It has a dual scale, and like the CDI, it features quick release and an ergonomic grip. It has a +/- 3% accuracy tolerance, but performs well within that range. For a click type option that is durable, accurate, and excels in every other category, the Snap-On 503MFRPH is unsurpassed.
JEGS Performance Products 81690 Digital Torque Wrench
JEGS Performance Products is a lesser known American company that makes very good tools. They have been around since 1960 and started out making tools for high performance vehicles. They now have their own racing team and have been selling very good quality tools at an affordable price for over 50 years.
This digital torque wrench can hold its own against any other in its price range on the market. It’s not quite in the same league as the wildly expensive 1/2 inch Snap-On model, which costs over $500, but it is quite accurate still, and is definitely a great deal for the price. It features an auto off feature to help conserve the three AA batteries it runs off of, a backlit LED display and makes a ‘buzz’ sound when your desired torque is reached. Its torque range is from 15-150 foot pounds, and it costs approximately $120 online.
CRAFTSMAN 9-31425 Micro-Clicker Torque Wrench 1/2” Drive
Tohnichi Flat Beam Torque Wrench F23N (3~23Nm)