If you’re reading this, then you probably already know how essential an effective torque wrench is to working on a vehicle. Having just the right torque on the nuts and bolts of your vehicle means making sure it’s safe to drive. But is it worth it to get a digital torque wrench rather than something much simpler and cheaper?
The main selling points behind digital torque wrenches are accuracy and convenience. Much unlike the digital options of a decade or two ago, today’s digital torque wrenches are incredibly precise. They’ve come a long way in terms of durability as well. Notable features usually include preset calibration, an audible notification when the desired setting is reached, a display showing force applied as you use it, internal memory, and max torque applied. Most importantly, they’re significantly more accurate than click type or beam type torque wrenches, so if you want to get the most precise instrument, digital is definitely the way to go.
Digital torque wrenches (also known as electronic) often display the applied torque in inch-pounds, foot-pounds, Newton-meters, or Kilogram-centimeters. They come in a few different sizes. If you’re working on cars, you’ll probably need a 1/4”, 3/8”, or maybe 1/2”. For jobs that are measured in inch-pounds, you’ll need a 1/4”. 3/8” generally covers 15-75 foot-pounds, and 1/2” usually covers 50-250 foot-pounds, but some wrenches cover a much broader spectrum.
The answer to whether or not digital wrenches are worth the price compared to traditional type depends on which model you’re talking about, because some of them offer great value considering what they’re capable of. In order to find out for sure, you simply need to try one for yourself. Below is a list of the best digital torque wrenches overall and direct links to view them at online retailer websites. You can’t go wrong if you choose one of these.
The high quality, feature filled CDI 1002CF3 electronic torque wrench works from 10-100 foot-pounds. It displays all four torque units in real time, and when the desired setting is approaching, an orange LED illuminates. When it’s reached the correct torque output, a green LED light comes on and a sound is made. If you exceed your preset torque, an alarm will sound signifying that you’ve surpassed your stopping point.
When you turn the 1002CF3 off, the computer inside saves the setting last used so that next time you turn it on you don’t have to fiddle with any of the settings; you can just get straight to using it. The head flexes 15 degrees, which is helpful when working in tight spaces. It comes with a long lasting lithium ion battery that’s good for several hours of continuous use before needing to be recharged. The CDI 1002CF3 is arguably the best digital torque wrench on the market. It’s at least as good as the super expensive Snap On model, but costs significantly less, going for roughly $330 online.
The GearWrench 85071 feels like a traditional torque wrench in your hand when you use it, which is great if you’re used to traditional style. It has a 60-tooth gear and a sealed teardrop head with a 6-degree ratcheting arc, which is nice for awkward angles. With LED lights indicating the progress toward your desired setting, and an audible notification, you’ll know exactly when to stop. It runs on four AAA batteries, but is relatively long lasting, giving many hours of use. The GearWrench 85071 can convert foot- and inch-pounds, as well as Nm. It costs less than $240 and comes with a lifetime warranty.
ACDelco ARM601-4 1/2″ Digital Torque Wrench (4-99 ft-lbs)
ACDelco is an American company that produces a good variety of highly rated products. Their 1/2” model offers excellent value for around $115 when compared to some of its competitors. Its LCD display shows all four torque units, doing any conversions automatically. With Trace mode on, you can view readings in real time. It uses an audible notification, but no LED lights. The auto-off feature makes sure that you don’t drain all of the juice in the AAA batteries by forgetting to switch it off. Overall, this is a very high quality tool that can compete with the above two.
Brown Line Metalworks BLD0212BM Digital Torque Wrench in Black Case
The 1/2” Brown Line Metalworks BLD0212BM features a double gear sensing system for accuracy, a backlit LCD showing current readout and desired torque, LED and audible notifications upon reaching calibrated setting, a track mode, and auto-off. It runs on three AA batteries and has a range of 15-150 foot-pounds. At roughly $115, this wrench is the same price as the ACDelco and has the same features. The Brown Line Metalworks BLD0212BM is also an excellent choice.
Craftsman 9-13919 1/2-in. Drive Digi-Click Torque Wrench 25-250 ft. lbs.
Craftsman is probably the most well-known company when it comes to tools. They have a long history of providing highly durable and effective tools of a variety of kinds. This electric torque wrench is no exception considering that it costs less than $100. Although this Craftsman has no torque angle reading, it does have a variety of useful features. It has a backlit LCD screen with which you can toggle between inch-pounds, foot-pounds, and Nm in .5 increments. It has auto-off capabilities and comes with 3 LR44 batteries. It functions clockwise only, and sounds a notification when you reach your setting. You can buy the Craftsman 9-13919 for less than $100 with a lifetime warranty.
Powerbuilt 944004 1/2-Inch Drive Digital Read Out Torque Wrench
Powerbuilt is a California based company that is growing continuously. Their digital torque wrench, the 944004, costs only about $85, but is reversible, remembers your last settings when you turn it off, and is very easy to use. It has audible notifications, on-screen readings, and a range of 30-150 foot-pounds. The Powerbuilt 944004 is highly durable and comes with a two-year warranty.
1/4 Digital Torque Wrench BM
This model is perfect of motorcycles, but will work great with pretty much any kind of vehicle. Notable features include auto-off to save your AAA batteries, peak and track modes, simultaneous LED and sound notifications, and readings in all four units. It’s the cheapest on our list at less than $80, so if you need an affordable torque wrench that works really well and offers great value, the 1/4” BikeMaster is an excellent pick.