A good torque wrench is essential for working on any kind of vehicle. It’s vitally important to apply just the right amount of torque as dictated by the manufacturer’s torque settings for each component. Too much force may damage or altogether ruin the fastener or the mating parts. Not enough torque on the other hand presents the risk of the bolt backing out or sheering off from a loaded bolt joint. That could create a dangerous situation for you while on the road depending on how essential the item you’re working on is.
One thing to take into account is the accuracy tolerance for the displayed torque output of the wrench. A lower percentage of accuracy tolerance is better. Some wrenches may have a tolerance of +/- 4%, +/- 2% or maybe even +/- 1%. This indicates how close your reading is to the actual torque output. You may notice that the wrench bends when applying a lot of pressure. That’s perfectly normal. It’s part of what drives the needle to give a reading.
Also called an Endam torque wrench, the beam style torque wrench was invented in the 1940s and is still widely used today. Although beam torque wrenches are significantly cheaper than the other types, they are durable and effective. Their simple design allows for a much lower price than the other types. A click-type torque wrench, split beam torque wrench, and electronic torque wrench each are considered to be slightly more accurate, but considering how much more they cost, it may not be worth it to you to have a tad more accuracy for twice the price and up. Any good beam style wrench ought to do just fine in any situation you may need it, as long as it’s the right size.
For automotive purposes, there are four sizes to choose from. The wrench’s size corresponds to its torque range. The range is measured in inch-pounds or foot-pounds for SAE fasteners and newton-meters for metric. Inch pounds can obviously be measured in feet as well. From smallest to largest, the four sizes are 1/4” (50-250 inch-pounds), 3/8” (15-75 foot-pounds), 1/2” (30-250 foot-pounds), and 3/4” (250 foot-pounds+). Ranges for inch/foot-pounds are based on recommended use. The most applicable size for working on vehicles is 3/8”. You probably won’t need a 3/4” if you’re just working on cars.
Some wrenches cover a broader range. Although that may seem to be the obvious best choice, you also have to consider that the broader the range of the wrench, the larger the size, which may cause a problem when trying to squeeze into tight spaces. Also, torque wrenches tend to be more accurate in the middle of their torque range, so you ought to take that into consideration when choosing your size.
Below are the best beam style torque wrenches on the market in terms of value for money and overall quality. Have a pick from this list and you’re sure to get yourself a long lasting, quality tool.