Crank it Down Right with these Great Torque Wrenches

Use a torque wrench to avoid broken bolts and headaches that can add up to big money.

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Crank it Down Right with these Great Torque Wrenches © Crank it Down Right with these Great Torque Wrenches

You really do need a torque wrench. Any fastener you come across has a designated torque spec you ought to tighten it to. Now, I can't pretend to be the person who torques everything to spec. I have learned that cranking down on bolts until I hear the crack and then backing off a quarter turn is no way to do things either. Still, any time I'm working on a fastener in a tolerance-sensitive setting or that my life depends on, I bust out a torque wrench. The question isn't if you should do the same, but which torque wrench you need to get it done. That's what I'm here to help you figure out.

Summary List

Best Overall: Craftsman Half-Inch Click Torque Wrench

Best Value: Tekton Half-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench

Honorable Mention: Gearwrench Half-Inch Drive Micrometer Torque Wrench

Best Digital: Gearwrench Half-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench

Best for Small Fasteners: Craftsman 3/8-Inch Micrometer Torque WrenchMost Advanced: ACDelco ARM601-4 Heavy-Duty Torque Wrench

Our Methodology

The whole reason to buy a torque wrench is that your projects demand a certain level of accuracy from you and your tools. You can't trust just anything, or you might wind up with a rod coming through the side of the engine block or a wheel taking a solo ride down the freeway. That's why I won’t recommend just anything to you. These torque wrenches are those I trust or those I know to trust based on research into quality, accuracy, and reliability. Even so, you should take the time to do your own homework to find what works for you.

Best Torque Wrench Reviews & Recommendations

Our Verdict

If I could only recommend one, the Craftsman Half-Inch Click Torque Wrench would be the one. The range, quality, price, and warranty are all exactly what I expect of a torque wrench I use on my own car. However, that Tekton Half-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench is really hard to beat if you've only got a few dollars to spend.

Consider Second-hand

Buying tools is expensive, even if you’re doing your best to find values and bargains on the internet. That, coupled with the fact that it’s hard to find anything in stock right now, makes a strong case for buying used. You’ll need to do your homework, and not every seller is up front about what they have, but in general you can come out ahead with used. 

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips for finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner. 

    What to Consider When Buying Torque Wrenches 

    Picking out a torque wrench is not as simple as buying the first thing in front of you. While I stand behind my recommendations, I want you to make an informed decision and pick what's best for you. 

    Types of Torque Wrenches

    Click

    The most common option is a click-type torque wrench. You set the torque specification, generally by adjusting the scale on the handle, and once you tighten a fastener to the specified torque, you will hear and feel a click. Exactly how you set the torque specifications depends on the manufacturer's design, but all work on the same basic principle. 

    Beam

    Beam-style torque wrenches aren't quite as common as the other two main types talked about here. These wrenches have a beam or bar that runs the length of the tool from the head to just above the handle at a scale. As force is exerted onto the handle, that bar will move along the scale to tell you how much torque is being applied to the fastener. A dial-type torque wrench works similarly, only with a dial rather than a bar. Neither of these is your best choice for general DIY repair work. 

    Electronic

    An electronic torque wrench is basically the leveled-up version of the click type. Instead of having to manually crank the handle while reading the scale, you simply set the desired torque setting on the digital display. When you tighten a fastener to that setting, a beep will sound. You can sometimes watch the torque setting on the digital readout as well. These are usually more expensive than click-type torque wrenches, but the convenience is well worth it. 

    Key Features

    Torque Range 

    Each torque wrench is going to have a set range of torque readings. Make sure whatever you're considering will work with the project at hand. Keep in mind that some are designed specifically with smaller fasteners and low torque settings, while others focus more on large fasteners and high torque. The torque reading itself is also a detail to be aware of. Inch-pounds, pound-feet, and Newton meters are the most common readings you'll be supplied with, and you have to pick a torque wrench with the appropriate increments. 

    Size 

    A longer handle makes it easier to reach higher torque settings and is something you will appreciate when you need to crank down on fasteners. However, on smaller fasteners with lower torque settings, a shorter handle can keep you from over-torquing. The size will determine where you can feasibly use a torque wrench. It’s not a bad idea to invest in multiple torque wrenches to ensure you can properly address all torque specifications on a given vehicle.

    Pricing 

    Pro-level torque wrenches for automotive use generally run between $350 and $500. If you're using your tools to make a living or want the best of the best, that's about what you can expect to spend. That does not mean you can't land a really solid torque wrench for $100-$200. Most DIYers spend about that. There are many options for less than $100, and some are good for the money. However, it's essential to do your research to make sure you're buying the right one for you. 

    FAQs 

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