Best Torque Wrenches 2022 | Manual and Digital Torque Wrenches

best torque wrenches Popular Mechanics; Courtesy Tekton

A torque wrench is an essential tool when you need to tighten nuts and bolts using a very specific amount of twisting force, known as torque. This is often necessary when performing automotive repairs, where you might need to torque certain bolts to the setting specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer. But their applications aren’t limited there, as the plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and construction industries regularly employ torque wrenches as well. As a result of this diverse range of uses, there are several different types, sizes, and characteristics that can impact the functionality of a particular torque wrench. To help you determine which wrench is best for your needs, read on to learn what factors you should consider when shopping, along with my top eight torque wrench recommendations.

Best Torque Wrenches

The Expert: I’m a home improvement freelance writer with over a decade of experience in a variety of trades. I have used torque wrenches throughout my professional career in residential construction, as well as in my personal life working on vehicles. Most recently, I used my torque wrenches extensively while replacing the engine in my 1985 Ford F250. My work has appeared in Bob Villa, The Family Handymanand The Spruce.

Types of Torque Wrenches

Click: A click torque wrench is the most common variety due to its ease of use and relative affordability. It gets its name from the audible “click” that’s sounds when you tighten a nut or bolt to the desired setting. To set the torque value, twist the rotating dial on the handle’s base—clockwise to increase the torque and counterclockwise to decrease it—until the indicator aligns with the torque value markings on the handle.

Beam: A beam torque wrench has a long arm (the “beam”) that runs from the head of the wrench to a scale, near the base, that measures torque. Accordingly, there’s no need to set the torque to the specification you’re after; just tighten the fastener until the intended torque value registers on the scale. This is typically the most inexpensive variety of torque wrench and among the most accurate, making it desirable for pros and DIYers alike. A beam torque wrench can also be quicker and easier to use than a click model if you are tightening several nuts and bolts to different torque specifications, because you don’t need to reset the torque value for each fastener.

Split beam: A split beam torque wrench is essentially a click-style torque wrench with a different mechanism for setting the torque value. As opposed to twisting the handle, you twist a small dial located midway up the handle. Then, you tighten down the fastener until you hear the wrench “click.” The primary a split beam wrench has over a standard click wrench is that setting the torque value with the dial is significantly faster than twisting a knob up the length of the handle. This time-saver is particularly valuable if you are tightening multiple fasteners with different torque values. The main disadvantage is that split beam models often more expensive than most click wrenches.

Digital: A digital torque wrench has an LCD screen that lets you set the torque value and registers the torque you’re applying to the fastener as you tighten. The wrench then notifies you when you reach your desired torque value in one or more ways: a beep, a vibration in the handle, a flashing light on the screen, or some combination thereof. A digital torque wrench is the most accurate and easiest to use but also usually the most expensive.

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What Else to Consider When Shopping for a Torque Wrench

Torque Range

Torque can either be measured using the imperial scale in foot-pounds or inch-pounds or the metric scale in newton meters. Most mechanical torque wrenches (the click, beam, and split beam types) have a dual-range scale with foot- or inch-pounds on one side and the corresponding newton meter scale on the other. Digital torque wrenches usually include all three that you can toggle through on their LCD screens.

Depending on the wrench, the torque range can be anywhere from 0 to 300 foot-pounds, 0 to 1,000 inch-pounds, or 0 to 400 newton meters. To perform the most automotive work, you’ll need a wrench with a range of 10 to 150 foot-pounds or 10 to 200 inch-pounds (and the corresponding newton meter). A smaller range of around 10 to 80 foot-pounds is typically sufficient for plumbing or HVAC jobs.

Drive size

A torque wrench’s “drive” is the square piece that protrudes from the wrench’s head and is where the socket drive connects. As such, the drive size on the torque wrench must match the socket size. Additionally, the maximum amount of torque a wrench is capable of withstanding and exerting is heavily influenced by the drive size. Larger drives generally correspond to higher torque values. Handle length also plays a role in the amount of torque a wrench can produce, so a larger drive also corresponds to a longer handle. Smaller drive sizes and shorter handle lengths have the lowest torque ranges but can also be more easily maneuvered in cramped and confined spaces (such as nuts and bolts deep inside your car’s engine bay). Larger drive sizes produce the most torque but are best for tasks where you have plenty of room to operate the longer handle (such as tightening lug nuts).

Torque wrenches are most commonly available with ¼-, ⅜-, and ½-inch drives; The latter two sizes are the most popular and versatile for automotive applications. A ¼-inch drive is commonly found on power tools and works well on small engines (like landscape equipment) and plumbing and HVAC components.

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Accuracy

Because the whole purpose of using a torque wrench is to ensure that the nuts and bolts you’re tightening are within a very specific and narrow range of torque, a wrench’s ability to accurately measure the torque you apply is key to avoiding under- or over -tightening. Torque wrench manufacturers perform calibration tests to measure a wrench’s accuracy. Accuracy ratings average around ±4 percent of the torque value indicated by a wrench’s scale, though higher-end wrenches can be calibrated as precisely as ±2 percent. Many of the high-end models also come with a certificate of calibration to prove that the wrench you purchased was calibrated prior to packaging.

Best Overall

Tekton ½-Inch Drive Micrometer Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeClick
Drive Size½ in.
Torque Range10–150 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4%

Best Value

EPAuto 1/2-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeClick
Drive Size½ in. with ⅜-in. adapter
Torque Range10–150 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4%

Best Click Torque Wrench

CDI Comfort Grip Micrometer Adjustable Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeClick
Drive Size½ in. with ⅜-in. adapter
Torque Range30–250 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4% clockwise, ±6% counterclockwise

Best Digital Torque Wrench

GearWrench ½-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeDigital
Drive Size½ in.
Torque Range25.1–250.8 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±2% clockwise, ±3% counterclockwise

Best Beam Torque Wrench

Tooluxe Dual-Drive Beam-Style Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeBeam
Drive Size⅜ in. with ½-in. adapter
Torque Range0–150 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4%

Best Split Beam Torque Wrench

Olsa Tools Split Beam Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeSplit beam
Drive Size½ in.
Torque Range50–250 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4%

Best Adjustable Torque Wrench

Yellow Jacket Digital Adjustable Torque Wrench

Key Specs

TypeDigital
Drive Size⅜ in.
Toque Range1–62.7 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±2%

Best 3-Piece Set

Pittsburgh Pro Click Type Torque Wrench Set

Key Specs

TypeClick
Drive Size¼, ⅜, and ½ in.
Torque Range20–200 in.-lb., 50–80 ft.-lb., and 20–150 ft.-lb.
Accuracy±4%

Torque Wrench Tips From Our Expert James Fitzgerald

PM: Do torque wrenches require special sockets?
JF: Torque wrenches don’t require special sockets and can use the same sockets compatible with a standard ratchet wrench. That being said, the drive size on the wrench needs to match the drive size on the socket. For example, a torque wrench with a ½-inch drive can only be used with a socket with the same ½-inch drive, unless you attach a drive-head adapter (⅜- to ½-inch for example) onto the wrench.

PM: Do torque wrenches require maintenance?
JF: Torque wrenches don’t require a lot of maintenance, but they do require proper care. Although torque wrenches are fairly durable tools, you should do your best to avoid dropping them and carefully store them when they’re not being used. Click-type torque wrenches should also have the torque setting turned all the way down after you use it to prevent wearing out the internal spring.

PM: What’s the difference between a torque wrench and an impact wrench?
JF: Impact wrenches are power tools—powered by either compressed air or electricity—that apply short, powerful bursts of twisting force to loosen or tighten bolts. Their most common uses include removing rusted, frozen, or heavily torqued bolts that can’t be loosened manually and tightening down a large quantity of bolts much quicker than a manual wrench could. Besides the difference of being a manually operated tool instead of a power tool, torque wrenches are capable of tightening bolts to exact torque specifications while impact wrenches can’t.

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