The best torque wrench
When you properly tighten a bolt, you are stretching it just a tiny bit. The bolt fights to retain its original shape and compresses. This clamping force is what makes a bolt stay fastened. A torque wrench is the tool you should use whenever you're making this type of a connection.
The best torque wrench will be easy to adjust, easy to read, and offer the range of torque measurement that you need. Our favorite, Snap-On's Industrial Brand CDI Torque Wrench, has all these features and more. You can read about this model as well as other high-quality torque wrenches in our buying guide.
Considerations when choosing torque wrenches
There are many types of torque wrenches, but for most applications you will be using one of these three general types:
Beam torque wrenches are the most affordable types of torque wrenches. They feature a measuring device, which looks like a scale. These torque wrenches are the most difficult to operate because they require space and a good bit of hand-eye coordination. As a result, they tend to be the least accurate.
The click torque wrench looks like a long ratchet wrench, but it only clicks when you reach the required amount of torque. These are the stalwarts of the industry, often the most preferred for their durability and ease of use -- you do not need to see a click torque wrench to work it, you can hear and feel the click.
In essence, a digital torque wrench is the same as a click torque wrench, but it will beep and flash instead of click. Often, these models have a number of impressive features that are usually more geared for stats or collecting general data than they are for practical use. Typically, these are the most expensive types of torque wrenches.
Size: The most common torque wrench drive sizes are 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch, and 3/4-inch. The larger the drive, the greater the torque that may be applied. A 1/2-inch drive is generally the most versatile.
Accuracy: The greater the degree of accuracy, the better a torque wrench can perform its task. Look for a model with an accuracy that is better than 5%
Ease of use: The best torque wrenches are not only easy to set and lock, but they are also easy to read. Additionally, although you may not use it often, a model that works both in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction will come in handy.
Materials: The less plastic used in the manufacturing process, the more durable your tool will likely be.
Case: Torque wrenches may not look it, but they are delicate pieces of equipment. If your model comes with a durable case, the less likely it is that you will accidentally drop or damage the tool.
Warranty: You can easily tell how much a manufacturer believes in its product by the length of the warranty. Therefore, it is best to look for a torque wrench with an impressive warranty.
Torque wrench prices
Although it's possible to purchase a decent torque wrench for about $20, at $60, the design is a little better, making the tool easier to use. If you will be reaching for your torque wrench frequently, you may prefer the benefits offered by models in the $120 to $130 range.
Q. What does a torque wrench do?
A. In the simplest terms, a torque wrench tells you how much force you're using to tighten a connection.
Q. I know how to make something super tight. Why do I need a torque wrench?
A. If you tighten too much, it can be just as bad as not tightening enough, ultimately causing the connection to fail. A torque wrench allows you to make a connection exactly as tight as it needs to be.
Q. Does a torque wrench require any maintenance?
A. Yes. In general, a torque wrench should be recalibrated about once per year, more frequently if you use it often.
Torque wrenches we recommend
Best of the best: Snap-On's Industrial Brand CDI Torque Wrench (1/2-Inch Drive)
Our take: An easy-to-use durable top-of-the-line model that has a range of 30 to 250 foot-pounds.
What we like: This tool is effortless to set and lock. Additionally, it features a dual scale, so no math is needed when switching between measurement systems.
What we dislike: The handle is not as comfortable as you may be expecting for the price.
Best bang for your buck: TEKTON Click Torque Wrench (1/2-Inch Drive)
Our take: An affordable and durable unit that is comparable to many higher-priced models.
What we like: This tool can drive in clockwise and counterclockwise directions. It's easy to set, and it features an all-steel construction (no plastic parts).
What we dislike: Although this torque wrench excels in many areas, there can be a little play in the accuracy.
Our take: A highly accurate digital tool that can measure in four different scales: kg-cm (kilogram-centimeter), N-m (Newton-meter), in-lb (inch-pound), ft-lb (foot-pound).
What we like: This model has a range of four to 99 foot-pounds and displays a flashing light along with a buzzer when the proper torque is reached.
What we dislike: If you are used to using a click wrench, this model may take a little while to become used to.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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