Best Torque Wrenches: Crank That

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Best Torque Wrenches

If you’re doing any sort of DIY work that requires the removal and installation of nuts and bolts, a torque wrench is a great tool to have on hand. This is doubly true if you have a propensity for swapping the wheels and tires of your vehicle. Properly torquing those lug nuts is critical to avoid a potentially calamitous situation.

Torque wrenches, in case you’re new to this racket, act like a regular ratchet wrench but ceases the socket’s tightening action when resistance reaches a certain level. This level would have been set by the user before beginning to use the tool. At this point, a loud CLICK is heard, advertising that the indicated torque setting has been reached, as measured in lb-ft.

Common torque for a set of lug nuts, for example, could be anywhere between 80 and 140 lb-ft of twist, so it’s important to check a service manual before over- or under-tightening those fasteners. And, no, simply tightening them as much as you can or snugging them down to a ‘medium grunt’ isn’t approved by any known manufacturer.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: Precision Instruments 1/2" Drive Split Beam Torque Wrench with Flex Head

This one is far from cheap but, as an astute salesperson might say, can you really put a price on safety? Hackneyed closing attempts aside, this wrench has stellar ratings and appears to be made to exacting standards. The torque settings are dialed in via a digital readout, ensuring accuracy in your job. Note that this is a 1/2-inch drive.

The tool does not have to be 'turned down' after use, providing convenience compared to cheaper units. The length, over two feet, provides the needed reach for those hard-to-get-at places. It weighs 4.5 lbs, making it easy enough to carry around if not exactly of featherweight. Feedback provided on the site suggests the thing maintains calibration even in tough environments.

Pros

  • Accurate, no need for resetting, digital readout, maintains calibration

Cons

  • Expensive but have you looked at Snap-On lately?

Bottom Line

  • The one to get if you’ve a few extra bucks

2. Tacklife 3/8" Drive Click Torque Wrench Set

Hardly a household name, this Taiwan-made wrench comes with 1/2- and 1/4-inch adapters in case you need to torque down something with the use of a smaller sized socket. Smaller jobs are this tool’s forte, as the maximum setting here is just 80 lb-ft.

Unlike some others on this list, the ratchet can be swung both ways, with torquing capability available only in a clockwise direction. This is either good or bad, depending on one’s point of view, as some mechanics do not consider a unit that is able to move in both directions to be a “real” torque wrench. Sure is handy for loosening something up, though.

Pros

  • Affordable price, buncha attachments

Cons

  • Not a super high upper limit

Bottom Line

  • A good starter wrench

3. Lexivon 1/2-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench

Also enjoying top-notch ratings from a decent sample size of customers is this natty black-and-yellow torque wrench from a company called Lexivon. The yellow print is a bigger deal than you whippersnappers might think, as us old guys sometimes have a hard time reading the silver-on-silver inscriptions that appear on other torque wrenches.

Shipped pre-calibrated and ready to use, this wrench is good for a wide range of torque specifications, all the way from 10 to 150 units of grunt. It’s of lighter weight than the wrench at the top of this post, weighing a good pound less. While that might not sound like a lot, it’s about a quarter of its weight; stand with one in your outstretched arms for five minutes and you’ll soon see the difference.

Pros

  • Light, visible printing, great reviews

Cons

  • Relatively unknown name

Bottom Line

  • Hard to go wrong here

4. EPAuto 1/2-inch Drive Click Torque Wrench

Here’s an affordable wrench that has a big range of torquing capability and also comes with a couple of accessories. As with most, a storage case is included but is of the unlovely blow-molded plastic-type. A simple and reliable ‘click’ lets the user know when the preset torque value is reached.

There are different styles of this wrench available, ranging from one built for motorcycles to a unit stretching itself all the way to 250 lb-ft of torque. Reviews range from tremendous to abysmal, though there are far more of the former than latter.

Pros

  • Dirt cheap, different varieties available

Cons

  • Some reviews give pause

Bottom Line

  • It’s a $30 wrench

5. Bulltools 1/4-inch Drive Dual-Direction Click Torque Wrench

Sometimes, a small amount of force is all that’s needed to get the job done. Look at most political campaigns for proof. This diminutive wrench measures its torque delivery in inch-pounds, making it better for jobs where small force but big precision is required.

According to the seller, this unit’s calibration is better in terms of +/- percentage than most other competitors. The head’s paddle permits the ratchet to move in either direction. The size and limits of this tool make it a good choice for bikes and certain underhood tasks.

Pros

  • Precision plus, small torque increments for unit-specific jobs

Cons

  • Small 1/4-inch drive

Bottom Line

  • It won’t take up much toolbox space

6. Gearwrench 85077 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench

In a unique twist (pun intended), this wrench has a “target torque alert”, providing a warning as the user approach the target torque. A vibrating handle, buzzer, and solid LED light indicate when the target is reached. This half-inch driver can tighten items all the way up to 250 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot, if you’re wondering.

Two styles of the wrench are available - one with a fixed head and one with an angle for weird jobs. It measures 25.6 inches in length and weighs 4.3 pounds, making it one of the larger torque wrenches on this list. The digital display continues to show the torque setting even after the socket has been removed, by the way.

Pros

  • Vast range of torque settings, lights and buzzers!

Cons

  • Costly, requires batteries

Bottom Line

  • Great option for the semi-pro

7. AmazonBasics 1/2-Inch Drive Click Heavy-Duty Torque Wrench

The cradle of Bezos seems to have their name stamped on any number of products these days, and torque wrenches are no exception. However, unlike a rooftop cargo carrier profiled some weeks ago, the Amazon logo is not on display 24/7 for all to see.

Quarter- and three-eighths-inch drives are available in addition to this half-inch wrench, which can be set to anything between 25 and 250 lb-ft of torque. It’s pre-calibrated and shipped in a plastic case like most other things on this list. ‘Tis a heavy beast at nearly six pounds, which either denotes quality construction or an assembly made out of unobtanium.

Pros

  • Decently priced, wide range of torque, warranty

Cons

  • Bears the mark of Bezos

Bottom Line

  • Slap some black tape over the logo and you’re good

8. ACDelco Tools 1/2-Inch Angle Digital Torque Wrench

Last on our list is this wrench bearing a brand name that will either evoke comfort or send you running in fear, depending on your experiences working on and around General Motors products. This is a big wrench, spanning a best-in-list 26.25 inches, permitting more exertion than smaller wrenches (make all your inappropriate jokes in the comments, ok?).

It’s expensive, reversible, and calibrated to within 1.5 percent when being used in a clockwise direction. That latter stat is far beyond the seemingly industry standard deviation of 4 percent. Thanks to the LCD readout on the handle, a pair of AA batteries are required but not included.

Pros

  • Extremely precise, swings both ways

Cons

  • For the price you’d think they’d include batteries

Bottom Line

  • Use a tool like the pros

Best Torque Wrenches: Crank That

What brand of torque wrench is best?

Even though many brands are there and they all manufacture competitive torque wrenches, some that most people rely on are listed below:

Tekton

The company is quite mature and manufactures quality and pocket-friend products.

Gorilla Automotive

The company has around 40 years of experience in manufacturing tools, including torque wrenches.

CDI

This brand is in the market for around 54 years and focuses primarily on torque-oriented products.

What type of torque wrench is most accurate?

Usually, the Dial-Type torque wrenches are considered to be the most accurate because of the way they function, which is explained below:

Most dial-type torque wrenches comprise dual-end square drive and therefore can be used to tighten and loosen the fasteners with ease. The center of the wrench has an analog dial with two needles. While the first needle is used to define the maximum torque that a fastener must be tightened to, the second one tells the current torque. As you continue tightening the fastener, the second needle moves towards the first one, and when the two meet, you know that the torque has reached its maximum threshold.

Some more sophisticated dial-type wrenches even have a small bulb and/or beeper attached to them to indicate when the torque has reached its maximum level.

Additional Info

Although electronic torque wrenches are also available these days that allow you to set and then show the torque level on a digital display, they are pretty expensive and need to connect to a computer to download updates at regular intervals.

Nevertheless, electronic torque wrenches are quite accurate as well.

Who makes good torque wrenches?

The companies that manufacture some reliable torque wrenches are:

Halfords

Tri-Torq

Sealey

How do I choose the right torque wrench?

The kind of torque wrench that you need majorly depends on the vehicle you’re buying it for. The types of torque wrenches that are available in the market are:

Dial-Type – This torque wrench, as explained earlier, has an analog dial with two needles that allow you to set the maximum required torque and indicate when you reach that threshold and need to stop torquing further

Beam-Style – A beam-style torque wrench comprises two arms where the first arm stays immobile and is used as a handle, and the second arm moves and indicates the amount of applied torque as you tighten the bolt

Click-Style – A click-style torque wrench has a rotatable knob on its handle and is used to set the amount of torque that needs to be applied on a fastener. As you hit the specified threshold, the wrench produces a click sound to tell you to stop going further

Electronic – An electronic torque wrench can be thought of as a combination of a dial-type and click-style wrench where you set the maximum required torque on a digital display screen. As you reach the specified limit, the wrench produces a beep sound to alert you to stop torquing further

In addition to different wrench types, you must also know the amount of torque that they can handle. The varied sizes in which these wrenches are available include:

Small – Range: 4-22Nm (30-200in.-lbs.) with ¼” to 3/8” square drives

Medium – Range: 17-34Nm (20-30ft.-lbs.) with a ½” square drive

Large – Range: 305-1320Nm (200-1000ft.-lbs.) with a 1” square drive

Now, as mentioned earlier, you can choose your preferred type and size/capacity of a torque wrench (or even a set of wrenches) depending on the vehicle(s) you are planning to use the tool(kit) with.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Vladimir Zhupanenko / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Vivek Nayyar
Vivek Nayyar

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2 of 4 comments
  • SnarkyRichard SnarkyRichard on Jun 10, 2022

    I guess my 1/2 inch Pittsburgh click type torque wrench I bought at Harbor Freight for 13 bucks on sale to tighten lug nuts ain't on the list even as best bargain buy . It replaced my old K-Mart needle type torque wrench . I'm very thrifty !

    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jun 11, 2022

      I still have and use my $13 HF torque wrench purchased back at the turn of the century -- even bought one for my neighbor when he asked to borrow mine. (Problem being, they ain't $13 anymore.) Bonus question for the B&B: • My torque wrenches are labeled "Foot Pounds". • The Haynes manual lists fastener torque specs as "Ft-Lbs" (or "in-lbs") • Ford's website says "570 lb-ft." [the opposite] for the F-150 Hybrid V6 --> Why? (Is it a Work Wrench? An Energy Wrench? It sure feels more like a Vector Wrench. Is the F-150 doing Work? Why are my tools mislabeled??? So many questions)

  • The Comedian The Comedian on Jun 11, 2022

    Project Farm recently reviewed torque wrenches, lots of good info. https://youtu.be/HP4uECoH8cc

    • See 1 previous
    • Proscriptus Proscriptus on Jun 13, 2022

      @ToolGuy I think of PF as a great baseline. Obviously he's not doing enough testing for his results to be meaningful in some categories. But it can make a good jumping off point, and also calls out brands that consistently seems to perform well—or poorly. And for some of the things he tests, like coatings, it is pretty useful. And it's not like, say, Torque Test Channel, is doing repeatable double blind tests, either.

  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.
  • Lou_BC There's a company in BC that has kits for logging trucks and pickups. They have "turn key" logging trucks too. What they market is similar to what Ram wants to sell. The rig runs on batteries and a generator kicks in when depleted. On the West Coast logging in the mountains they found that the trucks run mostly on regen braking. The generator doesn't kick in much. Going up mountain, the truck is empty.
  • 28-Cars-Later I should start a GiveMeMoney™ and do an EV converted Allanté. There are literally six or seven people who would be thrilled.
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