When working on a car, boat or plane, bolts usually come in two different types. The first one is the regular bolt. The bolt you can tighten up with a regular ratchet and your bare hands. It doesn't really matter how hard you tighten it as long as it's tightened. The second type is a little fancier. These bolts require to be tightened to a specific torque. The most common example of this would be the engine head and exhaust manifold bolts. They are under constant stress and you can't risk having them loosen up. You absolutely need to tighten them to a specific torque using the best torque wrench you can find or you may end up having to pay for expensive repairs.
The Best Torque Wrench For Lug Nuts
1. TEKTON 24335 1/2" Drive Click Torque Wrench
For a cheap, all-purpose torque wrench, look no further. The TEKTON 24335 is your answer. Featuring a 24 teeth ratchet mechanism, a slim head design and weighing only 2.2 pounds, this drive click wrench is born to work in tight spaces. The whole unit measures 18.5" in length, providing sufficient leverage while still allowing it to fit almost everywhere. Working in low light? No problem. The TEKTON torque wrench comes with a high-contrast scale (ft.-lb and Nm) for better visibility in all conditions.
An all-steel construction ensures that it will last a lifetime. No plastic part to break, no batteries to replace. The simpler, the better. The measuring range goes from 10ft.-lb to a respectable 150 ft.-lb which should be more than enough for most engine work.
If you are a weekend mechanic or an occasional DIYer, this is a sturdy, reliable and relatively cheap wrench to keep in any handyman’s tool set. What more could you ask?
2. CDI 2503MFRPH 1/2-Inch Adjustable Micrometer Torque Wrench
The CDI torque wrench may well be one of the tool industry best-kept secrets. It may not look like it because but CDI tools are actually made by Snap-on! They don't advertise them like normal Snap-on tools so you can enjoy the same legendary quality without having to pay for the laser-etched logo on the side.
As with any other Snap-on tool, you can feel the difference at first glance. It weighs a little more than the others on this list, but you can easily tell that the added weight comes from the superior quality of the materials used. With a measuring range going as high as 250 ft.-lb, the CDI 2503MFRPH model was created with a more prominent body to be able to withstand the greater stress.
The CDI 2503MFRPH adjustable torque wrench comes with the same reliable spring loaded pull down lock ring for a fast and easy setup. Worth mentioning, this one works in both directions making it the perfect choice for everybody working on motorcycles. Bike pedals, for example, use reverse-threaded bolts and absolutely need to be torqued to the exact specification to prevent the risk of losing one. Torque wrenches calibrated in both direction are somewhat of a rarity so keep this one in mind if this is what you are looking for.
The reliability of this tool is already well established in the automotive industry. If you need a torque wrench built with professional use in mind, you definitely need to get yourself a CDI 1/2 drive torque wrench.
3. Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F 1/2" Split Beam Torque Wrench
Precision Instruments is the result you get when crazy engineers work hand in hand with manufacturers to develop unusual tools to perform tasks that other tools can't.
For starters, the number of components is kept to a minimum and all critical parts are welded together to reduce the risk of breakage. As opposed to common torque wrenches, this one doesn't need to be stored in the lowest setting after use which can be convenient if you have to regularly torque bolts to the same setting. Because the locking mechanism is built differently and is not under spring tension, it can be adjusted by pressing on the adjustment knob with your bare fingertips. No more need to put a lot of effort in turning the handle endlessly to reach the highest setting here!
Aside from that, the Precision Instrument PREC3FR250F can be set from 40 to 250ft.-lb and it will click when the selected torque is reached. The ratchet head is not reversible and will only work in the clockwise direction, and that's not a real drawback since torque wrenches should never be used as a breaker bar to remove bolts anyway.
For a torque wrench designed for the 21st-century, the Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F is your best bet. It's more convenient, easier to use, and simpler to maintain than any other on this list. It's everything a mechanic needs to get the job done and everything an engineer can dream about. Simply the best of both worlds.
4. ACDelco ARM601-4 1/2" Digital Torque Wrench
If what you need is a digital torque wrench for added accuracy, look for the ACDelco ARM601-4. Its digital display helps to set the torque accurately with a working resolution as low as 1 in-lb which is a lot lower than common analog counterparts. One of the advantages of a digital torque wrench is the possibility to keep track of min/max values with the Peak & Trace functions whenever you need to gradually add more torque to a bolt.
The ARM601-4's head features a quick release mechanism and a 45 teeth design providing one of the lowest arc swings in the industry. For an even more convenient use in a low light environment, a buzzing noise is emitted and a red LED light starts flashing when the selected torque value is reached.
ACDelco has been a well-renowned tool manufacturing company for a long time now and once again surpasses expectation with this torque wrench. The ARM601-4 is clearly one of the best built and most reliable digital torque wrench available in this price range. Get yourself one; you won't regret it.
5. EPAuto 1/4-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench
For smaller jobs, a good cheap, all-purpose 1/4-inch drive torque wrench, the EPAuto model is the way to go. Smaller torque wrenches are typically more accurate at lower settings and will also fit in tighter spots. The reduced leverage will also help to prevent smaller bolts breakage and stripped threads while ensuring a correct torque.
The reversible ratchet head is made out of chrome-vanadium steel and a corrosion retardant finish is applied to the body to ensure it stays in good working condition for years to come. For a fast and easy setup of the required torque, the EPAuto torque wrench comes with an easy to read high-contrast scale working in small 1 in.-lb increment. It also offers an excellent measuring range of 20 to 200 in.-lb which is more than enough for most 10mm and 12mm bolts.
6. GearWrench 85066 1/2" Drive Micrometer Torque Wrench
If accuracy is the main requirement for the choice of your torque wrench, the GearWrench 85066 is what you need. With a certified calibration rate of +/- 3% in the clockwise direction from 20% to 100% of the full scale, this torque wrench is definitely in a category of its own. It even features a mid-point mark on the handle so you know where to put your hands when applying force to get the most accurate measurements possible.
To prevent for ratchet mechanism breakage, GearWrench engineers invented a sealed head design making it virtually impossible for water, dirt, and dust to enter and ruin it. The patented head design is also thinner than most torque wrenches and will fit a lot easier in tight areas than standard ones.
The innovative design and superior calibration definitely make it a serious contender for 'the best torque wrench of the year' title.
7. Precision Instruments PREC2FR100F 3/8" Wrench
For a perfect mix between accuracy and usability, look for the Precision Instrument PREC2FR100F torque wrench. Its small size and robust construction will make it your everyday choice when you need to quickly torque something. Instead of the usual spring-loaded locking ring, a convenient torque adjustment knob located on the side is used to effortlessly adjust the torque to the desired setting. You can literally set it using only your thumb, as opposed to standard models where you need to use both hands and a lot of twisting.
A quick glance at the unconventional display located on the wrench body can quickly inform you of the scientific background of the manufacturer. The scale is easy to read and it's perfectly designed to achieve accuracy quickly and efficiently.
Let's be honest, it's always nice to have a tool that other people have probably never seen in a toolbox before!
8. GearWrench 85077 1/2" Drive Electronic Torque Wrench
The GearWrench 85077 is already well-known by most mechanics since it's probably the most used digital torque wrench in the automotive industry. The simple digital display is easy to work with and different modes can be quickly selected using the designated buttons. Working in a noisy environment? Low-light condition? GearWrench thought of everything! When the target torque is reached, a LED light starts flashing, a buzzing sound is heard and the handle also vibrates. The "Target Torque Alert" function will even give a warning when the desired torque is approaching. Kinda hard to miss the target here!
The 72-tooth ratchet mechanism provides an impressive 5-degree arc swing which is better than most torque wrenches on the list. It also works and measures torque in both directions making it the ideal choice for motorcycle enthusiasts and mechanics working on cars equipped with reverse-threaded bolts.
The signature GearWrench tear drop sealed head prevents dust and dirt from getting in and reducing torque wrench's lifespan. Dust, water, and various debris simply can't get inside the mechanism if there's no opening in the first place. Simple as that!
Overall, the GearWrench 85077 is a great option for professional auto mechanics and all car fanatics using their torque wrench intensively. It's a little more expensive than most other models but it's well worth every penny.
9. Wera 05075393001 Torque Wrench
The tool company producing the best looking tools out there is without contest Wera. All of their tools look like tools from the future with slick and advanced modern design. But aside from the look, these tools are really worth investing in. The durable construction of the ratchet head and the rugged plastic handle will ensure you don't need to buy another one for years to come.
The locking ring is located at the bottom of the handle and requires little to no effort to operate. The scale section is separated into two different gauges located behind small clear plastic windows. The bigger window is used to set the target torque and the smaller window allows to increase or decrease the setting in smaller increments for a truly accurate adjustment.
This is actually one of the torque wrenches I use every day on the job. I bought it maybe 4 years ago and it's working like new. I even had it tested last year and the calibration was still on point! After all, isn't accuracy the most important factor when buying a torque wrench?
What To Look Out For When Buying A Torque Wrench?
When on the hunt to find the best torque wrench possible, a number of factors are to be considered correctly select on that will fit your needs.
What's your budget?
First, you need to establish your budget. Some torque wrenches are quite inexpensive while others can cost a huge amount of money depending on the overall quality, accuracy, size, and the number of options they may come with. The trick here is to find one that will give you the most bang for your buck based on the tasks you intend to use it for.
Always take a minute to think about what you may do with tool.
Bigger and longer torque wrenches provide a greater leverage but they won't always fit where you need them to. Smaller ones can be used in tighter spots but the measuring range is often a lot lower.
If you work in a low-light environment, you may need one with a lighted display or one emitting a buzzing signal when the target torque is reached.
Mechanics working on V-type engines may need a torque wrench equipped with a flex head while small engine mechanics don't.
Digital or Analog?
Whether you prefer analog or digital torque wrenches is mostly a matter of taste.
Digital ones may be a little more accurate because it's easier to adjust the torque setting down to the decimals but electronic systems may not be as reliable in the long term.
Analog models, on the other hand, are built using nothing more than metal so they usually last longer than digitals. They don't require the use of batteries, eliminating the risk of having to find new coin batteries everytime you want to torque something.
Digital torque wrenches often offer peak and trace modes to keep track of what you are doing in real time. Analog models simply can't do that.
There's a big difference between all-steel and chrome-vanadium torque wrenches. All-steel models are typically less expensive but they are also heavier, bulkier and the handle may sometimes crack under pressure after a couple of years. Chrome-vanadium ones are usually more expensive but they are lighter, thinner and will last longer than steel models. It really depends on the frequency you may use your torque wrench.
All-steel models are perfect for weekend DIYers and backyard mechanics. They are quite inexpensive and will do the job just fine. Chrome-vanadium ones are mostly designed for professional use or regular intensive work.
Accuracy may or may not be an important factor. If you mainly use it to torque lug nuts to 90ft.-lb, pretty much any torque wrench will do. However, when you need to torque engine head bolts, an inaccurate tightening procedure may stretch the bolts more than required, weakening them and leading to costly repairs in the future. Mechanics working in the aviation industry are required to use torques wrenches calibrated following specific national standard certification.
Most common torque wrenches usually have a measuring range from 10 to 250 ft.-lb and that should be more than enough for most applications. Typical exhaust manifold bolts only require to be torqued to something around 20ft.-lb. Car lug nuts only need to be tightened to 90-110 ft.-lb and 150 ft.-lb for engine head bolts. Big rig mechanics will need to get their hand on a much bigger torque wrench since commercial truck's wheels sometimes require a torque setting of over 600ft.-lb.
In the end, the winner of the "Best Torque Wrench of 2019" title is definitely the GearWrench 85077 digital model. The unusual but cleverly designed teardrop sealed head makes it last longer than any other on the list and the 5-degree arc swing simply leaves common torque wrenches in the dust. It works and measures torque in both directions as well as offering a convenient Peak and Trace function for approximately the same price tag as its competitors. With a longer lifespan and more features than most, the GearWrench 85077 is really a no-brainer.