Torque wrenches are essential tools for any serious mechanic or DIY enthusiast. They allow you to achieve the correct level of torque on nuts and bolts, ensuring the proper clamping force and preventing over-tightening, which can lead to damage or failure. This article reviews the best torque wrenches available in 2023, covering various price ranges and designs to help you find the perfect tool for your needs.
Types of Torque Wrenches
There are four main types of torque wrenches:
- Click-type torque wrenches: These are the most common type. They emit an audible "click" when the desired torque is reached, alerting the user to stop applying force.
- Beam-type torque wrenches: These use a simple, mechanical design with a beam and pointer to indicate the amount of torque being applied. While they are reliable and affordable, they can be less accurate than other types.
- Dial-type torque wrenches: These have a dial that displays the torque value as it's applied. They are precise but can be more expensive and delicate than other types.
- Digital torque wrenches: These use electronic sensors to measure torque and display the value on an LCD screen. They offer high accuracy and additional features like memory recall and torque angle measurement but can be more expensive.
Top 5 Torque Wrenches of 2023
1. GEARWRENCH 85066
The GEARWRENCH 85066 is a top-of-the-line, 1/2-inch drive torque wrench that offers a torque range of 30 to 250 ft-lbs. Its micrometer-style torque adjustment allows for precise settings, ensuring accurate torque application.
- Exceptional build quality with a sealed head for protection against dirt and debris
- Highly accurate, with +/- 3% clockwise and +/- 6% counterclockwise accuracy
- 5-degree ratcheting arc and flex head design for improved access in tight spaces
- Knurled handle for a secure grip
- Comes with a durable case for storage and transportation
- Pricey compared to other options on the list
2. TEKTON 24335
The TEKTON 24335 is an affordable 1/2-inch drive torque wrench with a torque range of 10 to 150 ft-lbs. Its all-steel construction ensures durability, and the dual-range scale is easy to read.
- Affordable option for those on a budget
- Sturdy all-steel construction with no plastic parts
- Easy-to-read, high-contrast dual-range scale
- Reversible ratcheting head for versatile use
- Ships pre-calibrated with +/- 4% accuracy
- The torque setting may shift slightly during use, requiring frequent re-checks
- Scale markings can wear off with heavy use
3. CDI 1002MFRPH
The CDI 1002MFRPH is a professional-grade, 3/8-inch drive torque wrench with a torque range of 10 to 100 ft-lbs. It features a dual-scale, laser-etched calibration that is easy to read in both low and bright light conditions.
- Excellent build quality and durability
- Highly accurate with +/- 3% in both directions
- Easy-to-read, laser-etched dual-scale calibration
- Comfortable, ergonomic grip
- Comes with a sturdy storage case
- Expensive compared to some other options
- The torque lock may loosen during use, requiring frequent adjustments
4. Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F
The Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F is a premium 1/2-inch drive torque wrench with a torque range of 40 to 250 ft-lbs. This tool is known for its "split-beam" design, which eliminates the need for constant recalibration.
- Unique split-beam design for easy torque setting and minimal maintenance
- Highly accurate with +/- 2% clockwise and +/- 3% counterclockwise accuracy
- Durable, all-steel construction built to last
- Comes with a storagecase for protection and transportation
- More expensive than other wrenches on the list
- Larger and heavier than some competitors, which may be an issue for some users
5. Pittsburgh Pro 239
The Pittsburgh Pro 239 is a budget-friendly 1/2-inch drive torque wrench with a torque range of 20 to 150 ft-lbs. Despite its lower price, it offers decent accuracy and a solid build quality.
- Highly affordable option for those on a tight budget
- Sturdy, all-steel construction
- Easy-to-read dual-range scale
- Comes pre-calibrated with +/- 4% accuracy
- The torque setting may drift during use, requiring regular adjustments
- The ratcheting mechanism may not be as smooth as more expensive options
Factors to Consider When Buying a Torque Wrench
When choosing a torque wrench, consider the following factors:
- Drive Size: Torque wrenches come in various drive sizes, such as 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch. The appropriate size depends on the requirements of your specific projects. A 1/2-inch drive is suitable for most automotive applications, while a 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch drive may be more suitable for smaller, more delicate tasks.
- Torque Range: Consider the torque requirements of your projects and choose a wrench with an appropriate range. For automotive work, a torque wrench with a range of around 30 to 250 ft-lbs should be sufficient. For smaller tasks, such as bicycle or motorcycle maintenance, a wrench with a lower torque range may be more suitable.
- Accuracy: Ensure that the torque wrench you choose has an accuracy level that meets your needs. Most quality torque wrenches should have an accuracy of +/- 3% to 4% in the clockwise direction. Keep in mind that accuracy may degrade over time, so calibration checks and adjustments may be necessary.
- Ratcheting Mechanism: A good ratcheting mechanism allows for easier and more efficient use of the torque wrench. Look for models with a fine-tooth ratchet, which allows for smaller increments of rotation and better access in tight spaces.
- Construction and Durability: A well-built torque wrench will provide years of reliable service. Look for models with sturdy, all-steel construction and minimal plastic components. A sealed head can help protect the wrench from dirt and debris, prolonging its lifespan.
- Price: Finally, consider your budget when choosing a torque wrench. While more expensive models may offer better accuracy and features, there are still many affordable options that provide excellent performance and durability.
Maintaining Your Torque Wrench
To keep your torque wrench in top condition, follow these maintenance tips:
- Store your torque wrench properly: Keep your torque wrench in its case or a dry, protected area when not in use to prevent damage.
- Calibrate regularly: Have your torque wrench calibrated at least once a year or after 5,000 cycles to ensure accurate torque readings.
- Reset to the lowest setting: If using a click-type wrench, reset it to the lowest torque setting before storing to reduce tension on the internal spring.
- Clean with a soft cloth: Clean your torque wrench with a soft, dry cloth to remove dirt and debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or solvents.
In conclusion, the best torque wrench for your needs depends on your specific requirements, budget, and preferences. The GEARWRENCH 85066, TEKTON 24335, CDI 1002MFRPH, Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F, and Pittsburgh Pro 239 are all excellent options for various needs and budgets.
When choosing a torque wrench, consider factors such as drive size, torque range, accuracy, ratcheting mechanism, construction, and price. No matter which model you choose, a quality torque wrench will be a valuable addition to your toolbox, ensuring the correct torque is applied to fasteners and preventing damage or failure.