Last updated on December 15th, 2019 at 11:13 pm
A torque wrench is a vital tool for anyone who enjoys working on cars and trucks. Numerous repairs call for specific torque figures that can only be obtained with a torque wrench. Torque wrenches come in different sizes and styles. The most common types are beam, dial, digital, and click-type. Each type accomplishes the same task, but in different ways. Beam and dial torque wrenches can be bulky, awkward, and impractical in confined spaces, but offer durability and consistent measurement. Digital and click-type torque wrenches are useful in a variety of situations and offer the ability to dial in the desired torque factor for error-free repairs. To read more about the different kinds of torque wrenches, and how to use them, check out our guide to using a torque wrench the right way.
Torque wrenches are typically identified by the size of the drive. Common sizes are ¼”, ⅜”, ½”, ¾”. and 1”. Larger drive sizes correspond to higher obtainable torque figures. The available torque range is typically expressed in inch pounds (in.lbs.), foot pounds (Ft.Lbs.), or Newton meters (Nm).
A torque wrench is intended to achieve accurate torque values above 20% of the bottom of the scale. You should not rely on a torque wrench intended for higher torque values when tightening to low torque numbers to avoid inaccurate torque.
How We Choose
CarAudioNow.com has done extensive research to identify the best, most accurate, and most reliable torque wrenches on the market today. We compared manufacturer claims against real-world user experiences to determine the quality and reliability of the torque wrenches listed below. Our researchers poured over hundreds of reviews on dozens of sites and spoke with professional mechanics about the tools they use to determine the best torque wrenches on the market today.
We established our criteria using the following standards:
- Calibration Certified
- Overall Design
The torque wrenches we selected excelled in all or most of these categories. Below, we will describe the features of the top torque wrenches on the market.
Best Torque Wrenches
1. Best Beam Type Pick: Craftsman Beam Deflection Torque Wrench
Craftsman Beam Deflection Torque Wrench Quick Review
These torque wrenches from Craftsman are legendary. They are so durable they are often passed from generation to generation. The beam-type torque wrench is as durable as it gets and never needs calibration. In a test, even an old, heavily used Craftsman beam-type wrench scored well within an acceptable margin of error.
This wrench is finished in a bright polish that prevents rust and corrosion. The beam indicator has a high-visibility tip and the scale can be read in standard and metric. The wrench can be used clockwise or counterclockwise. The 3/4” torque wrench is rated from 0-75 ft. lbs.
A Craftsman beam-type torque wrench will outlast any car you own. If you ever have a problem with your Craftsman beam-type torque wrench, it’s covered by the legendary Sears Hand Tool Full Warranty, unlike click-type wrenches from Craftsman.
You really can’t go wrong with this one. The price is by far the lowest of all the wrenches we will look at today, and the reliability and accuracy of this beam-type leaves very few dislikes.
A few things should be said, though about possible issues with the Craftsman beam-type. The wrench is intended to be used with the handle balanced in the hand. A small pin allows movement of the handle. If the operator does not keep the handle balanced, the accuracy can be affected.
An additional issue that many users encounter is that the gauge scale can be difficult to see from awkward angles which often happen when working on a car. Ideally, the operator’s eye should line up with the tip of the pointer facing straight on. Viewing from an angle can cause false readings and inaccuracy.
You are likely to run across these used at garage sales and swap meets. If the handle is intact and the beam is at 0, it’s not a bad idea to pick one up if the deal is right.
A new one is very affordable. The Craftsman beam-type torque wrench i no longer made in the USA, but a professional mechanic told me there is no difference in accuracy, quality of materials, or strength from the Made in Taiwan Craftsman hand tools.
2. Dial Type Pick: Proto 1/2″ Drive Dial
Proto 1/2″ Drive Dial Torque Wrench Quick Review
When absolute accuracy matters, the Made in the USA Proto Dial torque wrench is king. The Proto dial-type has an advertised accuracy of ±4% from 20 to 100 percent of the scale. It reads in both directions for those tricky left-hand thread nuts.
This is a solidly constructed torque wrench with a weight of four lbs. The wrench is made from steel and aluminum parts for strength and durability. The ½” drive dial wrench from Proto sets torque values from 35-175 ft. lbs. and has scales for in. lbs. and Nm. The triple scale makes this one of the most useful torque wrenches around.
The Proto dial torque wrench is certified calibrated and includes a certificate from NIST guaranteeing accuracy.
The overall length of this wrench is 21 ½”, which should provide plenty of leverage to tackle those high-torque projects without the bulk and size of larger torque wrenches. A dial gauge torque wrench like this one from Proto should last a lifetime. The Proto dial-type torque wrench is regarded as one of the most accurate and reliable torque wrenches around.
The handle does not need to be balanced like with a beam-type torque wrench, so these are easy to operate even in tight spaces. The dial can be awkward to read in some positions, but is generally easy to see.
Drawbacks to the Proto dial-type torque wrench are few. The design of the wrench can make it difficult or impossible to get into small spaces. Cost is a factor, also. This is a highly delicate and sophisticated piece of equipment that needs to be handled carefully. Dropping the dial gauge can cause the calibration to go out.
Proto provides a one year warranty on the tool, but only a 90 day guarantee of accuracy. Proto retailers will calibrate the torque wrench for a nominal fee for life.
The Proto dial torque wrench is one of the very best you can buy. The torque wrench is offered in several drive sizes and in models calibrated for in.lbs. and Nm.
3. Digital Pick: CDI Drive Computorq 3 Digital Torque Wrench
CDI Drive Computorq 3 Digital Torque Wrench Quick Review
CDI is the industrial arm of Snap-On Tools. Like any Snap-On tool, the CDI CompuTorq is a tough, reliable, and beautiful tool. The digital readout is highly visible and displays real-time torque figures in four measurements.
CDI torque wrenches are among the very best money can buy. This particular model boasts clockwise accuracy to within 1 percent, but it’s even better than that. In testing it was within .2% accuracy throughout the range. The certificate of calibration from NIST includes the testing information to demonstrate just how accurate this torque wrench is.
When using the CDI Computorq, the torque will display on the screen and an audible noise alerts the user when the preset value is reached. LED lights also illuminate to indicate approaching torque, correct, and over-torqued. This makes for a very useful tool when the angle of torque does not permit view of the screen. A flexible head provides enough angle to clear awkward angles in tight spaces.
CDI torque wrenches are Made in the USA and are backed by Snap-On Tools limited warranty. The Computorq is warrantied for the life of the tool to be free of defects.
The digital features of the CDI Computorq 3 provide some neat features no other torque wrench can offer. The Computorq remembers the last used settings, unlike a clicker-type that must be dialed in every time. The wrench automatically shuts off after two minutes to save battery life.
Users report that this is among the finest torque wrenches on the market. It is simple and easy to use and provides reliable and consistent readings.
Anything that is battery-powered can cause problems, and the digital Computorq is no different. Damage to the digital controller can cause the tool to stop working. The batteries are CR123s and two are required. The batteries can be somewhat difficult to find in some areas, and without them, the wrench is just a pretty, 3.5 lb. lump. The batteries can also be difficult to install.
4. Click Pick: Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F
Precision Instruments PREC3FR250F Torque Wrench Quick Review
Combining the durability of a beam-type with the ease of a dial setting and click mechanism makes for one of the handiest torque wrenches on the market. The split-beam click wrench from Precision Instruments is instantly easy to set. The click function is loud and can be felt in the tool for trouble-free torque limiting.
Unlike most click-type torque wrenches, the Precision Tools wrench does not need to be dialed down after each use. This makes it much nicer to use when you are frequently hitting the same torque figures. The sturdy, well-built mechanism retains accuracy very well, even in abusive environments.
Torque settings are made with a knob rather than the spring tension dials commonly found on click-type wrenches. The overall length of the wrench is among the longest around at 21 9/16”. The manufacturer states that the handle length is intended to provide maximum force for high-torque use without the need for a cheater bar.
Most click-type torque wrenches must be “worked in” prior to being used for reliable measurements. Not the Precision Instruments wrench. It never needs to be worked in and is accurate right out of the box.
This torque wrench is a good mid-priced tool, but it is not certified for calibration. Testers found that most of the torque wrenches were within the advertised ±4%, with some tests indicating 2% variance or less. The wrench is warrantied for defects for 1 year.
5. Torque Adapter Pick: Neiko 20741A
Neiko 20741A Torque Wrench Quick Review
This nifty little device allows the DIYer to instantly convert any ratchet into a torque wrench. The Neiko has a clear and easy to read display that can show either current torque applied or the desired torque setting.
The Neiko is a well-built tool that can come in handy in a pinch. It’s small size and durable construction make it ideal for a tool bag. It is a perfect little device for ensuring lug nuts are torqued on road trips.
The Neiko has both visual LED lights and an audible beep to let the user know that the desired torque setting has been achieved. This makes the Neiko very simple and safe to use in those tight spaces and difficult to see areas.
The torque adapter can register values in four units and has a range of 24.5 ft.lbs.-147.5 ft.lbs.