Torque wrenches are one of those tools which seem to mystify people; after all, they pretty much do what a normal ratchet does. The difference here is in being able to measure how much force is holding down your bolt, which means that you can rest assured that it’s a tight enough fit.
While this isn’t super important for something like a bolt on a valve cover, it’s almost imperative that you make sure structural and safety concerns like suspension and brakes are held to a high, measurable standard in order to ensure the safety of the vehicle you’re working on.
Let’s take a look at the 4 best inch pound torque wrenches on the market, and then we’ll dig into the matter a little bit more.
Performance Tool M195 0-60 in/lb & 0-7 Newton-meter Beam Style Torque Wrench
This beam style wrench has an analog meter which will display for you in real time how much torque is applied on the bolt you’re tightening. It’s available in a variety of different sizes and powers and comes in at a low enough price to be able to be added to nearly anyone’s shop.
It’s not exactly of professional quality, but it should make the distance for most DIY auto technicians who aren’t putting it to heavy use. It’s likely the best inch pound torque wrench for the money.
TEKTON 24335 1/2-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench, 10-150-Foot/Pound
The Tekton 24335 is a click wrench, which is heavy duty and built for everyday use. The internal components are all made of high-quality steel, no plastic here. The adjustable torque meter is also pretty accurate, reading to +/- 4% so you won’t need to worry about over or under tightening the bolt you’re working with. It comes highly recommended for anyone who’s just starting to get serious about their project car.
Capri Tools 31200 20-150 Inch Pound Industrial Torque Wrench, 1/4″ Drive, Matte Chrome
If you ever have to work on bolts with a reverse thread, this torque wrench has you covered. The wrench (see full specs) can be calibrated in both directions and is made solely of excellently crafted components which will hold for a long time. The bi-directional capability is the main stand-out of this wrench, and it’s accurate to +/- 3%.
The manufacturer claims that it can go through an impressive 10,000 cycles before it needs to be recalibrated as well, making it perfect for someone working at home without the on-hand capability to reset it. Take a look if you’re serious about getting some automotive work done in your garage.
GearWrench 85071 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench 25 – 250 ft lb
Electronic torque wrenches are a pretty new technology, and this one from GearWrench is one of the best around. It’s a considerable investment, but with that, you get a ton of functionality that isn’t available with the normal varieties of these tools.
This wrench (see full specs) will display the amount of torque being placed on a bolt in real time, and you can set the desired force quite easily in order to receive an alert when you’re working. It’s louder than a click wrench but has a much better alert system.
It’s also tough, made to be used in auto-shops and sealed against any contaminants you might come across. It’s a professional quality tool, and if you’re serious or starting a shop you should definitely consider adding it to your supply.
The Types of Torque Wrench
More than almost any other tool, the best inch pound torque wrenches come in a wide variety of different configurations. While they all do pretty much the same thing, there’s actually quite a bit of variation in their usage which the amateur mechanic should be aware of in order to make their first purchase.
Beam-style wrenches work with an analog meter which will let you know just how much force is being applied to the bolt. They’re generally the cheapest type of torque wrench you’ll be able to find and run heavier than the other types. Professionals often consider them unreliable, but if properly calibrated they’ll work as well as anything else provided you take one, vital precaution.
A lot of people unfamiliar with using anything with an analog dial don’t take into account parallax. This is a visual trick which is played depending on the angle at which you’re viewing the needle, and it can make what you’re doing vary quite a bit. The easiest way to beat this is to make sure you’re looking dead-on at the dial, which can be a bit difficult depending on where you’re working.
If you won’t be able to do this on your project, you may want to consider another type of wrench as attempting to guess and account for parallax is rather inaccurate without a ton of practice.
Click wrenches are still the most popular among those “in-the-know.” They’re widely used by people who make a living wrenching on cars and for good reason. The only real problem is that they can be a bit difficult for an amateur.
The “click” will sound when you reach the torque set on the wrench. In most cases, this will be done with a simple adjustment on the handle where there are gauges which measure foot/lbs and for metric wrenches Newton/meters.
The click is where most amateurs get tripped up, however, you need to stop applying force as soon as you hear the click and resist the urge to give it one final tug in order to maintain the accuracy of your reading. As long as you do that, you’ll be in the clear.
Digital wrenches are the newest part of the technology. While some of the more old-school professionals are wary about them, if you purchase a quality wrench you’ll rarely be disappointed. For obvious reasons they will nearly always be the most expensive torque wrenches you can find.
At the very least they’ll have a digital gauge which will be much easier to read than the analog gauges on your garden variety beam wrench. Most of them will have additional functionality, however, making them more akin to click wrenches by making an alert. The best will even have a few different colors of LED to alert you as you approach your targeted torque value.
They really are the best around, but an experienced mechanic may still prefer the old-school click wrenches due to familiarity with their operation.
If you’re not the handy type, and it’s your first time with a torque wrench you’ll probably want a beam wrench. They’re cheaper and easier to use. As long as you make sure to account for parallax in your readings they remain reasonably accurate.
If you are handy, or have some automotive experience already but don’t want to go all out pick yourself up a click wrench, just make sure it’s of a decent quality and comes pre-calibrated and you should have no issues. Remember to stop when you hear the click; it’s not a suggestion it’s where you want to be provided that you’ve set the wrench properly in the first place.
If you’ve got the money, regardless of your personal experience, you probably want to invest in a high-quality digital wrench. They’re the easiest to use and the most accurate by a long shot; however, they may not last quite as long as a standard click wrench.
Regardless of which type you end up using, they’re a vital addition to the shop of anyone who’s planning on working with automobiles so why not pick the best inch pound torque wrench now?