A high-quality, calibrated torque wrench is a vital tool for any home mechanic to have on hand for home car repairs. A torque wrench will improve the outcome of simple jobs like an oil change. But it becomes critical in many jobs where bolt torque needs to be measured accurately. Having the best torque wrench for your project will give you peace of mind when working on your vehicle and save you from unnecessary or expensive repairs from improperly tightened nuts and bolts.
Best Torque Wrenches For Every Home Mechanic
Every nut and bolt on your vehicle has a specific torque specification. And, if you over tighten them, you risk stripping the threads or causing damage to your vehicle. Once you know the torque specs (which you can usually find in your vehicle owner’s manual or direct from the manufacturer), you can use a torque wrench to properly tighten all nuts and bolts.
Types of Torque Wrenches
There are a few different types of torque wrenches, which operate in different ways. Specifically, one of the main differences is how the wrench indicates when you have reached the correct torque specifications. Some of the most common types are the classic clicker torque wrenches that indicate the target torque with a loud clicking noise and feeling. Digital torque wrenches indicate the target torque with beeps, vibrations, and flashing lights. They also have a digital display to set and read the torque.
Different sizes of torque wrench are also useful for various projects. 1/2-inch torque wrenches are useful for many projects, such as tightening lug nuts. 3/8-inch torque wrenches are useful when you need less force or more precise force. Spark plugs often use a 3/8-inch torque wrench. You will want to choose your torque wrench based on the range of torque needed for your particular project.
This digital torque wrench has an easy-to-read LCD screen where you can set your target torque using buttons. It also has multiple settings including a peak and trace mode. In peak mode, the wrench will display the highest measured torque reading. In trace mode, you get real-time torque readings on the display.
An anti-slip grip is easy to hold while making precise adjustments. This torque wrench has a range of 9.9 to 99 ft/lbs. However, the reading starts at 4 ft/lbs for even more precise measurements. When you reach your target torque, the digital display will light up and the wrench will vibrate and buzz. This ACDelco torque wrench is a precise tool for specific repair projects.
Our premium pick of torque wrenches, the Precision Instruments Split Beam torque wrench is a high-quality tool. Because of its split beam design, you do not have to wind down the torque after every use. Additionally, the torque settings are easy to adjust using a dial and the wrench has a range of 50 to 250 ft/lbs. This is much simpler, especially with greasy hands, compared to the wind-up style of most clicker torque wrenches.
Thanks to the length of the 25.5-inch long wrench, you can reach difficult places with relative ease. And, the wrench has a rubber grip to help give you a secure hold. Users agree that this is a quality torque wrench for both professional and home use. It is reliable, accurate, and will last for years to come.
This eTORK wrench a great option for a clicker style torque wrench. Pull down on the locking knob to unlock the settings. Then, twist the handle to choose your torque settings. The rubberized handle helps make it easy to grip and change your torque settings. It also operates and measures torque in both directions and has a range of 50-250 ft/lbs.
The torque wrench comes with a lifetime warranty giving you peace of mind about your purchase. Reviewers have found this to be a reliable and well-made torque wrench. It also comes with a calibration certificate and a protective carrying case.
This DEWALT 1/2 inch torque wrench is a clicker-style torque wrench. You can set the torque with the dial near the handle, and the wrench will click once the desired torque setting is reached. A quick-release makes adjusting the settings very easy. The torque wrench has a 50-250 ft/lb range and can be adjusted in 1 ft increments for precise torque settings.
This wrench has both forward and reverse torque capabilities. The long handle on this wrench makes it easier to use than shorter wrenches. The rubber handle gives you a comfortable and secure grip. The head also has a removable protective rubber covering to keep your torque wrench in good condition.
This LEXIVON torque wrench is a great option for a less expensive torque wrench with reliable results. Reviewers appreciated the large torque range, from 25-250 ft/lbs, and found the ratcheting action was smooth.
The all-steel build is durable and professional. You can set the torque by unscrewing the bolt on the bottom and twisting the handle. The yellow lettering is easy to read, even in low light. And the reversible ratchet head drives in both directions, with torque measurements for the clockwise direction.
This is a great budget torque wrench option from EPAuto. It has a double ratchet head for clockwise and counterclockwise motion. It is made from a chrome vanadium steel alloy with a corrosion-resistant finish. And, it comes with a carrying box for easy storage and protection.
You can set the torque by unscrewing the bolt on the bottom and twisting the handle. This torque wrench has a range of 10-150 ft/lbs and is adjustable to the ft/lb. It will make a click that is easy to feel and hear once the correct torque is applied. As an added bonus, you also get a 1/2″ drive to 3/8″ drive reducer and a 1/2″ drive 5″ long extension bar.
The GEARWRENCH 3/8″ digital torque wrench is the next step up from the classic clicker design. This torque wrench will begin to buzz as you get close to your target torque. It will beep and vibrate once you reach it. It is easy to set your target torque using the buttons and a digital screen. Choose from Nm, ft-lb, In-lb, kg-m, and kg-cm modes.
The handle and housing are solvent and oil-resistant, so you’ll have a secure grip. This wrench has a 72 tooth ratchet and a 5-degree swing arc for ease of use and accuracy in tight spaces. It comes in a 1/2″ drive size as well. And, there is an option to choose a flex head with more premium settings.
The TEKTON 1/2″ torque wrench is made out of steel, with no plastic parts that might break. It has a reversible ratchet head that measures torque in the clockwise directions. The torque is easy to set by unscrewing the bottom of the wrench. Move the dial to adjust your torque, in both vertical and horizontal directions to set it to the feet/pound.
This torque wrench has a range from 10-150 ft/lb and comes out of the box calibrated to +/-4%, so you know that every nut or bolt will be perfectly tightened. It also comes in a carrying case for added protection.
If you only use a torque wrench occasionally and just need a basic set, this option form TACKLIFE is a great budget option. The wrench is made out of steel for durability. The measurements are carved into the steel so that they will not rub off over time.
You can adjust the torque settings with the handle. The wrench will click when you reach the desired torque. It can be used in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction. This torque wrench set also comes with a 2.95″ extender bar and a 1/4″ and a 1/2″ adaptor for versatile use.
This Amazon Basics torque wrench has a range from 10 to 250 ft/lbs. You can easily adjust it to your desired torque setting using the dial above the handle. It also has a screw on the bottom tightens to help maintain accuracy. The metal toothed handle is textured enough that even the greasiest of hands can hold on to it.
The durable ratchet head is made out of a steel alloy with a chrome plating to prevent rust and corrosion. And it is easy to wipe down to keep clean. It comes in a carrying case for protection and easy transport.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you use a torque wrench?
Depending on the type of torque wrench, you will set your target torque in a few different ways — in most cases, you will either set it manually or electronically using the digital display.
Once you reach the target torque, the torque wrench will alert you by clicking, beeping, or lighting up. Make sure you don’t tighten past your target torque! A torque wrench does not stop you from overtightening a bolt, it only alerts you once you have arrived at the desired torque setting.
You will also need to store your torque wrench correctly. Keep it in its carrying case in a cool place with little humidity. If you have a clicker-style torque wrench, make sure to turn it down to its lowest torque setting for storage.
Why do you need a torque wrench?
Torque wrenches are necessary for any project that requires a very specific amount of torque. For example, if you tighten a lug nut too loosely, you risk your wheel falling off. If you tighten it too much, you can strip the bolt or damage your wheels, brakes, and rotors. Knowing the torque specifications for the nut or bolt you are tightening can be the difference between a successful home repair or an expensive trip to your mechanic.
Is it okay to use a torque wrench for loosening bolts?
Torque wrenches are specifically made for tightening. Even if they are able to go in both directions, you can damage the torque reading if you use it to loosen bolts.
Does a torque wrench need to be calibrated?
Torque wrenches need to be calibrated often to maintain accuracy. Factory calibration is typically good for about a year after purchase. But depending on how frequently you use the torque wrench, you may need to calibrate it before then. It is recommended to calibrate your torque wrench ever 12 months or 5,000 uses, whichever comes first.
If you drop, misuse, or otherwise abuse your torque wrench, you may need to re-calibrate it sooner. Unusually cool, wet, or hot conditions can also affect your torque wrench.
Make sure to return your wind-up clicker torque wrench to zero to “turn down” your torque wrench after every use. This will also help it stay calibrated longer.
How do I calibrate a torque wrench?
The best way to make sure that your torque wrench is calibrated properly is to take it to a professional. This way you can be sure that you have the correct torque without any worries.
If you want to do it yourself, you can test the calibration by using a measuring tape, a heavy object, and a scale.
Ilana Newman is a writer, photographer, and life long learner. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and recently relocated to the desert and mountains of SW Colorado, she spends her free time climbing, running, and skiing in the mountains. She is passionate about sharing stories that can impact lives.