In the world of tools, there are more options available than ever. This means that the best torque wrench on the market is even better than it was just a few years ago–but it also means many people from amateurs to professionals have a much harder time choosing what tools are right for them.
I’ve written this article to save you time and money by giving you in-depth, highly descriptive reviews of five of the best torque wrenches around, as well as some tips on choosing, using, and caring for a torque wrench for your needs and your budget.
Best Torque Wrenches of 2018
|1-3/8"||Easy to read laser marked dual scale dial|
Calibrated in both CW and CCW direction
Accuracy: +/- 3% of indicated value
|1/2-3/8"||100 to 600 foot pounds range|
Dual scale, calibrated dual direction
Positive lock with pull down lock ring
|Mountain||3/4"||Ratcheting click style|
42" long, Blow molded case
|Precision||1/2"||Nickel/Chrome finish with ergonomic grip|
Adjustment knob eliminates spring tension
|1/2"||Clicks upon preset value is reached|
Pre-calibrated to +/- 4% accuracy
In addition to telling you what’s best across the board, it’s part of my mission to help you find the best torque wrench for you personally, no matter what your budget is, how much experience you have, or what kind of work you’re looking to do.
Like I said above, this is going to be an in-depth article. Let’s keep things simple for right now with this handy comparison table above.
In addition to laying out the key specs, features, benefits, and disadvantages of each of the top five torque wrenches I’ve chosen to review for this article after extensive research and testing of over 20 of the most popular torque wrenches on the market, this table should come in handy later when it’s time for you to choose your best torque wrench.
CDI – Best Torque Wrench Brand
Luckily, the tool is available in a wide variety of configurations of different drives and ranges of force, all at different price points.
That being said, all of them are premium products.
They may come at a premium price, but they do their best to pack plenty of value by providing very high specs and some exciting extra features.
When I finally got my hands on the product, I was also impressed with its design and manufacture. This is one of those rare tools that looks just as good as it works.
In addition to being made in the United States, it comes with a certificate of calibration which you can easily match to the serial number.
In addition, it features an extremely comfortable grip for the toughest moments on the job, and a very clear and easy to access dial readout. The readout is guaranteed to be plus or minus 3% accurate as well, which is very solid, especially for a tool with this kind of power and versatility behind it.
Last but not least, this torque wrench is incredibly durable.
Now, all but the cheapest and worst torque wrenches have to have a bit of durability behind them due to the larger amounts of force being thrown around by these types of tools as compared to some others, but in terms of durability, this offering from CDI is exceptional even among the cream of the crop.
That being said, nothing is perfect, even when it comes to tools at the very highest end of the market. In addition to the pretty steep price, it is important to note one tiny potential flaw.
The needle you’ll need to watch to zero out the torque is extraordinarily sensitive to even the smallest bump on the exterior of the tool, meaning it’ll take some serious practice to get yourself to the point where you can zero it out accurately.
However, a little sensitivity is to be expected from such a precision tool, especially when the range of applicable torque is so high, so I never read this as a huge problem.
The combination of power, versatility, durability, and accuracy here had me reeling once I got to use the tool, even if I initially balked at the very top tier price. All in all, I recommend this product to all serious professionals out there.
While it’s a bit steeply priced for working on old cars in your yard, it’s actually fairly priced when compared with professional tools of a similar caliber, and even packs more value than some of the other major brands out there.
In addition, this tool is built to last, even when working under the toughest conditions–meaning it’s potentially a much better investment for the future than many cheaper products. It’s my best torque wrench brand for sure.
CDI – Best Quality Torque Wrench
With a torque range of 100-600 pounds, this slightly more compact and micro-adjustable offering from industry giant CDI Torque pack plenty of power and value without breaking the bank (or breaking any bolts).
As with other CDI Torque tools I’ve both used professionally and tested and reviewed throughout the years, I was impressed with the workmanship put into this product as soon as I unpackaged it.
Not only is it made with tough materials, but it’s made with hard work and serious longevity in mind.
That being said, the weight is a bit high for a tool with this kind of torque range. However, that’s a small sacrifice in exchange for increased durability and seriously impressive accuracy in my book.
Often times, the lightest torque wrench isn’t the best torque wrench.
This is a key ease of use feature that’s better thought out than similar additions to a lot of other torque wrenches.
Although something as simple as a quick release mechanism doesn’t often get much thought when you’re first looking at a socket wrench, you’ll most certainly notice the difference with increased use over time.
Something else you’re sure to notice as you use the tool more over the course of time is the comfort features such as the ergonomic grip. While this is a standard feature on offerings from CDI Torque, it’s not something you’ll find on every torque wrench on the market, even others among the best torque wrenches.
However, this particular model does not offer the rubberized grips available on some of the larger CDI tools, which may be a drawback for some users.
All these extra features come together to attempt to make this one of the easiest torque wrenches to use. However, as a more specialized product, it is still a bit more complicated than the average torque wrench, which may put off some of the less experienced among you.
I recommend this product to professionals and serious tinkerers looking for a product that’s high quality in the 100 to 600-foot pound range. While it won’t tackle the huge jobs required in some heavy industry applications, it’s perfect for automotive work and torquing the lug nuts on big rigs.
Although it’s certainly not a budget choice, it’s got plenty of value compared to other tools in its price class and may be a great investment for those interested in a tool’s longevity.
It’s also not one of the most expensive tools on the market by any stretch. Give it a shot if you’re after good quality of the best torque wrench.
Mountain – Best Torque Wrench for a Car
In addition to meeting federal accuracy standards of plus or minus 4% accuracy, it comes at a bargain of a price.
The torque adjustment is extremely easy to use, with nice solid clicks that are easy to hear even over the noise of the shop floor.
To top it all off, the tool comes with a very solid case. Many tool users underestimate the added value of a really well-made case for the protection of a torque wrench, but those who have had a torque wrench damaged in storage know that the case actually means a lot.
The case certainly isn’t the only thing this torque wrench has going for it, though. It’s also built tough, with plenty of weight but not so much that it becomes hard to use.
It’s well manufactured and obviously designed with durability and longevity in mind. It also comes with a calibration certificate for your peace of mind.
However, for most applications, this tool can get the job done, and just might throw in a little added value when you consider its high durability and low price.
This is a solidly built tool at a steal of a price. While it’s fairly easy to use, the slightly higher than average weight may add difficulty for the less experienced or physically strong, though for more experienced users like me that added weight is actually a benefit in some ways.
While the dimmer readout makes it less than ideal for lower light conditions, there are no other major flaws with this product, and it packs a lot of value.
I recommend this one both to professional mechanics and technicians looking for a slightly more budget-friendly alternative to the biggest name brand products and to the confident do it yourself road warriors and motor homeowners who need a portable, usable wrench with a lot of power. No doubt, it can be considered as the best torque wrench for your car.
Precision – Best Torque Wrench for the Money
This offering from Precision Instruments, a highly respected name in the world of torque wrenches and other automotive tools that is actually the manufacturer behind the extremely popular and sought after Snap-On line of products, attempts to put the best torque wrenches have to offer in the simplest possible package.
Split Beam Torque Wrenches Explained
|No need to zero out after using||Smaller readouts mean lower accuracy, though quality wrenches are still more than accurate enough for automotive purposes|
|Do not need calibration as often and are generally a bit more durable||Only works clockwise, which may decrease usability for some left-tightening bolts|
|Much simpler to use and read|
Micrometer Torque Wrenches Explained
|Extraordinarily high accuracy perfect for extreme precision purposes||Require much more frequent calibration|
|Most can operate both clockwise and counterclockwise (though torque wrenches are still generally not used for loosening bolts)||Must be manually zeroed out after every single use in most cases|
|Are more finely adjustable and often feature auditory feedback (clicks), as well as visual (readouts)||Require more precise adjustment to function properly|
This being a split beam design, it affords all of the added simplicity and durability that the best split beam torque wrenches offer. In addition, it requires much less frequent calibration, which can save you truckloads of time and money down the road.
In addition to all the features it inherently has to offer as a solidly made split beam torque wrench, it also offers some potentially helpful bonuses like an ergonomic grip and a strong nickel chrome finish for increased durability.
It also manages to do all of this at a very low price point.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks. The only serious con that I noticed that will affect my day to day work is its relatively low torque range of 20 to 250 foot-pounds.
While this is perfectly acceptable for some work, it doesn’t have the versatility and higher power that I like in most of my tools. However, if you’ll only be working in the 20 to 250-foot pound range, this might be the best option for you.
I can confidently recommend this tool to anyone looking to do work in the 20 to 250-foot pound range, such as work on cars, motorcycles, and light trucks. While work on most big rigs will require a bit more torque, this tool is extremely solid for anyone working in that range.
My favorite features are its extreme simplicity and durability, making this tool’s functionality ideal for anyone from the beginner to the seasoned professional. My best torque wrench for the money.
Tekton – Best Torque Wrench for Spark Plugs
In addition, its reversible head and micrometer style adjustment make it ideal for a very wide variety of applications.
Of course, I do wish that it had a slightly higher and wider torque range. That being said, this still offers plenty of power and performs very highly within its recommended range.
On top of that, the readout is one of the easiest to read on any of the click torque wrenches I’ve worked with in recent years.
The all-steel construction is another major feature that may add a lot of value for those of you concerned with durability.
For anyone looking for a torque wrench in the 10 to 150-foot pound range, this steal of a deal may be hard to pass up. With its pinpoint adjustment system and all steel construction, this would be a hard one not to recommend.
That being said, the product isn’t for anyone looking to tackle extremely big jobs such as work on heavy trucks or in production applications. On the bright side, Tekton does offer similar models with different torque range ratings, so those are worth checking out for users who need a bit more force. Probably the best torque wrench for spark plugs out there.
I hope the reviews above have been helpful. Now I’m going to get away from the more specific aspects of these particular tools for a minute and talk about torque wrenches more generally for a bit. Don’t worry: I’ll let you know which of the above tools I’ve found to be the best torque wrench by the end.
Learning more about torque wrenches generally, along with the detailed reviews and comparison table available above, should help you greatly when it comes time to decide which one is the best torque wrench for you.
Of course, I’ve also included a lot of helpful tips about proper use of your torque wrench, safety concerns that come along with using torque wrenches, and of course the proper care and maintenance of the tool you choose.
I hope this section of the article helps you not only to find the perfect tool for your exact needs but to keep it working hard for you for years to come.
Choosing the Best Torque Wrench for You
If you’re new to the world of torque wrenches, all these facts and figures might be making your head spin a bit.
Never fear! I’ve spent many years working hard and playing around with all kinds of tools, and I’ve cracked the code, so to speak.
Let’s start with the most basic spec there is when it comes to torque wrenches: the drive.
That being said, there are some advantages to different drive sizes in terms of durability, power, and specialized tasks. Of course, there is also one more factor to consider: whether you already have torque wrench sockets designed to fit a wrench with a certain drive.
While the drive is not necessarily the most important of all the specs of a given torque wrench, it is, of course, something to consider, and consider carefully while choosing the best torque wrench.
Of course, most of the models that I’ve reviewed in this article are available in several different configurations with different drive capacities–meaning that if you like one of the 1 inch drive tools talked about here by needing a ¾ inch drive torque wrench, it’s worth checking whether the 1 inch drive tool you like is available in a ¾ inch setup.
Foot Pounds, Inch Pounds, and Newton Meters
Foot pounds are a measure of force. This unit of measurement can throw a lot of people off at the beginning if they’ve never used a torque wrench or similar tool before, but it’s actually quite simple.
One foot-pound is the amount of energy moved when pressing a pound of force for one foot.
Think of it like kilowatt hours on your electric bill. Exactly the same principle applies.
While there are some pretty complex bits of physics going on here, this is the basic idea. More foot pounds means more torque power.
Knowing the foot pounds needed for the applications you intend to use your torque wrench for is vital to knowing which torque wrench to get.
Luckily, many of the models that I’ve reviewed in this article are available in several different foot pound ranges at different price points. This means it’s easy to simply click around and find the same model falling in exactly the range of force that you need and the range of money you’re willing and able to spend.
It’s just like I talked about in the above section with the drive.
You’ll also see inch pounds mentioned when reading about torque wrenches and tools that operate on similar physics principles. An inch-pound is exactly the same type of measurement but focused on inches rather than feet.
This is used for small, specialized applications. Also, you should keep in mind that twelve-inch pounds is equal to a one-foot pound.
Keep in mind that not all torque wrenches are as accurate as others.
Now, there’s one last thing I need to tell you about before I close this section off: the Newton meter (which you may also see spelled as “Newton metre”).
This is essentially the same principle expressed in metric terms. Some tools have the torque they can produce listed in Newton meters as well as pound-feet, and others will not.
On the other hand, some tools made or intended for use primarily in continental Europe will have Newton meters and not foot pounds.
If you’ll need to work in both, it’s best to know the limits of your tool in both categories, because the values of each unit are slightly different. To be exact, one pound-foot is about equal to 1.3558 Newton meters.
That means they’re roughly equivalent at low levels of force, but at higher levels, that slight difference can add up to a lot.
If you only need to work in one unit of measurement, then you shouldn’t need to worry about your tool’s capacity expressed in terms of the other, or what your tool displays on its gauge. This extra knowledge is never a bad thing to have, though!
The Type of Work You Do Matters
I’m most familiar with using torque wrenches in an automotive setting, as you might have gathered from everything that’s come before. However, I’ve used and known people who have used torque wrenches in a huge variety of other settings, and the type of tool you need is very different.
The main thing you’ll want to consider is the size and the range of force needed for your application. If you’re working in aviation, the nuclear field, or heavy industry, you need a tool with some seriously high force behind it, such as one that gets up to 1,000-foot-pounds.
Such tools are often pretty sizeable.
On the other hand, if your main intention for this torque wrench is to work on passenger cars, light trucks, and motorcycles, then you don’t need all that torque. Don’t get me a wrong, a larger range of force is always great.
However, if you’re going to be working in tight spots on automobiles, then you want to consider the size of the tool as well.
One more thing: does your torque wrench need a dial to gauge the exact amount of torque you’re using with pinpoint accuracy?
Again, it’s always a good thing to have, but it does add a bit of expense that some users can’t spare–and with a dial, you’ll always have to make sure the dial is visible when you’re working, meaning that the number of angles you can use is a bit more limited.
This is once again a potential drawback, albeit not a total dealbreaker when it comes to automotive work because of the smaller spaces involved in that kind of labor.
This section of my article isn’t to discourage you from buying one tool or another–quite the contrary. I’m writing this to help you consider the factors that go into getting exactly the tool you need for exactly the work that you plan to do with it.
Using Your Torque Wrench Properly
Luckily, I’ve got years of experience using all kinds of tools, and I’m going to share as much of that with you as I can today (without making this article too long to read).
While true expertise most often comes through experience, reading this section will surely help you cover the basics and get the most out of the best torque wrench the market has to offer.
Safety knowledge is one of the most important things you can forearm yourself with when using any tool, especially a tool that’s new to you. Additionally, even if you’re already an old pro at using torque wrenches, it never hurts to go over the safety basics one more time.
The most important safety advice I can give you is this:
Do NOT under any circumstances overload the torque wrench!
It’s also one of the top killers of the tools themselves, as creating too much tension inside the delicate inner workings of these machines can lead to breakage of essential parts like the springs that provide the tension.
Of course, all of the other basic safety rules for manual labor apply, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment (often called PPE in the industry).
It’s always a good idea to consult your owner’s manual for safety warnings regarding your particular chosen product as well!
Caring for Your Torque Wrench
If you buy the best torque wrench, you’re guaranteed a certain degree of durability and longevity. However, the lifespan of your tool depends just as much on you as on the tool itself.
While maintaining a torque wrench is actually pretty easy once you have the basic knowledge down, you’d be simply amazed by the number of people I’ve met–including seasoned professionals–who simply don’t take the time and put in the effort to keep their tools well maintained.
Read on for tips on some of the simplest but most important things you can do to keep your tool in tip-top shape for years to come–and keep it working as hard as you do.
It’s very easy for torque wrenches to become dirty, especially while doing automotive work.
Of course, a little grime every now and then has never killed a tool. That being said, you’ll still want to wipe down your torque wrench after every use.
You don’t want dirt and grime getting inside the mechanism at the head and causing any damage!
It is especially important to avoid using very harsh cleaners on any dials or other readouts.
Keeping your best torque wrench clean not only helps it look better and give off an air of professionalism but can make it last longer and work more efficiently.
Believe it or not, improper storage is what prematurely wears down torque wrenches and other tools more often than anything else. While most serious tool users know not to overload their tools, many don’t know or don’t care about proper storage, which can lead to serious problems in the long term.
The biggest thing to consider when storing your torque wrench is humidity.
Be sure to keep your torque wrench stored in a dry place. If you’re storing it in a shed or even a garage, be very careful.
The good news is that many of the best torque wrenches come with protective cases that will keep them out of the worst of the elements. This is no substitute for good, thoughtful storage, but it does provide an extra boost to the longevity and efficacy of a given tool over time.
Torque wrenches are not simple tools. While they may look essentially like very nice socket wrenches, there are a lot of tiny moving parts doing very important work inside.
As the tool is used, those moving parts inevitably wear down and slip out of place. This isn’t something that happens overnight provided the tool is used and stored properly, but over years it can become a serious problem, and lead to the amount of torque being deployed becoming inaccurate.
This could, of course, lead to serious consequences.
Most tool manufacturers recommend recalibration every five years, but be sure to read your chosen torque wrench’s owner’s manual, as the instructions for one model may be different from those given for another.
Of course, many manufacturers offer discounts or free service, which is important to look into if you’re on a budget or you’ve invested a lot into your tool.
Conclusion: The Best Torque Wrench Is…
We’ve come a long way since I first researched the 20+ most popular torque wrenches on the market and settled in for some long weeks of intensive testing. Before I even started writing this, I whittled the field down to the top five tools… but now I’m at a place where I think I can confidently recommend the best torque wrench of all.
That being said, what’s best for me isn’t best for everyone. While I firmly believe the torque wrench I’ve chosen is the best torque wrench across the board, your needs may be different depending on your work, your level of expertise, and your budget.
Don’t be afraid to look into any of these top five torque wrenches, as they’re all quality products. And look out for my honorable mentions of the best torque wrench for particular situations you might be in after I go ahead and name the best across the board.
My choice for the best torque wrench across the board goes to the CDI Torque 10005LDFN. Here are some of the reasons I determined this torque wrench deserves the top spot:
- Extremely high accuracy and durability
- Top of the line torque range of 0 to 1000 foot-pounds makes it one of the most versatile tools on the market
- Easy to read dial and torque memory feature make it extremely easy to use for such a precise tool
However, there are plenty of other great torque wrenches out there. I recommend all five of the torque wrenches featured in this article, and in addition, there are two more I’d like to highlight for particular situations.
The Best Budget Torque Wrench
For my money–and yours, if you’re on a tight budget–the Tekton model featured in this article may just be the best bet. While it lacks the higher torque range of some of the high-end models, its accuracy and durability can’t be beaten in its price class.
The Best Torque Wrench for Beginners
If you’re new to torque wrenches, you know there’s a lot to learn about these surprisingly complicated tools. My recommendation for a great starter tool that offers plenty of functionality and won’t break on you even when under stress is the Precision Instruments split beam model reviewed above.
Its split beam construction makes it highly easy to use, but at the same time, it’s a professional grade tool that may just treat you right for years to come if properly cared for.
I hope this article has made choosing the best torque wrench for your work just a bit easier for you. Did I miss any favorites?
Have any good experiences you’d like to share with the torque wrenches in this feature? Give me a shout in the comments!