If you ever work on your car at home and it involves removing nuts or bolts, you should probably invest into a quality torque wrench. A torque wrench is a tool designed to apply a specific amount of torque to a fastener. The torque wrench you’re probably familiar with makes a clicking noise once that fastener has been tightened to the specified torque value. At the very least, you should want a torque wrench to properly tighten the lug nuts onto your wheels, if you ever remove the wheels and tires off your car.
Like other automotive tools, there are dozens of torque wrenches to choose from in today’s market. There are even digital torque wrenches when you need extreme precision — such as assembling a motor. The most important factor when shopping for a torque wrench is knowing that it’s accurate and well-built. This way, you’re confident those nuts and bolts you’re tightening are being fastened to spec. The last thing you want are lug nuts falling off your wheels because your torque wrench was inaccurate or faulty.
Below, you’ll find our picks for the best torque wrenches and we chose to stick with adjustable or click torque wrenches, and digital torque wrenches. Sorry, you won’t see any dial torque wrenches on this list.
1. Top pick: CDI torque wrench
We get it. These days, when it comes to tools, it’s getting more and more difficult to find quality ones made in the U.S. Most tools come from overseas manufacturers, and while some do have impressive build quality, sometimes you just want to know your tool comes from the U.S. If you fall in that category, you’ll want this torque wrench from CDI, a company that was originally founded in 1968 and since has become a world class torque products manufacturing company. CDI focuses on torque-related products and this torque wrench is one of the few that are still made in the U.S.
It’s a 3/8-inch drive micrometer adjustable torque wrench with a range of 10 to 100 ft-lbs of torque. All torque wrenches from CDI are individually serialized with a matching certificate of calibration that is traceable to N.I.S.T. (the National Institute of Standards and Technology).
Looking at the torque wrench itself, it’s a pretty standard unit with easy-to-read laser marked scales and a quick release button for easy socket removal. The handle is lightly knurled to enhance grip. CDI includes a blow-molded case for storage when the torque wrench isn’t being used.
Quality and accuracy — these are our two main factors when shopping for the best torque wrench. CDI covers both in well regard and while it is a bit more expensive than the competition, it’s worth the price premium to get a torque wrench that will last.
2. Runner-up: Craftsman torque wrench
Craftsman still has a very strong reputation for quality-made tools, but nowadays, many of its products are manufactured overseas. Case in point, the company’s torque wrenches are made in Taiwan, but they’re still pretty good. Available in either 1/2- or 3/8-inch drive, Craftsman’s torque wrenches are noticeably more affordable than our top pick from CDI and they’re honestly a solid pick for any household.
These torque wrenches feature a bi-material handle for both comfort and grip, which is a bit different than most other torque wrenches. The scales are stamped into the housing, which show inch and metric torque settings. Craftsman does promise that every torque wrench meets or exceeds ASME specifications.
If you don’t care as much about the country of origin and getting a certificate of calibration, Craftsman’s torque wrenches are a great option.
Check Price on Amazon (3/8″)
3. Best on a budget: EPAuto torque wrench
For hobbyists who mainly need a torque wrench for the occasional tightening of bolts or nuts, our best on a budget pick comes from EPAuto. The brand is pretty well-known in the automotive accessories aftermarket and we’ve had some good experiences using various EPAuto tools including its portable tire inflator.
The company’s torque wrench doesn’t have any standout features and is pretty much your run-of-the-mill unit. It’s made from hardened and treated chrome vanadium steel, with a knurled handle for better grip. EPAuto says it’s pre-calibrated to be within 4% accurate and each torque wrench comes with drive adapters and an extension bar. EPAuto offers it torque wrench in a variety of sizes, including 1/4-, 1/2-, 3/8-, and 3/4-inch drives.
For the price, this torque wrench is great value, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re going to use it very often. If it’s a tool you’re reaching for more often than not, spend the extra money and get one of our two top picks.
4. Best digital: ACDelco digital torque wrench
Our pick for the best digital torque wrench comes from ACDelco, which is owned by General Motors. This option meets or exceeds ASME B107.14.14-2004 and ISO 6789 standards, and each wrench is individually serialized with a matching certificate of calibration that is traceable to N.I.S.T., just like our top pick from CDI.
Features on this digital torque wrench include multiple settings: torque, measure, and peak & trace. Measured torque range goes from 14.8 ft-lbs to 147.5 ft-lbs. Owners particularly praise this digital torque wrench because it’s lightweight and easy to use. The soft grip handle is pretty ergonomic and comfortable. The LCD panel is not backlit, so it can be difficult to read in certain conditions.
Obviously since this is a digital torque wrench, it’ll require batteries to operate!
5. Also consider: DEWALT torque wrench
Our final recommendation comes from a brand that really needs no introduction: DEWALT. This torque wrench is pretty much what you’d expect from DEWALT, with yellow and black shades throughout. It’s a micrometer torque wrench like many of our other recommendations on the list and is designed to be rugged with a rubber bumper on the head in case it’s dropped. DEWALT also includes a strong carrying case for easy transport.
Other than that, it mostly has the same features you’d find on any quality micrometer torque wrench. Still, the DEWALT brand name should leave you to believe this torque wrench is well-made, accurate, and durable.
How many clicks is enough?
When using a click torque wrench, you basically set the amount of torque you need and wait until you hear a click when tightening. But how many clicks is enough? One click is actually enough to be accurate. If you continue to tighten and hear the wrench click multiple times, you’re actually applying additional torque to those fasteners.
Now, some users will click their wrench two or three times, since most torque wrenches are calibrated within a 4% margin of error. But really, one click is enough to be accurate.
Can you loosen bolts with a torque wrench?
While some torque wrenches will allow you to use it to loosen nuts and bolts, we don’t like to recommend it. A torque wrench is ultimately a tightening tool and should only be used to tighten fasteners. You can potentially damage a torque wrench if you’re using it to loosen nuts and bolts, or it simply won’t be as accurate anymore.
Besides, you should own a breaker bar for loosening nuts and bolts.
Do I need to reset my torque wrench after using it?
Yes, before storing your torque wrench in its case or your tool box, you should reset it to its lowest value. Doing so will help ensure your torque wrench stays accurate, longer. You should also check the manual to see if the manufacturer has a different recommended storage setting.