Nuts and bolts on things like cars require you to have them tightened to a certain specification which may require a torque wrench. The most common usage for a torque wrenches is probably tightening up lug nuts that keep your tires in place on the rims of your car. Lots of car owners ask, "Do I really need to use a torque wrench on my lug nuts". From what experts say, it's a good idea to keep the lug nuts to the specs of the manufacturer, although some car owners that posted comments in car forums said that tightening your lug nuts too much with a torque wrench could damage the rotors (warp them). In any event, buying a basic torque wrench for $30 to $50 is probably not a bad idea as you will get some use out of it. The automatic torque wrenches are the cheapest and you can find some at Amazon.com for around $30. They come in sizes like 1/4, 1/2, and 3/8 and the most basic ones are called beam type torque wrenches. Torque wrenches measure the rotational force applied to a bolt and it gives you a reading in foot-pound force.
Other types of torque wrenches include the "no hub wrench" (plumbers use this), the click type, the electronic torque wrench with digital readout, programmable electronic torque wrenches (also called angle wrenches), and the mechatronic torque wrenches. Many of these wrenches are used in automotive shops as mechanics work on cars. It's important that any torque wrench is calibrated precisely or else the readings will do you no good. A torque wrench needs to be totally accurate to be effective when used. The digital torque wrenches are about $85 to $120 and the electronic torque wrenches can go up to $250 (at Sears). We did find some really expensive dial and digital torque wrenches online from $500 to $1300 but those are meant for heavy duty use in automotive shops, not for use on DIY projects at home. Emaxaction.com is a division of Snap-On Company and they sell some well built torque wrenches online. You get photos, complete specs, and pricing right on their website. Although we did read that Snap-On makes the best torque wrenches, many posts in online forums said you could get away with cheaper brands in most cases. The difference between a Snap-On torque wrench and one from Craftsman could be $100's or even $1000's. Torque wrench reviews - we found some excellent feedback on Sears.com and at Northerntool.com with customer opinions and comments. You can browse the top selling torque wrenches online here.
Manual Torque Wrench:
For a basic torque wrench, Amazon.com offers Pro-Quality 1/4" 20-200 Inch-Pound Automatic Torque Wrench that sells for $30 and is also available in 1/2 inch and 3/8" sizes as well. Most reviewers on this product agree that the value is good given it's overall usefulness for cars, ATVs, and motorcycles. This low torque wrench is rated from 20 to 200 inch pounds and it leaves no guessing when adjusting the torque setting - the wrench will "click" when you get to the desired torque setting. Check it out online HERE. We also found some quality manual torque wrenches at Sears in their automotive department both in the stores and online. Sears sells mostly Craftsman tools, but they are well rated by owners who post reviews online at their Sears.com website. The Craftsman Beam Torque Wrench for $30 is one worth considering. You view the most popular manual torque wrenches online here.
Electronic Torque Wrench:
When it comes to electronic torque wrenches, we found several that received excellent consumer ratings and expert feedback. Pricing was very competitive on the top models and you should not be paying more than around $250-$300 for a good model. The Craftsman Electronic Torque Wrench, 1/2 in. Drive ($229) was the first one we found at Sears.com and it was also available in the 3/8" size for $20 cheaper. This tool is meant for the professional mechanic that wants accurate readouts - you get 2% clockwise and 3% counterclockwise accuracy due to their strain gauge technology. The LCD display is perfect size and the push button feature for choosing units of measurement is easy to use. This Craftsman torque wrench will adjust from 20 to 200 lbs ft, 240 to 2400 inch lbs, and 27.1 to 27.2 Newton meters. The ergonomic handle is rubberized for a great grip. The CDI Electronic Torque Wrench 2401CI3 ($295) has the 1/4" drive and measures from 2.0 to 20 ft lb, 24 to 240 in lbs, and 2.71 Newton meters. It's 15 inches in length and weights just 2 pounds. The LCD display offers information like torque reading, bar graph, CCW indicator, units of measure, and battery indicator. Other features include a 15 degree flex ratcheting head, push button socket release head, and a battery saving feature that automatically shuts off the product after 2 minutes of non-use. Many customers like the audible tone that sounds when the your set torque value is reached. You can find this product online HERE. As we mentioned earlier, Snap-On offers the ultimate in professional torque wrenches and their Torque Wrench, ELECTROTORK, 25-250 in. lb., 3/8" Drive sells for over $1500. This high end electronic torque wrench from Snap-On tools is meant for professional automotive shops that require the most accurate and callibrated tools on the market. Check out Snapon.com for details on their products.
Digital Torque Wrench:
The Craftsman Digitork Torque Wrench, 5-80 ft. lbs., 3/8 in. Drive ($120) is a top rated digital torque wrench sold exclusively at Sears. The 3/8" square drive wrench gives you digital readouts in both metric and English units. Will measure from 5 to 80 ft lb in .5 ft lb increments. Great mechanics tool in automotive shops or for at home use on vehicles. All Craftsman tools are available online at Sears.com or in their retail stores. RECOMMENDED - The ACDelco ARM601-3 3/8-Inch Digital Torque Wrench 2-37 ft-lbs is another excellent option and offered at about two thirds the price of the Craftsman.