Rotating your car’s tires, changing your oil, and many other vehicle maintenance tasks require applying the proper amount of torque. If your tool kit doesn’t already have a torque wrench, you should consider adding one. Digital torque wrenches offer quick adjustments, are easy to read, and provide accurate torque readings.
Are digital torque wrenches more accurate?
Torque wrenches are sold in many retail stores, including stores such as Harbor Freight, and come in multiple styles. Each type of torque wrench has its pros and cons. Digital torque wrenches are the easiest to read. But are they more accurate than other types?
Some are more accurate than others. The key is to look for an accuracy rating of plus-or-minus 4% or less. The smaller the number, the better. The ease of setting and reading torque values is the advantage digital torque wrenches have over other styles.
The best digital torque wrenches
Bob Vila highlighted the following models in a recent roundup of the best digital torque wrenches.
eTORK 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench
Priced at $104.95, the eTork 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench is 23.25 inches long and provides clockwise accuracy in the plus-or-minus 3% range. The 1/2-inch dive eTORK accurately applies torque values ranging from 25 to 250 ft-lbs.. In addition, the electronic display allows fast, accurate conversions to other torque measurement units such as Newton-meters, inch-pounds, and kilograms-centimeters.
eTORK 3/8-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench
Smaller bolts require less torque and a smaller torque wrench like the eTORK 3/8-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench. The 3/8-inch drive eTork costs $93.95 and features a torque range of 25 to 250 inch-pounds (2 to 21 ft-lb.). At 15.38 inches, the 3/8-inch drive eTork offers the same accuracy and unit conversion features as the 1/2-inch drive version.
ACDelco ARM601-3 3/8-inch Drive
With a clockwise accuracy range of plus-or-minus 2%, the $100.25 ACDelco ARM601-3 3/8-inch Drive Digital Torque Wrench features a compact 12.25-inch length and a torque value range of two to 37 ft-lb. (24 to 444 inch-pounds). Like other digital torque wrenches in this review, the 3/8-inch drive ACDelco easily converts to other torque measurement units.
Summit Tools 1/2-inch Drive UltraPrecision
The Summit Tools 1/2-inch Drive UltraPrecision Digital Torque Wrench is the highest-priced digital torque wrench on the list. Priced at $199.99, it offers the best accuracy with plus-or-minus 1% precision. The UltraPrecision features a torque range of 7.4 – 147.5 ft-lb.. The digital scale provides a 0.1 ft-lb. resolution. It’s also relatively compact for a 1/2-inch drive torque wrench at 20.4 inches long and features stainless steel construction.
ACDelco Heavy Duty Digital Torque Adapter
If you already own a 1/2-inch ratchet, this ACDelco Heavy Duty Digital Torque Adapter could be all you need. With a torque range of 25 to 250 ft-lb. and an accuracy of 1.5%, the $79.99 ACDelco torque adapter easily fits into any toolbox.
How to choose the best digital torque wrench for your next car project
Selecting a quality torque wrench is an essential feature. A cheaply made tool will not provide accurate torque application and may break when you apply the most force, leading to injury.
The next thing to consider is the torque value needed to complete your project. For example, torquing your car’s lug nuts requires a torque wrench capable of up to 150 ft-lb. in most cases, while torque values for a riding lawn mower’s carburetor are closer to 65 inch-pounds (5.4 ft-lb.).
Another thing to consider is wrench length. Longer torque wrenches make higher torque values easier to achieve. For example, 100 ft-lb. of torque require 100 pounds of force applied to the end of a 12-inch wrench or 50 pounds on a 24-inch wrench. However, sometimes longer wrenches result in clearance issues when working under the hood of a car.
Finally, like most tools in your toolbox, selecting torque wrenches in various sizes will make your next car project go smoothly, and you’ll know how tight is too tight before the bolt snaps.