No two torque wrenches are the same. Understanding what each does best means arming your auto or plumbing repair tool kit and never facing a nut or bolt you can’t handle.
For beginners and seasoned veterans in the garage alike, one tool that frequently comes in handy is the torque wrench. It gets used to apply a specific torque (or twisting force) to a nut, bolt, or lag screw—no more, no less. And, in many automotive or plumbing scenarios, the user needs to apply the exact torque specified for the application.
Many enthusiasts collect a few hand-me-down wrenches over the years, while others may have amassed their collections by series of purchases for as-needed tasks of the past. There’s no bad time to take inventory of what types of torque wrenches you already have or make a short list of specialty versions that could complete the collection. There are eight types of torque wrenches, specifically, that tend to get the most use by automotive or plumbing experts as well as the everyday garage-loving project seeker. Keep reading for a proper introduction to those tools and must-know details about what each does best. Having these on-hand means never facing a nut or bolt too tough.
1. Click Torque Wrench
The click torque wrench belongs in almost every toolbox and is a fan-favorite for basic jobs. Over torquing is avoided typically with the use of visual gauges or torque indicators that tell the user when to stop twisting. But some jobs are in tight spaces or require reaching in a way blocks visibility of the pressure levels. For those jobs, a click torque wrench is perfect. The click torque wrench can be preset to a specific level of torque. The internal clicking noise and a clutch mechanism are designed to stop or slip once that preset value is met. These click torque wrenches can be purchased in various sizes and torque limits.
Best For: Hard-to-reach jobs that require a preset torque level.
Editors’ Choice: Click torque wrenches are just as easy to find as they are to use. Thanks to the distinct click felt in the handle and heard audibly, the TEKTON ½-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench (available on Amazon) is a great addition to the collection.
2. Beam Torque Wrench
You will be hard-pressed to find an automotive enthusiast that doesn’t have a beam torque wrench in the toolbox. This type of torque wrench allows you to fasten bolts to a precise tightness specification, as determined by manufacturers or automakers. If you have a task that requires exact torque guidelines, the easy to use beam torque wrench offers a pivoting handle. When applying pressure, this beam design translates to extreme precision at the tip of the tool. The handle, when held properly, will exert pressure at the extreme end, like a lever, only applying the preselected torque pressure. Beam torques also come with a variety of signals when torque levels are reached, which is always welcome in a noisy garage environment.
Best For: Fastening to an exact tightness specification, particularly on automobiles.
Editors’ Choice: If you don’t already have one, the Tooluxe 03703L ⅜-Inch and ½-Inch Dual Drive Beam Style Torque Wrench (available on Amazon) offers two-size versatility in one tool. The 17-inch long shaft is great for more common torque applications.
3. Split Beam Torque Wrench
The split beam torque wrench is in the family of beam torque wrenches and similarly works with the use of two beams for exact tightness. It works by opening the hinge and setting the desired level of torque. Some models offer a clicking function to alert the user when the setting is achieved. Most garage enthusiasts will resort to the split beam torque wrench when overtightening is not an option. If you’re working with a fastener that requires a factory setting tightness, and ultimate precision is the order of the day, the split beam torque wrench does the job beautifully. Before you buy, consider the accuracy and grip comfort, along with drive size and needed torque ranges. They can cost anywhere from $100 up to $800 depending on the capabilities.
Best For: Precision torquing at spec when overtightening by accident isn’t an option.
Editors’ Choice: The Precision Instruments PREC2FR100F ⅜-Inch Drive Split Beam Wrench with Flex Head (available on Amazon) is made in the USA and comes with a storage case and calibration compliance certificate. This brand has garnered the respect of mechanics in commercial environments.
4. Electronic Torque Wrench
As the name implies, this torque wrench offers a digital platform where internal multipliers are merged with an electric motor—ideal for any HVAC, industrial, automotive, and aerospace scenarios. You can program torque levels and use an audible indicator or read the LED display as you go. Tech-savvy users can also make use of additional features that include memory settings and the capability of uploading data to a computer for use in specs and spreadsheets. The presence of delicate sensors and technology in these wrenches won’t compromise their durability or strength.
Best For: Electronically saving settings and working with digital applications.
Editors’ Choice: For the total package, consider the Summit Tools WEA Series Adjustable Digital Torque Wrench (available on Amazon). This torque wrench is made with a higher quality stainless steel and also comes with a protective case for storage.
5. Slip Torque Wrench
The slip torque wrench is an essential tool in the toolbox, in part due to its ease of use and common application. These are great for small, low torque jobs including the quick release of stubborn nuts and bolts in everyday projects or delicate electrical components. Once torque levels are reached, the slip torque wrench will do as the name implies: slip and automatically release the pressure. As you’re twisting, you can build up torque again but won’t ever be in danger of overtightening beyond the wrench’s designed limits.
Best For: Low torque jobs.
Editors’ Choice: An advanced model like the Seekonk MR-1½ Preset Slip Type Torque Wrench (available on ProTorqueTools.com) ships with a NIST certificate of calibration and features a minimum head diameter design, making it ideal for harder to reach places.
6. Hydraulic Torque Wrench
When the bolts are huge, and precision torque at higher than normal levels are required, the power of the hydraulic torque wrench makes tightening and loosening easier. The wrench itself can be used directly in contact with the nut or in tandem with an impact socket. The hydraulic torque wrench is the reimagined and heavy-duty version of the traditional handheld wrench. In fact, buying one of these types of torque wrenches might require a trip to an industrial supplier. They can be incredibly lightweight and quiet to use, with ideal results on well-lubricated fasteners and present accurate torque levels.
Best For: Use with larger bolts or applications where torque accuracy at higher levels are required.
Editors’ Choice: The high-end Enerpac W4000X Hydraulic Torque Wrench (available on Amazon) belongs to the brand’s trusted W-series tools and offers a low-profile hexagon feature.
7. Deflecting Beam Torque Wrench
Also known as the dual-signal deflecting beam torque wrench, this tool is designed with a dual trip mechanism that offers a releasing indicator pin along with visual and audible signals used for reading torque levels and provides both audio and visual feedback. The torque pressure is applied to the deflecting beams rather than the coil springs typically used in torque wrench design, which some suggest leads these wrenches to outlive their traditional counterparts. Others believe the deflecting beam torque wrenches offer more consistent readings. Patented by Warren & Brown Tools in 1948, this design continues to be a go-to for many garage enthusiasts.
Best For: More accurate torque readings over an increased lifespan.
Editors’ Choice: If you’re ready to add one of these to your toolbox, you can find a Powerbuilt 649972 ½-Inch Drive Deflecting Beam Torque Wrench at major hardware retailers or from Amazon. This one comes with its calibration certificate and a handy hard case for storage.
8. No-Hub Torque Wrench
The no-hub torque wrench is ideal for plumbers’ and pipe fitters’ work on couplings, pipe installation, and no-hub cast-iron work like installing soil pipes. This commonly “T”-shaped handle on this wrench is easy to use in various environments and provides a high degree of accuracy with torque pressures. In the plumbing world, too much or too little torque when connecting pipes translates to leaks, so this is an absolute game-changer for the job.
Best For: Plumbing or pipe fitting work when leaks are possible but undesirable, or you’re working with no-hub fittings.
Editors’ Choice: The RIDGID 31410 902 Torque Wrench (available on Amazon) includes a lifetime warranty for the life of the wrench.
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