Rotating your car’s tires, changing your oil and many other vehicle maintenance tasks requires the right torque. If your tool kit doesn’t already have a torque wrench, consider adding one. Digital torque wrenches provide quick adjustments, are easy to read and provide accurate torque measurements.
Are digital torque wrenches more accurate?
Torque wrenches are sold in many stores, including stores like Harbor Freight, and come in multiple styles. Each type of torque wrench has its advantages and disadvantages. 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″ Electronic Torque Wrench with Drive
The eTork 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench, priced at $104.95, is 23.25 inches long and offers 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 enables fast, accurate conversions to other torque measurement units such as Newton meters, inch-pounds and kilogram-centimeter.
eTORK 3/8″ Electronic Torque Wrench with Drive
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 has 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
The $100.25 ACDelco ARM601-3 3/8-Inch Drive Digital Torque Wrench has a clockwise accuracy range of plus-or-minus 2% and has a compact length of 12.25 inches and a torque range of 2 to 37 ft. lb. (24 to 444 inch-pounds). Like other digital torque wrenches in this review, the 3/8-inch drive ACDelco can be easily converted 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 has a torque range of 7.4 – 147.5 ft-lb. The digital scale offers a 0.1 ft-lb. solution. It is also relatively compact for a 1/2-inch torque wrench at 20.4 inches in length and has a 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 may 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 fits easily into any toolbox.
How to choose the best digital torque wrench for your next car project?
Selecting a high quality torque wrench is an essential feature. A cheaply made tool will not provide accurate torque application and can 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, tightening your car’s lug nuts requires a torque wrench that can go up to 150 ft-lb. in most cases, while the carburetor torque ratings for a riding lawn mower are closer to 65 inch-pounds (5.4 ft-lb.).
Another thing to consider is key length. Longer torque wrenches make it easier to achieve higher torque values. For example, 100 ft-lb. torque requires 100 pounds of force applied to the end of a 12-inch wrench or 50 pounds to a 24-inch wrench. However, sometimes longer keys lead to clearance issues when working under the hood of a car.
Finally, like most tools in your toolbox, selecting torque wrenches of different sizes will make your next car project run smoothly, and you’ll know how tight too tight is before the bolt snaps.
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