Cheap Vs expensive torque wrenches

June 23, 2018

This page contains affiliate links. Any purchases you make through clicking on the links below may result in us receiving a small commission at no cost to you         – Learn More –

cartoon1545750024342 (8)

© Lincoln’s Tool Chest

The never ending dilemma of the tool addict: How much money should I be spending on an “insert tool type here”? No one wants to spend their hard earned money only to have to re-purchase something because the one you bought is simply not reliable.   

               Well, to start off, there is some good news. Nowadays technological advances in both design and manufacturing processes allow tools to be made in a cost effective manner, while still paying attention to necessary precision and tolerances. With online shopping, you also have the ability to search out almost any brand, read reviews, compare prices, and purchase tools without ever leaving your home. Combine these two items and it’s easy to see why a lot of the ultra low quality tools that found their way onto the shelves at your local hardware store have been replaced by newer models that show at least a modest improvement in quality. While there are many different types of torque wrenches, there are (3) very common models:

Spring Tensioned Clicking Torque Wrench: One of the most popular styles of torque wrenches, the click style will give slightly, with an audible click when the preset torque value is reached. This is caused by an internal spring and ball detent. Simply set the desired torque and pull the handle until you feel the click. In order to maintain accuracy, a click style type wrench should have the torque setting on the handle returned to zero when not in use.

Split-Beam Clicking Torque WrenchSplit beam torque wrenches work similar to the spring tension click style, but do not have a spring and are not required to be set to zero when being stored. They also may be a bit more accurate and are usually more consistent and reliable since there is no spring that can wear out. 

Beam Style Torque Wrench: While the beam style is both more accurate and cheaper than its clicking counterparts, it is not nearly as convenient to use because you need room to pull on the wrench while reading the indicator at the end of the beam. This can be extremely difficult in cramped locations because the needle and gauge need to be viewed straight on to accurately read the torque value. 

               So what type of torque wrench should you buy and how much should you anticipate spending? Well, the answer to these questions depends on one main factor: What you will be using the torque wrench for…

      Are you going to be building an engine(s), where torque values need to be very precisely duplicated? Accurate torque values on internal and external engine components can be critical to the longevity of an engine. If this is something you see doing in your future, then it don’t skimp on quality and buy the best one you can afford. If you need an accurate and cost effective model, buy a beam style torque wrench. Although the beam styles are not necessarily the easiest to read when you are in a cramped location under a car, you will most likely have plenty of room to read the indicator working with an engine on a stand. If you can afford to spend a little more, a nice split beam torque wrench from Precision Instruments is a value that’s hard to beat. It comes with a flexible head to aid in areas that are hard to reach. Otherwise there are many high end brands of spring style clickers that, if taken care of properly, should serve you well for years to come.

               Maybe you don’t plan on building an engine, or simply don’t work on very many projects that will require a precise torque setting. Maybe you just want a torque wrench for tightening/checking the torque on your wheel studs. I will often loosen/re-torque my wheel studs when someone else has installed my wheels as I have had rotors warp due to automotive repair shops over tightening my lug nuts. Even if you don’t do this, your lug nuts should technically be checked after a few hundred miles after wheel installation to make sure nothing is coming loose. Unlike engine components, service manuals usually give a range of torque settings for wheel studs allowing for some margin of error to be acceptable. If this situation sounds more like what you will be doing, then a cheaper torque wrench from a company like Tekton might make more sense for your needs. I have several torque wrenches and the one I use for all of my wheel studs is a twenty dollar automotive parts store model I bought eighteen years ago. I have taken care of it well and it works just fine for my needs today.

            Then again, chances are if you found this website, you will end up buying a few and that still won’t be enough. A major sign of a tool buying addiction! Whatever you decide to buy, just make sure to follow the manufactures instructions and treat them with care. Don’t drop them or use them to break loose/remove bolts. Leave these tools to what they do best, setting torque values.