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Buying Tips: 1/2″ Torque Wrench for Automotive Enthusiast

The Right Torque Wrench for You!

The goal of our YouTube video and this article is to help you choose the correct Torque Wrench for your application and usage.  Neither the video nor this article are meant for the full blown mechanic.  Here, we will try to help those looking for their first torque wrench for fo an affordable, but quality unit to use on their own vehicles.

When it comes to making a purchasing decision, many factors are taken into account such as price, quality, features, ease of use, and durability.  All of these aspects basically lead the purchaser to choose the best ‘Value for Money’ product. Every consumer, whether they are buying a car, a house or a tool, all expect value for money and rightly so.

One of the most commonly used tools in the automotive service industry has been the torque wrench. Along with a spanner and socket set, there is not one workshop that does not have at least one or more torque wrenches being regularly used.  Torque Wrenches are designed for a variety of applications for both Automotive and Industrial use. Sizes and capacity range from small, medium and large. The torque range for a small size models is generally anywhere from 30-200in. lbs. (4-22Nm) with either a ¼” or 3/8” square drive. This size wrench is suitable for everyday use with low torque applications and are a widely used for transmission servicing. For medium size models, torque low range will be anywhere from 20 or 30 ft lbs. (17 or 34Nm) with a torque high range of approximately 250ft lbs. (332Nm) and are usually supplied with ½” square drive adapter. These are a good option for engine rebuilding and reconditioning applications.  Even larger capacity wrenches which have a range of up to 1000 ft.lbs (1320Nm) are also available for heavy automotive and industrial use such as truck, machinery and heavy plant maintenance.

When it comes to torque wrenches or any tool for that matter, certain factors can at times be overlooked which will determine whether a wise buying decision will be made.  The longevity and durability of the tool is one of the ultimate tests in determining a “Value for money” product.  For example, how long will the product last?  Will the torque wrench be as accurate after 500, 1000 or 5000 uses as it was on the first use?  What will the total cost of ownership be for a torque wrench when regular calibrations and repairs are taken into account?

In terms of quality, one important aspect is to verify the torque wrench performance against International standards for accuracy. Most models have an accuracy tolerance for the displayed torque output. For example, some makes and models have a tolerance of +/- 4%, +/- 2% or even +/- 1%. The lower the tolerance the more accurate the reading will be as the true reading will be within the specified + or –  percentage of tolerance.

Types of Torque Wrenches

Beam Torque Wrench

A beam style is the least expensive and will handle most jobs related to automotive maintenance.  The deflecting beam torque wrench has proven to be a tool that is handed down from generation to generation. They work by applying torque to a deflecting beam rather than a coil spring which prolongs the life of the wrench and also ensures extreme accuracy. A dual signal feature (visual and audible) ensures that operator knows when the desired torque has been reached.

A disadvantage is that it does not contain a ratchet head which some may prefer and the majority of models can only be used in one direction for tightening nuts or bolts. However, by attaching products such as ratchet adaptor or a torque-angle adaptor to the deflecting beam torque wrench, certain obstacles can be overcome and the wrench becomes much more versatile.

The deflecting beam torque wrench has a simple design with proven results and reliability. It is a product that will maintain its accuracy over the long term due to it containing no wearing parts.

Click Torque Wrench

A click or micrometer, adjustable torque wrench is the type most often used by mechanics. Twisting the handle changes the torque value of the wrench. This kind of wrench has an internal spring and adjustable handle for easy usage. A click torque wrench allows you to check the torque by feel instead of by sight.

One of the major benefits of the micrometer wrench is its ratchet function for either left or right hand operations. They feature a distinct breaking action when the set torque is reached. The automatic reset feature ensures that the wrench will automatically reset itself after use by removing load on the spring and ensuring that it is ready to operate again. It’s sturdy and robust design make it an ideal tool for everyday use. One of the disadvantages is that due to force being applied to wearing parts such as an internal coil spring, they require regular re-calibration.

Depending on brand and place of manufacture, quality and price can vary from the cheap and nasty through to the professional high end.  Be sure to follow the storage procedure on these types as most will have to be stored at the minimum torque setting.

Dial & Electronic Torque Wrenches

The dial or electronic gauge types are typically only used by (or needed by) professional mechanics in the race car industry.

Dial wrenches and electronic wrenches are the most accurate types of torque wrench. Their gauges are incredibly easy to read which makes for quick work. These high-end wrenches can go for just over a hundred bucks to several thousands of dollars.

Electronic or Digital torque wrenches have a digital readout screen which allows the user to program the torque limit. A strain gauge which is attached to a torsion rod sends a signal to a transducer to determine the force of torque per unit, which is then displayed via the LED reading. The LED lights will notify the user when they are approaching a desired torque setting and when the torque setting has been reached along with an audible alert signal. Some models also have an internal computer chip which allows torque measurements to be saved and then downloaded to a database for record keeping. This is also beneficial for any auditing requirements.

Electronic or Digital wrenches have come down in price over the last few years and are now much more affordable and accessible for most automotive mechanics. However, many users find that the new Torque and Angle wrenches do exactly the same function with the added benefit of angle readout for torque to yield applications.



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