A torque wrench is a specialized tool that is regularly used in automotive repair to ensure that the parts of the vehicle are not under- or overtightened. Mechanical tasks are easier and more precise with digital torque wrenches, which provide you with a digital display that shows the exact amount of torque in use. Some of these devices are equipped with warning signs—including flashing lights, sounds, or vibrations—that indicate when you have reached the desired torque.
Digital torque wrenches are precalibrated. Some allow you to preset multiple torque levels so you can quickly shift from one everyday task to another with the push of a button. Ahead, see some of the best digital torque wrenches reviewed for efficacy, quality, and overall value.
- BEST OVERALL: eTORK 1/2-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench
- RUNNER UP: eTORK 3/8-Inch Drive Electronic Torque Wrench
- BEST FEATURES: ACDelco ARM601-3 3/8″ Digital Torque Wrench
- BEST FOR ACCURACY: Summit Tools UltraPrecision Digital Torque Wrench
- MOST VERSATILE: ACDelco Heavy Duty Digital Torque Adapter
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Digital Torque Wrench
Don’t go shopping before you know which features are most important in a digital torque wrench. Deciding how much or how little these attributes matter to you will help you find the right digital torque wrench for your needs.
Accuracy and Measurement Units
One of the most important things you pay attention to as you’re shopping for a digital torque wrench is accuracy. If a wrench is not accurate, you may under- or overtighten it when you use it, which can cause fasteners to break or come loose during the machine’s operation. Most digital torque wrenches are precalibrated to an accuracy rating of about ±4 percent, though more and less accurate digital torque wrenches are certainly out there.
Torque is measured in inch-pounds or foot-pounds, where an inch-pound is 1 pound of force applied to 1 inch of distance from the pivot point of the torque wrench. A foot-pound is 1 pound of force applied to 1 foot of distance from the pivot point.
If a digital torque wrench’s range is too low, the types of jobs you can perform with it are limited. A torque wrench with a range maximum that falls below 100 foot-pounds is ideal for simple tasks, like working on a lawnmower or bicycle. However, wrenches with a lower torque range aren’t much use for most automotive and mechanical torque wrench applications.
Some digital torque wrenches have a very wide torque range, with some reaching a maximum of 1,000 foot-pounds of force. However, most digital torque wrenches have a moderate range that reaches up to 150 foot-pounds, which is more than enough torque to tighten lug nuts on your car.
Multidirectional tensioning, or ratcheting, allows the user to quickly change the direction of the wrench in order to measure torque in both the clockwise and counterclockwise orientation. A torque wrench with this feature gives the user better access than one that only operates in the clockwise direction. You won’t see torque wrenches with this feature often because they should never be used for loosening nuts. This is because a nut may initially be seized when you try to loosen it and when the torque wrench applies force, the nut can jolt forward and cause the wrench to require recalibration.
Most torque wrenches come with either a rubberized plastic handle or a steel handle with a raised grip. The upside of rubber grips is they are comfortable and reduce hand fatigue; metal handles give you better control over the wrench. Whichever one you decide on, the handle is an important aspect to keep in mind when looking for a new torque wrench.
When using the digital torque wrench for long stretches at a time, it’s a good idea to prioritize comfort and choose an ergonomic grip that does not make your hand cramp. What’s most important is that the digital torque wrench you select has a handle that you can grip without your hand slipping. You must be able to stop the motion of the wrench handle quickly when you reach the desired level of torque so you don’t overtighten the nut.
Digital torque wrenches have a big advantage over other types of torque wrenches when it comes to their scale reliability because they have prominent displays that show the current torque reading. However, the size, shading, text, and even menu options on the digital display vary among individual products.
If you have difficulty reading small text, a digital torque wrench with a large easy-to-read display may be a good way to go. If you’re working in dim lighting conditions, such as a garage or workshop, look for a digital screen with backlighting. Just remember to keep the batteries in your digital torque wrench charged, or you won’t be able to read the scale at all.
A terrific feature to look for in a digital torque wrench is an alert that will let you know when you have reached the inch-pounds or foot-pounds of torque you desire. Some products alert users via a blinking LED light or a visual indicator on the digital screen, and others via handle vibration, an audible alarm, or a combination of two or more of these signals. Visual indicators on the digital display may even signal how far you have exceeded the optimal torque. This emergency alert feature makes tightening fasteners while you work almost foolproof because the wrench is telling you to stop.
Digital torque wrenches are powered by batteries that operate the digital screen, the internal mechanics of the measurement device, and the alert systems. The problem with batteries, of course, is that they can run out of energy. When this happens, you need to either recharge the batteries or replace them before you can resume working.
To help extend the battery life of your digital torque wrench, some models will automatically shut off after several minutes of inactivity. Given how many times you may put down and pick up your torque wrench while working on your car without turning it off, this auto-shutdown feature will probably save you a significant amount of battery life.
Digital torque wrenches are sensitive devices whose accuracy can be affected if they are knocked against anything or dropped on the ground. To protect the device and reduce the number of times it must be recalibrated, look for a digital torque wrench that comes with a storage case.
Digital torque wrench cases are usually made of hard, durable plastic that protects the tool but is also lightweight and easy to carry. For additional protection and security, invest in a torque wrench case that has interior padding and a lockable clasp.
Our Top Picks
These recommendations for the best digital torque wrench were chosen based on quality, price, and some of the major feature considerations mentioned above. Whether looking for a model with top accuracy or one that won’t break the bank, start your search here.
This digital torque wrench has a ball-bearing release mechanism that gives it greater sensitivity, consistency, and precision while working. It has a locking knob that keeps the selected torque from being modified accidentally. Its display allows the user to instantly convert between four units of torque measurements: foot-pounds, inch-pounds, Newton-meters, and kilogram-centimeters.
The eTORK has a torque range of 25 to 250 foot-pounds and can operate at an accuracy rating of ±3 percent in the clockwise direction and ±6 percent in the counterclockwise direction. While this digital torque wrench doesn’t give you a visual alert when you approach your desired torque setting, it does make an audible clicking sound, similar to the sound a regular click-style torque wrench would make, to keep you from overtightening your fasteners.
With a low torque range of 2 to 21 foot-pounds, this wrench by eTORK is great for working on bicycles, small recreational vehicles, and larger power tool motors. Its digital display can be adjusted to display torque in four units of measurements including inch-pounds, Newton-meters, foot-pounds, and kilogram-centimeters.
This tool’s hardened alloy steel housing is strong and durable but also slim enough to fit into tight spaces. It can be used both clockwise and counterclockwise, with an accuracy rating of ±3 percent clockwise and ±6 percent counterclockwise. And it comes in a hard plastic carrying case.
This digital torque wrench has several bells and whistles that will make your next repair job a snap: Its built-in alert system makes an audible buzzing noise and flashes a bright LED light when you have almost reached the desired torque. It also has multidirectional capabilities, with an accuracy rating of ±2 percent clockwise and ±3 percent counterclockwise.
With a lower torque range of 2 to 37 foot-pounds, this ACDelco fits the bill for tasks like repairing larger power tools, working on your four-wheeler or dirt bike, or making adjustments to your bicycle. It can take measurements in kilogram-centimeters, Newton-meters, inch-pounds, and foot-pounds and has a variety of modes for every step of your job: It operates in torque mode for applying pressure, measurement mode to measure torque, peak mode for holding peak torque readings on the screen, and trace mode for live-tracking the current applied torque.
Accuracy is a primary concern when working on your vehicle, so having a tool with a high degree of precision is a good idea. This digital torque wrench from Summit Tools boasts an impressive accuracy rating of ±1 percent. It allows you to set the target torque rating and then set the wrench in either peak or tracking mode. In peak mode, the digital display will track the maximum amount of torque used so that you can see how much force was applied. This mode is useful for situations in which you cannot see the digital screen while using the wrench.
Tracking mode is a live update of the current torque being applied. Both modes alert you via flashing LED and buzzer alert when approaching your desired torque. This digital torque wrench has a torque range of 7.4 to 147.5 foot-pounds and can display torque measurements in kilogram-centimeters, Newton-meters, inch-pounds, and foot-pounds.
This digital torque wrench adapter allows you to use any regular ratchet wrench as a digital torque wrench, and it may well be one of the most versatile tools in your workshop or garage. The compact adapter fits onto the square drive of a ratchet wrench. It provides a digital readout of the applied torque on a backlit LCD screen.
This ACDelco adapter has a wide range from 25 to 250 foot-pounds, multidirectional functionality, a clockwise accuracy of ±1.5 percent, and a counterclockwise accuracy of ±2.5 percent. It also has both an audible buzzer and a flashing LED light to alert you before you overtighten your fasteners. When done, just pack the adapter away in the included hard plastic mini-case.
The Advantages of Owning a Digital Torque Wrench
A digital torque wrench is an upgrade over a regular torque wrench for several reasons: first, a digital device uses built-in alerts—including sound, light, and even vibration—to prevent you from overtightening the fasteners being worked on.
The digital display on a digital torque wrench is also much easier to read than the physical display on a regular torque wrench; many digital products even have backlit screens that can be read in the dark. Another great benefit of owning a digital torque wrench is that it is precalibrated. When you do have to calibrate a digital wrench, it’s easier to do so than it is with a regular torque wrench because the digital display provides a more accurate measurement.
- Digital torque wrenches have built-in alert systems to notify you when you reach the optimal torque.
- The digital display is much easier to use for getting an accurate reading of your applied torque.
- Digital torque wrenches come precalibrated and are easier to calibrate than a regular torque wrench.
FAQs About Your New Digital Torque Wrench
Below are helpful answers to some of the most common questions about torque wrenches.
Q. What is a digital torque wrench?
A digital torque wrench is a precalibrated torque wrench that displays the torque output on a digital screen. When you reach the required amount of torque, the wrench will notify you with a buzz, beep, vibration, light, or some combination of these alarms so you do not overtighten the fastener.
Q. How do I know if my torque wrench is accurate?
To know whether your torque wrench is accurate, you can test the torque reading on the digital display against a known torque output. Here’s how:
- Secure the square drive of the wrench in a bench vise, allowing the rest of the wrench to move freely.
- Measure the distance between the square drive on the head of the wrench and the point on the handle where you grip.
- Multiply the distance measured in Step 2 by 20 to find the inch-pounds torque wrench setting.
- Hang a 20-pound weight from a thin string at the exact place on the handle of the torque wrench where you would normally grip (often marked with a line).
- If the readout on the digital display matches your inch-pound findings in Step 3, your digital torque wrench is accurate.
- If it is not accurate, you can calibrate it yourself or take it to an experienced professional to calibrate it for you
Q. How do you calibrate a torque wrench?
You can calibrate a torque wrench using a bench vise, a 20-pound weight, a thin rope or string (capable of holding at least 20 pounds), and a measuring tape.
- Measure the length of the torque wrench from the square drive on the head to the exact point on the handle where you grip the wrench. This line is commonly marked already on a torque wrench, so you shouldn’t have to estimate based on your average usage.
- Put the square drive of the torque wrench into the vise and tighten it.
- Multiply the measurement you took in Step 1 by 20 to find the inch-pounds setting you require for the torque wrench.
- Tie a loop through the 20-pound weight with the string and hang it from the end of the handle where you took your first measurement.
- Check the readout on the digital display, which should equal the inch-pounds measurement that you set in Step 3. If it does not match, move the weight toward the head or end of the digital torque wrench until the inch-pound readout properly lines up with what you have entered.
- Measure the length of the torque wrench from the square drive to the point where the weight is hanging, and multiply this finding by 20 pounds.
- With the information you have gathered, you can now calculate the applied torque of the wrench using the formula Ta = Ts x (D1/D2). “Ta” is applied torque. “Ts” stands for torque setting. “D1” is the distance measured in Step 1, and “D2” is the distance measured in Step 8.
- Using this number, you can multiply your intended torque by the difference to get the correct torque setting for your specific torque wrench.
Q. How often should I calibrate my digital torque wrench?
You should calibrate your digital torque wrench at least once a year; however if you use it regularly, you may want to calibrate it two or more times per year.