Digital Torque Wrench Review
Most Common Use for a Torque Wrench:
  • Auto and Truck Wheels - Your mechanic pulls your wheels to check your brakes as a routine step during service visits.  But who knows if he torques the lug nuts when he replaces them, or if he torques them to correct spec?  And wheels should be torqued again after 50-100 miles of driving to account for any changes in clamping load following remounting.  Improperly torqued wheel nuts can cause irregular tire wear or even wheel failure.  Using your own torque wrench, you can torque your wheels and have peace of mind that they are attached correctly.  Given the high cost of new tires, everyone should do this.    
Decision Factors when choosing a Torque Wrench:
  • Torque Reading - Most torque wrenches are either of the click-type which makes a clicking noise when the torque setting is reached, or the newer digital type (also referred to as "electronic") which makes an audible beep upon reaching the torque setting.  While neither type has an advantage in the accuracy setting, the digital display offers you more information because it displays the torque pressure as it changes over the range applied.  For this reason, we prefer the digital style.
  • Spec Accuracy - Torque wrenches generally have a measurement accuracy within +/- 4%.  This level of precision is common from reputable manufacturers using modern tooling techniques and is not really a differentiating factor.
  • Applied Accuracy - This term refers to the accuracy of the torque actually applied while turning the wrench.  In the case of a click-style wrench, it's easy to overshoot the torque applied because there is a moment of delay between the time you hear the click and when you actually release the pressure.  By comparison, the digital models give you a warning signal as you approach the torque target, and this anticipation results in a more precise release action.  So you are less likely to over-torque with a digital unit.
  • Calibration Stability - Click-style wrenches should be turned down to their lowest setting when stored between uses.  The failure to do this is the most common cause of click-style wrenches losing their calibration.  Digital-style wrenches do not require any special care to preserve their calibration.
  • Quality - Unlike many other hand tools, a torque wrench is a precision instrument.  Big box stores and cheap discount stores are good enough for a standard wrench, but avoid them for a complex tool where quality is more important.
  • Size - The most common size used for engines and wheels is 1/2".
  • Range - The typical range for wheel torque is 80 to 105 ft/lbs.
  • Price - There are basically three tiers of pricing:  At the high end, the most expensive tools are often sold from specially configured trucks which drive around and visit all the mechanical shops in an area.  These tools get high usage every day and must be durable for heavy-duty usage.  At the lowest end of the price spectrum are the cheap tools you want to avoid because they are likely to have low accuracy or just break due to poor quality.  The sweet spot is in the middle, where a quality torque wrench for regular usage can be purchased between $100 to $300.
Products Evaluated:
  • Brown Line Digital Torque Wrench - range 15 to 150 ft/lbs,  22 inches long, approx $100.
  • CDI Electronic Torque Wrench - range 25 to 250 ft/lbs, 27 inches long, flex ratchet head, approx $300.
  • GearWrench Electronic Torque Wrench - range 25 to 250 ft/lbs, 30 inches long, approx $200.
Note: Our top candidates include 1/2-inch digital/electronic style torque wrenches from reputable companies with a price point below approx $300. 
Bottom-Line Recommendation:
  • Provides all the features needed in a torque wrench.
  • Not as long as other options, but 22 inches is long enough to gain good leverage.  Longer lengths are actually more difficult to use for other applications, like under-the-hood torque settings where space is tight.
  • Torque range is not as high as other options, but covers 99% of auto torque settings with an upper limit of 150 ft/lbs.
  • Exceptional value for the price, making this choice a no-brainer!  The next best option costs twice as much.
  • Sold with a case for a few more dollars.  Be sure to get the case to protect the wrench when stored away.
The Brown Line Digital Torque Wrench is the best choice for the following reasons:
Manufacturer's Product Information and Videos:
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