4 Types of Torque Wrenches (How They Differ)

A torque wrench is an invaluable tool for automotive work. Most commonly used for tightening wheel lug nuts or lug bolts to exact specifications, it can be used for many auto repair and maintenance tasks.

In this article, we’ll go over what a torque wrench is, the four common types of torque wrenches, and how to use a torque wrench.

What is a Torque Wrench?

Torque refers to a twisting force which causes something to rotate. You often hear the word “torque” be used to describe various components of an automobile, especially its internal combustion engine.

But torque can refer to any part of a car which either rotates on its own or needs someone else to rotate it. These don’t necessarily need to be big parts either. They can be as small as things like nuts and bolts.

A torque wrench is regularly used by mechanics when doing maintenance or repairs on a vehicle. It is a special type of wrench which differs from a standard wrench because it is calibrated to provide the appropriate torque for tightening a nut or bolt. In most cases, the torque wrench is a socket wrench which makes fastening nuts and bolts to precise specifications a breeze.

torque wrench

There are several areas of a vehicle which require the use of a torque wrench when working on a vehicle. For instance, there are lug nuts (or lug bolts) which are used to fasten a wheel to the wheel hub of a vehicle.

Anytime you need to rotate tires, work on your brakes, or other task where wheel removal is necessary, you need to use a torque wrench when reattaching the wheel by doing final tightening to factory torque specs. And when there’s more intensive mechanical work, you need a torque wrench to help reattach various nuts and bolts in the engine, transmission, exhaust, or other parts of your vehicle.

Of course, many of these areas are where you should let a mechanic take over. The only thing many car owners ever do with a torque wrench is tightening lug nuts or bolts.

A torque wrench should never be used for breaking loose a fastener for removal. This type of tool depends on internal parts that require accurate calibration. A torque wrench that's out of calibration is almost useless and can be quite dangerous if you think about it.

Different Types of Torque Wrench

There are 4 common types of torque wrenches: clicker-style, beam, electronic, and dial. The cheapest and easiest one to use is the beam torque wrench. The most accurate type of torque wrench is debatable. Some will say dial type while others consider digital most accurate. The biggest difference between all of them pertains to how they adjust and how they read.

1) Click Torque Wrench

The click torque wrench has an adjustable scale which lets you change the current setting of its torque to accommodate various applications. It is a high-quality wrench which can properly fasten nuts and bolts very quickly. It is also affordable and is used in many home garages and some automotive facilities.

TEKTON 1/2 Inch Drive Micrometer Torque Wrench (25-250 ft.-lb.) | 24340
  • Includes 1-pc. 1/2 in. drive torque wrench; Storage case; Product manual with torque conversion...
  • Wrench emits a click that can be heard and felt when the preset value is reached
  • Permanently marked, high-contrast dual-range scale is easy to read, even in low light
  • Reversible ratchet head drives in both directions and measures torque in clockwise direction

2) Beam Torque Wrench

The design of the beam torque wrench is quite old-fashioned, but some people like it that way. The beam torque wrench is easy and simple to use.

It has a long beam attached to the top which can be used as a plumb line and there’s also a scale on the handle. This handle flexes as you apply more torque and causes the scale to move. Where the pointer on the scale lands is your torque reading.

GEARWRENCH 1/2" Drive Beam Torque Wrench, 0-150 ft/lbs. - 2957N
  • Directly measure a variety of torque values when tightening fasteners
  • Color: Black
  • Item Package Dimension: 22.0" L x 2.25" W x 5.0" H
  • Item Package Weight: 2.01 lb

3) Electronic Torque Wrench

The electronic or digital torque wrench is one of the more modern wrenches. It has a digital screen which displays the current torque of the wrench as you’re using it.

You can also set the wrench to make a sound, blink, or vibrate when the preset torque (or pre-measurement warning) is reached as well.  There are sensors which detect the amount of twisting force being used. Electronic torque wrenches are often more expensive than others but offer very high accuracy and can even show various units of measurement.

GEARWRENCH 1/2 Drive Electronic Torque Wrench - 85077
  • 72-tooth ratchet mechanism with a 5° swing arc allows you to turn fasteners in tight spaces
  • Torque accuracy of +/-2% CW and +/-3% CCW between 20% and 100% of wrench capability
  • “Target Torque Alert” gives a warning as you approach the target torque; vibrating handle,...
  • 5 torque measurement units provide a readout in Nm, ft-lb, in-lb, Kgf-m, and Kgf-cm

4) Dial Torque Wrench

Not as common as others, the dial torque wrench is great for measuring torque and super accurate doing so. As you use the tool, there is a built-in dial with needle which lets you see how much torque is being applied or has already been applied to something like a nut or bolt.

Precision Instruments PRED2F150HM Torque Wrench (3/8" Drive Dial-Type with...
  • Patented Torsion bar design ensures the most accurate wrench possible; Patented large shock...
  • Dial Type wrenches are not hand hold sensitive meaning that hand position does not affect accuracy
  • Accurate to within 2% of the reading in both clockwise and counterclockwise direction
  • Memory needle records peak torque for each application

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