Last Updated on August 21, 2020
There are a lot of digital torque wrenches on the market, and if you’re not careful, you may end up with a model that you don’t like. There isn’t anything worse than spending a lot of money on a tool that doesn’t get used because it doesn’t live up to your expectations, but it’s one of those risks you take when you shop online, where it’s not always clear which models are great, and which are junk.
The good news is that we’ve done a lot of the work for you, assembling a list of reviews of the best digital torque wrenches of 2020, making it easier for you see which are good and which you shouldn’t bother with. Hopefully, reading these reviews will help you find the digital torque wrench that’s right for you.
|Best Overall||GearWrench 85077||
|Best Value||ACDelco ARM601-4 1/2″ Digital||
The GearWrench 85077 is the best digital torque wrench in our reviews, in large part due to how good it is at letting you know when you’ve reached your target torque. Many models use a clicking noise to let you know you’ve arrived, but the GearWrench vibrates, beeps, and shines a solid LED light to let you know you’re there. You can’t miss it, even if you can’t see the screen.
It’s also one of the more durable models, measuring to 250 foot-pounds, which makes it great for small and large jobs alike. This model is one of the longest ones we tested, helping you reach that amount of force without overexertion, yet weighs only 3 pounds so that you won’t wear yourself out just carrying it around. The GearWrench 85077 is a good overall buy for just about anyone who needs a digital torque wrench. The worst thing you can say about it is that batteries aren’t included.
The BikeMaster RJ40583 is our choice for best value. It has the best display of any of the digital torque wrenches on our list and features the capability to store the last 50 torque values you entered. The digital display also has an automatic shut off feature, which means it will turn off and save your battery when it detects it’s not currently being used. This will save you a lot of money in the long run by saving the life of your batteries.
This model is 9” long and can report torques of up to 22.1 foot-pounds, though it can also report torque in kilogram-centimeters, kilogram-meters, inch-pounds, or Newton-meters, which keeps you from having to convert units while you’re on the job. It also features peak and trace modes, so that you can see the maximum torque applied or the present amount.
The one downside is that 22.1 foot-pounds isn’t a ton of force, but for many kinds of non-industrial use, it will be more than enough.
The best thing about the ACDelco ARM601 is its massive torque range that goes from 4 to 99 foot-pounds. It also features peak and trace models, making it useful for different kinds of projects, and anti-slip grip that’s designed to keep the tool steady while you work.
Like the BikeMaster, this digital torque wrench can report torques in foot-pounds, Newton-meters, inch-pounds, and kilogram-centimeters, saving you time that would otherwise be spent doing conversions.
What keeps the ACDelco out of the top 2 on our list is that it has relatively unintuitive controls. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal for many tools, but this model also comes with a poorly-written manual, meaning that if the controls don’t make sense to you, you’re on your own. However, if you have experience with digital torque wrenches, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The best thing the Craftsman 9-13919 has going for it is its massive torque range, which goes from 25 to 250 foot-pounds, in half-inch increments. Like other models, it can give information in foot-pounds, inch-pounds, and Newton-meters. Unlike other models, it has a backlit LED screen, which means that it can be used in low-light or dark situations. It also will be more visible in sunlight, which has a habit of obscuring LED screens without a backlight.
The downsides to this model are that it only has peak mode, instead of the dual peak and trace modes that you expect of most digital torque wrenches. It also doesn’t feature a blinking LED warning light, have a buzzer, or an alarm when you’re getting close to the proper torque, but instead relies on the click system used by non-digital torque wrenches. If you’re used to click torque wrenches and just want a digital read-out, then that’s not a big deal, but many people want more out of their digital torque wrenches.
The hilmor 1963826 is one of the more expensive digital torque wrenches on our list. Part of the value the manufacturer is trying to prove is in an adjustable wrench head that ranges from ¼” to ¾”. Some users will like this feature a lot, while others will get the impression that it’s not secure enough to get the job done.
This model does feature simple controls, which can be a big plus, and comes with nine memory settings for commonly-repeated torque values, which will save you some time if you work on the same kinds of projects repeatedly. It also features a warning LED light and sound warning when you get close to and arrive at the appropriate torque, though it doesn’t appear to feature a trace model.
While it’s not an awful tool, it is expensive, and you would hope to get more value out of a more expensive tool. There are better choices on this list unless you need the adjustable head.
Hopefully, our reviews have given you some ideas about what you should pay attention to when purchasing a digital torque wrench, and what’s just marketing fluff. If you want more information on this type of tool so that you can make a well-informed decision, then read this buyer’s guide, which is loaded full of good general information about digital torque wrenches.
One of the most important features of any digital torque wrench is its range of torques. While, in theory, you could use the torque wrench beyond its recommended range, the digital screen will max out, and the tool will not give you any information about how much force you are using. You also stand at a greater chance of breaking it altogether.
It’s important to figure out what range you will need before buying so that you can get a model that will suit your needs. A word of caution: most torque wrenches are generally regarded as being at their most accurate from 20% to 100% of their range, meaning that while it may measure values lower than 20% of its max range, it likely loses a lot of accuracy.
If you’re working with equipment that requires tightening to less than 20 foot-pounds, there’s no reason to buy a torque wrench that goes up to 100 foot-pounds or higher, because it will not be accurate in the range that you’re using the most. Likewise, you need to make sure you get a torque wrench that is up to the task and can go as high as you need it to.
Let’s just state the obvious: if you’re buying a digital torque wrench, you’re making the bold statement that you’re not going to settle for old technology and its limitations. If you wanted something old, you’d get a regular click torque wrench and call it a day. So, if you get a digital torque wrench that uses the old click system, you’re cheating yourself out of a lot of value that can be had on a modern tool.
There are newer and better systems for alerting you to when you’re closing in on your desired torque and for when you arrive. Bright LED lights, vibrating handles, and digital beeping are all easier to notice in a loud shop than a simple click. If you’re going to spend the extra money to get a digital torque wrench, why wouldn’t you make sure that you also get a model that has one of the new alert features? You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you do so, especially if you plan on using your torque wrench in positions that will make it difficult to always monitor the digital screen.
You may have noticed that many of the digital torque wrenches in our reviews came with both peak and trace modes. These are cool features made possible by the incorporation of digital technology in the traditional torque wrench. Peak mode shows the highest amount of torque that you’ve applied, meaning that you’ll always know if you’ve done. This is the mode that you want to use when you know the specific torque that a part must be tightened to. This is also the mode that alerts you via beeps, lights, or vibration that you’ve reached the correct torque. All digital torque wrenches come with this mode.
Some torque wrenches also come with trace mode, which shows whatever the torque is at a given moment. This is good for situations in which you need to provide a more constant torque for some time, but don’t necessarily want to max out at any point. This isn’t a feature that everyone will need, but if you do think you’ll need it, make sure that you purchase a model that has it because it doesn’t come standard on all digital torque wrenches.
Hopefully, this buyer’s guide has helped you learn more about digital torque wrenches and their various features. The best thing you can do, however, is to figure out what kinds of projects you’re going to be doing with your digital torque wrench, and then match the requirements of those features to the torque wrenches you’re considering. It doesn’t make sense to buy an expensive model or a cheap model if it doesn’t suit your needs, so make sure you know what you need before you make your final purchase.
The GearWrench 85077 is the best digital torque wrench in our reviews, performing well in virtually every category. The BikeMaster RJ40583 was our choice for best value, as it brings the features you expect on a high-end digital torque wrench at a price that won’t break the bank. The ACDelco ARM601 is a good choice for experienced digital torque wrench users but loses points for having unintuitive controls and a poorly-written user’s manual. The Craftsman 9-13919 has a good torque range and a backlit LED screen but falls on our list because it uses a click warning instead of the far better warning types found on other models. And, the hilmor 1963826 has some nice features, but it’s ultimately pretty expensive relative to the value that it provides.
We hope that our buyer’s guide has given you some insight into the world of digital torque wrenches. Not all tools will be right for you, but we hope that you now have the knowledge you need to confidently purchase the model that will be right for you.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!