If you’ve read a factory service manual for your vehicle, you know that most things that fasten together have a manufacturer requirement for torque value. A bolted joint on your car can come in many forms: a bolt and nut, a bolt into a threaded hole, a nut and stud, etc. In all of these scenarios, the torque applied to the fasteners is crucial for ensuring the proper function of the joint. An under-torqued fastener can loosen and eventually start to back out which can result in immediate failure of the bolted joint. Similarly, an over-torqued fastener can deform the threads on the fastener or the mating part, which can cause a significant reduction in clamp force as the materials start to yield. Depending on the parts in question, consequences of a failed joint due to improper torque can range from “not a big deal” to “critical safety issue.”
While the concept of applying correct torque is straightforward, it’s important to remember that applied torque is only as good as your torque wrench. This is to say that no matter how good your skills are as a mechanic, your torque is only as accurate as your wrench. Click type torque wrenches tend to be the most common and easiest to use, and as such, they can be the best torque wrenches to provide very reliable torque so long as you keep them properly calibrated. As there are tons and tons of different click type torque wrenches on the market, we wanted to take some time to talk about our pick for the best click type torque wrench. The biggest benefit to a click type torque wrench is that there is a tactile click that you feel in the wrench to alert you to the fact that you have reached your set torque. This makes it easy to prevent over-torque or under-torque situations and also saves you from having to watch a gauge closely when tightening bolts.
The Best Click Type Torque Wrench
Among the vast swaths of click type torque wrenches available today, CDI is a pretty tough brand to beat in terms of both quality and value. Specifically, the CDI Torque 1002MFRMH 3/8-inch drive metal handle click type torque wrench is our absolute favorite. First, it has a wide torque range from 10 to 100 foot-pounds. This range is appropriate for most automotive work, as very few torque specs on car components tend to fall outside of it. 95% of your torque jobs can be accomplished using this wrench alone. Furthermore, it’s 3/8-inch drive, which is the most common socket size, so it will fit the vast majority of your sockets without adapters.
When it comes to setting the torque, the CDI torque wrench is easy to dial up to the exact torque value you want using the scale on the laser etched handle. Simply twist the handle until you reach the correct torque value and slide the collar back in place to set your desired torque before tightening your fastener. The wrench features a dual scale, meaning it has both metric and SAE units, so you don’t have to convert units when working on your BMW or Honda. The grip is lightly knurled to add stability when your hands are covered in coolant or engine oil.
During use, at the moment you reach your pre-selected torque value, you’ll feel and hear a “click” from the torque wrench. As mentioned previously, this means you have tightened your fastener to your selected value and you can stop pulling on the wrench handle. Continuing to pull will increase the fastener torque past your selected value and possibly damage the wrench if you go so far past that you exceed its range. Worst case accuracy on the wrench is set to plus or minus 4% in the clockwise direction and plus or minus 6% in the counterclockwise direction (for use with both left and right hand thread bolts) which should be sufficient for most automotive work. We should also note that calibration on this wrench tends to come in tighter than that usually but you’ll have to check the included calibration certificate to make sure before assuming this is the case.
Once you have completed your torquing operation, you can then readjust the torque value for your next bolt or return it to the minimum torque setting for storage. Speaking of storage, the wrench comes with a durable hard plastic case which helps keep the wrench from getting knocked around as well as keeping it in calibration for longer. We should note that failure to return your torque wrench to the minimum setting prior to storing will very quickly throw off your calibration so be sure to pay attention to this (this is true for any torque wrench).
The CDI torque wrenches come with a durable chrome finish to prevent corrosion and can be simply wiped off after use. If you need to use a cleaner to get the surface cleaned before returning to storage, a simple degreaser should be enough to clean the surface back to a shiny chrome but be sure not to let any seep into the wrench internals.
As far as available purchasing options, Amazon’s competitive price makes them tough to top. Overall the CDI wrench is absolutely top notch and has been our wrench of choice in our garage for quite some time (trust us when we say we have more than a few CDI torque wrenches laying around). As such, the CDI 3/8 drive torque wrench is the best click type torque wrench around for automotive use and will serve you well for a long time! That said, if you are looking for a different type of torque wrench or a wrench with a different torque range, have a look at our guide to buying a torque wrench to see some more options. Happy wrenching!