In the bike shop, torque specs were everything.
We worked with carbon fiber and aluminum that are threaded into $5,000 bicycles. It was mandatory to use a quality torque screwdriver at all times to avoid damaging the bikes.
Some of the screwdrivers we had were set-torque. They only had one torque setting.
A single setting was good for our industry where there were only two or three basic torque specs were used repeatedly.
However, that scenario is not frequent. In most cases, you will want an adjustable torque screwdriver with a wide range of torque control.
It’s easy to think, “Nah, I don’t need a torque screwdriver.” However, the first time the new guy strips the head off of a screw, and you have to teach them how to tap and remove it, you’ll be wishing that you had instituted a mandatory torque specs policy.
Additionally, in jobs such as gunsmithing, Torque specifications are critical.
Even though the clutch of a torque screwdriver has a clutch that disengages at some preset value, it is possible to over-torque. Teach your staff how to use these tools, so they understand that the loud “Click” is the signal to stop applying pressure.
Capri Tools CP21075 Screwdriver
This gorgeous little tool is one of the best torque screwdrivers with settings that adhere to the ultra-precise ISO 6789 and ASME B107.3000 standards.
The significant differentiation between this torque wrench and just about every other one on the market is that when you hit your preset specification, the tool disengages and turns freely without applying pressure to the nut. A clutch that fully disengages means that overtightening is a thing of the past.
It is adjustable from 0.5 to 6 inch-pounds with .05 inch-pound increments. A 1/2-inch adjustment provides extreme adjustability and allows you to fine-tune your control. This tool is guaranteed to be with plus or minus 6% of the stated requirements and each one ship with an individual calibration certificate.
The tool itself feels great in your hands. It is supremely ergonomic, and the solid metal construction provides added heft and durability to keep the specifications from slipping over years of use.
Capri is also one of the most versatile tools. The carrying case includes 20 bits and a T-bar grip handle that you can attach for added leverage. That said, I would recommend using a different tool to unscrew a stuck bolt or screw instead of applying the excessive pressure to this one.
This one is a favorite for electricians and is excellent for all residential work, including tightening main load centers. Just note that it does conduct electricity.
CDI Torque Screwdriver Set
Every automotive mechanic (And fanboy) knows the Snap-on brand name. Snap-on distributes this tool to their high-end professional mechanics.
Depending on what model you purchase, this one has some of the most torque adjustment out of all of them. The most popular size goes from 3-inch-pounds up to 15-inch pounds. There is also one that goes from 5 to 40 in pounds and even options for Newton meters and inch-ounces.
The CDI micro adjustable torque screwdriver has a big following in the electronics world and is a favorite for folks working on instrument boards and electrical systems.
One of the neat advantages of this set uses a 1/4 inch drive head, so it is compatible with all 1/4″ bits. If you currently have a bit set, you should be able to use those bits with this screwdriver. There is a strong earth magnet in the base of the bit holder, which helps in holding the bits in place, as well as picking up a screw with it. Remember, however, that magnets are damaging to computers. you won’t want to use this one for computer work!
I enjoy the slimline design but dislike the lack of a padded carrying case. If you just let this rattle around in your field bag, you risk putting them out of calibration. It also weighs 11 ounces, so the heft is noticeable.
As with the Capri above, this one doesn’t only rely on the audible click but has a clutch to disengage the wrench when you reach the specified torque value.
Overall, this is an excellent choice for mechanics and gunsmiths and other industries where you are working with metal on metal tolerances.
Wheeler Firearms 710909 Digital Accurizing Torque Wrench
As alluded to previously, gunsmiths are some of the most avid users of torque tools. An excellent example of this is in mounting a scope on a rifle. You have to tighten scopes in a specific pattern to avoiding twisting the entire device and ruining the scope.
Additionally, it needs to be adequately secured. If overtightened, it can damage a high-priced weapon. If under-tightened, it can allow the scope to fly off during operation.
The trick is to follow torque specs exactly. As with the CDI above and the Neiko below, this one has a 15-inch pound to 100-inch pound range. This is probably one of the most popular tool sizes with the broadest range of applications. This is especially handy for mounting scopes since so many of them need about 65 to 68 inch-pounds.
The 1-inch pound increments are perfect for most applications. The ring for adjusting difficulty is easy to set and read so you can be extremely confident in the accuracy of your work.
This one is going to use the smaller 1/4 inch hex bit holder so it can accept your other 1/4-inch bits. It also has a 1/4″ square drive adapter so you can connect it to your sockets for ultimate flexibility.
It only comes with the nine most common bits for working on firearm scopes. So a more limited range of bits. However, since it can accept virtually any bit that you have, this should not limit you that much.
Unlike many of the cheaper units for sale online, this one uses S2 steel for the bits, so there is less risk of chipping one.
The neatest aspect of this hand tool is the Large LCD digital display that shows you the live torque measurement on a digital screen. It also has a loud audible sound when you reach the maximum torque setting.
The comfortable handle means that you will be reaching for this tool more frequently than you might expect, and the handy carrying case gives you peace of mind that you won’t jar the settings.
Neiko 10573b Torque Screwdriver Set
This one brings in the long shank for access to those hard-to-reach areas. This is critical as adding an adapter to one of the other wrenches can change the calibration slightly and render the driver inaccurate. Since the shank is built into the Neiko, the calibration takes the added shank length into account.
As with the CDI, this one uses a quarter-inch bit holder so you can use it with all of your existing bits. It also comes with 20 additional bits including Torx inside a rugged storage case.
This is a high-quality tool with settings from 10 to 50-inch pounds. This puts it in the higher end of the spectrum. One of the things that we dislike is that it is only adjustable in 5-inch pound increments. However, it does make sense that most measurements will be done in these steps, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s super easy to adjust the settings and an easy to read window scale shows you precisely the amount of pressure for which you are shooting.
We’re seeing a lot of electricians pick up this tool to install Alumicon covers and for accurizing firearms. However, the shank is so long that if you are working with extremely tiny screws, it can become a bit of a detriment to hold them on while you line up the screwdriver.
Additionally, depending on your use, you may notice that the readings are a tad inconsistent. This can have to do with the metal you are working with as much as with the wrench. Some recommend getting the audible click, releasing the driver, and then turning it again to verify the tick is still in the proper spot and that no further tightening is needed.
If you don’t need the long shank, go with the 10-inch pound to 40-inch pound CDI reviewed above as it is likely to be easier to use and more accurate. Otherwise, this Neiko is a great one with which to go.
This is an extremely high-quality unit that is designed for all-day, professional use. As with the Capri, each tool receives a unique certificate of calibration that is matched to each driver’s individual serial number. It is this level of quality control that we love to see whenever we are ordering precision tools.
It also meets a wide variety of testing criteria in different countries including the ASME B107.14m standards, the ISO 6789, and the BS EN 26790.
Unlike most of the other tools on here, this one is completely sealed. As a sealed tool, this prevents dust and other by-products of manufacturing from entering the device and helps preserve the inside parts.
However, what we love about it is the smooth ergonomic surface. This is a tool that is very comfortable in your hand and pleasing to use all day in a high-paced environment. The audible click gives you instant feedback, and it resets immediately for the next use.
Unfortunately, since the Wiha is designed for a factory environment, each wrench has a minimal preset torque range. You have to choose the correct one for your use type, and they typically come in a narrow range such as 5-inch pounds to 10-inch pounds.
If you have a certain use-type that always stays within a tight specification range, the Wiha is rated for 5,000 clicks or one year of use. Wiha is a high volume tool that is begging to be abused by a high-volume employee.
How I Choose My Favorite Torque Screwdrivers
From $5,000 bicycles to $2,000 engines, I’ve done some pretty high-end work. In reality, you should mostly use the proper torque specs. However, many of them aren’t published.
That said, there is nothing more terrifying than when your bolt fails before you get the signal from the screwdriver that you’ve hit the proper torque.
Accordingly, calibration came highest on the list. Sure you could buy the cheapest tool out there, but if your $20 tool ruins your $200 project, it isn’t worth it.
The second significant criteria were how enjoyable the tool is to use. We looked at the ergonomic design, the weight, and similar types of considerations.
The third criteria were the flexibility of these tools in their torque range. Some of them are very versatile, while others have a much tighter range for particular tasks.
Essential Considerations to Look At When Shopping
Most of you are purchasing this tool for a specific task. It is essential to check a few of the most frequently completed tasks to make sure you are purchasing the correct device. If you need something that can do high torque in the foot-pounds range, these little screwdrivers aren’t going to cut it. Most of these come in inch-pounds, but some situations may require a more delicate touch that uses the Newton Meters scale (1 Lb-Ft = 1.35582 Nm).
On the cheapest tools, the manufacturer may print numbers on the handle, without assigning any real-world torque values to them.
Most of these are going to be at least somewhat close to your proper settings. I like to keep two different brands of torque wrenches so I can test them and make sure they are close to each other before using them on a particular project. Sometimes I will borrow a friend’s — just a way to do a quick check on the accuracy. Typically, when you purchase a tool with a calibration certificate allows you to send the tool back to the manufacturer for recalibration. Consider recalibration after 5,000 clicks or if the tool is dropped.
The most common clutch is the Cam over. This clicks to signal that you have reached the correct torque. However, it may not disengage the bit, allowing you to exceed the desired range.
The cushion clutch is what most of the tools on this list use. The cushion clutch disengages the bit entirely, which prevents overtightening.
The auto-shutoff is a feature exclusive to electric screwdrivers that turns the driver off when you achieve the preset torque setting.