ALTHOUGH a modern, busy workshop may rely more on rapid-fire pneumatic tools for dealing with fasteners, the humble torque wrench is still a vital piece of equipment.
They exist to ensure that fixings are tightened exactly the right amount, delivering a pre-set amount of force to a nut or bolt so that it’s secure but not over-tight. It’s more important than it seems. Depending on what you’re fastening in place, you might need something impossibly tight or little more than finger-tight.
An inappropriately fastened nut could turn a small job into a very expensive one. It’s why every manufacturer workshop handbook has torque ratings for every fastener. A good torque wrench is a boon, so we’ve tried different shapes and sizes to make sure we haven’t got a screw loose…
How we tested them
All the wrenches we’ve chosen are certified to cover broadly the same range of torques, so we’ve primarily examined how easy they are to operate. We looked at the torque setting adjustment and scale display, along with how they behave when they reach the prescribed limit on wheel nuts torqued to the middle of their range.
Sealey AK624B Micrometer Torque Wrench
How much: £83.94 (inc VAT)
Where from: sealey.co.uk
The Sealey wrench, like the smaller Draper, is pretty much exactly what you’d have in mind if you thought of a torque wrench. It’s a simple, traditional tool, with the usual knurled locking-nut and rotating collar on the handle to set the torque, with an etched grading scale (easy to read with this tool’s white-on-black colouring) at the collar’s lip that relays the torque setting. It’s the perfect bit of kit if you don’t need or want anything fancy but, as we’ve seen from other tools here, it’s not the definitive device even if it is the most common.
Draper Expert Torque Wrench 58140
How much: £159.95 (inc VAT)
Where from: drapertools.com
The larger Draper has a few advantages. The irritating nut usually found on torque wrenches to lock the setting adjuster is replaced with a hidden fastener similar to a wingnut. We can see this catching and tearing a few latex gloves, but it’s an easier item to use and requires little grip strength. The adjuster itself is a small collar at the base that’s much nicer to use compared with the usual form and has a nice, positive action that clicks with each turn. The scale is replaced with an internal sliding mechanism with a display window, which is considerably easier to read, and it’s easy to hear and feel when the torque limit has been reached.
Kennedy FXL200 Torque Wrench
How much: £89.28 (inc VAT)
Where from: cromwell.co.uk
The Kennedy is a brilliant piece of kit. The chunky triangular form is a lot easier to get on with than the norm and gives the impression of a substantial piece of kit. The adjusting mechanism is beautifully simple too – slide the collar down, wind it to adjust the torque setting and slide it back up into place. The torque can be seen through windows on the sides, with separate scales for Nm and lb/ft, depending on preference. The click on reaching the torque limit is the most positive of any tool here, and can be easily heard and felt through the handle.
Sykes-Pickavant 80134500 Motorq Wrench
How much: £378 (inc VAT)
Where from: sykes-pickavant.com
This tool is a complete reinvention of the torque wrench from top to bottom. Even the head is double- sided, with a sliding drive mechanism. Perhaps the best single change is to the adjusting mechanism. Pull on the black knob on the base and a handle slides out. This then pivots at a right angle and you can wind the torque on or off with one finger. Slide it back in and it locks again. However, it’s how the tool behaves at the set torque limit that you’ll find most obvious, as the whole thing visibly pivots around a join in the middle. You won’t need to rely on hearing or feeling for a click ever again!
Draper Dynamic Torque Wrench
How much: £35.20 (inc VAT)
Where from: drapertools.com
With the Draper Dynamic wrench you know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s the standard type of torque wrench that’s been used for years – you unfasten the lock nut at the base, wind the handle until the neck reaches the desired torque and lock it back in place again. It’s simple to operate, if a little fiddly and time-consuming, and the Draper does have a mild advantage over normal wrenches with the white text on black being much easier to read at a glance – much like a car’s speedometer.
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