Serious mechanical work demands the top torque wrench you can get. Smaller torque wrenches are available for light work, and the three reviewed here as the best torque wrench for the money can tackle tougher jobs with maximum torques ranging from 150 to 250 ft lbs. To give you more leverage, these heavy duty tools feature longer handles and simple operation. Keep in mind that torque wrenches may round or crack cheaply made sockets, and use only hardened sockets like you would use with 1/2-inch drive air tools.
Snap-On tools have a long history of producing top quality tools, and the CDI (subsidiary of Snap-On) torque wrench proves the point. Keep in mind that while this tool is not labeled as a Snap-On tools product, almost all of its components are identical but you are getting the tool at a lower price. CDI is Snap-On’s industrial line of tools. The 2503MFRPH is an industrial wrench, with a range of 30 to 250 foot pounds. One benefit of a true torque wrench is that it can be used in situations that are too tight for traditional air tools. This model allows you to set the torque in either direction, and has proprietary controls to make using it fast and easy. When you have to live up to industry standards, this may be the best torque wrench you will find. The thumb operated socket release allows you to change sockets quickly and easily.
There is not much to be complaining about with a Snap-On tool, but there are a few potential improvements that could be made. Extending the handle length out to 2 foot or more would be a good start, especially since the longer reach means more leverage directed where you need it. And even though the dial is laser etched with the correct numbers, the adjusting handle is not as well made as you might expect, and could be broken if handled incorrectly.
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The 16250 is a more affordably priced tool, but has some advantages that even the Snap-On CDI was lacking, such as an extra long handle. At a full 25 inches long, this torque wrench can be operated with very short swing strokes. The heavy duty chrome finish stands up to industrial use, but you will want to pick up a better carrying case as the one which the unit comes in is not designed for more than very light usage. The only reason this model is not our top pick torque wrench is the lack of a quick release for changing sockets, a features that saves time and energy during operation.
For slightly lighter applications, the Tekton 24335 may be the best cheap torque wrench. The handle is a little shorter than the competitors, which means that it can be used in smaller spots, but the shorter shaft length also means less torque, and the 24335 has a maximum of 150 foot pounds. Don’t let the shorter length fool you, though, because this tool is manufactured using heavy duty steel and calibrated to conform to even the most stringent machining standards. The biggest complaint with this tool is that the reverse settings are not as accurate, requiring you to use extra caution when using the “lefty loosey” ratcheting option.