Thoughts on digital torque gauges

In need of a mid-range torque wrench for occassional use (mostly thinking spark plugs and the like). I have a nice (and another not-so-nice) 1/2" one, but don’t really want to drop a ton of cash on similarly nice 3/8" one. Was looking instead at the Neiko 3/8" digital torque adapter…anyone have any experience with using one of these or would I be better off with the Neiko Pro or Tekton 3/8" click wrenches?

If space was a premium I would look at the torque adapters more but for home use a click type should be good. But this is coming from a guy who is still using click type from 20+ years ago and a Brown line digital torque turn gauge on a ratchet to save money

It’s not a space issue so much as the thought that the digital torque adapter might be more accurate (should be according to specs, but who knows how much you can actually trust them) and more likely to be on spec for the money than a similarly-priced click. Maybe that’s a misconception, but I know my HF 1/2" was decently out of spec when I bought (after shearing off a stud…), so I’m a bit leary about trusting another cheapy on something similarly critical/risky. I also don’t want to drop several hundred on a torque wrench I’m rarely going to use, so trying to figure out which “good enough” is better I guess.

Just curious: why can’t you use your 1/2" torque wrench with a 3/8" adapter? The torque readings would be the same.

Because 1/2" torque wrench ranges aren’t accurate at that lower end. My good one is only rated for accuracy starting at 50 ft.lbs, so for lower end stuff it either won’t click at all or will be outside the 4% accuracy spec. I think technically the HF one can go down that low, but I wouldn’t trust it without calibrating it and testing on equipment I don’t have (actually one of the advantages of the digital adapter is it can be a kind of poor-mans calibration tool).

1 Like

If I was going to buy a new torque wrench it would be digital 1 with torque angle built in. I was reading reviews on the tekton 1 and there not looking all that good

correction tekton click type

Yeah…that’s kind of what started this for me. Neiko Pro seemed to have the best reviews, but at the $50ish price point, there doesn’t seem to be enough QC to guarantee the accuracy. I think I’m talking myself into a digital adapter as well here, but other than Project Farm using them in ways that I don’t intend to (nor that I think are particularly trustworthy for his purposes), I haven’t really run into anyone that has used one.

so years ago I used to be a big fan of micrometer type click torque wrenches and I still am to a degree. I always say you should have 2. 3/8 in inch lbs and a 1/2 inch in ft lbs. based on the ranges used for your car/equipment etc.

Today though I’m more of a fan of these new torque adapters - there are places where you can’t use them well due to space - but that’s few and far between. anyway - new torque adapters usually in 1/2 drive will do various units - have wider range and /or better accuracy. and they give a good warning when you get to setting.

Which one is best - hard to say. but look at the rated ranges and accuracies. There is one that I used a while ago was able to also swap to angles. which is more and more useful these days

Thanks, Napalm. Appreciate the recommendation for these.

OH and I don’t use a torque wrench on spark plugs. I know you probably read in a manual that they go down to ____ inch lbs or N-cm. etc. OK sure.

but the spark plug makers especially NGK and Autolite say go down snug then do a 1/7-1/6 turn. or nearly a flat worth of extra snug and no more. all spark plugs are 6 point that I know of.

anyway the reasoning. plugs are coated today and many people put them in with anti-seize. I like to .
and anti-sieze mucks up the torque spec thus angle measurement is more accurate. hence that 1/6 turn extra.

back tot he question though - what adapters are you looking at.

of the 2 I used one was a summit tool branded / marketed one. worked good.

the other was an AC delco branded one that was in a set as a 1/2 drive 3/8 drive.

Yeah, AC Delco and Neiko were the two I was looking at. Seems like Neiko and Summit are probably the same OEM (along with a bunch of others on Amazon).

Normally I’m right there with you…this will be the first car I’ve bothered, but Minis are notorious for spitting plugs and even NGK recommends 20 ft lbs vs. their usual tight and turn recommendation. Per BMW TSB, it’s 18-21 ft lbs with antiseize. Besides, who doesn’t want an excuse to buy another tool :laughing:

wow in ft lbs. 20 ft lbs being 140 inch lbs. seems like alot. I put in sparkers with a 3/8 drive (as do most I guess) and I doubt I put them down quite that hard. hell I might have to test one just to see.

by all means follow the manual and or TSB. so looked up my LS3 - 15 N-m. hmmm.

I will say some people also get overzealous with small plugs. I forget the car I was working on but by jove if the plugs didn’t need the smaller 5/8 plug socket - which is odd as every car plug I ever took out up to that time was a 13/16 socket set. anyway dude on the other side was cranking like mad on them and I thought it was way too much. For get the car though.

I like that delco branded one if only because it comes with both. now to find an angle one. shame there isn’t an all in one. torque and angle.

Check out the Eastwood company - known more for auto body and other sorts of tools.

I think Ben had a write up on there some time ago about these. Looking at them it’s one of the first ones I remember seeing. 1% accuracy - 15-150 ft lbs range - and torque angle. but it’s 95 dollars.

Surely there are others.

So I pulled the trigger on the AC Delco one (actually the Durafix version since they’re the OEM and it was a few bucks cheaper) - this one does do angle. Small range, though (5.9 to 59 ft lbs), but if you get the two pack then I guess it’s covered. I went with just the 3/8" since I have a nice half inch clicker and it was only a few bucks savings to get them paired. I did see the Eastwood, but wasn’t prime and would have pushed my scheduled work time back a weekend (I also didn’t love the $95 price tag, but that wasn’t as important as the time issue). Eastwood actually sells it for $75ish on their own site and has a torque and angle version I was considering for $95 (their site), but same issue with timing. Couldn’t find a local source unfortunately.

I’ll try and remember to do a quick review on it with my thoughts on the AC Delco.

Just a thought. More complex torque wrenches, click and likely digital generally go out of spec within a few years i believe. This is probably worse the less controlled environment it lives in.
Beam type deflection torque wrenches are so simple they tend to stay in spec much longer without maintenance.
For casual use its worth a thought. I personally dont really like the beam type. Normal procedure for torque wrenches in industrial/commercial usage is(or should be) calibration annually at a minimum.

so typically it’s been found that the digital devices - which work on a strain gage principle are more accurate for longer and hold calibration well. Which is part of why you see more and more ofthem popping up. In fact I’d argue it would hold calibration better than a click type which is the common prefered method of today. old style beam devices while they work are in some cases hard to use.