Best Dial Torque Wrench 2019 Reviews and Comparison

LAST UPDATED : Jun 2019

Sometimes tightening down a bolt until it "feels right" is not acceptable.

When it comes to quality control and safety, you really need to use a digital or dial torque wrench to measure and verify the torque applied to bolts and fasteners. The memory pointer on a dial type torque wrench allows you to capture the finishing torque applied to your fasteners.

An inch-pound dial torque wrench measures the force in ‘in lb’ or ‘ft lb’ – with some dual scale models also expressing the measurement of Nm (Newton Meters).

Quick Comparison : Top Dial Torque Wrenches

Dial Torque Wrench Quality Our Rating
CDI Dual Scale Wrench A
Precision Instruments PRED2F150HM A-
Stanley Proto J6168F B+
OTC 7380 Accutorq B+

**Below, you’ll find our more detailed reviews; you can also click the links above to check prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

What to look for in a Dial Torque Wrench

Dial torque wrenches have been around for a long time and proven themselves for their accuracy and ease of use.

With their ability to record the maximum or finished torque on a memory dial, they provide the peace of mind that a fastener or bolt has been adjusted to the correct torque. These measuring tools can also be used as a quality control instrument to verify or monitor torque.

Dial torque wrenches are useful for performing quick visual tests as part of a torque auditing program. This type of testing starts after the manufacturing process is complete, and is designed to identify loose fasteners or bolts.

Two pointers – memory and main pointer

All dial torque wrenches have two pointers.

Both pointers will move as you increase the torque loading. However, one of the pointers (the memory needle) will remain at the highest measurement and will not return back to zero when the pressure is removed or the tool is removed from the fastener or bolt.

Once you have verified or recorded the measurement, you manually return the memory needle back to zero to do the next reading.

Certificate of calibration

Because this type of wrench is often used in industries where accuracy is required, they are manufactured to meet or exceed the accuracy and repeatability requirements of ASME B107.14M-1994, GGG-W-686, Type 2, Class A Style 1, 2 and ISO 6789.

When you purchase a premium quality wrench, you'll receive an N.I.S.T certificate of calibration. This will confirm the accuracy of your new tool and indicates the wrench was calibrated on a torque standard traceable to the National Institute of Standards & Technology (N.I.S.T).

You should also be able to locate an engraved or stamped serial number on the body of the actual tool that matches the certificate.

Left and Right hand threads

Check that the wrench has been calibrated to work in clockwise (CW) and counter-clockwise directions (CCW). If it hasn’t been calibrated in both directions, you may only be able to measure and certify the torque for the more common clockwise thread.

Scale

To allow for Newton Meter and English standards, several scales of measurement can be shown on the dial.

  • The English scale measures in inch pound (in lb) or foot pounds (ft lbs)
  • The Newton Meter scale is measured in Nm (Netwon meter)

A calculator makes it easy to convert between units of measure when you have a wrench with only a single scale.

Some of the better wrenches include dual scales on a single dial. However, when you also take both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions into account, the gauge can quickly become quite cluttered.

Torque Range

One of the most important considerations is the torque range you want to work within.

As most torque wrenches work best between 40 and 80 percent of their overall range, you don't want to select a tool where you will be working at the top or bottom end of it't scale. While buying or making do with a slightly undersized tool may save you money, the measurement may not be accurate enough and could compromise the safety and security of the fasteners you are working with.

Secondary signals

At times it can be difficult to read a dial indicator torque wrench while tightening your fastener. This type of wrench doesn't have the ability to click like other wrenches, and lacks the noise and feedback that a click wrench can offer.

To overcome this limitation, some dial wrench models come with audible or visual aids to let you know when a preset torque has been reached. This is generally only included in the larger torque ranges.

Square drive sizes

Consider the size of the sockets you will be using and the torque that will be applied. As the required torque increases, so will the drive size.

It doesn't matter if you use standard or deep sockets. You can also use good quality converters to fit a 3/8″ socket on a 1/2″ drive without affecting the reading.

With that said, it's best not to use extension bars. Unless the force is applied at exactly 90 degrees to the fastener, the reading cannot be guaranteed as being accurate. This include wobble extensions, universal joins and crows feet.

Reviews of a Few of the Best Dial Torque Wrenches

Dial Torque Wrench Quality Our Rating
CDI Dual Scale Wrench A
Precision Instruments PRED2F150HM A-
Stanley Proto J6168F B+
OTC 7380 Accutorq B+

CDI Dual Scale Wrench – Editors choice

Basically the same as a Snap On dial torque wrench for a much a lower price.

The gauge face is an easy to read blue with active and memory needles that are easy to distinguish. It is supplied with a foam fitting plastic case that holds the gauge tightly.

The zero needle is very sensitive and even a slight bump can cause the needle to deviate slightly from zero. However, this doesn't affect the final reading as the gauge is designed to work best at between 40 and 80% of it scale range. Even though the zero needle is sensitive, the actual unit is built like a tank and beautifully made. The supplied certificate of accuracy can be traced back to N.I.S.T and the serial number is stamped onto the body of the handle (near the dial)

Drive sizes range from 3/8″ to 1 inch in size and different models are available with a torque of up to 1,000 ft lbs. The pull is smooth and the analog readout can measure in CW and CCW directions.

As a subsidiary of Snap On, the CDI dial torque wrenches are made in America with US and German parts. CDI is also the OEM supplier for Wright Tools.

Precision Instruments PRED2F150HM

The Precision Instruments range of dial torque wrenches are available in 1/4″ to 1-1/2″ drive size with up to a massive 3,000 ft lbs of torque (with the most popular sizes of 150 and 600 in lbs).

This is a solidly made tool, you can feel the quality and weight when you pick it up. The wrench is fairly large (and the handle is quite small). It may not be suitable for tight spaces around the engine of a motorcycle.

The scale is pound inch (same as inch lb), and does't include Newton Meters on the dial. Unfortunately, you'll need to revert to a conversion table to work out Nm equivalents. It's a bit of a shame as there is enough room to include it on the dial if they wanted to.

The wrench is certified for CW and CCW directions and has an accuracy of +/- 2%. The supplied certificate of accuracy can be traced back to N.I.S.T

Stanley Proto J6169F

This 1/4″ drive dial torque wrench has a torque range of 15 to 75 in lbs. The J6168F has a range of 6 to 30 in lbs. Other than the torque range, the wrenches are practically identical.

The dual scale dial can be used in CW or CCW situations and is very easy to read with English and Metric markings over the entire torque range.

The wrench has a solid body and is accurate to +/- 4%. The certificate of accuracy can be traced back to N.I.S.T and matches the serial number stamped on the body of the tool handle.

OTC Tools 7380 Accutorq

OTC Tools have a single offering in the dial torque wrench range. The 3/8″ drive, 0 to 150 in-lb wrench is a popular size that is well suited to automotive work.

The bright blue dial reads directly with both English and Metric graduations. The manual includes a handy chart to convert units of torque.

The wrench comes in a nice blow-molded storage case to keep it safe between uses.

The torque wrench is certified for the accuracy of +/- 4% in both directions on readings from 20% to 100% of its range.

FAQ

What are the advantages of a dial torque wrench vs a click

Click torque wrenches are ideal for assembly lines where operators don't have to read a dial or gauge; they simply pull the wrench until it clicks. However, if you keep pulling a click torque wrench, you will increase the load beyond the preset value. When you use a dial torque wrench, the memory pointer allows you to register and check the maximum applied rotation.

Dial type torque wrenches are generally considered to be one of the most accurate types of torque wrench. The dial type wrench is the only type of torque wrench where the final reading is not easily affected by the hand-hold position on the wrench. This explains why they are used extensively throughout aerospace and defense industries.

How does the CDI product code work?

When ordering a CDI torque wrench, make sure you pay attention to the letters in product code. It is very easy to order the wrong model. The following table will help:

Dual Range

  • LDIN – measures in lb and Nm.
  • LDFN – measures ft lb and Nm.
  • LDFE – measures ft lb and Nm with a light and buzzer signal

Single Range

  • LDINSS – measures in lb only.
  • LDFNSS – measures ft lb only.
  • LDFESS – measures ft lb only and has a light and buzzer signal
  • NLDNSS – measures Nm only.
  • NLDESS – measures Nm only and has a light and buzzer signal

Final Thoughts

In our opinion, you can't look past the CDI dial torque wrench range.

CDI has a huge selection of drive sizes and torque ranges (take extra care to select the correct model number).

When you combine the range with the +/- 3% certified accuracy and the fact they are made in America and a subsidiary of Snap On, the decision is fairly easy to make.

The Amazon rating is a solid 5 stars from over a hundred reviews.

Image credits: Amazon.com

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