Over-torquing a screw can strip it at best or cause structural damage and failure at worst. But how do you know when you’re about to go too far? For the most precise jobs, the best torque screwdrivers are the answer. Instead of guessing how much torque you’re laying down, just set it and forget it. Torque screwdrivers can help users get the tension right on a variety of fasteners in a variety of fields.
Professionals in manufacturing, machining, instrument assembly, electronics, vehicle maintenance, and electrical work all utilize torque screwdrivers to make sure that every screw is tightened to spec. The best torque screwdrivers make it easy with a simple adjustment, clear displays, and solid construction.
Here’s your guide to the best torque screwdrivers out there.
- Best Torque Screwdriver Set: Neiko 10573B Long Shank Torque Screwdriver
- Most Affordable Optics Torque Screwdriver: Wheeler Firearm Accurizing Torque Screwdriver
- Best Digital Torque Screwdriver: Capri Tools Digital Torque Screwdriver
- Best Portable Torque Screwdriver: CDI 401SM Micro Adjustable Torque Screwdriver
- Best Torque Screwdriver For Home Use: Wera Kraftform Torque Screwdriver
The Best Torque Screwdriver
When I started testing the 10573B torque screwdriver, Neiko was quickly becoming my go-to cheap tool brand. (We all need one, right?) I was skeptical about whether or not it could deliver a precision tool that was worth the time. However, the testing period proved positive.
The screwdriver has an average adjustable range, at 10-50 in-lb. I wanted the ¼” drive long shank because it gives an atypical ability in torque screwdrivers to reach into tight spaces. That being said, anybody with experience would tell you it’s not actually very long — you’ll have to get the job done with a 4” shaft.
20 drivers included
- Weight1.6 pounds
- Torque Setting10-50 in-lb.
- TypeCam over
- Calibration CertNo
- Kit IncludesScrewdriver
Reliable as tested
Easy to set and use as tested
Moving parts of case were cheap
No secure place to store ¼” adapter (drop/loss hazard)
The Wheeler F.A.T., or Firearm Accurizing Torque screwdriver, is massively popular and widely successful among reviewers. The kit is simple; 8 bits, a screwdriver, and a case. Home/casual users should note it does not come with a Phillips bit — Wheeler optimizes the tool for gun scopes.
The first thing I noticed about my Wheeler F.A.T., as soon as I received it, was that the package had been opened. This seemed like a minor detail until I started corroborating the event among other users. Though the vast majority of Wheeler F.A.T. users are satisfied, there is a reasonably broad pool of folks who have received incomplete kits. Luckily, my unit included all parts on receipt.
Cam over clutch
10-65 in-lb. range
- Weight8 ounces
- Torque Setting10-65 in-lb.
- TypeCam over
- Accuracy+/- 2% up to 40 lbs., +/-5% 40 lbs. and up
- Calibration CertificateYes
- Kit IncludesScrewdriver, 8 bits, case
Noticeable slip with long throw
Questionable plastic; somewhat sticky rubber
Previously opened package (as received); all parts included
Capri makes tools for professional race teams, promising reliability as well as precision to high-level mechanics. As such, its digital torque screwdrivers display accuracy to the 1/100th in-lb., and alert the user with clear audio and visual signals when the set torque is reached. And they’re dual directional for any reverse-threaded fasteners.
Capri’s digital torque screwdrivers don’t mess around. It comes at a price, but this is one of the best torque screwdriver sets around; each piece is upper-echelon. The tools are certified accurate by ASME B107.300-2010 and ISO 6789-1.2017, to within +/- 2% counterclockwise and +/-3% clockwise. Various modes are available for different scenarios, including peak and tracking. Operators can utilize up to 9 storage slots to repeat recent torque settings.
Available in 3 torque ranges
Certified accurate according to ASME B107.300-2010 and ISO 6789-1.2017
- BrandCapri Tools
- Weight1.14 pounds
- Torque Setting0.44 to 4.42 in-lb.; 0.88 to 17.7 in-lb.; 1.77 to 35.39 in-lb.
- Accuracy+/-2% CCW, +/-3% CW
- Calibration CertificateYes
- Kit IncludesScrewdriver, 2 bits, case
Digital display accurate to 1/100th ft-lb.
Precision tools used by professional race teams
The CDI 401SM Micro looks like an ideal tool for anyone who wants to keep a torque screwdriver handy. Target shooters or hunters, mobile mechanics or maintenance technicians, etc. will appreciate the adjustable torque screwdriver’s low profile and straightforward operation. Well-known automotive tool maker Snap-On builds CDI tools.
Some field optics users like the CDI 401SM Micro as an alternative to the Wheeler F.A.T. (also reviewed here). I would appreciate the smooth metal handle as opposed to a soft rubber handle. In a precision instrument, I like each component to reflect durability and design economy.
Measures .5 in-lb. increments
Also available in cNm, in-oz.
- Weight10.8 ounces
- Torque Setting5-40 in-lb.; 3-15 in-lb.;10-80 cNm; 40-200 cNm; 50-450 cNm; 20-100 in-oz.
- TypeCam over
- Calibration CertYes
- Kit IncludesScrewdriver, 2 bits, case
Made by Snap-On
A bit pricey
The Wera Kraftform line features a wide variety of torque screwdrivers, tailored for different applications and torque unit measurements. At the time of this writing, many were deeply discounted on Amazon.
Most of the entries are compact and lightweight — a few ounces lighter and an inch or two shorter than most other torque screwdrivers. Their ergonomic shapes promise comfort during repetitive use. And L-shaped designs are available in some ranges, which should help the user deliver all the torque they need. Accuracy is a rather unimpressive +/-6%, but at least it’s specified. Torque units and ranges include:
- .3-1.2 Nm
- 2-3 Nm
- 3-6 Nm
- 5-11.5 in-lb.
- 11-29 in-lb.
- 25-55 in-lb.
Various unit measurements and ranges available
L-shaped variants available
- Weight3.53 ounces
- Torque Setting.3-1.2 Nm; 1.2-3 Nm; 3-6 Nm; 2.5-11.5 in-lb.; 11-29 in-lb.; 25-55 in-lb.
- TypeCam over
- Accuracy+/-6 in-lb.
- Kit IncludesScrewdriver
Choice of torque range
Compact and lightweight
Variants with adjustment inside handle can be a hassle
Why Trust Us
Getting the job done right is important to any gear tester. How do you know whether it works or not if you don’t use it as intended? That’s the exact principle with torque screwdrivers. We’re used to putting precision tools through their paces, testing gear according to its prescribed limitations and beyond.
Who This Is For
Torque screwdrivers are typically used in machine applications. If you’re a mechanic, machinist, or maintenance professional, you might have used a torque screwdriver.
Generally speaking, the home user might as well move on; short of Hank Hill, I’m not aware of anyone who knows the factory torque specification for screws on most common household items.
However, if you’re into maintaining your own vehicle, they can come in handy. A torque wrench is often a little too heavy for fine tuning many smaller automotive fasteners, and sometimes doesn’t fit the available space.
As well, anyone who attaches rifle scopes for hunting, or works on guns in general, can benefit from a precision torque screwdriver.
How We Picked
The best torque screwdriver meets the needs of the screwer — that is, the screwdriver operator. If you need to measure extremely small amounts of tension, say between 0.5 and 5 in-lbs., there’s a screwdriver here for it. Maybe you wanna go digital, maybe you wanna go analog. We’ve got that. Relative bargains and high-end precision tools, basic readout, and digital torque screwdrivers are here.
How We Tested
Ease of use and stress testing were most important in our testing process. Precision often varies somewhat in torque screwdrivers — usually 2-5 in-lb., depending on specified tension. It is reasonable to expect consistent results and convincing operations. We looked for those too.
Features to Look for in Torque Screwdrivers
Durability — You want your torque screwdriver to last forever, since a screwdriver that costs that much damn well should? Well, we think so, too. There’s nothing worse than a disposable tool. Really, any tool maker that builds for the short term deserves exactly what they get: customer distrust and public ridicule. Engineering for the benefit of future generations is important at all scales, and it starts with the tool in hand.
Range — Some small torque screwdrivers measure only a 5 to 15 in-lb. range. These precision increments usually measure torque to a tenth decimal place. Many display results digitally, but some are still analog. Some torque screwdrivers have a range up to 50 to 70 in-lb., and some can measure up to 100 in-lb.
Calibration Certificate — Check your torque screwdriver calibration certificate to make sure the tool worked, with satisfactory accuracy, during testing.
The certificate should show the screwdriver’s acceptable +/- percentage, as well as what the unit actually tested at in a lab. The National Institute of Standards Technology and the National Measurement Institute are the main certification bodies.
Limiting Clutch — You can find three types of clutches on torque screwdrivers: slip (or cushion), cam over, and auto-shutoff.
Slip and cam over clutches are the options for analog torque screwdrivers. With these units, once you tighten the fastener to the set torque, you’ll feel a slip or click. That’s your cutoff cue — go any farther and you’re over-torquing it.
Auto shutoff clutches are available on electric torque screwdrivers. Instead of giving the user a physical cue to stop tightening, auto shutoffs do exactly that: shut the tool down once the prescribed tension is reached. Auto shutoff clutches are best for fine-tuning jobs that require high precision.
Chuck — The chuck of most torque screwdrivers is ¼-inch, a universal size compatible with standard driver tips.
Grip and Ergonomics — Should only matter if you’re using your torque screwdriver repeatedly throughout the day. Making a torque screwdriver ergonomic is as simple or complicated as making any other tool ergonomic: tailor to natural human hand shape and maximize grip. If you’re like me, you really don’t care what shape or texture it is as long as it works.
Types of Torque Screwdrivers
Manual — Manual torque screwdrivers require the user to release torque via a physical cue like a click or a slip. The noise indicates the specified torque has been reached.
Electric — Electric torque screwdrivers help users who need to specify highly precise tension. Sometimes these units come with an auto-shutoff feature that disallows the user to torque the fastener past the prescribed limit.
Digital torque screwdrivers, featuring easy-to-read numerical displays, fall under this designation.
Pneumatic — Pneumatic torque screwdrivers are typically used in manufacturing scenarios, where rapid, repetitive use is the priority. With an air torque screwdriver, getting the tight just right is as simple as pushing a button or operating a lever.
Torque Screwdriver FAQ
Q: What are torque screwdrivers used for?
A: Torque screwdrivers give the user the capacity to accurately tighten fasteners, such as according to manufacturing specifications.
In practice, torque screwdrivers are commonly used in vehicle manufacturing, machining, instrument and electronics assembly, and electrician work. Torque screwdrivers aren’t very common for general home use, though they can be handy for anyone who maintains their own vehicle.
Q: What is the difference between a torque screwdriver and a screwdriver?
A: A screwdriver has no capability to measure or specify tension. A torque screwdriver does. Torque screwdrivers are almost always used in building scenarios where precision is a high priority. Your IKEA furniture? No torque specification. Your car engine? Yes, torque specification.
Q: When do I need to calibrate my screwdriver?
A: The typical recommendation is to recalibrate a torque screwdriver about every year or 5000 uses. If you drop it from a distance or onto a hard surface, you should also recalibrate it.
Your options are to take it to a calibration technician, or to DIY it. It is possible to buy a bench-mounted digital torque tester, but they cost anywhere from several hundred to a thousand dollars.
The manual DIY process is pretty intense and demands methodical precision — the amateur may find it intimidating. As well, it depends on whether you have a torque screwdriver with a visible or accessible calibration screw. Tools required: vise, tape measure, weight, string, screwdriver/hex key.
Resource for recalibrating torque screwdrivers available here.
Q: How do torque screwdrivers work?
A: Different styles operate differently. Here’s a brief explanation of each one.
Click/Slip: The click style is probably the most common type of torque screwdriver. The user sets the targeted tension with a dial on the handle. They then turn the screwdriver until they feel a click. The click indicates the disengagement of a pressure-mounted spring inside the tool.
Manual/Beam: Manual or beam style is way more common in torque wrenches than in torque screwdrivers. The tool simply has a dial that indicates torque. The user starts tightening the fastener and the dial shows the current tension. To get the torque right, the user has to watch the dial and release the pressure manually.
Electric/Digital: Digital torque screwdrivers are typically the most accurate entries, and often the easiest to use. The user sets the intended torque, which displays on a digital screen. Then, they simply turn the screw until the device indicates when to stop — either with an auto shutoff or an LED light or sound.
Q: How accurate are torque screwdrivers?
A: Usually between +/- 2 to 5%. Cordless torque screwdrivers generally vary less at lower torque, and more at higher torque.
Q: Are torque screwdrivers well-suited for precision work?
A: Yes, that’s all they’re suited for. If you need to confidently know how much tension is on a fastener, you need a torque screwdriver. Possible settings range from as low as about 0.5 in-lb. to as high as 60 to 80 in-lb. The best torque screwdrivers for precision are usually electric units with auto shutoff capability.