How to Read a Torque Wrench

When your home improvement project requires a specific level of force on a bolt or nut, use a torque wrench.

It is designed to deliver a specific amount of force to the nut or bolt. Use a torque wrench when your project requires a certain tightness of screws or bolts, such as in an engine or on a tire or other machinery. Learn how to read the display of different kinds of torque wrenches to determine the exact pounds per foot.

Learn what kind of torque wrench you have. There are three different types: micrometer setting, dial indicator (including deflecting beam torque wrenches) and electronic. Each one delivers output in a different way.

Read the micrometer setting torque wrench by using your ears. Begin tightening the nut or bolt with a smooth motion. When the required torque value is reached, the wrench will make a distinct click to let you know that the unit is properly torqued. Along with the click, the handle will release, signaling you to stop.

Use the dial indicator torque wrench, and read it by checking the dial or scale built into the tool's handle. As you use the torque wrench, the dial will show how much torque is getting applied to the nut or bolt. Some dial indicator and deflecting beam torque wrenches feature an LED light or buzzing sound when the torque value is reached, along with the dial indicator. The dial indicator torque is considered more accurate than the micrometer torque wrench.

Look at the digital display on the handle of an electronic torque wrench to get readings. These types of torque wrenches are usually programmable and highly accurate. The readings can be seen on either an LED display or a digital display, depending on the type of electronic torque wrench.


  • Torque wrenches are accurate when they are properly calibrated. However, with repeated use, the calibration can be thrown off. Before using any type of torque wrench, verify that the calibration is correct. Always check the manufacturer's specifications for the proper torque for your project.

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Brown is a writer with expertise in many topics, including law, health, fitness, travel and outdoor recreation. Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history from Utah State University. He began working as a freelance writer in 2007, and his articles appear on several Demand Studio websites, including eHow.