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We’ve all heard veteran wrenchers say they no longer use torque wrenches. After years in the industry, their bodies intuitively know when they’ve got the hardware right where it needs to be. I personally subscribe to that concept, but I’m not among their ranks — yet. (Ed. Note: This is the “I’ve got this. One more time.” rule. It never goes well.)
As such, I lean on torque wrenches whenever they’re necessary, and they are necessary. Whether the job is as simple as rotating your tires or as complex as any of the more complicated engine systems, you need one. I’m not saying you need a NASA-grade torque wrench, but you’ll want something to let you accurately know when you’ve hit the right torque, as engines, axles, and transmissions all feature tolerance-sensitive systems. That means you have a couple thousand dollars resting on its shoulders.
So, which one do you need? Well, that’s complicated, but let’s take a look at one of your options. Today we’re examining Craftsman’s SAE half-inch drive torque wrench. As you would expect, it’s priced just right for the weekend warrior, and it’s widely available. Is it worth your money, though? Let’s find out.
Unboxing the Craftsman Torque Wrench
Even though I love my tools, I don't typically buy into what I think of as gimmicky designs. I can appreciate designers going out on a limb to bring a little more life to a tool, but I know it doesn't do anything for function. So, when I first opened the package containing the Craftsman torque wrench, I pretty much blew right past the designs on the tool and the case.
Once I did pay attention, though, the case did jump out at me. It's not another blow-molded case for specialty tools. Instead, it's a two-piece design that cradles the torque wrench with a clear top half so that you can see the tool inside. I can't speak for its durability in comparison to a blow-molded case, but it’s nice to see something different.
Peeling the torque wrench from its den, the first thing you notice is that it’s mighty, measuring a little more than 27 inches long. It feels incredibly solid but isn't overweight. Its 72-tooth drive mechanism feels smooth, as does its torque adjustment, and there are no rattles to shake your confidence. I know it's not the premier tool in this segment, but there's no doubting it's built for business.
Getting After It With the Craftsman Torque Wrench, SAE, 1/2-Inch Drive
- Good: Solid, lengthy, ready to take a lickin’.
- Bad: Adjustments feel clumsy, and there’s little to love about socket retention.
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While I didn’t hold back, I didn’t go out of my way to beat the daylight out of this wrench. It is a measuring tool, and as a rule of thumb you want to be extra mindful not to run them over with a truck or chuck them across a room. I did, however, run it through its paces.
I decided to see how it performed when setting the Pitman arm nut to spec on my project Charger. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lift, so the angle at which I’m working is very awkward, making it difficult to apply much force. Plus, 175 foot-pounds of torque is just scratching the surface of the Craftsman’s ability. Since I don’t have any fasteners that call for more torque, I clamped the drive into a bench vise and went to war. I pulled until the wrench clicked, gradually worked my way up to the max setting, and then I continued pulling.
I didn’t hold back when giving that wrench a run for its money. I’m not exactly a meathead, but genetics blessed me with a good build for wrenching. With the drive clamped in the vise, I pulled with everything I had, even placing one foot on the bench, and it held up. I also put socket retention to the test by giving it a smack against the vice, and it was fine.
Sure, there are a few light scratches and the socket went flying, but no broken teeth or bends to speak of. I’d say I was at more risk of the vise mounts tearing off before that wrench gave up.
I also needed to see how the wrench handled the lighter end of things. Despite what the packaging says, you can dial this thing to settings as low as 20 foot-pounds of torque. So, I went looking for fasteners I could test the tool with to find just how low we can go. More on that in a second.
What’s Good About the Craftsman Torque Wrench
Durability checks out, at least in the short run. How about function? To no surprise, that leverage goes to work for you. Hitting 175 foot-pounds on the Pitman arm nut was a breeze, and one could set fasteners to 250 foot-pounds with one arm and a little bit of body weight.
Furthermore, something like torquing cylinder-head bolts on a 440 or lug nuts is elementary with this tool. And despite being long, I didn’t find it awkward to handle. Even in somewhat tight spaces, it’s not frustrating to use thanks to its 72-tooth mechanism.
I liked the business end of operations as well. The comfort grip makes the tool a joy to handle, especially when you’re letting your inner demons out with it. I’ll admit that adjusting the torque settings could use improvement, but still, the positive lock provided by the collar gives job confidence a boost compared to the systems that cheaper click-type torque wrenches use.
What’s Not About Craftsman’s Torque Wrench
While I am impressed with this tool, it’s not perfect. Where I feel it lacks is when tightening fasteners to anything below 50 foot-pounds. To be fair, the box claims that it’s good for anything from 50 to 250 foot-pounds, yet the graph on the bar allows you to go as low as 20 foot-pounds. Torquing my rocker arm shaft bolts to 25 foot-pounds, it did let off a click, but it was so quiet and light that I almost couldn’t tell that it worked.
It’s pretty standard for a click-type torque wrench to feature torque settings etched onto the bar of the wrench, but it’d be nice to see something that’s a little easier to read. I know that’s a weird callout, but the collar has very legible numerical settings scribed into it, and working between the two was awkward.
Speaking of awkward, the collar is clumsy when you’re trying to work up to those higher torque settings. This torque wrench relies on a locking collar that you pull back to make adjustments. When you’re done, it snaps forward to hold its position. It’s nice you can fine-tune your setting once you’re within range, but there’s no way to lock the collar back, so you have to hold it back while you adjust. Cranking it to 175 foot-pounds or more feels like a real juggling act.
Last, but not least, is the socket retention system. Despite it being a Craftsman, there is no quick release. I don’t have a problem with that, but I feel like retention could be better. Just letting the wrench fall a short distance onto a hard surface, such as the bench vise, is often enough to send the socket on its merry way. Most will be careful not to let that happen after the first time, but we’re all human.
Our Verdict On the Craftsman Torque Wrench, SAE, 1/2-Inch Drive
I’m no stranger to Craftsman. I’ve been using the company’s tools since childhood, and I’ll continue to use them for the rest of my life. I feel that this is one of the better brands available to the DIY crowd, and this torque wrench is an excellent example of why many people agree.
The wrench took the abuse I threw at it and did the job it was supposed to. Plus, its leverage keeps your eyes from popping out of your head when a fastener is calling for gratuitous amounts of elbow grease. Is it the only torque wrench you’ll need? Not a chance. You’ll definitely want to pick up its sister wrench, the CMMT99433 for those lighter jobs. Pairing the two is the perfect combination for anyone working on their own vehicles.
FAQs About Craftsman Torque Wrench
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. How accurate are Craftsman torque wrenches?
A. According to the package, this particular wrench is accurate to about 4 percent when tightening fasteners clockwise and about 6 percent counterclockwise. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment to verify that claim.
Q. Does Craftsman warranty torque wrenches?
A. Yes, Craftsman covers its torque wrenches with a one-year limited warranty unless you use it for commercial services. In that case, Craftsman offers a 90-day warranty for its torque wrenches.
Q. Does Lowe’s honor Craftsman’s warranty?
A. The feature that put Craftsman on the map for many is its warranty. Since Sears is out of the picture and Lowe’s now carries the line, there’s been some concern that the warranty process has changed. It hasn’t.
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