Torque Wrenches: Beam vs. Clicker

Not too long ago, I grabbed my 1/2" clicker wrench and started putting lug nuts on. After a bit of use, I realized that it seemingly wasn't "clicking"-I had it set to 60ft-lbs, and it certainly felt like I was going well beyond there. I haven't done any formal calibration, but have since tried it enough to know that the "clicker" is dead in it(yes, I'd always stored it loose, but I suppose that's what you get from Harbor Freight torque wrenches).

I had an immediate need to get some front suspension work done where the torque window on everything was pretty wide-40-70 ft-lbs was typical, and all with castle nuts(I think the wide torque window was to allow you to align split pins in the castle nuts). I needed something, though, so bought a $7 beam type from Menards.

I don't have any great expectations of accuracy from this and I don't know if I'd build an engine with it, but it fit my needs at the time.

I had never used a beam wrench before, and even though it's a whole lot less convenient than a clicker I do like it in some ways. For one, I can see when I'm approaching the torque value, while with a clicker experience will tell you when you're close but the wrench itself doesn't give any indication other than clicking when you reach the setpoint. Obviously too it's bulkier and you have to be able to see the scale.

Still, though, it got me wondering. Given how much simpler a beam type is than a clicker, and the fact that the only "moving" part is the bending of the wrench, it seems like they should hold their calibration assuming they're good from the start. I don't know how good that is for a $7 one, but I'd think a quality one would be good.

Does anyone here regularly use a beam type wrench? Obviously I want to replace my clicker and need to research my better-than-HF options, but in the mean time I'm just wondering how safe I am with a beam wrench. I'm not anticipating any engine work any time soon, so its main use is going to be lugnuts, something I don't consider super critical of exact torque.


southwest Mo.
I used to use a beam type all of the time before I bought the clicker type. I like them for the reasons you gave. I have a visual indication when I'm reaching my torque point. I still use them occasionally. One of mine is off by about 5 lbs but I just compensate for that when I use it.

Both of my beam types and clicker types are Craftsman brand and have held up well so far.
Castle nut are nothing I would be concerned about using a torque wrench on. They have such a huge torque spread making them ideal for just tight and then start looking for a hole.
The reason torque is not very important is you are not torquing the thread as much a taped fit, once the play is gone from the taper the nut is just holding it there, yes it has to be tight but not nut busting tight, too tight and you can split an aluminum knuckle for example (seen that some knuckle head used an impact one one).

Some of them are so close to the CV joint you are lucky to get a box wrench in just to break it free the go with the open end because once you loosen it any more and you may not get the wrench out.
Years ago castle nuts and pins were the norm in all sorts of positions making using a torque wrench on them all but impossible.

A beam type torque wrench can be very accurate but it has its challenges, being able to get a good view of the scale and pointer being the most, personally I don't use them much anymore, where they were of value they have been replaced years ago by memory needle dial type.
If you want a TW that does not need to be "zero" after use consider a split beam like these. I am using Amazon for convenience but they can be found cheaper.

Rahui Pokeka Aotearoa
For decades workshops in NZ used Warren&Brown torque wrenches, they can handle severe abuse. Mechanics seldom owned a torque wrench, it was a shop tool abused by all. My 1/2'' 200 ft/lb is a Warren&Brown, actually branded Repco, but it's W&B, I bought it in 1974, and was checked a couple of years ago - 100% accurate. Their only disadvantage in this day and age is lack of a ratcheting head. They are expensive these days for something so basic, but would still put them above any other torque wrench for quality.

I have an SK beam torque wrench, that has the handle on a pivot, so you are always pulling in the same place, which helps accuracy.
I’m more concerned about the quality of the wrench, repeatability, precision, etc., than the type, beam or clicker. When it comes to torque tools, usually, the price is a good indicator.

PI, CDI are good options.
Now you are free to fix the clicker gone bad. You now have a reference wrench to see if they read the same. If they do they either are both off the same or they are pretty close to accurate. Just an idea. If three are the same the odds of accuracy go up.