There’s an old arcade game, commonly found in bars. where people can gather ’round after throwing a few back and test the true nature of their might. I don’t think there’s any real unified name to it, it’s just “that punching bag game.” You know the one, as it’s routinely dominated by the biggest person in the pub. They take a swing at the floating pouch and the machine registers a score of 424, followed by a supposed weakling who casually taps the bag and hits a score of 602. Impossible! 

Despite how seriously people take it, and use it to cause or endure extreme embarrassment, it’s not exactly the most scientific measurement. So we’d like to propose a new game aimed at automotive enthusiasts: the “how hard can you torque this lug nut” using a precisely accurate torque wrench. The loser has to perform a tire rotation. 

Torque wrenches are a required tool for every amateur or serious mechanic’s garage. They’re not technically used to measure strength, but they do tell the user exactly when wrenching hits the desired torque number. Countless nuts and bolts on your car require exact torque specifications, and a regular socket wrench isn’t going to cut it. Picking a torque wrench to buy, however, can be confusing and annoying as there are so many types of torque wrenches, and so many brands that make them. 

The Guides & Gear channel of The Drive wants to search for the best option by sorting through the pages of choices and testing them in real life. So today we’re going to be talking about the Husky torque wrench with a 1/2-inch drive that you can find at Home Depot.

Our Initial Reaction to the Husky ½-inch Torque Wrench

Sometimes the best option is the option that’s available, and the Husky 1/2-inch torque wrench was the only worthwhile option after calling a Lowe’s, visiting an AutoZone, and walking into a Home Depot. Husky is Home Depot’s in-house brand, so it was the only torque wrench available at the physical store, but it was a vastly superior product compared to the $15 beam-style torque wrench at AutoZone.

You can find the Husky torque wrench on shelves in the hand tools section of the hardware aisle. It’s packed in one of those awful plastic casings that have been melted together at several points along the edges. I tried to open it as cleanly as possible, but it never fails. I got pissed it wasn’t breaking apart, had to pull harder, and ended up shredding multiple parts of the package, so don’t expect to keep that.

Once out of the plastic, the wrench is tucked inside of a blow-molded plastic case. It’s only plastic, there’s no foam or cushioning, and the plastic is pretty easy to bend and press in. So, yes, it does have a case for protection but doesn’t expect it to hold up under any weight or serious impacts.

My first impression of the Husky is that it’s massive and heavy. When my girlfriend saw it, she noted it could be used as a legitimate weapon, and she’s not wrong; it feels like a mini-golf club on steroids. It’s helpful that it comes with a case, as torque wrenches require good protection and handling, and I was delighted to see it was primarily made with steel parts, not some cheap plastic. It was also nice to see a certificate of calibration, with all the details of when it was inspected.

Pricing

The bill came out to be $79.97, about $88 with Chicago taxes. That’s similar to Lowe’s Kobalt model that, at the time of writing, is listed at $89.95 before taxes (it’s currently on sale for $49.97 at the time of writing), while Menard’s Masterforce model is $59.97 before taxes, though the Masterforce model is shorter than the Husky. For further reference, a Pittsburgh model from Harbor Freight is listed at $19.99. Autozone’s $87.00 OEMTools, and $46.99 Duralast options didn’t even match the same specs, as they were limited to 10-150 foot-pounds of torque compared to the Husky’s range of 50-250 foot-pounds. 

If you wanted to stick with Husky, HD also offers a $100 combo package with a ½-inch breaker bar or a $149.00 combo package with both ½-inch and ⅜-inch click-style torque wrenches. A Husky 3/8-inch electronic digital torque wrench is listed at $159.00, at the time of writing.

Getting after it with the Husky ½-inch Torque Wrench

Good: Sturdy feel and construction, loud and obvious click, smooth locking dial settings, comfortable rubber handle, immediately available for pickup at Home Depot, solid warranty.

Bad: Doesn’t apply to low torque numbers, does not work counterclockwise, length could limit parameters of use, heavy to lug around, plastic case is pliable, doesn’t apply to low torque numbers. Also made in China, which could turn some people off due to country pride and potential quality concerns.

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Once I got the Husky home, I realized a slight hiccup: I only had 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch sockets. Luckily, I have a handy set of stubby Gearhead adapters, so I grabbed those and headed out to a parking lot where I could do some work (my apartment garage is too dark and awkward). 

The last time I took my wheels off, I used an impact wrench to put them back on. I know, I know, it’s not a great practice, but when you’re in a hurry, it’s the easiest method. So, I figured I’d correct them by backing them all off and retightening them the correct way with a torque wrench. 

This is a good place to remind everybody that you absolutely cannot use a torque wrench to back bolts off or break lug nuts. This tool has a very specific purpose, measuring and identifying torque, and when used incorrectly for other things, it could damage the mechanism, throw the calibration out of whack, and leave you with a useless tool. If you used an incorrectly calibrated tool for torquing, you could get the wrong torque, and something on your car could be damaged, or worse. So, I used my car’s lug wrench to back all of the nuts off and prepared them for retightening. 

It might take a bit of brainpower to understand what’s going on with all the numbers on the Husky torque wrench, but once you get it, it’s super easy to use and follow. On the stalk of the wrench there are two maps of stepped intervals, one for newton meters and one for foot-pounds. For foot-pounds, they increased by 20, and a collar around the stalk is used to measure increments of 2. Pull down on a sliding collar near the handle to release the locking mechanism, then rotate it to increase or decrease the set torque. Let go of the collar, and the wrench will lock into the next interval. The lug nut torque specification for my 2003 Acura RSX is 80-foot pounds, so I set the Husky to 80 and went to work.

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