Choosing The Best Dial Indicator – What You Need To Know

Dial indicators are one of the essential measuring tools used in accurate engine building. They are generally used ​for crankshaft thrust and straightness, measuring deck clearances, lifter travel, and other measurements involving the distance between two areas or small amounts of component travel. The dial indicator normally reads in 0.001-inch increments over a range of one inch. Most builders ​use an indicator with 0.250-inch total travel which is enough for many accurate measurements.

The indicators refer to different types of instrument gauges used to determine the diminutive distances and angles, intensifying them to make them clearer. The tool provides an indication to the user ​which they cannot see.

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Types of Dial Indicators

There are two types of dial indicators, the horizontal and the vertical.

The main difference between the two is on how the dial meter is mounted and how it works.

The horizontal test indicators provide measurements with the use of level arms while the vertical test indicators measure with a plunger.

The Difference Between Dial Indicators and Test Indicators

The test indicators use lever contacts while the dial indicators use plunger contacts. Test dial indicators are lightweight and smaller than dial indicators. They have overlapping uses but are most of the time used for separate tasks.

Dial indicators are recommended for comparative and repetitive measurements. If it is fixed in a fixture gauge, the straight, vertical movement ensures that relative to the fixture, the contact always settles in the same area.

The test indicators are used to gather consistency measurements, rather than comparative ones. ​They are usually used to interpret broad part areas, ​usually ​one or two dimensions. An example of this is height, roundness, or flatness variations.

dial indicator

Via ebsautomotiveequipment.com

Top 3 Best Dial Indicator

**Below, you'll see more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Mitutoyo 513-402 Horizontal Test Indicator

Via Amazon.com


The Mitutoyo dial test indicator is an efficient option for those who are looking for better than the industry standard. ​Users ​love the precision and quality of this test indicator, but some have problems with the choice of anti-magnetic material. This horizontal dial test indicator has 0.0005” graduations, 0-15-0 dial face and 0.030 inches range.

The product features 0.079 inches carbide contact point, with 3/8 inches stem and a clamp nut. This 513-402 Horizontal Test Indicator by Mitutoyo has fitted plastic case. It looks like a good option if you are in need of a general purpose indicator.

The majority of ​users find the Mitutoyo indicator ​to be a decent dial indicator. Consumers agree that you get the best product at a reasonable price. You can use it up to 5 years without encountering any problem. The product passed the QS/ISO calibration and inspection standards which are done yearly as long as you keep it safe from getting ​knocked around.

The accuracy level is quite impressive and it continues to remain high to pass the industry certification ​compared to other expensive brands.

Pros

  • Priced reasonably
  • Passes industry certification
  • Above average quality

Cons

  • Made of plastic and tend to become brittle

Starrett 25-441J Dial Indicator, 0.375

Via Amazon


This dial indicator has a hardened, shockless stainless steel gear train and jewel bearings. It is American-made, furnished with a lug-on center back. Most models don’t have an anti-magnetic mechanism. The special non-shock mechanism is found ​on all models except for the 25-109, 25-116 and 25-209. 1.000 inches Range, with 0-100, .001 inch dial reading Grad, having a case stem cap for lever control.

The Starrett 25-441J has sharp bezel serrations for better grip. It has unbreakable crystal and is a rugged and simple unit with a universal ​fit​. The product has a no-glare satin finish on its case. The dial has a non-reflecting white eggshell finish which makes them stand out from the rest.

Pros

  • Waterproof hardened stainless steel rack and spindle
  • It’s tough and accurate
  • Mechanically solid on the inside
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Expensive

Turlen AT203721 Dial Indicator

Via Amazon


This Turlen dial indicator is a good choice for those who are looking for a test indicator that complies with the federal specification for accuracy. The product is worth ​the money. It has an easy to read 1-3/16 inches white face with black markings, 0.0005 inches graduation per line and automatic reversing.

Some of the interesting features are 7 jewels and sturdy satin chrome finish. It also has a padded case. The product is the perfect choice if you are in search of a basic test indicator.

Turlen has received good reviews and it is worth ​buying. It provides accurate measurement as long as the nature of the work does not need holding tolerance lower than 0.001. The product has 0.30 travel and a hair trigger that responds to the lightest pressure.

Pros

  • Accurate measurement
  • Nice indicator that is worth your money
  • It works perfectly for 0.010 or more tolerance.

Cons

  • Some are complaining about inaccuracy
  • It does not read 0 at 12 O’Clock

Final Words

After reviewing the top 3 best dial indicator, we find the Mitutoyo as the best dial indicator when it comes to accuracy and price. Most technicians believe that the product is the industry standard - manufactured by a known brand at a decent price. Mitutoyo has mostly functioned as an intermediate indicator. It is very helpful for automotive for traming fixture alignments.

Some product may cost a lot like the Starrett 25, however, think that it is worth it as it provides precision and durability. There are lots of dial indicator that you can choose from, however only few can provide accuracy. Turlen is also a good brand, but there are some users that complain about its needle and accuracy. Not all users of Turlen are having problems with the product. So, in choosing the best dial indicator, you need to determine what type of indicator you need, the accuracy and the price.

Before making a decision it is best to read reviews about the products you are interested with. If you think this review helpful to you, feel free to share this with others.

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