As one of the most common tools used by DIYers and professionals, wrenches are widely known and recognized as a tool designed to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. The opening of a wrench slots over the square or hexagonal head of a nut or bolt, providing a firm grip and a mechanical advantage that makes it easier to apply torque to the fastener.
However, wrenches come in many types that are made for use in a wide variety of situations. There are several common types, like pipe wrenches or socket wrenches, that are well known and easy to spot in a home renovation store, but there are also a large number of specialized wrenches that are intended for specific tasks, like pedal wrenches that are typically used to fix bicycles or pedal boats. This guide will give you detailed information about 25 types of wrenches and how to choose the best wrench or wrenches for your workshop.
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Best for: General tightening and loosening of a wide range of fasteners.
The crescent wrench or adjustable wrench is a very popular option with DIYers due to the versatility of the tool. These wrenches have an open end that can be adjusted in size by simply turning a screw located at the rear of the jaws. This makes it possible to fit a crescent wrench to fittings and fasteners of various sizes instead of having to search for an open-ended wrench that is compatible with the fastener.
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Best for: Repairing and maintaining bikes, pedal carts, or pedal boats.
The name of the pedal wrench is very appropriate, given that this type of wrench is designed specifically for working on pedals. You can most commonly find pedal wrenches in bicycle repair shops, though some fairground maintenance crews may also use these wrenches to repair or maintain pedal cars or pedal boats.
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Best for: Tightening or loosening hexagonal or square nuts and bolts.
A box-ended wrench has two closed ends with slightly varying sizes so that each end can be used to loosen or tighten fasteners of different sizes. The user simply needs to slide the end of the wrench over the nut or the head of the bolts, then turn in the desired direction to apply force. Due to the closed-end design, box-ended wrenches are better able to grip fasteners than open-ended wrenches without slipping or stripping the fittings.
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Dog Bone Wrench
Best for: Bike maintenance and repair.
A common addition that can be found in bike repair shops, dog bone wrenches are sometimes referred to as dumbbell wrenches due to the dog bone or dumbbell shape. This type of wrench has a narrow handle stretched between two bulky heads. Each box-shaped head has multiple sockets of varying sizes, making dog bone wrenches a flexible option for quick bicycle repairs. This type of wrench can be used on objects other than bicycles as long as the size of the sockets matches the size of the fasteners.Continue to 5 of 25 below.
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Best for: General purpose fitting, fastening, and loosening.
Instead of choosing between a box-ended wrench and an open-ended wrench, users can opt for a combination wrench, which has one open end and one closed, box-end. The open, crescent-shaped end is easier to quickly reposition when you are loosening a fastener, while the closed, box-end provides a better grip when you are tightening tough nuts and bolts.
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Best for: Releasing stuck or rusted fasteners.
The purpose of a striking wrench is to apply a great amount of force to a stuck or rusted fastener in order to remove it. Striking wrenches have a block at the end that is designed for striking with a hammer, so you don't have to worry about breaking a regular wrench when you are trying to handle a seized nut or bolt. These heavy-duty wrenches are typically used in metalworking, plumbing, and electrical jobs.
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Best for: Working with fittings in very tight spaces.
Essentially, a crowfoot wrench is just the head of an open-ended wrench without the handle. The wrench acts as a socket wrench fitting, allowing the user to access nuts and bolts in very hard-to-reach places. Crowfoot wrenches can be attached directly to the square drive on the socket wrench or they can be used in conjunction with an extension drive for better reach through narrow crevices.
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Best for: Adjusting the cones of cup and cone bearings on a bicycle.
While cone wrenches are most commonly seen in bicycle repair shops, they can also be included with some home appliances in order to adjust the leveling feet. These wrenches are essentially thin pieces of metal with square-shaped openings at either end that are intended for tightening or loosening the cones of cup and cone bearings found on bicycles.Continue to 9 of 25 below.
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Best for: Removing or reinstalling car wheels.
Most people will have or should have a lug wrench handy in their vehicle in case of a flat tire. These tools are made to tighten and loosen the large lug nuts that secure a wheel to a vehicle. They are typically about one to two feet in length with an L-shaped design. However, you can also find X-shaped lug wrenches that have four socket heads of varying sizes, instead of just one socket head, like the L-shaped lug wrench style.
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Best for: Fast, powerful, pneumatically driven, tightening and loosening.
One of the more expensive wrench types is the impact wrench. This type of wrench looks similar to a drill with a bulky body and a trigger to drive the head of the wrench. However, instead of drill bits, the impact wrench uses sockets of various sizes, based on the size of the target fasteners. The wrench connects to an air compressor to drive the sockets, allowing it to apply a high level of force at a high speed for either tightening or loosening.
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Best for: Gripping pipes and plumbing fittings.
With a name like plumber's wrench, the purpose of the tool isn't difficult to guess. This type of wrench is made for use on pipes, plumbing fixtures, and fasteners. A plumber's wrench has a set of jaws that are shaped like hexagonal nuts, which can be controlled by opening or closing the handles, similar to the way in which pliers work.
Use a slide bolt to adjust the opening of the jaws in order to better grip larger pipes or fittings. These tools can also be referred to as channel locks, and they are highly useful for a wide variety of plumbing projects.
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Fan Clutch Wrench
Best for: Removing fan clutches on vehicles.
The specialized fan clutch wrench is only intended for removing fan clutches from cars, trucks, vans, and other vehicles. This type of wrench has a U-shaped opening on one end to quickly remove or install a fan clutch. These tools may also have a square opening at the other end that can be used as a clutch holding tool, while another wrench is used to turn the hex nut.Continue to 13 of 25 below.
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Best for: Gripping round or circular objects.
The strap wrench is a tool designed to tighten or loosen round or circular objects, similar to a strap-style oil filter wrench. This type of wrench has a rubber, fabric, or metal band or chain that extends out from the handle, then threads back through the handle to create a closed loop. Fit this loop over a container lid or a round plumbing fitting, then tighten the loop to grip the fastener. Apply pressure in the direction you want to turn the fastener to tighten or loosen the fitting.
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Best for: Adjustable grip on nuts, bolts, and plumbing fittings.
Pliers wrenches have flat-edged jaws that are positioned at about a 45-degree angle from the handle. Simply open and close the jaws to grip the target fitting in the same way you would use a set of pliers. The opening of the jaws can be adjusted with a bolt slide between two or more positions on the upper handle of the wrench. This tool is an excellent option for quickly moving between fasteners of different sizes, with minimal effort required to adjust the opening jaws.
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Best for: Unscrewing or tightening screws and similar fasteners.
Allen wrenches are essentially hexagonal bars that are bent into an L-shape. Each end of the bar can be inserted into a compatible hexagonal hole in screws and other similar fasteners to tighten or loosen the fitting. A wide variety of furniture is packaged with an Allen wrench and directions for putting the furniture together, so that you can quickly install and tighten fasteners with a hex-shaped recess.
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Best for: Automatically adjusting to the correct size to grip the fastener.
A self-adjusting wrench is a common tool used in plumbing to hold pipes in place or turn fasteners of varying sizes. The head of the wrench has one small fixed size and a large, rounded sided that opens further, based on the size of the pipe or fitting. To apply pressure to the fitting, the user just needs to turn the wrench and the teeth on the inside of the wrench head will bite into the material, preventing the wrench from slipping. The jaws of the self-adjusting wrench will automatically ratchet back between turns, so the user can continually tighten or loosen fasteners without repositioning the wrench.Continue to 17 of 25 below.
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Best for: Increased maneuverability and working at odd angles.
The Saltus wrench can also be referred to as a flex-head socket wrench because one end of the wrench has a socket that pivots on a small, durable hinge. The other end of the wrench is a typical open-ended head. These wrenches are available in a range of sizes, so you can find the right wrenches based on the size of the fasteners which with you are working.
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Flare Nut Wrench
Best for: Better grip when working with hexagonal nuts and fittings.
A flare nut wrench is similar to both a box-end wrench and an open-ended wrench because the shape of each end is the same as a box-end wrench, but each end has an opening, like an open-ended wrench. The difference between a flare nut wrench and an open-ended wrench is that the opening of a flare nut wrench head is much more narrow than the opening of an open-ended wrench head.
This design increases the contact area between the wrench and hexagonal fasteners, making it easier to grip and applying force to these fittings without the wrench slipping.
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Best for: Working under sink basins.
Barely recognizable to most as an actual wrench, a basin wrench is an odd tool that is designed for disconnecting faucets underneath a sink. The wrench has a long, T-shaped handle that extends down to a head with a curved jaw that resembles the top of an 'S.' It allows the user to access the faucet fittings under the sink without needing to stretch or climb under the sink. However, these tools don't offer the best control, so in many cases, a plumber or DIYer will use a plumber's wrench or pliers wrench in place of a basin wrench.
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Best for: Tightening fasteners to a specific torque level.
Torque wrenches are intended for working on vehicles, machinery, and other projects that require a high degree of precision. These tools tighten fasteners to a particular level of torque, ensuring that the fitting is not too tight or too loose for the application. They are commonly used in automotive repair shops and can come in several different varieties, including manual and digital models. However, torque wrenches are not made to loosen fasteners. Using them for this purpose can damage the torque wrench, forcing you to recalibrate the tool or replace it with a new torque wrench.Continue to 21 of 25 below.
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Best for: Working on fasteners in tight spaces with a range of different sizes.
A socket wrench is a well-known tool that is regularly used by automotive professionals and DIYers. The wrench can use a variety of different sized heads, depending on the size of the nut or bolt. To switch the head, just pull the socket off of the wrench, then push a new socket over the drive square at the end of the wrench.
This type of wrench has a ratcheting mechanism that engages the wrench to apply force in one direction, then disengages when the wrench is rotated in the opposite direction, allowing the wrench to spin freely. The design makes it possible to quickly tighten or loosen fasteners without having to reposition the wrench with each turn.
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Best for: Tightening and loosing bolts without readjusting the wrench.
Similar to socket wrenches, ratcheting wrenches are designed with a ratcheting function that allows them to engage and apply force in one direction, then disengage and turn freely in the opposite direction. This is so that the wrench does not need to be removed from the fitting and repositioned for each turn of the wrench. Ratcheting wrenches look similar to box-ended wrenches, except that the end has a ratcheting device inside of it. The mechanism not only improves the efficiency of the tool, but it also makes it easier to work on nuts and bolts in tight spaces, where it would be hard to continually readjust the wrench for every turn of the fastener.
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Best for: Working with large plumbing fittings, pipes, and fasteners.
As the name implies, a pipe wrench is commonly used to work with pipes. Specifically, they are made for use with plumbing pipes, fittings, and large fasteners. These wrenches are large, heavy tools with metal teeth that grip the material you are working with to prevent the wrench from slipping as you apply pressure to the fitting. Though it should be mentioned that the teeth tend to leave small scratch marks and indents behind in the metal. Pipe wrenches are great for large fittings and fasteners, but they aren't intended for smaller fasteners because the bulky size can make it difficult to grip a fitting with a small surface area.
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Best for: Difficult to reach nuts and bolts in a variety of situations.
An open-ended wrench is one of the more recognizable types, with two open ends that are typically slightly different in size, allowing the wrench to be used on a wider range of fittings. Multiple open-ended wrenches of varying sizes are commonly included in standard tool kits due to their general purpose design. The long neck of the wrench makes it possible to slide one open-ended head into narrow crevices to access nuts and bolts that may otherwise be too difficult to loosen or tighten.Continue to 25 of 25 below.
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Oil Filter Wrench
Best for: Loosening and tightening oil filters.
Another specialty wrench, oil filter wrenches, are specifically designed to loosen and tighten oil filters, allowing automotive professionals and experienced DIYers to quickly and effectively perform oil changes on a wide range of vehicles. These wrenches have one short side and one long, rounded side that wraps around the oil filter and grips it tightly. You can also find chain-style oil filter wrenches and strap-style oil filter wrenches that form a tight loop over the oil filter to tighten or loosen it.
Choosing a Wrench
Before purchasing a new wrench for the workshop, consider the various projects that you typically handle, either at home or at work. Select a wrench based on the specific task you need to accomplish. If you are fastening standard nuts and bolts, choose a common DIY wrench, like a crescent wrench, open-ended wrench, or a box-ended wrench.
For automotive repairs, you may need an oil filter wench, fan clutch wrench, or a torque wrench to get the job done. Ratcheting wrenches and socket wrenches can help loosen or tighten fasteners in hard to reach locations, while more specialized wrenches, like basin wrenches or pedal wrenches, are really only required for specific jobs. Once you know the job, check the size of the wrench to ensure it is suitable for the fasteners that you are working with, otherwise you may invest in a product that cannot be used for the project.