Going to buy a new wrench for your job? Well, if you have been playing with the tools you are good to go and buy a one, but, if you are a beginner then give a quick read to this wrench guide. This guide is going to clear a number of your concepts in the wrench category such as – types of wrenches, general usage guidelines, the difference between a spanner and a wrench, and wrench sizes.
A wrench is a hardware device used to apply torque to any object with a firm grip. The object can be any PVC pipe, steel pipe, a basin, an oil filter, or keeping the nuts and bolts from turning.
Choosing a wrench that fits your job is more important rather than just considering the matching sizes because you can work with any wrench using the wrench size chart. There are more than 10 wrench types and each type has its subtypes. Some are very specific to the tasks while some are adjustable and multipurpose. Before seeing the types in detail, let me elaborate the difference between the wrench and spanner.
Wrench Vs Spanner – Which Type Should You Buy?
The wrench is a standard term in North American English. On the other side, the spanner is referred to as the wrench with tabs or pins on the circumference. In the USA the term “Wrench” is most widely used. The British sense of spanner is a little bit different.
In the United Kingdom, a wrench is a tool that turns non-fastening objects such as a pipe wrench which is used to hold the pipes and turn them with the torque. A spanner is a hardware tool with a fixed profile which is used to turn a nut or bolt. The terms “Wrench” and “Spanner” are used interchangeably in the USA. Don’t ponder over these terms; go with the tool that fits your need.
SAE Vs Metric Tools
SAE is the abbreviation of Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE is the old standard used in the United States for fasteners. The SAE system is based on inches, on contrary, the metric system is based on centimeters, millimeters etc. The metric fasteners is the new US standard whereas SAE is the old standard but still used by some companies.
Some of the sockets or wrenches fit both the metric and SAE sizes. You can also use the conversion chart to use the metric and SAE tools interchangeably. As the new standard is not very common yet, most of the wrench and socket sets are made to fit both the systems – metric and SAE. If the companies agree on a single standard then it would be very helpful for both the mechanics and manufacturers.
Standard – Metric Wrench Size Chart
View the File Here: Wrench Size Chart
Source: University of Missouri
1. Adjustable Wrench/Crescent Wrench
This is the most widely used wrench type because it gives a choice to the mechanic to adjust it according to the fastener’s size. The adjustable size makes it economical too; because you can use it for multiple objects. It has a jaw like structure which fits the fastener. Its one jaw is fixed while other is moveable.
The roller is located under the jaws. Some models have measurements near the adjusting roller which gives convenience to its user to match its size with that of the fastener. If the measurements are not present, no problem, you can fit the jaws with hit and trial method. Keep adjusting the size until the size matches with that of the fastener.
The best adjustable wrench is suitable for both the standard and metric fasteners. The versatility of adjustable wrenches is a strong convincing point to purchase them; however, they can also hurt you if not properly synchronized with the fastener.
When looking to buy an adjustable wrench model, look for a rubber grip that provides a good control. Consider buying both the small and larger piece to suit the wide range of jobs.
2. Combination Wrench
As the name refers it is the combination of open end and box end wrenches. For a variety of jobs, a combination wrench is a good option. The size of both the ends is usually the same. They do have advantages but they are expensive because there are two types in a single wrench.
They are more common than the box end wrenches. If you need the box end as well the open end wrench, then going for the combination would be a nice choice. You can work with the standard as well as metric sizes. Unlike the adjustable wrench, you need to buy the complete set of a combination wrench to accomplish multiple jobs.
3. Open-End Wrench
The open-end wrench type has opened mouth on one or both sides. The size of the open-end wrench is usually fixed. The two open ends have different sizes. You may use the adjustable wrench for different sizes of nuts or bolts, however, you cannot do so with the open-end wrench.
It is very easy to use, especially for the tight spaces. Mostly, folks buy the set of open-end wrench rather than a single one. To loosen or tighten the nuts or bolts just place it over and pull, pretty easy. Having a set of this type would help you to do multipurpose jobs. One more advantage of this type is that you can work at different angles with the jointed or flex-head models. They are suitable for standard and metric sizes.
4. Monkey Wrench
The monkey wrench resembles with the adjustable or crescent wrench but they differ in a single aspect i.e. the placement of the jaws. Unlike the crescent model, the jaws in a monkey wrench are perpendicular to the handle of the wrench. They are ideal for heavy-duty jobs. The jaws are smooth and it has heavyweight as compared to previous types. Most probably you would see this type in the hands of plumbers.
They are not so common as compared to the other types – open end, combination, and the adjustable wrench. It would be a nice choice if you want to accomplish heavy duty tasks, for light or small tasks look for other options.
5. Ratcheting Wrench
The ratcheting wrench resembles the socket type. It is more efficient than the box end wrench; it saves the time and effort. To loosen a bolt or tighten you are only allowed to move the wrench in one direction. It is the resident of almost every garage and automotive shop. It would be really helpful if you want to boost your productivity.
You can tighten or loosen the fastener without removing the tool. To access the tight spaces some models come with a pivoting head. They are extremely easy to use and handy; fit for metric and standard sizes. They are economical and increase the productivity as well.
6. Socket Wrench
The socket wrench tool enables its users to make most of their projects because of its versatility and compact design. It has a wide range of sizes, the sockets are interchangeable to fit the size of the fastener. Mostly, people purchase the socket wrench with the socket set. The socket set contains sockets of different sizes.
The socket set may contain sockets with metric, SAE or both. Read the difference between SAE and metric tools above at the start of the post. Just like me, most of the mechanics or tools enthusiasts find it difficult to remove the fasteners in the tight places. So, this is the time when the best socket wrench can be of a great help.
It helps you to remove the fasteners from tight places. Most often the tool comes with a wrench extender, in the case, if the wrench extender is not included you can order from Amazon. Another cool advantage is the organization that this type of wrenches provides. The socket wrench comes with an organizer to keep the sockets in an order – with respect to the size. This is an awesome wrench model that provides functionality without breaking your bank.
7. Hex Key/Allen Key
This type has an L-shape design with a short piece and longer handle; known as Allen wrench also referred to as hex keys. The small equipment and bicycle owners are well familiar with this type of wrench. They are used for deep nuts or nuts with inner heads, available in a wide range of sizes – 1/16 and above.
The key areas where it performs excellently are doorknobs, chairs, cookware, for assembling a newly purchased gadget or furniture, for tightening and loosening hex head bolts and nuts and many other applications other than the machinery. You need to have a perfect size match to do your task, unlike the adjustable wrenches where you don’t need to worry about the size.
They are unique in their nature, inexpensive and easily available. You can purchase a single unit, however, buying a complete set would give you more choices. For an improved leverage consider to order a T-handle; if you are buying a complete set then they are mostly included.
8. Pipe Wrench
The pipe wrenches are very common among plumbers used for turning fittings and pipes. It is one of the monsters of the wrenches category with a heavyweight if compared with other types. Its design is similar to that of the monkey wrench except It has a sawtoothed jaw that adds more to the grip.
The upper jaw is movable to set the size of the wrench according to the object’s size. Sometimes, you need some extraordinary effort to loosen or tighten any material, that’s the time where pipe wrench becomes most useful. Common for commercial purposes, however, you can also purchase for domestic purposes.
9. Box-end Wrench
The combination wrench has been discussed earlier which is the combination of open-end and box-end wrench. If you own a set of combination wrench then well and good, but, sometimes you need more torque to deal with the nuts and bolts. In such situations, the box-end wrench can be very helpful. “Necessity is the mother of invention”, we are well familiar with this statement; the same goes true in the case of wrenches. That said, the torque wrenches have been enhanced and optimized to apply a precise amount of torque to the fastener. This is a great article about best torque wrenches. The advantages of box-end wrenches are as below:
- Provides more torque.
- Provides more grip.
- Fewer chances of slipping.
- Fit for hard fasteners.
You get a firm grip over the fastener which is the advantage that you get over the open-end wrench. The torque level that you get with this model is good enough, also there are digital torque wrenches in the market that you can check out for more advantage.
10. Crowfoot Wrench
The crowfoot wrenches come with just a head and without any handle. They are an ideal choice for tight places where your hand cannot reach easily. You need to put the wrench on the top of the fastener and use any handle to rotate the wrench for tightening or loosening. They are available in standard and metric sizes.
11. Star head key/Torx key
The star head keys or Torx keys are used for tightening and loosening the 6 point star head screws and bolts. Its one feature is common with the hex keys i.e. they are indispensable and you will hardly find their substitutes. They are easy to carry around thus lightweight and unique in functionality. You can buy an individual key or a complete set. Well, if you can spare money for a complete set then buy a complete set.
They are available in metric and standard sizes.
12. Strap Wrench
The strap wrench which is also known as oil filter wrench commonly used to open containers, oil filters, and other similar stuff. They come with a rubber and handle, the rubber is moved around the container’s lid and rotated through the handle. The grip of the strap is good enough to keep the container’s lid or filter from slipping. Mostly, you would find them in an automotive shop. The items whose sizes are not according to the standard wrenches are grabbed by the strap wrench.
13. Basin Wrench
For tightening and loosening hose couplings, nuts or bolts under the lavatories the basin wrench is an ideal choice. You can see different approaches to make the basin wrench more effective, for example – they come with a telescoping shaft or a pivoting head to make them useful for a variety of jobs and situations.
14. Lug Wrench
The lug wrench is an extension of socket wrench usually used to tighten or loosen the lug nuts of a tire. In the United Kingdom, they are known as wheel brace. The lug wrenches have different size of a socket on each of the four ends. When buying a lug wrench, go for a unit with a rubber grip that will prevent you from hurting. Otherwise be careful and put your safety first.
Your safety is much important, even more, important than accomplishing the task. It is a famous saying that “Safety first is the safety always”. So, read the wrench usage guidelines below, they would surely help you.
Wrench Use Guidelines
Pull the wrench rather than pushing
While using a wrench in your garage or anywhere else prefer to pull the wrench rather than pushing it. The chances of slipping are higher when you are pushing the wrench. You can hurt yourself when pushing a wrench but it is not always true. If a push is necessary, prefer to use the heel of your hand because if your hand slips the chances of hurting yourself are much lower.
Do not hit your wrench with a hammer
Don’t hit your wrench with a hammer to apply more force, if you do you can damage your wrench or yourself very badly. Also, do not use a damaged wrench that has damaged jaws or handle. If you need extraordinary force for a stubborn fastener, consider buying an impact wrench. The impact wrenches are designed to provide high torque to the fastener with the least effort by the user.
The impact wrenches are widely used in construction industry, product assembly, automotive industry, and in other equipment maintenance industries. The air impact wrench is very common in which the compressed air is used as the power source. If you need to apply extraordinary torque to the fastener then purchase an impact wrench; you won’t regret.
Consider buying high-quality wrenches
Always buy high-quality wrenches. The high-quality wrenches last longer, don’t bend and provide satisfaction to their user. The good quality wrenches mostly come with a rubber grip to provide a firm grip over the tool. On contrary, the cheap wrenches bend early and have poor performance.
If you are on the side of high-quality wrenches then go for a Craftsman’s wrench because they provide a lifetime warranty on the hand tools. I like craftsman tools the most.
Wrench size really matters
Always select the right wrench size for the required job. The chances of rounding the fastener are higher if you are using wrong wrench size. Always use the right jaw size and make sure that the wrench is completely in contact with the fastener.
Avoid giving extra leverage to your wrench
The extra leverage can really help but it can damage the wrench very badly. If the pipe you are using for extra leverage slips you can damage yourself or others. If you are dealing with a stubborn fastener, you can try a luck by applying the liquid wrench or penetrating oil. After applying the liquid wrench, wait for some time and then try to loosen the fastener. You can also try electric wrench or impact wrench for applying more torque.