The Different Types of Wrenches (and Their Various Uses)

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types of wrenchesWrenches are tools that are necessary to keep around your house or in your toolbox. You will need them every once in a while, even for the most basic of tasks. However, not many people realize the importance of wrenches until the need arises.
Wrenches can help with various tasks such as fastening, tightening, gripping, and loosening things like pipes and bolts. But since these tools come in a variety of different sizes and shapes, it’s extremely important to know which type of wrench you require for a specific task if you want to do it right.

For example, if you want to loosen stuck tighteners without causing any damage, the best course of action is to use a box-end wrench. And if you want to slip a wrench into an area without a socket, you would need to use a wrench with an open-end because it fits around a fastener rather than fitting over it. So, it’s extremely important to use the right type of wrench for a task.

An important tip: the longer the handle, the greater the torque it applies to the nut or bolt. In this article, we will be talking about the various types of wrenches and their uses.

Types of Wrenches

1. Adjustable Wrench

adjustable wrenches

(See Our Top Pick: Best Adjustable Wrench)

This wrench has an open jaw that helps you to adjust the size of the wrench; its common purpose is to loosen or tighten nuts and bolts. The open jaw feature of this wrench also makes it ideal for gripping many sizes of fasteners. This wrench is extremely common, so it’s likely you already have it in your toolbox. Some people also know them as crescent wrenches.

2. Allen Wrench/Hex Key

Hex Key

A hex key or an allen-wrench is a simple tool that can help tighten or loosen hex-head screws and bolts. This hexagonal piece of metal may either be T or L-shaped. It also has an extra limb that serves as a handle. Moreover, these wrenches are available in standard or metric sizes. They also fit best into screws and bolts heads with a hexagonal recess.

3. Box-Ended Wrench

box ended wrench

This is a one-piece wrench with closed loops at both ends, and it can grip the faces of nuts and bolts without rounding them up. Moreover, the recess is a six or twelve-point opening for use on nuts and bolts with hexagonal shape heads. The twelve-point fits into fasteners at various angles, and you can also use eight-point wrenches for bolts with a square-like head. These types of wrenches are usually available in the markets in sets.

4. Combination Wrench

combination wrench

Combination wrenches are a mix of box-ended and adjustable-end wrenches. These wrenches have two sides; one side is a U-shaped opening, and the other has a closed loop. You can mostly use these to tighten or loosen a nut that may be proving to be difficult. The closed loop end loosens the nuts so the U-shaped opening can screw it back. Both of the ends of this wrench will usually fit the same size of nuts and bolts. These are also very easy to use.

5. Flare-Nut Wrench/Line Wrench

These wrenches resemble box-end wrenches, but instead of completely encircling nuts, they have a narrow opening that perfectly fits into tight spaces. Flare-nut wrenches fasten or loosen hexagonal nuts and fittings and also help with plumbing. The opening is narrow, and they also have a thick jaw to increase proximity with the nut, which also allows you to apply increased torque.

6. Impact Wrench

These wrenches resemble drills in appearance and may either be powered by air or electricity. These deliver quick results as they apply high impulses of torque repeatedly. People commonly use them to remove bolts and nuts that are difficult to remove with other types of wrenches. It’s best only to have a professional use these, though, as the repeated and high torque impulses may increase chances of damage to the nuts or bolts.

7. Drum Key/Lug Wrench

These wrenches have two shapes; they may be small with a square-head shape, or they may have an X-shaped appearance with a total of four sockets that have different sizes. Their main purpose is to tighten or loosen lug nuts on vehicles, usually cars. If you need to use a drum key wrench often, we suggest getting a longer wrench as that will apply high impulse torque.

8. Oil Filter Wrench

People commonly use this wrench on vehicles; these may come in various shapes, and a specific shape of an oil filter wrench may suit only a specific brand of car. It is either a socket wrench or a strap-type wrench. All in all, one oil filter wrench isn’t suitable for every single vehicle out there. Another usage of these is to remove cylindrical oil filters.

9. Pipe Wrench

A pipe wrench has two serrated jaws. These serrated jaws are dug into the pipe for grip and can be adjusted to fit various pipe sizes. These usually have an F-shaped design and are commonly used in plumbing to either turn pimples or loosen or tighten them. It has hard teeth on one of its sides and, thus, is likely to scratch your pipes. So, it’s best if you have a professional use these.

10. Plumber Wrench

For this one wrench, the name truly speaks for itself. These are widely and commonly used by plumbers, mostly for the purpose of rotating pipes. They have almost the same function as a pipe wrench, but you can also use these to tighten or loosen nuts, especially if they have the shape of a hexagon. But you will have to be careful with this as added pressure may break or damage tools.

11. Ratcheting Wrench

Ratcheting wrenches are very similar to open-ended wrenches and combination wrenches. One of its ends has a ratcheting device, and the purpose of that is to remove the socket without removing it from the nut and bolt. You can do this by moving its handle forward and backward. You can also use it to tighten or disassemble nuts and bolts. If other wrenches do not fit the area because of a compact area, a ratcheting wrench may be the ideal wrench to use.

12. Crowfoot Wrench

These wrenches have an open-end but without a handle. These non-cylindrical-shaped wrenches have very similar ends to other wrenches. You will have to attach the head of this wrench to a socket extension or a ratchet handle. These fit onto a nut’s or bolt’s side area rather than on top of it and are very effective if you want to use them for tighter spaces.

13. Socket Wrench

This is a void cylinder-like wrench that will attach to a ratchet and allow you to tighten or loosen a nut or bolt. It also works well with breaker bars and torque wrenches. It does not always include a handle but worry not, as you can use a ratchet handle to turn it into a wrench. It may have a six-point, eight-point, or a twelve-point recess. So, make sure you fit the correct socket size socket wrench for your use.

14. Torque Wrench

Torque Wrench

(See Our Pick: Best Torque Wrench 2021)

This tool provides a specific impulse of torque without over-tightening the nut or bolt. This is also ideal to use in situations where you must measure the amount of torque to give to a fastener. Many types of torque wrenches are available such as a digital torque wrench. People commonly use it for tightening wheel lug nuts on vehicles such as cars. You can also use it on bicycles.

15. Turning Wrench

This wrench resembles the shape of a hammer and is for the turning of stringed musical instruments such as a piano and a harp. The strings of musical instruments have higher tension, so this wrench tends to provide greater torque. The heads on this wrench are hallowed so they can properly fit the tuning pegs. The tuning wrench is a type of socket wrench. These wrenches come in two sizes; a large size you can use for a piano and a smaller size for various other instruments. So, make sure you check the size accordingly.

16. Basin Wrench

Sometimes called a sink wrench, this T-shaped wrench has a long handle and a serrated jaw. This wrench is mostly used in plumbing to turn fasteners in tight spaces that aren’t impossible to turn otherwise. Furthermore, you can also use it to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts under sinks and toilets. They either come with a fixed-length handle or a telescoping handle. People commonly know them as faucet wrenches.

17. Strap Wrench

A strap wrench utilizes tension of either a strap or chain to grip the object without causing any damage to whatever tool you choose to tighten. Many of these wrenches come with a handle. If not, you will have to use a ratchet handle to use it. This wrench does have adjustable jaws but rather has pegs that fit into grooves next to the handle. These are best to use for oily or wet pipes as other wrenches can not grip such tools.

18. Dog Bone Wrench

This metric wrench usually has rotating sockets and a long, sturdy handle and resembles a dog bone. This is easy and quick to use, and each size of the two ends has a different socket size. They mostly come in handy when you need to work on a bicycle. However, they can easily fit into other smaller or tighter areas, so you can also use them for other tasks. They are also commonly known as dumbbell wrenches.

19. Cone Wrench

This is a thin wrench with open ends and fits into tight flats of bearing cycle hubs. Moreover, they also work great for cone locknuts due to their ability to fit into small objects. These wrenches come in various sizes. So, you should make sure you have the right size of a cone wrench before usage. Since they’re thin, they’re also very lightweight and have little strength. But they do get the job done.

20. Spoke Wrench

This is a small T-shaped wrench that can alter the tension in the spokes of a tension-spoked wheel. They usually fit perfectly into the fixtures, providing a suitable grip without slipping. While they may not be very easy to use, once you get some practice and can use them correctly, they work efficiently. They are also mostly used on bicycles.

21. Pedal Wrench

A pedal wrench has a round tip with a U-shaped recess. They are thin and can easily fit into narrow wrench flats such as pedals. It is best if your pedal wrench is long and has angled ends. Usually 15mm in size, people mostly use them on bicycles and their pedals to loosen or tighten them. However, a pedal wrench isn’t necessary as cone wrenches are a good alternate for them. Still, since they are lightweight, they do prevent damage efficiently.

22. Alligator Wrench

Alligator wrenches have a tip that resembles the mouth of an alligator. Hence, the name. They have a serrated jaw while the other end of the wrench is smooth. Even though these wrenches aren’t common now, you’re still likely to come across them now and then. These wrenches are a good tool to use if you want to turn steel pipes, iron, or rods that other wrenches can not turn.

23. Bionic Wrench

The bionic wrench is a modern hand tool that has the versatility of an adjustable wrench. It is easy to use as it has two handles similar to pliers. All you have to do is place it around the head you need to tighten and grip it. Next, you squeeze the handles, and the job is done! The mechanism of a bionic wrench is similar to that of a box-ended wrench. It also provides a tight, good grip, so you won’t have to worry about the wrench slipping off and damaging the bolt.

24. Bung Wrench

The bung wrench, also commonly known as the drum bung wrench, is similar to a socket-wrench that is used to open large drums such as a 55-gallon drum. A bung wrench reduces pressure, which prevents injury. You can use it to open a drum or remove unwanted materials from it safely. If you have to use a bung wrench, make sure you turn your wrench slowly after gripping the cap with your wrench and apply force from the end of the wrench handle.

25. Fire Hydrant Wrench

Fire hydrant wrenches are large box-ended wrenches that have the shape of a pentagon. These wrenches have a specific design to remove caps from fire hydrants or to open their valves. These wrenches are adjustable, so they are easily able to fit different sizes of nuts or bolts. But before you purchase one, make sure you get the appropriate size. The fire hydrant wrench is also useful for other tools such as spanner hose couplings, water meter shut-off valves, and square nuts.

26. Garbage Disposal Wrench

A garbage disposal wrench either resembles an allen wrench or is a flat wrench that has a U-shaped head. You can use it to unjam or unclog a clogged disposal unit. The method of doing this is by turning the disposal’s motor shaft into opposite directions. A garbage disposal wrench may be available in several models, but the design is almost always the same.

27. Monkey Wrench

A monkey wrench is an adjustable wrench with large jaws. It has an adjusting screw fixed into its jaws, while the mechanism resembles an alligator wrench. However, the alligator wrench has almost become obsolete. The monkey wrench has smoother jaws with a rounded handle. You can use this wrench to clump into pipes, nuts, bolts, and lugs. It is an effective tool, especially due to its strong grip.

28. Torx Key

Torx key resembles a Hex wrench, and you can use it to fit into heads of nuts and bolts with the shape of a star. They have an L-shaped appearance and are usually sold in sets. A torx key isn’t a must-have tool. Mostly, allen wrenches make good substitutes for them.

29. Spark Plug Wrench

A spark plug wrench is a double-ended socket wrench with a T-bar handle. The wrench can remove or tighten spark plugs into a cylinder head of a combustion engine. People also use it widely in the automotive industry for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts on vehicles.

30. Stubby Wrench

A stubby wrench is a small, short lengthened wrench that fits into tight spaces which are difficult or impossible to reach with other wrenches. It has open ends that glide into the position from the fastener’s side.

Conclusion

Wrenches are a must-have tool that are important to keep in your house or toolbox. However, since there are many types of wrenches, people always tend to get confused about which ones to purchase. In this article, we’ve combined a list of the most important wrenches and their uses. We hope you find it useful!

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