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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Wrench

A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Wrench

 

Whether you’re building furniture or working on a leaky faucet, throwing a wrench into the plan is actually a good thing. No tool collection is complete without a quality set of wrenches, but knowing which kinds you need can get pretty confusing. Think about the different kinds of projects you often do at home or at work, and learn about each type of wrench to decide which are right for you.

 

Types of Wrenches

 

Adjustable Wrenches

As the name suggests, these tools have an adjustable lower jaw that can be changed to fit different fasteners, nuts and bolts.

Benefits & Uses

  • A Beginner's Tool Box - Since it accommodates different sizes of bolts, pipes and nuts, an adjustable wrench is ideal for a first-timer's tool box. It's designed to handle a lot of different do-it-yourself tasks.
  • Household Jobs - Whether you need it for general repairs or major projects around the house, an adjustable wrench is a handy, versatile tool for any homeowner. Good luck trying to fix a leaky faucet or loose plumbing without one.

 

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Adjustable wrenches

Combination wrenches

Combination Wrenches

A combination wrench is two tools in one with an open-end and a closed-end wrench on opposite ends.

Benefits & Uses

  • Medium to Heavy-Duty Tasks - Since a combination wrench features an open wrench as well as a ratcheting or box wrench, it delivers the best of both worlds when you're tackling more advanced projects.
  • Tight Fasteners - The box wrench end offers a great grip when loosening a super stubborn fastener. Once the fastener is loose, you can easily flip the tool around to use the open-ended wrench and completely remove it. The ratchet and box wrench end also works well in tight spaces.

 

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Double-Box Wrenches

A double-box wrench features two box wrench heads on opposite ends, so you can handle two fasteners of different sizes with the same tool.

Benefits & Uses

  • Specialized Tasks - A double-box wrench can usually handle tougher jobs without causing damage to hex-head fasteners, nuts or bolts. You can also slightly adjust position in small increments to get the best fit.
  • Projects in Tight or Awkward Spaces - This wrench can be positioned to work effectively in narrow and tight spaces around the house or jobsite. Some feature an offset or angled handle, which makes it easier to maneuver the tool.

 

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Double-box wrenches

Open-end wrenches

Open-End Wrenches

An open-end wrench, also known as a crescent wrench, has fixed jaws to tighten and loosen fasteners of a certain size.

Benefits & Uses

  • Simple Projects - An open-end wrench features an open jaw that enables you to quickly access the nut, bolt or fastener you're trying to loosen or tighten.
  • Maneuvering - As open-end wrenches don't have a large socket on the end, they're pretty easy to use in tight spaces. 

 

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Crowfoot Wrenches

A crowfoot wrench is similar to an open-end wrench, but it doesn't have a handle. It's designed to fit on the side of a fastener.

Benefits & Uses

  • Automotive Projects - This type of tool is great for tasks under the hood. A crowfoot wrench can be used on power steering fittings, valve adjustments and brake line tunings.
  • Hard-to-Reach Spots - This wrench gives you reach, versatility and power for working in tight spaces, ranging from car engines to uniquely designed hardware.

 

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Crowfoot wrenches

Flare nut wrenches

Flare Nut Wrenches

A flare nut wrench has a small opening that creates more surface contact on softer metal, so you lessen your risk of damaging the fastener.

Benefits & Uses

  • Working with Soft Fasteners - A flare nut wrench is best for handling flare nuts and fasteners made of brass, copper or other soft materials. This wrench's design allows it to grip a nut at more points without causing the scraping that another type might.
  • Weathered Hardware - When working on old materials or objects exposed to harsh conditions, it's important not to strip any of their fasteners or fittings. A flare nut wrench has the proper grip to tighten or loosen slightly damaged fasteners.

 

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Pipe Wrenches

The adjustable jaw on pipe wrenches is designed to turn pipes and other cylinder-shaped objects.

Benefits & Uses

  • Plumbing Projects - A pipe wrench has the durability and grip strength to handle metal pipes and fittings for amateur or professional-grade plumbing jobs.
  • Heavy-Duty Machinery - Although usually a plumbing tool, it can also be used on industrial machinery or equipment built with metal piping.

 

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Pipe wrenches

Ratcheting wrenches

Ratcheting Wrenches

A ratcheting wrench allows you to loosen or tighten a fastener with one end while freely using its handle to reverse direction without affecting the fastener.

Benefits & Uses

  • Automotive Work - Because it can provide a 360° grip, a ratcheting tool is essential for any mechanic's toolbox. The longer handle also provides the leverage needed to easily maneuver a nut or bolt.
  • Removing Rusted Nuts and Bolts - Rusted or stubborn nuts and bolts can be loosened quickly without repeatedly losing your grip thanks to a ratcheting wrench's unique continuous motion.

 

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Torque Wrenches

A torque wrench uses a built-in electronic or manual measuring mechanism to achieve proper torque.

Benefits & Uses

  • Heavy-Duty Automotive Maintenance - A torque wrench provides plenty of power to tighten or loosen certain nuts and bolts on cars, trucks or SUVs.
  • Accurate Fastening - When a fastener needs to be tightened to a certain limit, a torque wrench will allow you to find the right setting. It's very useful when you’re following mandatory settings for water mains or other pieces of industrial machinery.

 

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Torque wrench

Strap wrench

Strap Wrenches

A strap wrench has a handle and a rubber strap, which is used to grip large circular objects and prevent slipping.

Benefits & Uses

  • Gaining Leverage on Oddly Shaped Objects - A strap wrench is crucial when you need to grasp hard-to-hold items. The device can grip anything from an engine pulley and alternator belt to a pipe and PVC conduit.
  • Opening Jars and Other Containers - Thanks to its firm grip, it can also help you open a tightly sealed lid on jars or containers.

 

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What to Consider When Buying a Wrench

 

  • Projects - What kinds of projects will you be working on? Wrenches for simple home repairs and DIY projects won't be the same as wrenches you need to work on a car.
  • Sizes - Will you be working on nuts, bolts and fasteners of different sizes? If so, an adjustable wrench might make more sense than one with a fixed end.
  • Versatility - Will you need a ratchet or a socket? With certain wrenches that can be used as multiple tools in one, this might be a convenient thing to keep around.
  • Space - Do you often find yourself working in tight or narrow spaces? Some wrenches are designed to be less bulky to help you maneuver the tool in hard-to-reach places.
  • Handle - What kind of handle does the wrench have? An ergonomic handle or grip will make it much more comfortable to operate over longer projects.