types of wrenches

What Are The Different Types Of Wrenches And What Do They Do?

Eighty-four percent of 18 to 34-year-olds are willing to take on do-it-yourself projects to save money but what do they actually know about hammers, power tools, or wrenches? As a matter of fact, what types of wrenches are there, anyway?

There are 11 basic types of wrenches regularly used and available on the market today:

  • Impact
  • Socket
  • Adjustable
  • Open-End
  • Box-End
  • Combination
  • Allen
  • Strap
  • Crowfoot
  • Basin
  • Pipe

If you aren’t yet satisfied (as I often tend to be) and want to better understand them, then read below to discover the different types of wrenches and what they do.

Socket Wrenches

A socket wrench is a versatile tool that every DIYer should have in their toolbox.

Actually, from the time I was old enough to even use tools until the present day, socket wrenches have been a nonstop and ever-present, if not must-have staple in my toolkit.

The handle, or ratchet, connects with a “socket” to form the tool. These sockets are the part which connects to nuts and bolts, and they come in different sizes depending on your specific project.

The mechanism in the ratchet engages and moves a fastener when using a clockwise or counterclockwise motion, depending on whether you’re trying to tighten or loosen it. Each socket wrench has a control mechanism which allows you to change the direction which it will “ratchet,” or give-way, and which way it will hold firm.

The simple yet ingenious design of this tool allows you to turn a nut or bolt without removing it from the bolt or nut or repositioning your tool each time.

Impact Wrenches

You could say that impact wrenches are basically traditional socket wrenches but with the added–and often required–benefit of torque.

These tools do indeed deliver high torque (power) but need little effort from you to actually do their work. All that’s really needed from us is to hold it, put in on the bolt or nut, and then press the button.

They are available in all sizes that a socket wrench is available in, from 1/4″ to 3 1/2″.

These tools use more superior force, power, and grip than normal wrenches. Impact wrenches have a wide range of use from construction to automotive projects, allowing us the ability to do many things at home which weren’t so easy before.

Because of this, the versatility of an impact wrench makes it a crucial tool for the serious fixer-upper.

I have a good bit of personal experience involving a variety of power tools and much of that info is compiled on WG. You can read more about cordless impact reviews here.

Adjustable Wrenches

Adjustable wrenches are also referred to as crescent wrenches or c-wrenches.

electric-motorcycle-foot-pegs-1-281x500 What Are The Different Types Of Wrenches And What Do They Do?
I decided to remove the saddlebags from my electric motorcycle and install foot pegs so that it’s easier for my girlfriend and other passengers to ride with me. The crescent wrench was a necessity!

These are the types of wrench we are able to adjust in order to fit the specific size of your nut or bolt.

For example: a few days ago I needed to remove the saddlebags from my electric motorcycle and install some new passenger foot pegs. The backside nut and front bolt were (sadly) unreachable with a socket wrench and since I don’t have a shop nearby, I picked up a small, adjustable crescent wrench to get the job done.

Without it, I would’ve had to buy a wrench set or go to the trouble of finding the right size wrench (which I didn’t know–and still don’t!).

Adjustables are available in locking and non-locking models. A locking model allows you to secure the opening in the desired position, eliminating the need to readjust. This ensures that your tool won’t slip and avoids a lot of headache in tight places where movement causes the size to change.

That’s actually what happened to me again and again the other day!

Most adjustable wrenches fit nuts and bolts from 1/2″ to 15/16″.

Open-End Wrenches

These wrenches have two u-shaped ends of different sizes.

They work by gripping the opposite sides of your nut or bolt. Make sure the wrench fits your nut or bolt exactly to prevent mutilating edges. Furthermore, it’s important that you use caution when applying pressure because it’s a bit easier for this wrench to slip off, which can cause you to injure your hand.

Open-end wrenches come in jointed or flex-head models which allow you to work at different angles. They are available in metric and standard sizes.

These most often are available in sets containing different sizes, which would’ve been a good choice for my short bike-project recently but I didn’t want to buy another set!

Box-End Wrenches

Box-end wrenches use an enclosed head to give you extra leverage.

These types can easily be offset–or have angled ends–in order to provide you with knuckle room and clearance over other objects. This can be quite handy in certain situations!

The result is that they turn nuts or bolts that are hard to access with an open-end wrench. They are also a good choice for loosening stuck fasteners, mainly because you are able to apply more torque without risking damage to the fasteners or yourself.

Some box-end wrenches on the market are also specialty-made combinations and come with ratcheting capabilities. This means that you can slip the closed-end over the bolt/nut and the ratchet back and forth like a socket wrench.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Combination Wrenches

True combination wrenches have a box-type end on one side and an open-type end on the other.

Typically, both ends usually fit the same size nut or bolt, so if ratcheting is an option then you can get your task finished a lot quicker. However, if ratcheting isn’t possible then you always have the traditional, open-end to fall back on.

These are a popular option for fixed wrenches as they still provide multiple uses. Essentially, combination wrenches provide the convenience of two tools in one–very much how I provide both love AND security to my girlfriend!

Well, maybe it’s not quite the same, but you get it, right?

Allen Wrenches

When I was a kid, for a while I thought they were “Allen’s wrenches,” and I often wondered when this mystery guy was going to come over to our house and demand my dad return his tools. Less recently, I discovered the true meaning.

Allen wrenches have L or T-shaped handles and hexagonal-shaped ends, and grip a fastener inside as opposed to the outside, as the previously mentioned wrenches do.

A-wrenches are great for putting together furniture sets and other similar, pre-made products.  The shaped ends match openings to a variety bolts or screws. Actually, my e-motorcycle actually has quite the variety of Allen wrench screws so I keep a complete set nearby. I even had to use them while removing my saddlebags.

They come in different sizes depending on the bolt or screw sizes. Most furniture or “build it yourself” sets will include the necessary Allen wrenches for construction.

They typically bought in sets with various wrench sizes and can be found practically anywhere, even in small automotive sections of your local supermarket. They are super-common.

Strap Wrenches

Strap wrenches tighten, loosen, and turn a variety of different size items. These are good to use with items that don’t have flat faces for a normal wrench to grip.

The strap or chain pulls around the object until it has a firm grip. Many strap wrenches have built-in handles for easier use.

Crowfoot Wrenches

Crowfoot wrenches are specifically designed to work well in tight places. You can use a ratchet handle or a socket extension with these.

Crowfoot wrenches are an alternative to conventional wrenches when the wrenches are too large. They often come at a lower cost, which makes them a great way to save money.

Basin Wrenches

Basin wrenches tighten and loosen nuts and hose couplings under sinks. Faucets mount with low-profile mounting nuts accessible under the sink. This provides you with a very little space to work in.

This tool has a long shaft and a claw-like head that tightens onto the nut as you turn the shaft. They are fairly inexpensive and come in handy when remodeling a bathroom or kitchen. These should be a part of every DIY plumber’s toolbox.

Pipe Wrenches

Use a pipe wrench when you need to screw pipes into their elbows or threaded objects. The jaws of pipe wrenches bite or clamp into the surface to hold it when turning.

Pipe wrenches have a movable jaw to adjust to your size of pipe. Never use a pipe wrench on a surface that is susceptible to damage, like plated pipe installations.

Choosing the Best Types of Wrenches

When it comes to choosing the best types of wrenches it’s important to explore your options. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are ready to shop:

  • Consider the range of projects you’ll be working on.
  • Find a brand you trust that has good reviews.
  • Think about how frequently you will use the tool and its durability.
  • Make sure you select the right size of wrench for your projects.
  • Find out if there are there any warranties available.

Keep in mind the following safety tips when using any wrench or tool:

  • Keep tools in good condition and conduct regular maintenance.
  • Make sure you’re using the right tool for the job.
  • Check your tools for damages.
  • Never use a damaged tool.
  • Read the manufacturers’ instructions and operate the tool accordingly.
  • Use the right protective gear such as safety goggles, work gloves, and hard hats.

When you decide what wrench will best fit your needs, visit the Wrench Guru to buy your tools. The Wrench Guru provides reliable reviews and advice to make sure you have the best tool for the job.