How to choose the right wrench for the job

December 23, 2014

What wrench should you use for your DIY job? Let’s take a look at the most common types of wrenches and what they’re used for.

How to choose the right wrench for the job

When it comes to home improvements, or any kind of technical project you might take on, there’s one tool that will virtually always come up: the trusty old wrench. Wrenches have existed for well over a century, and will probably exist forever, for one simple reason: torque.

If you have a stick extending from any point of contact, the further away from the centre it is, the less force required to move the object. Wrenches are a way for humans to leverage small forces to move very resistant objects. So, you’re inevitably going to need some wrenches. But which ones should you use for a given job? Let’s take a look at the most common types of wrenches and what they’re used for.

Types of wrenches

When we think of a wrench, we often imagine a simple adjustable one. They’re versatile, simple to use, and extremely handy in a lot of situations. Adjustable wrenches can be quickly fitted to any nut, and for many jobs, they’re all you’re going to need. So why wouldn’t you use an adjustable wrench for everything?

Well, there’s an engineering adage that the more specialized the tool, the better it will be at doing its job. Adjustable wrenches, by virtue of their versatile design, have compromised stability and size. The moving piece of the jaw can jiggle a little bit and is difficult to get to the exact right size, and the end of the wrench itself is larger than a non-adjustable wrench, so it can be difficult to get into tight spaces.

Open-end wrenches are each designed for one size of bolt, but that means you have to have an entire set of them for any job. Box wrenches are similarly designed, but the end is a ring instead of a U shape, making them a little more finicky to secure into place. Once they do, they’re very solid and won’t slide off easily, meaning they are less likely to fail at the job or strip or otherwise damage the bolt. Combination wrenches simply combine one box side and one open-ended side to allow for both types of tasks.

Of course, there’s also the torque wrench, which uses a ratchet mechanism so you don’t have to reset the angle or continually turn it in a full circle. You simply have to turn it, then pull it back and it will only remain fixed when moving in the desired direction.

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