What Is an Adjustable Wrench: Types, Size, Uses and Buying Guide

Having a wrench in your toolbox can go a long way in ensuring that you can handle different types of projects with ease.

That is why most people would invest their money to get one. There are many options when it comes to wrenches, and an adjustable wrench is one of them.

Today, we focus more on the adjustable wrench to see how it can be a great option for you to consider having one today. Let us see what it is all about.

What is an Adjustable Wrench?

An adjustable wrench or spanner is designed to help the user loosen or tighten a nut or bolt.

This type of wrench works like any other wrench type, with the difference being the flexibility and adjustability you get with the wrench.

Yes, the adjustable wrench gets a moveable jaw that allows you to set the specific opening width to tighten and loosen multiple nuts or bolt sizes.

As you can see, you would not have to buy different wrench sizes when you have an adjustable wrench.

When using a non-adjustable wrench, you may have to carry several sizes with you. This means more weight for your toolbox.

That is not something many people want to experience. They would find carrying such wrenches all the time tiresome. It is why most opt for an adjustable wrench to make their work easier.

Application of Adjustable Wrenches

Since it is an adjustable wrench, you will quickly notice that the applications of such a wrench type are many.

As much as the wrench would be performing the same task repeatedly, you have the flexibility to handle many nuts and bolts.

Rather than changing to a different wrench all the time, you can use one wrench type.

An adjustable wrench would mostly have a smaller lower jaw that can easily move back and forth depending on the size of the nut or bolt you want to loosen or tighten.

Make sure to adjust the wrench until it grips firmly onto the bolt or nut.

The adjustable wrenches will mostly need to have a bigger head because there is the need to include the adjusting mechanism. So, it might become a challenge to use them in tight spaces.

Few People Know This Secret From Adjustable Wrench

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Importance of Wrench Size

There is no doubt that you would always want to use the right wrench for the job. That is how the wrench size is vital.

Several countries would have different methods for calculating the sizes used for wrenches, nuts, and bolts.

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A good example is that in the United States, the country uses the Society of Automotive Engineers or SAE standard. For this standard, inches are the preferred unit of measurement.

Wrench Size

The inches in this refer to the bolt head size. It is why more people are inclined to consider adjustable wrenches, as they can work for different bolt sizes.

Before you can use the wrench, make sure there is a tight fit first. This ensures there are fewer chances of slipping and damaging the bolt head.

If it seems there is a lot of wiggle, try to adjust the wrench further for a tighter grip. Sometimes you may have to round the bolt corners for a tight fit.

It is easy to see how the wrench size would be crucial for anyone who wants to use an adjustable wrench.

Types of Adjustable Wrenches

Some people might be thinking; one adjustable wrench should be good enough for all applications. However, that is not the case. Some wrenches would be designed for specific applications.

Below are the top options you would get when looking for types of adjustable wrenches.

  • Crescent Wrench

This is probably the most common option in the market. It is a good adjustable wrench having a wide jaw capacity, and also, the length is manageable. As such, you would have an easy time storing it in the toolbox.

The crescent wrench handle can be wide to help provide the grip that you need. Also, it can still be rubberized to offer more control and comfort at the same time.

It would also have a worm gear for adjusting the wrench size. Some new models come with sliding gears that help with faster and better adjustment of the wrench’s size.

This type of wrench is designed to be multipurpose. It can be used for plumbing, opening stubborn jar lids, vehicle repairs, and so much more. As such, it is a versatile tool to own.

As for the size, the common options include wrenches with sizes from 4 to 24 inches. This measurement includes the length of the handle too.

Most people choose the size based on the storage space they have available.

A good crescent wrench also needs to be made of top-tier chrome-vanadium steel. This helps in keeping the tool durable for years.

  • Monkey Wrench

Do not confuse the term “monkey” meaning the animal. The term was commonly used in the 19th century to mean small tools meant for specific applications. That is how this tool got its name.

Because of its size, some people confuse it with a pipe wrench. However, a monkey wrench is different as it has sharp jaws in addition to long handles.

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Looking at the monkey wrench shape, you will notice it resembles the letter F. So, rather than it adjusting horizontally as it would be in the crescent wrench, this one would adjust vertically.

The monkey wrench jaws would also be serrated slightly for better grip. A worm gear is still used in adjusting its jaws, just as in other adjustable wrenches.

This type of wrench would mostly be used in cases of plumbing and mechanical repairs.

Having a long handle makes it easier for you to get deep into the machine bowls and reach those tough spots.

The wrench is mostly used for hex nuts as the jaw can deliver an excellent grip too. However, you should not use it for plumbing jobs where the pipes are made of softer materials.

  • Pipe Wrench

At a glance, sometimes you may have a hard time telling apart a monkey wrench and a pipe wrench. They both seem to have a similar construction which can sometimes confuse more people further.

Even if that is the case, the monkey wrench’s jaw is mostly straight and will not have gaps when closed, unlike the pipe wrench.

The pipe wrench jaw would be curved slightly so that it can hold the pipe better.

It should be easy to see where such a wrench type would be used. Well, it is mostly used for loosening, tightening, and turning of pipes.

The jaws are also designed to be less harsh on pipes made of soft materials. So, you should have an easy time working on different pipe types.

As you can see, the wrench is mostly used for plumbing jobs. In case you are a plumber, this is one tool you cannot miss in your toolbox.

Looking at the size, the pipe wrench size ranges from 8 to 12 inches. This should be adequate for most people.

  • Basin Wrench

You might find some materials referring to it as a plumber or sink wrench too.

It is one of the lesser-known adjustable wrenches, but it is equally important.

One of the distinguishing features includes a C-shaped flat base with an extendable handle. Its jaws are serrated, and its head can swivel easily to allow for working even in tight spaces.

Another difference with other wrenches is that it comes with spring-loaded jaws. This allows for automatic latching onto the nut before you can tighten or loosen it.

Some high-end models will come with lamps to aid with visibility if you are working in dark spaces.

So, where can you use this type of wrench? The name should give away most of its applications. This wrench is mostly used to get to those hard-to-reach nuts under the basin.

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As much as plumbers are the ones who mostly use this type of wrench, it can still be a top choice for those who want more convenience when working on DIY projects involving fiddly nuts.

You are likely to come across a wide range of options in terms of sizes. Most of them can be used on nuts that range from 5/8” to 2”.

  • Chain or Strap Wrench

Chances are this is the first time you are coming across this type of wrench. It consists of an adjustable chain that you can wrap around objects such as pipes to secure them.

Most people find it as a nice alternative to a pipe wrench. You can be sure it would be great for handling various plumbing projects.

This type of wrench comes with a long thin handle attached to a wider head. The head now has a chain attached to it with supporting hooks on the other side of the head to hold the chain in place.

A strap wrench would have the same design and functionality, only that the wrench would have a plastic piece rather than a chain.

A strap wrench is mostly used when handling delicate applications to avoid damaging them when using a chain.

As for usage, such wrenches are best known to be used in the plumbing or building sector. They have the capacity to be adapted to even bigger pipes and turn them easily.

You will also have the option of choosing several size options when looking for the best adjustable chain wrench.

Adjustable Wrench Buying Guide

The Handle

When looking at the handle, you have to consider the length and width. These two can determine how easy and comfortable it would be to use a certain type of wrench.

The length generally determines if you can have a good grip while working with the tool. For most adjustable wrenches, the handle’s length is often long to give you leverage and a comfortable grip.

The width and thickness help determine the overall torque and leverage you can get with the adjustable wrench.

Still, on the handle, consider getting one with an anti-slip handle. This helps to minimize the chances of the handle slipping.


The durability is still important. That is often based on the craftsmanship and materials used to make the adjustable wrench. Look for a wrench made of alloy steel and also has a rust-resistant coating.

The most common options include chrome vanadium steel or nickel-plated wrenches. They can deliver on an awesome level of rust resistance.


You definitely have to consider the size too. The wrench should have a size that can handle multiple jobs. It is why you have to consider sometimes getting multiple adjustable wrenches too.

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The recommended sizes include 6-inch, 8-inch, and 12-inch adjustable wrenches. They would be able to be adjusted for different job types.

The Jaws

The jaws can come in handy depending on the job you are handling. Let us say it is a job that involves large nuts and fasteners.

In this case, an adjustable wrench having wide jaws would be perfect. This extra-wide capacity should be good enough to handle even the largest bolts.

The Application

It is common that sometimes people overlook the application and just buy any adjustable wrench. However, that is not how it should be.

This is because there are some adjustable wrenches designed for specific applications. This will help you achieve the application correctly.

So, take your time to learn about the different wrenches and where best you can use them.

Adjustable Wrench Using Guidelines

If you have used a standard spanner before, it should be easier to do the same for an adjustable wrench.

The biggest difference is that right now, you have an adjustable jaw to tailor the wrench to different sizes of nuts and bolts. Here are a few steps you can take to use an adjustable wrench with ease.

  • Start by identifying the size of the nut or bolt you need to tighten or loosen. It is from the size that you can adjust the wrench appropriately.
  • Proceed to turn the adjusting mechanism to open or close the wrench. Most would have a size scale on the face of the wrench; adjust until you have the moving jaw onto the right spot. It would be a smaller lower jaw that would mostly move.
  • Now that you have adjusted the wrench until it is the size that you want, the next option would be placing the wrench over the nut or bolt to see if it fits. Sometimes you may have to do more adjustments to make it a nice fit for the application.
  • Once the adjustable wrench has a tight grip over the nut or bolt, turn the wrench clockwise to fasten or anticlockwise to loosen the nut.
  • Before you can remove the adjustable wrench over the bolt, make sure to loosen it to relieve its grip slightly.

From the description above, it should not be hard to start using an adjustable wrench.

How to Use an Adjustable Wrench (Correct Way)

Whether it is the standard wrench or it is the adjustable wrench, there is the need to keep safety in mind.

That is why below are some of the precautions to keep in mind always when working with an adjustable wrench.

  • Always use a tool with the correct fitting

Try to choose wrenches with sizes that fit correctly. This means that the amount of play between the fastener and jaws should be as minimal as possible.

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The result is that there are less chances of the wrench slipping on the nut or bolt. Slipping can often lead to damages to the bolt, spanner, or even injure you in the process.

  • Do not use too much torque

There are times users might consider using mallets or hammers to apply more torque to the adjustable wrench. That is not what the wrench is built for.

Whenever you apply too much torque, the chances are the tool might slip or the fastener could easily give way. This is not good for you as it can easily lead to injuries.

So, apply the torque normally by your hands only.

  • Check for wear or damage

Loosening and tightening of bolts and nuts can be a tough job. It is why you would want your tool to be in good shape all the time.

Take the time to inspect your adjustable wrench for any damage or wear before using it. Some might be worn to a point they can no longer tackle the tough jobs.

  • Clean your adjustable wrench

It might not seem like much, but having clean tools makes them work better. Make sure to clean excessive grease, rust, and grime before storage.

The next time you want to use it, you can be sure it will be a clean tool.

So far, you can see that better handling of your adjustable wrench can go a long way in making sure it remains in good working condition always.

Go ahead and apply these precautions to have an easier time using adjustable wrenches.


Adjustable wrenches are common in our toolboxes. You can use them for automotive repair, plumbing, DIY projects, and so much more.

It is because of such performance that such a tool is vital to own. From the guide above, you now have an idea of what makes a good adjustable wrench and how best to use one.

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