Last Updated on January 22, 2021
There are literally dozens of different wrench types out there. Some you might use every day, but others are only used in specific trades. The following are a sample of what’s available, chosen to show just how widely used wrenches actually are.
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24 Types of Wrenches
1. Combination Wrench
Perhaps the most common type of wrench in its class (and one of the most useful in general), the combination wrench has a box end on one side and an open end on the other. The box end fits both hex and square nuts and is usually used to loosen a tough nut.
The open end is used to remove or fasten nuts quickly, as it can be removed and replaced easily at the end of each turn arc.
2. Open-Ended Wrench
The namesake for this category of wrenches, an open-ended wrench has a U-shaped head at either end of the shaft. These heads have a slightly offset opening facing opposite directions, with the two heads being different sizes.
Open-ended wrenches are one of the most common sets found in a tool box and need less clearance than box wrenches. The downside is that they’re more likely to strip the edges of a bolt than their close-ended cousins.
3. Ratcheting Wrench
This special combination wrench has a ratcheting mechanism in at least one end. They most commonly have a box and open end, but may also have two box ends.
Having a ratchet eliminates the need to remove this tool when completing an arc, as you can simply rotate it back to the starting point and continue. Note that this tool isn’t the same as the similarly named ratchet wrench.
4. Adjustable Wrench
More commonly referred to as a Crescent wrench, these tools are essential for most toolboxes and utility drawers. You can adjust the jaw width by turning a built-in screw at the base of the head.
This lets it take the place of an entire set of combination wrenches at the cost of a wider head and body.
5. Pipe Wrench
This heavy-duty open wrench has an F-shaped design. The head adjusts using a screw in the same way as a crescent wrench. The serrated jaws allow plumbers to work with fixtures that may be rusted or otherwise stuck.
However, these teeth can damage chrome finishes and thus aren’t well-suited for visible fixtures.
6. Allen Wrench/Hex Key
Perhaps the most famous key wrench, an Allen wrench is a hexagonal bar bent into an L-shape. Sometimes referred to as a hex key due to the shape, the male ends slot into holes on screws and similar fasteners. For this reason, Allen wrenches often find themselves mixed in with the screwdrivers when stored.
What makes hex screws so darn useful is the fact that children can’t just grab a penny and unscrew the furniture when you’re not looking. Another advantage is the L-shape. You can insert the long end, wrap a finger around the shorter end, and use it for a handle when working with deeper screws.
Conversely, you can insert the short end into the slot and turn the long end, giving you superior torque for those extra-tight screws. Allen wrenches come in either SAE or metric sizes , so there’s less guesswork on which size will function when you’re working with an SAE fastener and Imperial key (or vice-versa).
7. Torx Wrench
These star-shaped key wrenches function in the same way as Allen wrenches. While Torx bolts and screws aren’t as commonly used as hex-headed fasteners, the more complicated shape makes them popular where security is a priority.
Torx wrenches may be purchased separately or in flip-out sets that resemble a Swiss army knife.
8. Box Wrench
The box wrench has an enclosed loop at either end. The “box” head fits either hexagonal or square bolt heads, and can provide enough torque to loosen even tough bolts. Each end has a different sized box, and the boxes may be even with the handle or offset vertically to give more turning clearance.
While better-suited for their superior torque, box wrenches need to vertically clear a bolt head each time the turn arc is reached before it can be readjusted.
9. Torque Wrench
This special type of socket wrench allows you to calibrate a maximum torque setting. You can buy a number of different kinds, including digital and manual. They’re most often used for tightening lug nuts and have more accuracy than torque sticks.
However, the ability to set max torque means this wrench is useful in a wide range of tasks where overtightening is a concern.
10. Impact Wrench
These air (or battery powered) wrenches look a lot like a cordless drill. It uses compressed air to deliver high torque, making it great for difficult-to-loosen lug nuts on anything from cars to dump trucks.
While it has the same power as (but is safer than) a breaker bar, the lack of precision means these powered tools have more limited use and may need to be followed up with a manual tool or torque wrench.
11. Lug Wrench
Perhaps known best as a tire iron, this tool is either L-shaped with one socket on the short end or X-shaped with three to four sockets of different sizes. Lug wrenches with one socketless end will have a wedge-shaped tipon that end.
Tire irons are used for loosening and tightening the lug nuts on vehicles. The wedge-shaped end may be used for popping off hubcaps or similar tasks. These tools are usually kept with a car’s spare tire for easy emergency access.
12. Stubby Wrench
This variation of a combination wrench gets its name from the shorter shaft design. This allows it to fit into tighter spaces than a full-length wrench.
Many stubby wrenches also have hinged heads, allowing you to angle them for an even better fit.
13. Pliers Wrench
This is another form of common adjustable wrench. The jaws of a plier wrench are at an angle and are each attached to one handle. The handles are connected by a bolt which may be locked in place along one or more points in a slot.
This allows the jaws to be set at different widths. The tool is then held like a pair of pliers, hence the name.
14. Armorer’s Wrench
Despite being called and armorer’s wrench, this tool i actually used for gin repair. The C-shaped serrated head and usually either a square-slotted end or a hole for attaching a ratchet handle.
These tools are usually sized for specific types or models of gun and vary greatly in design.
15. Flare Nut Wrench
The flare nut wrench (also called a line wrench) is a variation of an open-ended wrench takes the box design and removes a portion just wide enough to fit around a tube or thin pipe.
They’re useful for fittings under sinks and other places where the nut cannot be accessed by a closed socket and may be too fragile for a normal open head.
16. Plumber’s Wrench
A variation of the pliers wrench, the plumber’s wrench adds a spring or worm wheel between the handles for better control. The head is shaped to better fit hexagonal nuts. Many plumbers almost exclusively use this tool, which works great on pipe joints and other fixtures.
17. Drum Key
This T-shaped key has a square female socket and flattened handles. The keys may have longer or shorter handles, depending on the mount of torque needed. They get their name because these keys are used to tune percussion instruments, such as drums and cymbals.
18. Tap Wrench
This specialty wrench may be either a straight socketed handle or a T-shape. The socket fits square tap attachments while the T-shape has a built-in adapter to directly connect bits.
These wrenches are designed to aid in threading the inside of nuts and other fittings using a tap. They can also be used in conjunction with any square-shanked bits, allowing it to serve as a drill, screwdriver, or reamer.
19. Socket Wrench
The socket wrench, more commonly referred to as a ratchet, is actually a handle with a male adapter that is inserted into various size sockets. They are known as ratcheting wrenches due to the integrated mechanism. When a full arc is reaches, you simply turn the wrench back to the starting point without having to remove it from the bolt.
The ratcheting mechanism in many models can be reversed depending upon whether you wish to tighten or loosen the fastener.
20. Spark Plug Wrench
This specialty double-ended socket is used to unscrew spark plugs. It generally requires a T-bar handle but may also be included as part of a socket set. Despite their limited use, these tools may be found at any location that deals with engine repair.
21. Garbage Disposal Wrench
At first glance, this tool looks like an anchor, with the flat U-shaped head and T-handle. However, the head is on a pivot and is specifically designed for handling the large nuts which help secure the disposal.
The tool may also be used to dislodge clogs in the cutter head. Note that another form of garbage disposal wrench is also available which resembles a giant Allen wrench.
22. Spoke Wrench
It’s hard to classify this unusual tool as an open-ended wrench. Some resemble a small open-ended wrench, but most tend to look more like a little ashtray with a hole in the bottom.
This wrench fits over the nipple nut on a bike wheel with the spokes slotting into the grooves around the perimeter of the wrench.
23. Strap Wrench
This tool takes a handle similarly shaped to a pipe wrench and uses an adjustable strap instead of a head. This strap may be made from a variety of materials and is most often used for changing oil filters.
The strap self-tightens. Allowing a firmer grip on the often greasy surface.
24. Tension Wrench
Looking more like a pair of tweezers than a wrench, this is a crucial piece of equipment for lock-picking. To pick a barrel lock, you need a stationary tool to create tension and another for manipulating the barrels.
The tension wrench springs open once inserted, creating a stationary tension point that’s more stable than a homemade tension pick.