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13 Adjustable Wrench Types and Sizes Explained

plumbing wrench

plumbing wrench

When most people think of a wrench, a standard open-end or box-end wrench is likely what comes to mind. But these wrenches offer just one size per wrench. If you’re really lucky, each end might be a different size, which is still just two sizes. To complete a job, you might need a whole range of wrenches to deal with the different sized bolts, nuts, and more that you might encounter.

But adjustable wrenches offer a more versatile solution. These wrenches can be adjusted to a wide range of different sizes, allowing one wrench to perform the work of many, and reducing the number of tools you have to carry around.

Many people have used an adjustable crescent before, and most have at least heard of a monkey wrench. On this list, you’ll find those, plus 11 more that you might not know about. We’ll even discuss the available sizes for each wrench so that you know exactly what the options are.

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How Adjustable Wrenches Are Measured

Before we start discussing different types of adjustable wrenches, let’s talk about how they’re measured.

Standard wrenches are measured by the size of the item they’ll fit on. For instance, a ⅝-inch wrench works on nuts and bolts that are ⅝ of an inch big. Simple.

Adjustable wrenches are a bit more complex though. Since they’ll work on items of various sizes, a single measurement won’t accurately convey the wrench’s abilities. Instead, most adjustable wrenches are measured by the length of the handle. So, an 8-inch adjustable wrench has a handle that’s 8 inches long, and a 12-inch adjustable wrench has a handle that’s 12 inches long.

While that does give you some useful information about the wrench’s size, it doesn’t tell you much about what you can do with the wrench. So, manufacturers will usually list the minimum and maximum sizes of the jaws as well, though, for some types of wrenches, they’ll only list the max jaw opening size. For example, a 10-inch crescent wrench could have a max capacity of 1⅜ inches.

Types and Sizes of Adjustable Wrenches

1. Crescent Wrench

Crescent 6in Adjustable Black Oxide Wrench

Adjustable crescent wrenches are like the do-it-all tool of the wrench world. These are perfect for working with just about any type of nuts and bolts. One side of the jaw is stationary, while the other can be adjusted by simply turning a dial that’s right beneath the head of the wrench. This allows you to open or close the jaw to find the perfect fit.

Crescent wrenches are the most common type of adjustable wrench. They’re also one of the most versatile, as you can use them for household work, automotive, and much more. They feature angled jaws for an easier fit, better grip on the nut or bolt, and improved leverage.

These wrenches come in a wide range of sizes starting at about 4 inches up to 4 feet! Most users won’t need one that’s bigger than about 12 inches though.


2. Plumber’s Wrench

Armour Line RP77321 Adjustable Plumbers Slip Nut Wrench

A plumber’s adjustable wrench is sometimes called an adjustable slip-nut wrench. In some ways, it’s quite similar to a crescent wrench. One side of the jaw is stationary while the other side can be adjusted to fit a range of different sizes. But a crescent wrench has angled jaws while the jaws on a plumber’s wrench are straight.

Additionally, plumber’s wrenches tend to have much more adjustability and shorter handles. They also have a locking nut that allows you to lock the jaw into a particular position, unlike adjustable crescent wrenches. These wrenches are perfect for tightening and loosening spud nuts, basket strainer nuts, slip nuts, and locknuts.

Plumber’s wrenches don’t come in as many sizes as crescent wrenches since these wrenches are all used for the same purpose — plumbing. They usually have jaws that span from 1-3 inches, which is perfect for most under-cabinet sink work.


3. Pipe Wrench

MAXPOWER 14-Inch Pipe Wrench

If you work with pipes, you’ll know what a pipe wrench is. These are large adjustable wrenches with slightly angled jaws that provide a solid grip on any pipe. They’re perfect for tightening and loosening pipes. When you put the jaws around the pipe, the angle and the teeth will grab hold, and you can get loads of leverage to turn the pipe.

Pipe wrenches come in every size from small to gigantic. For example, 48-inch pipe wrenches can deal with pipes as large as 5 inches in diameter. Of course, the average person would never need such an industrial-sized wrench. For most, a smaller wrench between eight and 24 inches should suffice. An 8-inch pipe wrench can deal with pipes ranging from ¼-¾ inches and a 24-inch pipe wrench can work with pipes from 1½ to 2½  inches.


4. Multi-Angle Pipe Wrench

Multi-Angle Pipe Wrench

As the name suggests, a multi-angle pipe wrench is a pipe wrench with an adjustable head angle. This makes it much easier to maneuver into tight spaces, which plumbers find themselves in often. Aside from the angled head, this wrench is the same as a standard pipe wrench.

Multi-angle pipe wrenches come in several sizes, though you won’t find them as large as regular pipe wrenches. These are more meant for working in small spaces, so most multi-angle pipe wrenches are between 8-12 inches long.


5. Self-Adjusting Pipe Wrench

Boeray Adjustable Wrench Quick Multi-function Self-Adjusting Spanner Power Grip Pipe Wrench

To use a regular adjustable pipe wrench, you’ll have to turn the dial, adjusting the size of the jaws until they’re the exact right fit for the pipe you’re working with. This usually means putting the wrench on the pipe, checking the size, removing it, adjusting, and repeating all these steps until it’s right. It takes two hands and can be quite slow. But a self-adjusting pipe wrench is spring-loaded, so you can easily and quickly get it to the right size with one hand, saving you time and frustration.

Similar to multi-angle pipe wrenches, self-adjusting pipe wrenches only come in a few sizes on the smaller end of the spectrum, ranging from about 8-15 inches. For perspective, a 12-inch self-adjusting pipe wrench will usually have a jaw capacity of ⅝-1½ inches.


6. Swedish Pipe Wrench

KNIPEX Tools - Swedish Pattern Pipe Wrench

A Swedish pipe wrench looks pretty similar to a pair of vice grip pliers. They adjust rapidly by simply sliding the bottom portion of the handle up until the jaws are tight, then locking them into place. They offer excellent grip and efficient workflow, though their larger size makes them harder to fit into tight areas.

These are often used for automotive work, such as removing tie rod ends. They can also be used on pipes like a regular pipe wrench, though they only span a few sizes. Most Swedish pipe wrenches are 10-16 inches in length and will work with pipes that are less than 2 inches in diameter.


7. Monkey Wrench

Engineer TWM-07 Thin Jaw Adjustable Smart Monkey Wrench

Many people have heard of a monkey wrench before, but not everyone knows what they are. They look pretty similar to pipe wrenches, though there are some notable differences. First, a monkey wrench is more streamlined, so it will fit in tighter areas. It’s also got straight jaws, while a pipe wrench’s jaws are angled.

Monkey wrenches are often referred to as sliding automotive wrenches. However, the name has pretty old origins. In the 1800s, sailors referred to small tools with specific uses as “monkeys,” which is where the monkey wrench’s name originates.

The jaws of a monkey wrench are made of hardened metal that will easily damage pipes, so you won’t want to use it as a pipe wrench. They’re best for working with nuts and bolts, and they offer long handles for reaching into machines and vehicles. Most monkey wrenches are about 8-18 inches in length, though there are some industrial-sized versions that can be up to 4 feet long.


8. Basin Wrench

General Tools 140XL Telescoping Basin Wrench Large Jaw, Extends from 11 to 16-Inches

Basin wrenches are used by plumbers to work on faucet nuts, drains, and supply lines. They offer extended lengths, so the user doesn’t have to crawl into a cabinet to reach what they’re working on. Likewise, the head is very small, allowing it to easily fit into tight spaces.

Most basin wrenches are about 12 inches long, though some longer ones are up to 17 inches. Some even offer telescoping handles that let you adjust the length to suit the job.


9. Strap Wrench

Oil Filter Wrench Set - 2pcs, Use as Jar Opener, Pipe Wrench, Rubber Strap Wrenches

Strap wrenches can be used to loosen or tighten just about anything round. They’re generally measured by the length of the strap, and the strap can be as short as 6 inches or as long as 3 feet. The strap is usually made of rubber or cloth, which won’t damage the surface you’re gripping. They can be used on pipes, oil filters, and many other objects.


10. Chain Wrench

Crescent 24in Chain Wrench - CW24

Chain wrenches are very similar to strap wrenches. They feature a long chain that you wrap around the object you need to tighten or loosen. The chain locks back into the tool for a firm grip. Then, you can push the handle to turn the object your chain is wrapped around.

The chain is made of metal, so you won’t want to use a chain wrench on a sensitive surface as it will damage it. Like strap wrenches, chain wrenches are measured by the length of the chain. Generally, the chain is between 12 and 24 inches in length, though there are some larger sizes available.


11. Lock-Nut Wrench

Gardner Bender LNW-KIT Locknut Wrench Kit

Most of the wrenches we’ve covered so far have multiple uses. But lock-nut wrenches are specifically meant for installing or removing the lock nuts on strainer baskets on the underside of sinks. They have spring-loaded jaws that will automatically adjust to the right size for most nuts. The standard size for a lock-nut wrench is 12 inches.


12. Adjustable Spanner Wrench

OTC 6613 Variable Pin Spanner Wrench

Spanner wrenches have a very specific use. They’re for tightening and loosening side slot nuts. You’ll find these on bearings, lock nuts, and collars. They have a pin that slides into the slot, and the wrench then tightens around the nut. These wrenches are measured by the size the jaws will span. Most commonly, they’ll feature a spread of about 1-3 inches.


13. Hex Wrench

RIDGID 31305 Model E-110 Hex Wrench

Hex wrenches are very similar to pipe wrenches in how they work. But the head of the wrench is hex shaped and angled, making it perfect for working on drain nuts on tubs and sinks. Most are between 8 and 12 inches, though you can find longer ones. A standard 10-inch hex wrench will have a jaw opening that spans from about 1 inch to 2½ inches.

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Conclusion

No matter what you’re working with, pipes, nuts, bolts, tie rods, oil filters, or anything else, there’s sure to be an adjustable wrench to suit your needs. These tools can simplify and streamline your tool bag with a single wrench replacing an entire set of standard wrenches. Plus, they can work on large items that might be difficult to find a standard wrench to fit.


Featured Image: stevepb, Pixabay

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