25 Types of Wrenches and How to Choose

Wrenches are hand tools used for gripping, turning and applying torque to nuts and bolts. With so many types available, it can be difficult to know which wrench is right for your needs. This comprehensive guide covers 25 of the most common types of wrenches and provides tips on how to choose the best wrench for your projects.

What is a Wrench?

A wrench is a hand tool that grips objects with movable jaws, allowing the user to turn nuts, bolts and other hardware. The key feature of a wrench is that it provides mechanical advantage by amplifying the torque applied by the user. This allows you to generate much higher levels of turning force than you could using just your fingers.

Wrenches come in many different styles and sizes. The two main categories are adjustable wrenches, which can be set to different widths, and fixed wrenches with set jaw sizes. Wrench types are also categorized by the direction in which they turn – standard wrenches turn nuts and bolts clockwise, while left-handed wrenches turn counterclockwise.

When selecting a wrench, you should consider the fastener sizes you’ll be working with, the space you have available, and the amount of torque or turning force needed for the job. Understanding the various options will ensure you choose the right wrench for optimal functionality.

25 Common Types of Wrenches

Here are 25 of the most widely used types of wrenches:

1. Adjustable Wrench

Also known as a crescent wrench, this has an adjustable jaw at one end controlled by a worm gear that allows it to grip and turn a range of bolt and nut sizes. Good for general purpose use.

2. Combination Wrench

With open fixed jaws on one end and a 12-point box end on the other. Available as combination metric/SAE. Suitable for many bolt sizes.

3. Socket Wrench

A hand tool with a square drive to accept removable sockets of varying sizes. Used with socket extensions and ratchets to access nuts in tight spaces.

4. Allen Wrench

A hexagonal L-shaped key used to drive bolts and screws with hexagonal sockets in the heads. Also called Allen keys or hex keys.

5. Torque Wrench

Allows you to apply a specific torque to a fastener for optimal tightness. Can be preset or indicate when desired torque is reached.

6. Pipe Wrench

Has serrated jaws that firmly grip round objects like pipes. The key-like adjustment mechanism allows firm gripping.

7. Basin Wrench

A long wrench with jaws mounted onto a thin strip of metal. Used for accessing nuts in the confined area under sinks.

8. Oil Filter Wrench

Designed to remove automotive oil filters. Uses a band or adjustable cup that wraps around the filter for a good grip.

9. Chain Wrench

Uses a chain wrapped around an object to apply increased grip and torque. No teeth or jaws, so cannot damage surfaces.

10. Strap Wrench

A band of cloth, leather or rubber wrapped around a pipe or other object to securely grip and turn it. Often used with plumbing.

11. Lug Wrench

Typically has a cross-shaped drive to remove bolts holding wheels onto vehicles. Allows access where space is limited.

12. Pedal Wrench

Shaped like a socket wrench but opens extra wide to allow it to fit over bicycle pedals for easy removal and installation.

13. Ratchet Wrench

A socket wrench with a ratcheting mechanism allowing continuous tightening or loosening with just a back and forth motion. Can access fasteners in tight spots.

14. Crowfoot Wrench

A wrench with an offset head holding a socket or other drive, allowing access to hard-to-reach fasteners and angles. Used with extension bars.

15.Impact Wrench

Uses air pressure to create rapid rotation and high torque to loosen tight or corroded nuts and bolts. Often electric or pneumatic.

16. Tubing Wrench

Designed for gripping round tubing for bending or fitting purposes. Similar to a pipe wrench but smaller.

17. Flare Nut Wrench

One end is hollowed to fit precisely over flared tubing fittings, while the other end is for turning. Prevents slipping and rounding of soft fittings.

18. Allen Wrench Set

A set or kit with various Allen key sizes for driving different bolts and socket screws. Long handle provides increased leverage.

19. Open-End Wrench

The fixed, non-adjustable version of an adjustable wrench. With set sizes for specific bolt and nut dimensions.

20. Ring Wrench

A circular wrench that fits perfectly over some nut and bolt heads. Allows better grip than an open-ended wrench.

21. Socket Set

A set of sockets in standard and metric sizes that can be attached to a ratchet, breaker bar or torque wrench. Often used to drive lug nuts.

22. Box-End Wrench

Has a closed loop or box at one end to grip the entire faces of a nut or bolt head for maximum torque. Less prone to slipping.

23. Combination Wrench Set

A set with both fixed open-end wrenches and 12-point box-end wrenches in a range of standardized sizes.

24. Pliers Wrench

Combines the adjustability of pliers with the gripping power of a wrench. Parallel jaws provide a tight grip.

25. Offset Wrench

The head connects to the handle at an angle allowing access to hard to reach nuts and bolts. Varying head angles for different needs.

How to Choose the Right Wrench

With so many wrench types available, it can be challenging to pick the right one. Here are some tips on selecting a suitable wrench for your purposes:

  • Consider the fastener size(s) you will be working with and choose a wrench designed for that size nut, bolt head, etc.
  • Look at the space you have available – some wrenches like basin or lug designs work well in tight areas.
  • Determine if you need standard or metric sizing. Many tools allow switching between the two.
  • Opt for an adjustable wrench like a crescent for flexibility or fixed sizes when a very precise fit is needed.
  • For frequent jobs, a socket set with attachments may provide the most versatility.
  • Choose chrome plating for corrosion resistance or black oxide coating to prevent glare when working outdoors.
  • Get cushioned/insulated grips if you’ll be using the wrench a lot to avoid hand fatigue and increase comfort.
  • Ratcheting types allow continuous tightening/loosening from any angle with just a back and forth motion.
  • Leverage-extending handles provide increased torque for stubborn fasteners.
  • Consider any specialized needs like oil filter removal, tightening pipes, or access in confined areas.
  • Pick storage type – pouch, case, or hanging rack – to keep wrenches protected but easily accessible.

Properly matching your wrench style and size to the demands of the job will allow you to work quickly, safely and efficiently. Investing in quality wrenches also pays off in the long run. With the wide range available, you’re sure to find just the right wrench for whatever you need to tighten, loosen, grip or turn.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most commonly used wrenches?

The most commonly used wrenches for general DIY, auto and home repair purposes are the adjustable crescent wrench, socket sets, combination wrenches, Allen wrenches, and box-end/open-end wrenches.

What size wrench do I need?

Match the wrench size directly to the head size of the bolt or nut you are working on. Metric wrench sizes are in millimeters, while standard sizes are in fractions of an inch. An adjustable wrench can grip a range of sizes.

When should I use an adjustable wrench vs. a fixed one?

Adjustable wrenches like crescent are handy for quick, general use on various unknown sizes. But when you know the size, use a fixed wrench matched directly to it for optimum grip and torque.

What’s the difference between a socket wrench and a ratchet wrench?

A ratchet wrench is a socket wrench with a ratcheting mechanism allowing continuous tightening/loosening from any angle with just a back and forth motion. The sockets are interchangeable.

How tight should I make a bolt with a wrench?

It depends on the application, but you can use a torque wrench set to the proper tightening specs or tighten until firm resistance is felt. Avoid overtightening as this can damage threads and components.


With so many wrench types and sizes for different purposes, it can be daunting to select the right one. Focus on matching your chosen wrench precisely to the fastener dimensions, desired grip type and amount of space available. Invest in quality wrenches, keep them properly maintained and store them accessibly so they are always on hand when needed. With the right wrench in hand and proper technique, you’ll be ready to take on a wide range of nuts, bolts and all kinds of turning, tightening and loosening tasks.