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The Wrench Guide: Types of Wrenches, Uses and Features

Choosing the right wrench for a project involves more than just matching sizes. Use the right style of wrench to make your project easier.

Combination Wrenches.

Wrenches vs. Ratchets and Sockets

10-Piece Standard (SAE) and Metric Combination Wrench Set.

Wrenches perform the same function as ratchets and sockets — tightening and loosening fasteners — but there are differences and situations call for one over the other. For example, a box-end wrench is a good option for loosening stuck fasteners because you can apply more torque without risking damage to a ratchet mechanism. A wrench with an open end fits around a fastener instead of over it, so you can slip a wrench into an area where there isn't room for a socket. Always make sure the tool you use is suited for the work you're doing. See the chart below for more information on wrench types and their uses. To learn more about ratchets and sockets, take a look at our Socket and Ratchet Guide.

Wrench Types

Wrenches are available in a variety of styles for a variety of applications. Some are designed to work with standard (SAE) fasteners and some are for metric applications. Look for color coding on some wrenches to help you quickly identify standard or metric.

Here are some of the more common wrench types and their uses.

Type Uses / Features Example
Adjustable Wrench
  • Tightens / loosens nuts and bolts
  • Moveable lower jaw to adjust wrench size
  • Works with both standard and metric fasteners

Adjustable Wrench.

Shop for Adjustable Wrenches

Combination Wrench
  • Tightens / loosens nuts and bolts
  • Metric and standard sizes
  • One open end and one box end (usually the same size)

Combination Wrench.

Shop for Combination Wrenches

Open-End Wrench
  • Tightens / loosens nuts and bolts
  • Metric and standard sizes
  • Two open ends (usually different sizes)
  • Jointed or flex-head models let you work at different angles

Open-End Wrench.

Shop for Open-End Wrenches

Ratchet Wrench
  • Tightens / loosens nuts and bolts
  • Metric and standard sizes
  • Ratchet action on one end moves freely in one direction and engages the fastener in the other direction to tighten or loosen without removing the tool
  • Some have pivoting ratchet ends for use in tight spaces
  • Ratchet Wrench.

    Shop for Ratchet Wrenches & Sets

    Short-Body or Stubby Wrench
    • Tightens / loosens nuts and bolts in tight spaces
    • Metric and standard sizes

    Stubby Wrenches.

    Shop for Short-Body Wrenches

    Shop for Short-Body Ratchet Wrenches

    Crowfoot Wrench
    • Tightens / loosens bolts
    • Standard and metric sizes
    • Has no handle
    • Operates with a ratchet handle / socket extension combination
    • Designed to work in tight spaces

    Crow's Foot Wrench.

    Shop for Crowfoot Wrenches

    Basin Wrench

    Tightens / loosens nuts and hose couplings under sinks and lavatories

    Basin Wrench.

    Shop for Basin Wrenches

    Pipe Wrench
    • Turns metal pipes and fittings
    • Moveable upper jaw to adjust wrench size

    Pipe Wrench.

    Shop for Pipe Wrenches

    Hex Key / Allen Wrench

    • Tightens / loosens hex-head screws and bolts
    • Standard and metric sizes
    • Available as separate wrenches or in sets where the wrenches fold up into a handle
    • Available with T-handles for improved leverage

    Hex Wrench.

    Shop for Hex Keys

    Star-Head Key / Torx Key
    • Tightens / loosens 6-point star-head screws and bolts
    • Standard and metric sizes
    • Available as separate wrenches or in sets where the wrenches fold up into a handle

    Star-Head Wrench.

    Shop for Torx Keys

    Strap Wrench

    Tightens, loosens and turns a variety of different size items, such as plumbing fittings, container lids, etc., that don't have flat faces for a standard wrench to grip

    Strap Wrench.

    Shop for Strap Wrenches

    Wrench and Mechanic's Tool Sets
    • Wrench sets collect a variety of sizes in one handy collection
    • Mechanic's tool sets (image to the right) often provide a variety of wrenches as well as other tools such as pliers and socket / ratchet sets
    • Options range from smaller 3-piece wrench sets to mechanic's tool collections with 300+ pieces

    200-Piece Standard (SAE) and Metric Mechanic's Tool Set.

    Shop for Mechanic's Tool Sets

    Shop for Wrenches & Wrench Sets