Adjustable wrench types and sizes you need to know

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  August 1, 2022
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It’s difficult to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts without a handy tool. When you are working with nuts and bolts that need turning, you must apply torque.

The one tool that is indispensable in such a situation is a wrench, also known as a spanner.

As a DIYer, the most crucial wrench you should have is an adjustable wrench, because it comes with jaws that you can customize to fit different tasks.

Best-Adjustable-Wrench

You can extend or reduce the jaws to suit faucets and pipes of different sizes. That way, you can handle home repairs and maintenance routines for your machines and tools.

In this guide, you will learn the major types and sizes of adjustable wrenches that are available and get insight into the distinctive traits and uses of each.

To give you a quick sneak peek, my favorite wrench among all would be the IRWIN Vise-Grip 6″. If you are a DIY gall or guy, the size and quality of the wrench are just perfect for you to get on with small projects, as well as those on professional levels.

Now let’s jump in!

Best adjustable wrenchImages
Best small adjustable wrench: IRWIN Vise-Grip 6″Best small adjustable wrench- IRWIN Vise-Grip 6
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Best medium adjustable wrench: Channellock 8WCB 8-Inch WideAzzBest medium adjustable wrench- Channellock 8WCB 8-Inch WideAzz
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Best large adjustable wrench: Channellock Chrome 10″Best large adjustable wrench- Channellock Chrome 10″
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Best adjustable wrench set: HORUSDY 4-piece CR-V SteelBest adjustable wrench set- HORUSDY 4-piece CR-V Steel
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Best adjustable pipe wrench: RIDGID 31010 Model 10Best adjustable pipe wrench- RIDGID 31010 Model 10
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Best adjustable monkey wrench: Titan Tools 21325 15″Best adjustable monkey wrench- Titan Tools 21325 15
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Best adjustable plumber wrench: Knipex 10″ Pliers WrenchBest adjustable plumber wrench- Knipex 10″ Pliers Wrench
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Best adjustable strap wrench: Klein Tools S-6HBest adjustable strap wrench- Klein Tools S-6H
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What is an adjustable wrench?

An adjustable wrench also goes by the name of an adjustable spanner and adjustable crescent wrench. But, all the names refer to one type of tool.

A wrench is used to tighten nuts and bolts.

It is easy to tighten nuts and bolts with a wrench because it has jaws that are adjustable in size, so they offer the perfect grip.

For that reason, you can easily maneuver the wrench and tighten or loosen what you need quickly.

An adjustable wrench is especially useful for working with tubes, pipes, nuts, and bolts.

How many types of adjustable wrenches are there?

There are four types of adjustable wrenches which have their own distinctive uses and characteristics.

The most common is the crescent wrench, also known as a “crowfoot” or adjustable spanner for its varied use in loosening bolts.

Then there are the monkey wrench, pipe wrench, and plumber wrench.

Adjustable spanner

Also called crescent wrenches, adjustable spanners are available in virtually every household and workshop these days.

With this type of wrench, you can apply increasing torque to move tightened fasteners by using your hand’s natural grip.

The most distinct characteristic of the adjustable spanner is the 15° angle between the handle and the movable jaw.

Adjustable spanners are reasonably priced, and apart from that, they come in a broad range of sizes to suit any job you might have in mind.

They are best suited for unscrewing or fastening plumbing fixtures like elbows, faucets, and pipes.

If you don’t have enough strength to open bottle lids? There’s an adjustable spanner subtype that is meant just for you.

As you use the adjustable spanner, ensure that the movable jaw is clasped securely around the pipe. This will help prevent rounding, which can be a pretty annoying issue.

Also, be sure to position the jaw on the side toward which the rotations will happen. This will help avoid deforming the wrench. As well, this ensures a tighter grip as you start to move the wrench around.

Adjustable spanner vs crescent wrench

The adjustable spanner or wrench has been around for a long time.

In the U.S., Canada, and other countries it’s known as “Crescent wrenches” due to their popularity in these regions from the original patent holder of Crescent Tool Company which was founded back in 1887.

Monkey wrench

Looking for an adjustable wrench for large-scale projects like fixing vehicles or water systems?

Then, you will need a monkey wrench.

What most distinguishes this adjustable wrench is its long handle and sharp jaws that grip objects very firmly.

The tool is crafted from steel or its alloys through a process known as heat-forging.

In most cases, the monkey wrench is used to clamp onto pipes, lug nuts, screws, and bolts.

The sturdy construction is what accounts for the monkey wrench’s remarkable strength.

A monkey wrench is capable of bearing your entire weight as you push against it.

Pipe wrench

People often confuse the pipe wrench with the monkey wrench, as the two are very similar.

Nonetheless, the pipe wrench, otherwise known as the Stillson wrench, happens to be sleeker than the monkey wrench.

Moreover, this wrench makes it easier for you to reach difficult locations like corners and nooks.

The pipe wrench is perfect when you’re working with round-surface fixtures and soft iron pipes.

But, you shouldn’t use it with hex nuts as its teeth can quickly ruin the hex head.

The Stillson wrench is manufactured from steel or aluminum and can be bought in different handle sizes, including 10”, 18”, 24”, 36”, and 48”.

There are also jaw kits if you prefer repairing your old pipe wrench rather than purchasing a new one.

What is the difference between a monkey wrench and a pipe wrench?

A monkey wrench is a type of wrench that is not as popular as a common pipe wrench. It is only used for hex nuts, thus it has limited usability.

The monkey wrench has serrated jaws that offer excellent grip and therefore, it is easy to use.

On the other hand, a pipe wrench is made to twist pipes, and it is mainly used by plumbers.

Metal pipes require manual twisting and that’s when the pipe wrench (like some of these) comes in handy.

The most obvious difference between the two types of wrenches is that the monkey wrench has jaws that are straight out.

In contrast, a pipe wrench has slightly curved jaws. These provide a better grip when used on round objects.

Plumber wrench

Plumber wrenches come with a key ring fitted to one handle, for closing the movable jaws around the fitting or pipe.

Plumbers use this type of wrench to rotate the plumbing pipes.

This wrench clasps with striking force, and hence it doesn’t need to engage the bolt or nut head it’s applied to.

As the wrench is quite bulky, you should only use it where other kinds of wrenches don’t work.

When used carelessly, this type of adjustable wrench can cause dents or even break a pipe.

Strap wrench

A strap wrench is one of those dear chaps that is great at many things but often sits idle in a toolbox because no one believes in its talent.

But let us tell you, among the myriad of wrench types, this seemingly impractical tool might just be your best plumbing buddy.

Unlike the other wrench types that have a firm metallic build and shape, the strap wrench has a belt or strap attached to its handle that tightens around an object until it firmly grips it.

The strap can be made of various materials including polymers, spring steel, or leather. The ones with polymer straps are considered the strongest.

You can use a strap wrench for tightening or losing anything that is cylindrical, from door knobs to pipes and anything in between.

The best part is, you won’t even have to apply a lot of force!

It’s a very handy tool for small-scale household projects.

Strap wrench vs adjustable wrench

Strap wrenches and adjustable spanners are two totally different things with different functions.

Adjustable wrenches, e.g spanners, are primarily used for tightening bolts, and nuts, though, you could also use them for tightening pipes if the jaw capacity is big enough.

On the other hand, a strap wrench has the primary function of opening or loosening jars, tightening a number of plumbing fixtures, changing the oil filters, or practically handling anything round with a huge diameter.

Unlike other adjustable wrenches that are mostly used on working sites, the strap wrench is more of an everyday tool used commonly in households.

What to look for when buying an adjustable wrench

Ok, so you are on the market for an adjustable wrench. Here’s what you should consider when choosing one.

First of all, keep in mind that one good adjustable wrench replaces several different types of wrenches.

  • look for a wrench made of industrial-grade alloy
  • check that the wrench has a comfortable plastic grip that is non-slip
  • the scales should be easy to see and clearly marked so that you can set the specific nut size quickly
  • make sure it is easy to adjust
  • the wrench should have a hole in the handle so that you can hang it up

Despite being a pro, a resourceful buying guide can surely help you to know the known and unknown facts about any tool.

And if you’re a noob, you must keep track of the specifications of the tool for better workability. Let’s get acquainted.

Best-Adjustable-Wrench-Buying-Guide

Comfortable grip

Unlike favorites, grip comfort is the feature that mainly depends on your personal preferences according to your comfort.

But no matter what kind of wrench you buy, make sure the handle of the tool is grooved, so it doesn’t slip away from your hand while you are working on a lug nut.

A metal handle will give you more durability while the comfort grip will be convenient to use for a long time.

If your hand is wet or you sweat more, you won’t be able to work with the metal grip.

On the other hand, light but the bulky grip will affect the actual capacity of the wrench. We recommend the latter.

Scale

When you go to search for a wrench, you will find some wrenches have scales etched on their jaws.

The scales that can be found are on metric and SAE or inch systems.

Some wrenches have both types of scale, some got any of the ones, and some don’t at all.

The scales are provided so that you can quickly measure the fasteners’ dimensions for better workability or different purposes.

So it’s better to buy an adjustable wrench with both scales etched on the jaws.

Wrench kit

You’re gonna see some manufacturers offering wrenches of different sizes, but you need to buy them separately.

But some manufacturer provides a wrench set or kit that offers you two or more wrenches at the same time at less price than the price when you buy all the wrenches individually.

You should go for one of the wrench sets for better workability as you often need to use this tool with many types of fasteners.

Jaw capacity

Jaw capacity reflects how bigger the fastener the wrench can hold onto. The more the jaw capacity, the bigger fasteners it can hold and measure.

Both horizontal and vertical surfaces play a fundamental role.

The capacity of the jaws varies from wrenches to wrenches, the capacity can be as small as only ½ inch to as big as 3 inches or more.

Irrespective of your choice, you should confirm that the length and the weight of the wrenches are well proportioned.

Otherwise, the wrench will break or it will be so hard to work with.

Material

Product quality is the most important feature no matter what you buy. And the quality mostly depends on the material used to build the product.

In the case of adjustable wrenches, always prefer a wrench made of high-quality steel since only a durable tool is worth your money.

In the market you will find wrenches made of alloy steel, they are robust and extremely hard to break. But wrenches made of chromium-vanadium are even stronger.

You should also keep in mind that the coating materials make tools more durable.

Without the coating, your steel won’t be able to prevent rust and corrosion. For lifetime corrosion-resistant, chrome or nickel coating is the best.

Weight

Since loosening and tightening fasteners like nuts and bolts are the main purposes of an adjustable wrench, it must be a portable tool.

Though the portability depends on the weight of the item, a heavy portable tool is not as comfy as a lightweight tool.

A lighter tool is really easy to use but you can’t just go and pick the lightest tool.

The lighter weight of a wrench means it has less metal mass than a heavy one. And that won’t offer you much workability.

Length

The adjustable wrench is available in varying sizes. The most common sizes include the:

  • 8” to 10” double-end
  • 6” to 8” double-end
  • 8”
  • 12”
  • 36″

You should always select a wrench with the proper length you need for your work, as the torque and workability of the wrenches depend on the length of the tool.

The more the length of a wrench, the more torque it produces. Every time consider buying a longer wrench for heavier work.

Also, longer handles help you to reach far places. But for small and tight areas, smaller wrenches are the compatible ones.

Instruction

You might think that you don’t need any instruction for a simple tool like an adjustable wrench.

Your guess is right but you need to keep in mind that not all the providers provide the same kind of tools and to improve the workability they change their wrenches accordingly.

Also, you may damage the device you’re working on if you don’t know the proper use of a wrench.

For this reason, you better keep instruction within your arms’ reach. It can help your kid or someone who doesn’t know how to use the wrench.

Warranty

Neither all manufacturers on the market provide you with a warranty nor is the period of the guarantee the same.

Some providers offer a warranty for every item they sell, some only do for specific items while some don’t provide a warranty at all.

At the same time, the period of the guarantee varies from provider to provider.

Especially it’s better to go for the product with the lifetime warranty. It proves their confidence on the wrench they’re providing.

Best adjustable wrenches reviewed

It’s hard to rank wrenches based on what is best, as it ultimately depends on which task you need it for, but we can recommend several good options.

These are all highly recommended because they are easy to use and durable.

Best small adjustable wrench: IRWIN Vise-Grip 6″

Any tool bag is incomplete without a small wrench. It makes your projects much easier by operating in those small spaces that a simple wrench cannot reach.

Irwin knows this well and has come up with this small crescent wrench to take care of everything.

The tool is 6 inches in size, with durable chrome vanadium construction.

Best small adjustable wrench- IRWIN Vise-Grip 6

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  • Dimensions: 8 x 2 x 2 inch
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • Operation mode: Mechanical

The quality and build of the wrench exceed all the ANSI standards and have been a popular choice for its ease of use. Users love it for both its functionality and usability.

Additionally, since it’s pretty versatile, you won’t even have to buy another set of wrenches in most cases. It’s pure value for the budget.

Check the latest prices here

Best medium adjustable wrench: Channellock 8WCB 8-Inch WideAzz

Best medium adjustable wrench- Channellock 8WCB 8-Inch WideAzz

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  • Dimensions: 1 x 4 x 12.2 inch
  • Material: Chrome vanadium steel
  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Operation mode: Mechanical

A medium wrench with the functionality of a large one, Channellock 8WCB is an 8-inch wrench with the capacity of a 12-inch model.

The big jaws will handle even the biggest of nuts and bolts, with a sleek profile that reaches even the tightest of spaces, with a firm grip that won’t slip.

The model sports the highest level of craftsmanship, with exceptionally good durability and comfort.

Users love its outstanding functionality on the line of duty, especially for a standard-sized wrench.

What’s even better? It comes at a very reasonable price!

Check the latest prices here

Best large adjustable wrench: Channellock Chrome 10″

This model also carries the same ideas and craftmanship as the previous Channellock in the list and stays true to its very purpose, ultimate functionality!

Best large adjustable wrench- Channellock Chrome 10″

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  • Dimensions: 1 x 4 x 12.2 inch
  • Material: Chrome vanadium steel
  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Operation mode: Mechanical

The model sports a considerably big capacity to handle large bolts and nuts, with very slim, tapered jaws for maximum convenience in tight areas.

The chromium vanadium build makes it considerably durable. Plus, the handle with this one is pretty long. 

This means you get relatively more torque than a standard model, making it one of the best adjustable wrenches for heavy-duty works.

Check the latest prices here

Best adjustable wrench set: HORUSDY 4-piece CR-V Steel

This 4-piece set includes every size of adjustable wrenches, including small, medium, and large, and is a great starter kit if wrenches have been missing in your toolbox until now.

All the sizes are made of chromium-vanadium and exhibit the same good quality.

Best adjustable wrench set- HORUSDY 4-piece CR-V Steel

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The jaws and edges are also quite precise, with a firm grip to help you get on with multiple types of projects without any worries.

Though the brand isn’t as well reputed as most American ones, the quality is close to great in the budget range.

Overall, a good set to get over with any project.

Check the latest prices here

Best adjustable pipe wrench: RIDGID 31010 Model 10

Staying true to the company’s slogan “built for those who know,” this pipe wrench is straight out of every plumber’s dream on the line of duty.

Best adjustable pipe wrench- RIDGID 31010 Model 10

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  • Dimensions: 9.75 x 1.25 x 2.75 inches
  • Material: Alloy
  • Weight: 0.79 Kilogram, 1.73 pounds
  • Operation mode: Mechanical

The tool boasts extreme strength and durability to perform even in the harshest working conditions.

Moreover, it works for all sorts of pipes with a jaw capacity of 1-1/2 inches (here’s how you use a pipe wrench properly).

The overall small size makes it perfect for small spaces.

RIDGID 31010 also has self-cleaning threads with easily replaceable hook and heel jaws for extra convenience.

Plus, as it has a distinct red color, you won’t have a hard time finding it in your jumbled toolbox.

Apart from heavy-duty work, you could also use it for household DIY tasks.

Check the latest prices here

Find more great pipe wrenches here in my extensive review

Best adjustable monkey wrench: Titan Tools 21325 15″

If you are looking for an adjustable wrench to fasten those bolts and nuts of your vehicle or simply need something to handle those heavy tasks for you, look no further!

Best adjustable monkey wrench- Titan Tools 21325 15

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  • Dimensions: 14.8 x 13.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Weight: 0.79 Kilogram, 1.73 pounds
  • Operation mode: Hydraulic

This monkey wrench by Titan Tools has everything you can wish for in a heavy-duty adjustable tool, from premium quality large jaws to perfect torque and anything in between.

Though not one of the cleanest wrenches to handle your DIY, delicate plumbing tasks, as far as vehicles, pipe unions, and shutoff valves are concerned, you cannot go wrong with this one!

A money wrench on a budget couldn’t get any better!

Check the latest prices here

Best adjustable plumber wrench: Knipex 10″ Pliers Wrench

Fastening, gripping, holding, binding, you name it, and this Knipex plumber’s wrench will do it for you!

The product has a very slim profile that allows you to conveniently access even the most difficult spaces.

Best adjustable plumber wrench- Knipex 10″ Pliers Wrench

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  • Dimensions: 10.43 x 2.21 x 0.91 inches
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Weight: 0.33 Kilogram, 0.74 pounds
  • Operation mode: Manual

Moreover, it also features multiple push button adjustment settings to quickly lock onto every type of surface.

The flat surface and even compression ensure a very strong and secure grip with zero backlashes.

Some users even use it as a replacement for their crescent wrench and call it one of their best decisions ever.

Will it work the same for you? We don’t see a reason why not!

Check the latest prices here

Best adjustable strap wrench: Klein Tools S-6H

Turning pipes, opening jars, and even fuel filters, there’s very little you cannot do with a strap wrench.

It’s versatile and practically tightens around anything, no matter the shape.

Best adjustable strap wrench- Klein Tools S-6H

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  • Dimensions: 5x5x5 inches
  • Material: Strap
  • Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Operation mode: Mechanical

Since it’s very small and lightweight, controlling and using it is easier.

Additionally, the strap features an excellent grip that won’t let the wrench slip on even the smoothest surface.

My only concern about this Wrench would be the decreased torque due to less weight and small size.

But since you will be using it mostly for light-duty work, it will suffice for the most part.

If you are more into performing heavy-duty tasks where extreme force is mandatory, perhaps you would like a chain wrench, a relatively tuff variant of the strap wrench.

Check the latest prices here

Adjustable wrench size chart

To take away some more confusion around adjustable wrench sizes, I’ve created a handy chart, set out from the smallest to the largest wrench.

Know that wrenches are usually sized by the diameter of the fastener they can accommodate.

Next, there is usually a measurement that refers to the length of the tool’s handle. The general rule is that longer handles allow for higher torque.

For most everyday tasks, you’ll want at least three basic wrench sizes (in length): 6″, 8″, and 10″.

This will accommodate most standard hardware and allow you to access hard-to-reach spaces and tight corners.

Adjustable wrench size chart

FAQs

Why is an adjustable wrench better than a regular wrench?

With a regular wrench, it’s hard to have precision. Even the simplest of tasks can become complicated.

If you don’t have the right size at hand, a regular wrench won’t fit the nuts and bolts precisely so it will keep slipping, and you’ll waste a lot of time.

As well, the adjustable wrench is easy to use in small spaces because it has great ergonomics.

The design of this type of wrench is simple and the products themselves are durable, so they’ll last you many years.

Most importantly, a single adjustable wrench can perform the tasks of an entire set of combination or open-ended wrenches, which means one tool can replace many.

Therefore, you are saving money when you invest in a good quality adjustable wrench. It basically replaces the other types of similar wrenches.

Also read: this is how you remove rust from your old tools

Can I use pliers instead of an adjustable wrench?

In some isolated cases you can, but it’s not recommended that you do that.

Pliers are used for tightening small bolts and nuts, but an adjustable wrench can do it better because it has a better grip.

Pliers can damage the fastener’s surface and they are much harder to use than wrenches that are designed explicitly for tightening tasks.

What size adjustable wrench should I buy?

For most common tasks, you’ll want three basic sizes: 6″, 8″, and 10″

This will not only accommodate most standard hardware but allow you to access hard-to-reach spaces and tight corners.

What is another name for an adjustable wrench?

Crescent wrench. In Canada and the United States, the tool is known as a Crescent wrench or an adjustable wrench.

In Australia, it is referred to as a “shifting spanner”, usually abbreviated to “shifter”.

What is adjustable spanner used for?

The adjustable pipe or Stillson wrench is used to hold or turn pipes or circular bars.

This wrench has serrated jaws, one of which is pivoted on the handle to create a solid gripping action on the work.

What is the difference between a crescent wrench and an adjustable wrench?

An adjustable wrench has one fixed jaw and one adjustable jaw which allows you to use it on a wide variety of fastener sizes.

The head of a crescent wrench is usually angled at 22 1/2 degrees to the handle so that the wrench can be flipped over to provide two different gripping positions in tight spaces.

What are the different sizes of wrenches?

Wrenches:

  • Standard Combination Wrenches (1/4, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 13/16, 7/8, 15/16, 1)
  • Metric Combination Wrenches (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19)
  • Standard Flare Nut Wrenches (3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 7/8)

Note: Each wrench may combine two sizes.

Are Harbor Freight wrenches any good?

They are OK but do have more flex than an expensive name brand wrench. I wouldn’t try to loosen or tighten a high torque bolt with the open end.

If I can’t get the box end on the bolt head, I will seek out a better wrench so I don’t round any bolts off from the wrench flex.

Is snap-on better than craftsman?

Snap-ons are definitely the best in terms of quality, but they’re far more expensive than brands like a craftsman.

Most nicer tool brands have the replacement warranty, but professional mechanics can’t afford to spend the time to go replace it, so Snap-on makes tools that just don’t break.

What is the difference between a spanner and a wrench?

The term wrench is generally used for tools that turn non-fastening devices (e.g. tap wrench and pipe wrench) or may be used for a monkey wrench—an adjustable pipe wrench.

In American English, a spanner refers to a specialized wrench with a series of pins or tabs around the circumference.

What does an adjustable wrench look like?

A crescent wrench looks a lot like a monkey wrench; in fact, most of the simple adjustable wrenches you know look like crescent wrenches.

A crescent wrench is usually made of steel and has a relatively flat handle that’s a number of inches long.

Are adjustable wrench and crescent wrench the same?

Yes! In North America, an adjustable wrench is also called an adjustable spinner or crescent wrench.

Is there any difference between an adjustable wrench and a breaker bar?

Absolutely yes. A breaker bar is used to break lug nuts quickly, and it has a long handlebar.

But a wrench has a shorter handlebar and takes a longer time to adjust nuts and bolts or any fasteners or bolt extractors.

Do I need any safety for using an adjustable wrench?

It’s better to use safety goggles while working with the wrench as you don’t know if a fastener comes out with force and hurts you.

Conclusion

As you look for adjustable wrenches, I recommend you go for those that are made of steel or steel alloys.

These materials are stronger and can handle stressful jobs without breaking. Furthermore, they last longer than other materials.

If you can get one that is chrome-plated, that’d be even better as it will be able to resist corrosion and also make cleaning easy.

Also read: how to organize a garage on a small budget

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.