10 Different Types of Wrenches (Spanners) + Their Applications

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10 Different Types of Wrenches (Spanners) + Their Applications

Spanners (or wrenches), the timeless symbols of precision and artistry, have been the primary tool for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. These iconic tools stand at the heart of every mechanic’s or DIY enthusiast’s arsenal, as the most important tool in their toolbox.

You may be wondering why they are referred to as spanners at times and wrenches at others. There is, however, a very simple explanation, and it all comes down to geography! This tool is known as a wrench in North America and a spanner in the United Kingdom, but they are the same. As a result, we’ll be using them interchangeably in this article.

map of the world explaining the difference

This guide is like your key to understanding spanner wrenches, whether you’re a pro at fixing things, just getting started with DIY projects, or just curious about tools. We’re going to dig into why these tools are so important for fixing stuff, look at all the different types of spanners, and see what they’re used for.

Types of Spanners (Wrenches) – The Spanner Spectrum

For good reason, spanners have become an essential part of every professional’s or beginner’s toolbox. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet the needs of the user. This part will go over many different types of wrenches that are commonly used.

Open-ended Spanners – Embrace the Open Grip

a typography for open-ended spanners

Open-ended spanners are the most popular type of spanner tool. They have U-shaped openings and come in a variety of fixed sizes, and they can be either single-ended or double-ended. If they are double-ended, the ends usually have different sizes, so they can be used for different purposes. This tool is one of the most versatile types of wrenches, and it can be used in a variety of situations like mechanical projects, automotive repairs, plumbing, or construction work.

Ring Spanners – The Circular Contenders

 a typography for Ring Spanners

They are a special type of spanner with round rings at either one or both ends of the tool. Both ends are usually bent at different angles to help you tighten or loosen bolts in tight spaces, and some ring spanners have a ratchet mechanism that lets you tighten or loosen bolts and nuts without having to lift the tool. This type of wrench has a lot of different purposes, but it’s commonly used in car repairs while working on the engine and the suspension.

Combination Wrenches – The Best of Both Worlds

a typography for Combination Spanners

As the name suggests, this type of spanner wrench is a double-ended combination of both the open-ended and the ring spanner. Both of these ends are the same size, but having the option to choose the type of wrench you want to use for a specific situation is what makes this tool special. They are usually used in assembly and disassembly jobs.

Adjustable Spanners – Versatility Unleashed

a typography for Adjustable Spanners

The adjustable spanner, also known as a screw wrench, is the most versatile tool in this category. So, what makes it so adaptable? This spanner’s jaws can be expanded or narrowed to fit a variety of screws and bolts. However, they can be difficult to use because they may not lock onto the bolt in the exact way you want them to. Nonetheless, they are excellent emergency tools due to their versatility in bolt sizes, and they are frequently used in bicycle repairs and home improvement projects. They can also be great additions to your toolbox if weight or a lack of space is a concern because they can act as multiple spanners all at once.

Box Spanners – Enclosed Perfection

a typography for Box Spanners

They are a very specific type of wrench that is made of steel tubes and is usually double-ended. The hexagonal ends cannot be used on common bolts or nuts, so they are regularly used to fasten or loosen pipes or in tight spaces that a conventional spanner may not fit, like the inside of industrial machinery. Another advantage box spanners have is that they are turned using a T-bar that is passed through the holes in the middle of the tool, making them perfect for inaccessible spaces.

Allen Keys – The Hex Heroes

a typography for Allen Keys

Also known as hex keys and Allen wrenches, Allen keys are small, L-shaped tools with hexagonal tips on one or both ends. They are available in a variety of sizes and are used on safety set screws or socket-head set screws, which are usually the type of screws you find on pieces of furniture. So if you are getting anything from IKEA, get those Allen wrenches of yours ready! They are also used in electronics, like mobile phones and laptops, or anything that requires precision.

Socket Spanners – The Ratchet Wizards

 a typography for Socket Spanners

Socket spanners, or socket wrenches, are a versatile type of spanners that have ratcheting handles and a set of detachable sockets in various sizes. This results in a very flexible combination that can help you through any fastening job! But due to their ability to access nuts and bolts in tight engine compartments, they are commonly used in car repairs.

Hook Spanners – Loop Masters

These spanners are very specific tools that are also known as hook wrenches or pin spanners. Their hook-shaped jaws fit into the holes or slots of the target so they can be tightened or loosened. They are used in securing bearing locknuts and also for removing or adjusting camera lens rings.

Now, you have become familiar with the main types of spinners (wrenches) that are commonly used. They can help you with a variety of tasks whether you are a professional worker or a DIY enthusiast that has just started their fastening journey!

But what if you wanted to know about the specific uses of wrenches in certain contexts? Well, we are here to let you know.

Types of Wrenches for cars

As a car guy, our friend Eric has always been interested in having the spanners and tools that may be needed for automotive repairs in his trunk, but he is struggling with not knowing what to get. In this part, we are going to help Eric and you guys with the spanners you need for your DIY car repairs. No worries!

There are a variety of wrenches that are used for specific car-related tasks, so depending on what you want to do or what your project is, you may want to choose a certain wrench or another.

a set of spanners on a table

For example, if you want to adjust brake calipers or if you are dealing with the suspension, open-ended spanners may be the right choice for you. Ring wrenches and combination wrenches are your picks if you are working on engine components, exhaust systems, or other parts that require a secure grip.

The flexibility and versatility of the adjustable spanner make it perfect for car situations where different fastener sizes need to be worked on, helping you with repairs and maintenance tasks.

Another indispensable tool needed for car repair is the socket spanner. Due to its ability to change head sizes quickly and the ability to access tight spaces, it can be used to install or remove bolts on engine parts, wheels, or other components.

And of course, no car repair kit would be complete without Allen keys, which can be used to loosen or tighten the hex socket screws that are usually found in the engine, door handles, and other interior components of your car.

Those are the basic spanners you are going to need to have in your trunk if you are interested in DIY car repairs. You’re welcome, Eric!

Plumbing is a different story. There are a few more specific wrenches needed for plumbing, and we’ll introduce them to you in this next part.

Types of Wrenches (Spanners) for plumbing

When it comes to plumbing, a range of spanner types is needed to handle all the twists and turns of installation and maintenance. Whether you are a professional plumber or working on a home improvement project, this list will help you to figure out what you need.

The first and most important type of wrench for plumbing is the appropriately named “pipe wrench”. They are adjustable wrenches that lock onto pipes and fittings and can be used to tighten or loosen pipes during installation or repairs. The standard pipe wrench and the offset pipe wrench are the two main kinds of pipe wrenches.

As we’ve already discussed, adjustable wrenches are one of the most versatile tools you can have in your toolbox, and that stays true for plumbers too. They can be used for nuts, pipes, faucets, or other plumbing-related stuff.

Basin wrenches are also useful for this kind of task. The long handle helps with reaching nuts and bolts in tight spaces, like the ones under sinks or around faucets, where it may be difficult to reach with other types of wrenches.

sets of wrench heads

Another type is the tap wrench, which helps you with having a secure grip and precise control of taps (bet you didn’t see that coming from the name!).

And lastly, plumping sockets can be lifesavers, as they are specialized tools designed for plumping tasks. They come in all shapes and sizes to fit your plumbing needs, no matter the job.

Spanners, also known as wrenches, are must-have tools in many industries. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit different jobs. Knowing about the various types of spanners and how they’re used in things like cars, plumbing, and fixing machines gives people the power to pick the perfect tool. This means their work gets done well and with accuracy, so thank you for reading this guide, and good luck with your spanner expedition!

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1 November 2023

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