Best Adjustable Wrenches

Updated August 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
136 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best adjustable wrenches

Last Updated August 2019

An adjustable wrench is a handy tool that can be used in a variety of situations. Whereas ordinary wrenches can only accommodate one size of hexagonal nut, adjustable wrenches can be adjusted to fit a range of nuts. Adjustable wrenches are often known as Crescent® wrenches, but Crescent® is a particular brand name. The generic term is actually just “adjustable wrench”.

When you’re looking for the right wrench to fit a particular bolt, it can be confusing. Some bolts use English measurements; others use metric measurements. Finding the right wrench for the right bolt can be a matter of trial and error — trying a wrench that looks right and then progressing to the next larger or smaller one if it doesn’t fit.

An adjustable wrench removes the trial and error from the process because the head can be adjusted to fit a wide range of nuts, whether English or metric. For this reason, adjustable wrenches are often considered to be one of the most versatile tools around. If you’re in the market for a good adjustable wrench, keep reading. We’ll walk you through all the possibilities to help you find the right one for you.

“Monkey wrench” is an old term for an adjustable wrench. It was given the name because the up-and-down movement of the lower jaw is similar to the movement of a monkey’s jaw.

Key considerations

Work to be done

The kind of work you’re doing determines what kind of wrench you need and what size it should be.

Plumbing: If you’re working on plumbing, you may need a wrench with large jaws to grip the couplings on the pipes. This is particularly true if you’re doing drain work. Drain pipes have large diameters which, in turn, require large wrenches. In some circumstances, you might need a pipe wrench with teeth to get a good grip on the pipes or couplings.

Gas lines: The difference between regular plumbing and gas lines lies mainly in the size of the pipes. Gas lines are typically smaller than plumbing pipes, so a large wrench probably isn’t ideal here. You need something smaller.

Automotive work: The nuts on cars are normally hexagonal nuts. Adjustable wrenches are ideal for working on cars, but the tight spaces can sometimes be a problem. Smaller heads on the wrenches or extensions for the handle may be required in some circumstances.

Industrial: If you’re working in a factory, whether on the production floor, assembly line, or in maintenance, you need a variety of adjustable wrenches based on the size of the hex nuts you’re working with. Depending on the kind of machines you’re working on and the pressures involved with that machinery, you may need a long extension on the handle in order to properly tighten or loosen the hex nuts.

Size

The size of an adjustable wrench is determined by the length of the handle. A four-inch wrench has a handle that is only four inches long and a small head. The small head will only be useful on small nuts and bolts. A 12-inch wrench will be much larger with a longer handle and larger head. It will be able to grasp large nuts, bolts, and pipes.

EXPERT TIP

In most cases, the bottom jaw of the wrench is the only one that moves. On a pipe wrench, it is the other way around: the top jaw is the one that moves.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Material

The base material of all wrenches is forged steel or steel alloy. Non-magnetic wrenches are made from stainless steel. The handles are made from the same steel alloy as the head but are often covered with a rubberized grip of some kind.

Scales

Adjustable wrenches don’t all have scales on them, but it is incredibly handy when they do. If the space you’re in is too cramped to accommodate the size of an adjustable wrench, you still might get it in there to measure the size of the hex nut you’re working on. You can use that measurement to pick the correct wrench for the job, avoiding the old trial-and-error method of figuring out which one to use. The scales can be either in English or metric measurements.

Head thickness

The thickness of the head determines how tight of a space you can get into with an adjustable wrench. For this reason, manufacturers often list the thickness of the head if it is thinner than the handle. If it is the same thickness, they normally don’t mention it.

Superior design and quality

This is a powerful, well-made wrench with an extra-wide jaw that opens to one and a half inches. It has a comfortable grip, etched markings, and a thin head for better access in tight spaces. The quality workmanship guarantees it will be a durable wrench that will last and perform for years to come.

Grip

Rubberized or sprayed-on grips are commonly seen on adjustable wrenches these days. It increases the comfort in your hand, prevents the wrench from slipping when you’re sweaty, and provides some protection for your hand when you have to exert a lot of force.

Color

The color of the head and screw adjustment mechanism is usually shiny chromium or black phosphate. The handle may be a variety of colors. The handle of a pipe wrench is almost always red, but other than that, black, blue, red, and yellow are the most common colors you’ll find on the handles.

English measurements are sometimes referred to as Imperial measurements. If you see a scale on a wrench referred to as an imperial scale, it’s just an ordinary English scale with a fancy name.

Adjustable wrench prices

Low price: $8 to $14 is the general range for low-priced wrenches. These are usually off-brand wrenches or small name-brand wrenches. The size of the wrench will be a major determining factor in the price, along with quality and brand name.

Medium price: $14 to $20 is considered the mid-range price for adjustable wrenches. In this range, you’ll find solid wrenches between eight to 12 inches with rubberized grips and scales engraved on both sides. Longer wrenches without rubberized grips or scales can also be found in this range.

High price: Anything above $20 is the high-end range. This is where you’ll find high-quality tooling, gel grips, and name-brands leading the way. Longer wrenches, from 15 inches all the way up to 30 or 45 inches for heavy industrial use, are found in this category. These specialty wrenches can easily cost $300 or more.

EXPERT TIP

The best kind of lubricant to use on an adjustable wrench is WD-40.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Always turn an adjustable wrench toward the movable jaw. This motion forces the jaw toward the body of the wrench, tightening the grip and reducing the strain on the movable jaw. Turning the wrench away from the movable jaw strains it and weakens the adjustment mechanism over time.
  • Before using an adjustable wrench, open the head to a distance slightly larger than the nut or pipe you need to tighten or loosen. Slip the head over the nut or pipe, and hold it in place. Then, tighten the screw mechanism until it is tight. Now you’re ready to use the wrench.
  • Grease can settle into the grooves of the screw mechanism and trap dirt, debris, and grime. When the grease dries, it will make the screw mechanism difficult to turn. Keeping it clean and lubricated will help avoid that problem.

Appealing price

This is a low-cost wrench with a sturdy jaw and substantial build. If you need something for minor jobs around the home but don’t want to invest in a high-end tool, you can’t go wrong with this toolbox staple.

Other products we considered

We found a large-jaw adjustable wrench from Channellock with a 15-inch long handle for added torque. We like the jaws that open to an inch and three quarters with two measurement scales: English on one side and metric on the other. The jaws on this wrench are long and thin for better access in tight areas. This is one solid tool.

We also like the 12-inch Proferred Plumbing Adjustable Wrench. It has a black phosphate finish, and the jaws open up to a respectable 2 3/8 inches wide. The jaws themselves are super thin, measuring only a quarter of an inch wide. As such, it’s a great tool for working in tight places on your plumbing or car engine. It includes a padded grip, too.

The Crescent® wrench got its name from the fact that when the head of an adjustable wrench is opened, it roughly resembles a crescent moon.

FAQ

Q. Should I put the wrench in a toolbox or hang it on the wall?
A.
Either way is fine, but there is a lot of grime in toolboxes — grime that can get into the screw mechanism of the wrench and cause it to bind up. If you keep it clean, however, it won’t matter.

Q. Should I wear gloves when using an adjustable wrench?
A.
The term “knuckle buster” originated when people working on machinery didn’t wear gloves or their hand slipped off the wrench when they were applying force. Rubberized grips have eliminated the majority of the latter problem. Working in tight spaces is a never-ending problem, though, and often there simply isn’t enough room to wear gloves. Knuckle busters are here to stay.            

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey