How to choose the right wrenches and a socket ratchet

Socket wrenches and ratchets are essential in a toolbox. Often in chrome vanadium, flat wrenches, pipe wrenches, eye wrenches or even combination wrenches are available in several sizes: 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 15mm, etc. Only the adjustable wrench fits different sizes of bolts. 

The different types of keys and their use

Regular needs are met with a set of flat wrenches, a set of pipe wrenches, and a mid-range socket ratchet. Prefer open-ended pipe wrenches for their practicality and do not be seduced by the first prices because the sizes are not often respected and generate a deformation of the nut during their use. If you have occasional use of your wrenches, a socket set with an adjustable wrench meets the most common needs. 

The most common wrench sizes

There are different tightening wrenches for various uses:

  • Common sizes for bolts range from 4 to 10mm for small mechanics;
  • Sizes from 10mm to approximately 23mm for common screwing and unscrewing;
  • Beyond 23mm for industrial, agricultural, or heavy vehicle mechanics

You can buy your tightening wrenches as needed; however, consider that the wrenches are much cheaper than the wrenches sold individually. If a given key is often used for important work, invest in a quality key or even guarantee for life.  

Types of wrenches

Open-end wrench or open-end wrench

The wrenches have one or two forks of different sizes. They are ideal for nuts accessible on a threaded rod that would prevent the passage of another type of key. A set of flat wrenches in its toolbox is essential, they are essential in plumbing and mechanics.

Eye wrench or offset wrench

The key to the eye, unlike the flat keys, exert their force on the 6 sides of the nut. They are also available in the form of a compact ratchet on top-of-the-range models to gain convenience and tightening speed. Thanks to its grip, the eye wrench does not escape the nut when loosening.

Mixed wrench

Combination wrenches have an open-end wrench on one side and an eye wrench on the other. The open-ended wrench is then used to approach the nut, the combination wrench to tighten it. 

Adjustable wrench

The wrenches are spanners in which the width of the fork is adjustable by means of a worm. Very practical for covering several nut sizes or atypical sizes with a single tool. Adjustable wrenches are heavier and bulkier. Jaw clearance limits clamping power very impractical for tightening small nuts.

Pipe wrench

L-shaped, the pipe wrench fits both the nut and an eye wrench. The longer arm allows significant leverage to be exerted, even if it means passing a tube through it to increase the torque. The pipe wrenches uncorked leave an opening for passing the threaded rod during tightening. To prefer when buying, who can do more can do less!

Pipe wrench

Much like uncapped pipe wrenches, pipe wrenches accept threaded rods that protrude a lot. There are cubits and straight ones, the best known and used is undoubtedly the spark plug wrench. Straight pipe wrenches are drilled right through to pass a rod through them to exert the force necessary for tightening. A variant exists and is called a plug-in screwdriver, but you should check the depth of the sockets.

Socket wrench

The socket wrench grips the nut such as pipe wrenches. Mounted on a wrench (single or ratchet) or on a screwdriver, the sockets (one per size) are interchangeable. There are short and long ones – about 50mm.

Heavy-duty socket set

As its name suggests, it is a socket wrench set composed of a ratchet and sockets for the mechanics of heavy goods vehicles and agricultural machinery. 

Allen key wrenches

The Allen keys, also called 6 sockets or hex wrenches, come in the hexagonal form and find themselves increasingly in furniture and mechanics. Their L-shape, like socket wrenches, allows access to a deep screw and/or to exert a greater tightening force. Common Allen key sizes range from 4 to 10.

Torx wrench

Like the male key, the Torx key is in the form of a star. Also available as a screwdriver, it is an imprint that is mainly found on household appliances; however, it is more and more common on many devices. Torx key sizes range from 10 to 50.

Hexagon wrenches and 12-point wrenches: the better grip of the nut

Eye wrenches and socket wrenches or socket wrenches clamp the hexagon. In doing so, the tightening force is distributed over the entire bolt. This key includes 6 sides to apply a large force without damaging the nut or 12 points to reposition the tool faster. Some pipe wrenches blend the two.

Socket wrench: accessories and utilities

We repeat ourselves but know that we cannot force like a brute or unblock a seized nut with a hammer with a ratchet. The pro brands hold up quite well, however, a pipe wrench is better suited. Also, a socket mounted on a ratchet with an extension allows you to unscrew a screw or nut that is difficult to access. A socket ratchet includes a square socket locked by a spring-loaded ball and an interchangeable socket in it. The most common sizes of square bits are 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2 inches. You can find 3/4 or even 1-inch square bits for sockets used in industrial or agricultural mechanics.