The adjustable wrench, also often referred to as a crescent wrench, is an incredibly versatile tool that can be used on the vast majority of bolts and nuts in your car. Its one-size-fits-all approach means that it can take the place of open wrenches, combination wrenches, and even flare nut wrenches in some cases. For this reason, if you have limited space or are trying to build a tool set on a tight budget, the adjustable wrench is the first wrench you should get!
An adjustable wrench is shaped much like an open wrench due to its pair of opposing jaws. Unlike an open wrench which is rigid and made from a single piece of steel, an adjustable wrench has a thumb actuated worm gear (in other words a screw next to the jaws) that allows you to adjust the distance between the jaws, allowing you to snugly slip the wrench over a variety of bolts and nuts ranging from extremely tiny to quite large. The upside is that this allows you to use a single tool for a large number of bolts. The tradeoff is that there is more room for user error as you must make sure the jaws are snug against the flats of the bolt or nut to make sure you don’t round the corners.
As far as what to look for, there are notable differences in quality. Material can differ, ranging from polished steel to steel that is finished as cast. Some wrenches feature ergonomic grips, while others don’t. Some are laser marked to help you quickly set your wrench to the desired size, whereas others lack this feature. Perhaps the biggest decision that you will have to make is size. Most people end up with two or three wrenches to cover the entire spectrum of bolt sizes, although depending on the wrench you choose you may be able to reduce this number to one or two (which is what we recommend below).
The Best Adjustable Wrench
By far our favorite adjustable wrench is the Channellock WideAzz Adjustable Wrench. This wrench is awesome for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is adjustable from 0″ to 1-1/2″ which means it has an insanely wide range. If you are into minimizing tool count, this wrench will pretty much cover any bolt or nut found on your car. It has an 8″ handle, so you’ll be able to apply plenty of torque to small and medium bolts, although you may have to use a little muscle as your bolt size creeps up beyond the 1″ mark. For comparison, most wrenches that handle 1″ to 1-1/2″ nuts and bolts tend to be in the 10″-12″ long range. We don’t find this to be a huge detriment, but it’s something you should be aware of.
The jaws themselves are quite nice as well and are longer than an average crescent wrench. Even the best crescent wrenches will round bolt heads if you aren’t careful, but these jaws will minimize your chances. The body of the wrench is laser marked at the base of the jaws to tell you what size bolt the wrench is currently adjusted for. This gives you a reference when adjusting the wrench and can save you a little time if you are switching between small and large bolts. The laser markings show metric (mm) measurements on one side and English units (inches) on the other. The worm gear works great with minimal effort to turn with your thumb. It is also very smooth as far as crescent wrenches go.
The grip is nicely padded and sports a handsome blue color. The wrench head is slightly angled relative to the grip which provides some ergonomic advantage as well as some advantage when it comes to accessing bolt heads that are in tough to reach places.
Overall, the Channellock WideAzz Adjustable Wrench (which gets bonus points for the name by the way) is one of the best adjustable wrenches on the market. Because it can replace a typical set of three adjustable wrenches because it has such a wide size range, we consider it an extremely high value and are confident that it will treat you well. As far as where to buy, Amazon’s price seems to be extremely competitive so we suggest you start there. If you find that it’s not quite right and you’d like to explore some of the sets available, you can check out other adjustable wrenches by clicking here. Happy wrenching!