The Best Adjustable Wrench

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After testing 15 adjustable wrenches over the past three years, we’re still convinced that the Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench is the best one for your home toolbox.

Last Updated: July 8, 2016
For the third straight year, the Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench remains our main pick. For our runner-up pick, the Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench replaces the Klein D509-8 Adjustable Wrench, Extra Wide Jaw due to its narrower jaws and more comfortable handle.
Expand Most Recent Updates
May 5, 2015: Channellock released the 8SWCB WideAzz ($38), which is nearly identical to our pick (the same handle, jaw width, and overall build quality), but with much slimmer jaws that give the tool a better reach in tight, constrained spaces. We tested it out and liked it quite a bit, but at $38, nearly double the price of our pick, we feel the cost is simply too high. Were the two tools the same price, or even in the same ballpark, the slim-jaw version would certainly become our pick, but to pay an additional $17 for a little more maneuverability doesn’t make sense (particularly when the jaws of the 8WCB are so nice and thin to begin with).
April 13, 2015: Channellock just introduced a new adjustable model, the 8SWCB Slim Jaw Wide Azz. At first glance, it's identical to our main pick, but the jaw has a little off-set that makes it much thinner, which is good for teeny, tiny nuts and bolts. If it offers everything that our wrench does, plus a little more, that would make it a strong contender for our new pick. We're going to test it and update the guide with our findings.
December 16, 2014: After using our three top picks for the last six months, we're still convinced that the Channellock is the best wrench to have around the house. See more in our long-term test notes below. We also updated the competition section with three more ratcheting wrenches.

The Channellock 8WCB is a manageable 8 inches long but has the jaw capacity of a much larger wrench, so it can handle everything from a fat garden hose to a small fastener on a child’s toy. Because the jaws are narrow and come to a point, they can work in tight spots where other wrenches are too bulky to fit. As for comfort, this Channellock model had the best padded handle of all the wrenches we looked at, allowing us to put some real strength into a turn without worrying about having sore hands afterward. Lastly, the build quality is excellent: The thumb turn is smooth, the lower jaw has little wobble, and after consistent use over three years, the wrench is hardly showing any wear at all.

Our pick
Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench
The Channellock 8WCB has the jaw capacity of a much larger wrench, plus smooth jaw adjustment and a comfortable, padded gripping area.

At this writing the Channellock will set you back about $25, so it’s more expensive than a standard, smaller-jawed wrench. But if you’re going to own only one wrench, it’s smart to have one that can tackle all but the largest jobs. Even if you don’t consider yourself a DIYer, you never know what leaky plumbing connection you might need to tighten at 2 in the morning.

Also great
Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench
The Milwaukee 48-22-7508 has a wide jaw but lacks a padded handle, and the jaws are a hair thicker and a hair shorter, so it’s not as good in the tightest of spots.
If the Channellock is unavailable, we also like the Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench. It has the same length and the same wide mouth as the Channellock 8WCB, but the jaws are a little fatter and don’t come to as narrow of a point. The Milwaukee model also has no padding on the grip area, and even though the all-metal handle is comfortable, we think most people would prefer the added hand protection of the Channellock. On top of that, the Milwaukee is usually a few dollars more expensive. This is a new pick for 2016, though, replacing the Klein D509-8 Adjustable Wrench, Extra Wide Jaw, which has stubbier jaws that are harder to use in tight situations.

Also great
Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench
The Irwin 2078608 is a well-built wrench that’s only half the price of our main pick currently, but it lacks the wide jaw capacity and is harder to use in tight spots.
If you’re not looking to invest much and just want a wrench that can handle the basics, we like the Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench. It opens to about 1⅛ inches, so it can’t fit around larger plumbing connections or even a garden hose, but its comfortable handle and solid build quality make it a nice choice for general around-the-house tasks such as assembling furniture or attaching training wheels to a bike.

Upgrade pick
Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench
Offering an elegant, unique design, the Pliers Wrench uses two handles to grab (rather than cradle) the nut; it works well for stuck bolts and eliminates any slippage.
If you’re willing to invest more to have the best there is, we recommend the Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench. This tool combines the best elements of adjustable pliers and adjustable wrenches, and the result is that the smooth-faced jaws of the Pliers Wrench grip a nut like a pair of pliers rather than cradling it as our other picks do. Where the tool differs from regular pliers is that the lower jaw moves parallel to the upper jaw (instead of like an alligator mouth), ensuring an even clamping force along the edges of the nut regardless of the sizing. This design greatly reduces any chance of slippage or of rounding over the corners of the nut. The engineering of this unique tool is simply outstanding, and the build quality is excellent. In fact, of all the hand tools I’ve used in a 15-year career of construction and tool reviewing, the Pliers Wrench is my favorite.

Table of contents

Why you should trust me

I spent 10 years in construction as a carpenter, foreman, and site supervisor in the Boston area. I also recently wrapped up a four-year full gut and remodel of my own 100-year-old farmhouse. In addition, I’ve been writing about and reviewing tools since 2007 with articles appearing in Fine Homebuilding, Popular Mechanics, This Old House, and Tools of the Trade, among others. Through all of this, I’ve gained a thorough knowledge of hand tools, including adjustable wrenches.

To narrow down the hundreds of wrenches available, I relied on my own experience and had conversations with two tool experts: Marc Lyman, editor of HomeFixated, and Stuart Deutsch, editor of ToolGuyd. Each brings a unique perspective—Lyman is a DIY/home-improvement aficionado, and Deutsch approaches his tools from an engineer’s standpoint (and has a PhD in materials science and engineering to back it up).

For testing, I enlisted the aid of Aaron Goff, a high-end residential carpenter with 13 years of experience.

Why an adjustable wrench?

Basically, if you own a house, you should also own a reliable adjustable wrench.

An adjustable wrench is an all-purpose nut- and bolt-turning tool. Because it has two parallel, flat jaws with no teeth, it’s good for situations where you don’t want to damage the nut or bolt with the grip of the jaws, as you would with a pair of adjustable pliers. A wrench can serve to adjust the seat on a bicycle, build a playset, assemble prefab furniture, or tighten up a lag screw on a deck ledger. Also, because of the delicate fittings that are prevalent in plumbing systems (such as the chrome connections under a pedestal sink), an adjustable wrench is an invaluable tool for any plumbing project or repair. Basically, if you own a house, you should also own a reliable adjustable wrench.

How we picked and tested

What I discovered during my research and interviews is that if you’re going to own only one wrench, it should be an 8-inch, wide-mouth model. This means that it’s an 8-inch wrench with the jaw capacity of a 12-inch wrench, a versatile tool that isn’t burdened by a long, bulky handle.

On a standard 8-inch wrench, the jaws open to about 1⅛ inches, which is enough for a lot of tasks but not all of them. To step up in jaw width, you usually need also step up in overall size and go to a 10- or 12-inch wrench. Most 10-inchers open just over 1¼ inches, and the 12-inch models sit around the 1½-inch mark, but with these traditional tools the increased jaw capability comes with a longer, more cumbersome handle. So recently, a handful of manufacturers have released 8-inch wrenches with a larger jaw capacity, usually around 1⅝ inches.

Jaw widths on an 8-inch wrench. The Irwin, on the left, opens to a standard size (1⅛ inches). The Channellock, on the right, is a wide-mouth model (1⅝ inches). Also note how much deeper the mouth is on the Channellock.

Jaw widths on an 8-inch wrench. The Irwin, on the left, opens to a standard size (1⅛ inches). The Channellock, on the right, is a wide-mouth model (1⅝ inches). Also note how much deeper the mouth is on the Channellock.

In my house I have a perfect example of the benefits of wide-mouth wrenches. The radiator manifold in my basement (which I need to tinker with every time I fuss with a radiator or remove it for painting) has brass connections that are too large for a standard 8-inch wrench. They’re also situated up at the ceiling in such a way that a tool with a large handle isn’t practical to use. A wide-mouth wrench makes it easy for me to loosen and tighten the connections, as I can grab the fitting and also have plenty of room to move my hand and operate the tool.

My heating system is another example. Virtually every connection coming off my boiler and water heater, up and into the radiator manifold, is sized so that a standard 8-inch wrench can’t grab it but a wide-mouth can.

I asked HomeFixated’s Marc Lyman about wide-mouth models, and he said that he really likes what they have to offer, adding, “I have run across situations where my [standard 8-inch] adjustable didn’t have the capacity needed for a specific job. That’s always a bummer.” He also pointed out that to accommodate larger-sized nuts, the jaws are longer, meaning you have a little more reach to the tool if you’re working in a tight spot such as under your sink. In addition, it means that the jaws can more easily fit around the entire edge of the nut. Lyman noted, “I’ve had the joy of rounding off larger nuts when the jaws don’t make contact along the full length of the nut edge.”

With those criteria in mind, we tested all of the 8-inch wide-mouth options: the Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench, the Klein D509-8 Adjustable Wrench, Extra Wide Jaw, and the Bahco 9031 R US 8-inch wide mouth adjustable wrench. Since our original guide, we’ve also tested the Channellock 8SWCB Xtra Slim Jaw WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench and the Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench.

Sizing the Channellock jaws around a bolt.

Sizing the Channellock jaws around a bolt.

A lower-quality wrench will wiggle from the get-go, but a good wrench will have a jaw that sits securely in the tool.

With all of those tools typically priced at $25 and above, we also looked at a few standard-size 8-inch wrenches from reputable manufacturers. With a jaw capacity of only 1⅛ inches, such wrenches can’t handle large fasteners, but they’re also consistently priced around the $10 mark, making them ideal for people on tighter budgets who are willing to sacrifice some usability for the reduced cost. Of these smaller tools, we tested the Klein D507-8 Adjustable Wrench Extra Capacity, the Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench, and the Stanley 90-948 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench.

In addition, we tested a number of other styles to see how they would measure up to a traditional adjustable wrench. This group included three ratcheting wrenches, the Stanley FMHT72184 FatMax Ratcheting 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench, the Bostitch 99-079 8-Inch Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench, and the Crescent ATR28 8-Inch Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench; a locking plier/wrench hybrid, the Stanley 85-610 10-Inch MaxGrip Locking Adjustable Wrench; and lastly, three double-handled adjustable gripping wrenches, the Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench, the Kobalt Magnum Grip Pliers, and the Craftsman 8-Inch Max Axess Locking Wrench.

Before I put a single wrench to a bolt, I checked the stability of each contender’s lower jaw (the part that moves when you adjust the wrench). A lower-quality wrench will wiggle from the get-go, but a good wrench will have a jaw that sits securely in the tool and connects solidly with the thumb turn with minimal movement. You’ll always see some play, but if the lower jaw can freely move up and down 1/16 of an inch, you’re not looking at a high-quality tool. Such looseness can prevent a tight grab and cause the tool to slip off the nut, which can round off and mar the edges in the process. When it comes to tool quality, it’s all about the shaping and machining of the metal, and the better tools simply have higher tolerances.

To test these tools, I spent a couple of days with each one doing a number of small around-the-house projects (both general maintenance tasks and as part of a larger renovation). I adjusted chair legs, attached training wheels, emptied and refilled my heating system, assembled a tricycle, put together some knockdown furniture, attached garden hoses, installed a radiator, set up a garden irrigation system, and tightened up some loose gate hardware. I also recruited Aaron Goff, a Boston-based carpenter, to spend an evening looking over the tools and testing each one on a variety of fasteners. Goff has been in the trades for about 13 years and is very particular about the quality of his tools—he has absolutely no patience for cheap gear that falls apart within a couple of years.

Our pick

The Channellock 8WCB WideAzz Adjustable Wrench.

The Channellock 8WCB WideAzz Adjustable Wrench.

Our pick
Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench
The Channellock 8WCB has the jaw capacity of a much larger wrench, plus smooth jaw adjustment and a comfortable, padded gripping area.
Of all the wrenches we tested, the Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench handles the most situations with the greatest comfort. The generous 1⅝-inch jaw capacity, usually found only on a 12-inch wrench, allows it to turn all but the most massive nuts and bolts. Since the jaws are not only the thinnest we’ve seen but also designed to the sharpest point, they can fit in tight spots where most others can’t. This Channellock model has a distinctive, padded handle that protects the hands in high-torque situations, as well. Overall the tool has a notably high-quality construction, evidenced by a smooth thumb turn and stability in the lower jaw. And both tool experts that I spoke with hold it in high regard.

The Channellock is one of the few wide-jaw wrenches available, meaning it has a maximum jaw opening of 1⅝ inches but measures only 8 inches long. This jaw capacity is about ½ inch larger than that of the typical 8-inch wrench and is a size usually associated with a 12-inch wrench, which has a much longer, bulkier handle. In practical terms, this design means that the Channellock can tighten everything from a teeny nut on a child’s toy all the way to a garden hose or a larger plumbing fixture, like those found near my boiler.

Of all the wrenches we tested, the Channellock had the easiest time grabbing the connections while still having room to turn.
The jaws of the Channellock are narrow and tapered to a point, giving them the ability to grip a nut in close quarters. Looking down at the top of the tool, the jaws start at ⅜ inch thick and taper to ¼ inch. Looking from the side, they have the slimmest profile and come to the sharpest point of any wrench in our test group. The connections on my garden irrigation manifold are all jammed together, making it difficult to use a wrench to tighten the hose ends, but of all the wrenches we tested, the Channellock had the easiest time grabbing the connections while still having room to turn. The Milwaukee and Bahco wide-jaws are similar in design to the Channellock, but neither competitor has such pointed ends. The Klein wide-jaw has more of a snub-nosed design, and in my tests it had difficulty getting into the tight space and finding a solid purchase on the fittings.

This is the Channellock tightening up one of the zones on my soaker hose manifold. The 1¼-inch hose fittings are too large for a standard 8-inch wrench, and with its thin, tapered jaws, the Channellock fit easily in the confined space.

This is the Channellock tightening up one of the zones on my soaker hose manifold. The 1¼-inch hose fittings are too large for a standard 8-inch wrench, and with its thin, tapered jaws, the Channellock fit easily in the confined space.

The handle on the Channellock is large and well padded, giving ample protection to the hands, particularly in high-torque situations such as trying to loosen a stuck bolt. The grip also has a good amount of texture, so your hand is unlikely to slip off while turning. The other wide-jaw wrenches either have a traditional dipped handle (Klein) or no padding at all (Milwaukee). The Bahco offers a comfortable padded handle, but in our tests that tool had other problems that took it out of contention, as described below.

As with the other wide-mouth wrenches, the overall quality of the Channellock is very high. The wrench has a nice weighty feel, and the lower jaw doesn’t have a tremendous amount of up-and-down wiggle to it, indicating a good-quality connection between it and the thumb turn. During adjustments, the jaw and thumb turn both move smoothly. We found that this wasn’t the case with most of the wrenches priced in the under-$20 range.

Unlike most Channellock tools, which are made in the US, this wrench is manufactured in Spain by a company called Irega. “Made to CHANNELLOCK specifications in Spain,” is what the Channellock website says. Irega makes nothing but adjustable wrenches; the products are very highly regarded and have a great reputation for quality.

Stuart Deutsch and Marc Lyman both like the Channellock Wide Azz. During our conversation Deutsch said, “Channellock’s Irega-made adjustable wrenches have become yardsticks to which I measure all other adjustable wrenches.”

Attaching training wheels with the Channellock.

Attaching training wheels with the Channellock.

In a 2009 post on ToolGuyd about his first experience using the Channellock, Deutsch notes that the wrench “had very little play in the jaw, was relatively smooth to operate, and felt robust and sturdy.”

In a post dated a year later, he refers to it as “by far my favorite [wrench] to use.” Three years after that, he includes it in his “Ultimate Tool Gift Guide,” writing, “Channellock’s made-in-Spain (by Irega) adjustable wrenches are our absolute favorites. The cushion handles are grippy and super comfortable, the adjustment mechanism is smooth and strong, and the jaws open wide without the wrench being too large or bulky.”

Lyman, who also likes the Channellock, told me that he “definitely likes the extra capacity that the Wide Azz brings.”

The tool has a stellar reputation among its Amazon purchasers, too, as it currently boasts a 4.8-star (out of five) rating across 162 reviews. The significance here is that the reviews come from a full range of people, from plumbers and HVAC workers to bike and RV enthusiasts to homeowners and DIYers. Throughout the reviews, one oft-repeated sentiment is “This is the best wrench I’ve ever used.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers

While we appreciate the Channellock’s padded handle–and judging from Deutsch’s comments and the user feedback at Amazon, most people would agree with us—we’ve seen some dissenting opinions on it, with Aaron Goff, our tester, really not liking it at all. I was a little skeptical at first, but as I worked with the tool, I got used to the handle and ended up quite fond of it. The handle is certainly larger than most, and even though it’s comfortable, it isn’t particularly form-fitting to the hand (like the Bacho grip). But at least one Amazon reviewer agrees with Goff: Douglas Goldberg, who works maintenance in a large building and gives the wrench a very positive review, notes in an update to the review that he ended up cutting the padded handle off.

So the majority opinion seems to regard the handle as a good thing, but we did encounter some dissent on the matter. If it’s something you think you won’t like, well, that’s what our next recommendation is for.

Runner-up

The Milwaukee 48-22-7508.

The Milwaukee 48-22-7508.

Also great
Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench
The Milwaukee 48-22-7508 has a wide jaw but lacks a padded handle, and the jaws are a hair thicker and a hair shorter, so it’s not as good in the tightest of spots.
If you prefer a more traditional handle or our pick is sold out, we also like the Milwaukee 48-22-7508 8-Inch Wide Jaw Adjustable Wrench. Like the Channellock, it has all the marks of a high-quality wrench, including a smooth thumb turn, very little wiggle in the lower jaw, and a nice, even balance in the hand. What it lacks is the padded handle and the extremely narrow, pointed jaws of our main pick. When it comes to the jaws, the differences are very slight, and most people would probably never notice, but if we were ever in a situation where every sixteenth of an inch counted, we’d prefer to have the Channellock over the Milwaukee. Lastly, the Milwaukee usually sells for a few dollars more than the Channellock.

Even with no padded handle, the Milwaukee wrench is extremely comfortable to hold. On tough, stuck nuts, it doesn’t offer the palm protection of the Channellock, but during regular use it fits the hand well, and the metal has a slight grainy texture.

One unique aspect of the Milwaukee is that the thumb turn makes contact with the lower jaw with five different threads; the Channellock has four. This design is supposed to give the Milwaukee added stability in the lower jaw, but in closely comparing the two, we couldn’t see any notable differences. Both are stable and precise.

Less capable, less expensive

The Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608.

The Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608.

Also great
Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench
The Irwin 2078608 is a well-built wrench that’s only half the price of our main pick currently, but it lacks the wide jaw capacity and is harder to use in tight spots.
If you just want a small, basic wrench and are looking to keep the investment to a minimum, we suggest the Irwin Vise-Grip 2078608 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench. The major drawback with the Irwin is that it isn’t a wide-mouth model. The jaws open to just over 1⅛ inches, so it should be able to do around-the-house jobs such as bike adjustment and furniture assembly, but it won’t be able to handle larger connections in a basement or to tighten a garden hose. It has a smooth thumb turn and hardly any wobble at all in the lower jaw, something we didn’t see in any other sub-$20 wrenches. But while we were impressed with the Irwin’s quality, we think you’d be better off with the Channellock in an emergency. It’s better to have the extra width and not need it than to not have it and need it.

Like the Channellock, the Irwin has a padded handle, but this one has an odd rectangular shape that we found comfortable and easy to hold. Even Aaron Goff, our tester, liked it quite a bit, proving that he’s not entirely opposed to padded handles.

A significant upgrade

The Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench.

The Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench.

Upgrade pick
Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench
Offering an elegant, unique design, the Pliers Wrench uses two handles to grab (rather than cradle) the nut; it works well for stuck bolts and eliminates any slippage.
If you’re really into your tools (and you’re willing to pay top dollar for the highest quality), we give a huge thumbs-up to the Knipex 86 05 180 Pliers Wrench. This tool is a bizarre yet wildly successful hybrid of a wrench and a pair of adjustable pliers. Because of its unique design, it grabs a nut with parallel gripping force, greatly reducing the chance of the tool slipping and increasing its effectiveness on beat-up, rounded-over fasteners. It has a jaw capacity of about 1⅜ inches, not as much as the Channellock but more than the Irwin. At more than $50 right now, it’s a pricey tool, certainly, but while we were testing it we quickly saw the value of its capabilities, not to mention its exceptional look and feel. In fact, across more than a decade of construction and tool reviews, the Pliers Wrench may be my all-time personal favorite.

Across more than a decade of construction and tool reviews, the Pliers Wrench may be my all-time personal favorite.

The body of the Pliers Wrench takes the form of a pair of adjustable pliers. The jaw size adjusts the same way, with a push-button mechanism that allows you to slide the lower jaw up and down a series of stops. But where the tool differs is in how the lower jaw moves in relation to the upper jaw once you squeeze the handles. On traditional pliers, the lower jaw moves off a pivot point, like an alligator’s mouth, but on the Pliers Wrench, the lower jaw always remains parallel to the upper jaw. To use the tool, you make the push-button adjustment to be a little larger than what you want to grab; then, when you squeeze the handles, the lower jaw clamps up toward the upper jaw but stays parallel to it the entire time.

The strange and phenomenal Knipex Pliers Wrench in action.

The strange and phenomenal Knipex Pliers Wrench in action.

As Knipex shows in this image, a traditional wrench doesn’t really grip the sides of a nut, instead catching the edges of the corners. Even with such nice tools as the Channellock, Milwaukee, and Irwin, this is the case. Because of the unusual mechanism of the Pliers Wrench, this model’s jaws clamp down on the entire side of the nut, grabbing the object with a truly parallel gripping force. The result is a near-zero chance of stripping or rounding over the edges of the nut, regardless of how stuck it is.

Another plus of this tool is that it makes quickly tightening or loosening a nut simple. Once you’ve made a turn, just release your grip a bit to open the jaws, reset the tool, and tighten again. It’s an easy rhythm to fall into, and one that makes for speedy work.

The one downside to the tool in comparison with a traditional wrench is that the handles can be tricky in tight spaces at times. Usually you can work the adjustment so that they are nearly closed when you grip; occasionally in our tests, however, this wasn’t possible, and we had to operate the tool with open handles.

On traditional pliers, the lower jaw moves off a pivot point, like an alligator’s mouth, but on the Pliers Wrench, the lower jaw always remains parallel to the upper jaw.

It’s also a high-end tool that comes with a high-end price, usually just over $50. The models with nonergonomic handles are a few bucks cheaper, but once you’ve decided to go in on a tool like this, getting the padded handles makes sense. Pricing fluctuates; the next size up, the 10-inch 86 05 250, is typically over $60, but at times it dips down under $55, at which point it’s a great value (the 10-inch model has a jaw capacity of about 1¾ inches).

The Pliers Wrench gets universal praise. In a ToolGuyd review entitled “The Amazing Knipex Pliers Wrench,” Stuart Deutsch writes that it “is an amazingly versatile tool that is unlike any other pliers or adjustable wrenches currently on the market.” Later in the piece Deutsch states, “My Knipex Pliers Wrenches are among my most valued tools. They really are as functional and practical as everyone raves.”

Ralph Fincher at Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, wrapping up his review, writes, “To summarize, the Knipex pliers wrench combines the best features of other tools, enabling one to grip and turn nuts and bolts with a single tool, and apply considerable squeezing pressure on objects without gouging or tooth marks.”

Long-term test notes

For the past three years, I’ve had our recommended wrenches in my toolbox and used them all quite a bit as I wrapped up a major home renovation and moved into a new place. The ones that I still reach for the most are the Channellock and the Knipex. When I originally wrote this guide, I still wasn’t 100 percent sold on the Channellock’s padded handle, but since then it has become one of my favorite features. If you have a stuck bolt, it really lets you lean into the wrench with little discomfort to your hand. And the Channellock’s slender nose has come in handy repeatedly as I’ve made many adjustments to my tightly packed heating system; the Channellock slips between the fittings while the other wrenches don’t even come close.

The competition

The Klein D509-8 Adjustable Wrench, Extra Wide Jaw was our previous runner-up, and it remains a very nice wrench. It differs from the Channellock and the Milwaukee in that it has stubbier, rounded jaws, so it has a harder time in tight spots such as an irrigation manifold. It also has a plastic-dipped handle, rather than a padded one. Like our Channelock pick, it’s an Irega-made product, and it’s of a similar high quality.

Channellock also sells the 8SWCB Xtra Slim Jaw WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench, which is nearly identical to our pick (the same handle, jaw width, and overall build quality) but equipped with thinner jaws that are only 3/16-inch thick (looking from the top of the wrench). The jaws give this tool a better reach in tight, constrained spaces (the jaws of our top pick start at a thickness of ⅜ inch and taper to ¼ inch at the points). It typically has a price tag of nearly $30, though, and we think it doesn’t offer enough of a benefit to justify an additional investment of $8 to $10.

The Bahco 9031 R US 8-inch wide mouth adjustable wrench is comfortable to hold, but the jaws are designed so that they are just out of parallel, with the tips slightly closer than the throat. This design causes them to lock on to the nut, preventing slippage that could result in possible hand injury. Unfortunately, it also means that, once you’ve tightened a nut, the wrench is nearly impossible to pull straight off. So if you’re doing more than one turn on a nut (and you almost always are), this feature becomes frustrating very quickly. Bahco’s design choice makes sense, though, seeing as the company manufactures tools for the industrial and mechanical trades, where high torque is necessary on a consistent basis and slippage is a constant reality.

Like its wide-mouth sibling, the Klein D507-8 Adjustable Wrench Extra Capacity is a very smooth, very nice tool. It has a slightly larger jaw than the Irwin 2078608, coming in at about 1¼ inches. But at over $20 right now, it’s priced on the high side in comparison with some of the other tools we looked at. If you’re already at the $20 mark, you might as well kick in another five bucks or so and get the Channellock Wide Azz with the larger jaw capability.

The Stanley 90-948 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench sits in the same price range as the Irwin but lacks the same level of finish. The thumb turn has a grainy feel, and the lower jaw wobbles back and forth and up and down more than that of any of the other wrenches we tried. At ToolGuyd, Stuart Deutsch writes that the 6-inch version of this tool is his second-favorite wrench (behind the Channellock). The sizes may have manufacturing differences, though, because the movement on the lower jaw of the 8-incher is too significant to ignore.

In our tests, the ratcheting adjustable wrenches were all too bulky and clunky (with limited jaw openings) to make the grade as someone’s primary wrench. Of the three ratcheting models we tested, the Stanley FMHT72184 FatMax Ratcheting 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench was the most successful, but it was still fussy due to its oddly shaped handle, locking mechanism, and difficult thumb turn.

The Crescent ATR28 8-Inch Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench has the same mechanism as the Stanley, but the plastic handle feels brittle.

The ratcheting adjustment of the Bostitch 99-079 8-Inch Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench was the easiest to use in our tests, but to change direction on the ratchet you need to flip the wrench over, and you don’t always have room for that.

The Stanley 85-610 10-Inch MaxGrip Locking Adjustable Wrench is a cross between an adjustable wrench and a set of locking pliers (aka Vise-Grips, a registered trademark). The thumb-turn adjustment makes the jaw snug, and then the lever that runs the length of the handle locks the jaw tight. A second, smaller lever unlocks the jaw. It’s a cool setup, and it’s useful if you’re constantly coming up against stuck bolts, but the smallest size this wrench comes in is 10 inches, and the max jaw width is not even 1¼ inches.

The Craftsman 8-Inch Max Axess Locking Wrench and Loggerhead’s very similar Bionic Wrench (which we didn’t test)1 are not versatile enough to be the lone wrench in a toolbox. The head of the tool has a circular hole that you place around the nut; when you close the handles, a series of metal studs extend into the hole and grip the nut from all sides. We liked how this tool gripped in a clamping fashion, similar to the Knipex Pliers Wrench, but it was much more awkward to maneuver. Because this tool design completely surrounds a nut, you’ll have times when you can’t use it, such as if you need to tighten a connection on an existing pipe or hose.

Loggerhead’s Bionic Grip has an open-mouth design like a traditional wrench, but it maxes out at a width of ¾ inch and is really only for smaller tasks.

The Kobalt Magnum Grip Pliers have auto-adjusting jaws with a maximum opening of about 1¼ inches. The jaws of the tool have serrated teeth, but they come with little rubbery covers (that don’t fit very well) to simulate smooth jaws. Once you close the handles, it’s hard to tell when you’ve got a good grab on a nut, because of the amount of cushion in the jaw mechanism. Overall, this model has a cheap feel. It’s just not a very good tool.

(Photos by Doug Mahoney.)

Footnotes:

1. At the time of this article’s original publication, there were ongoing legal issues between Loggerhead Tools (the maker of the Bionic Wrench) and Craftsman (the maker of the Max Axess Locking Wrench). Basically, Loggerhead is accusing Craftsman of copyright violation. The most nuanced account of the whole episode is this one by Stuart Deutsch at ToolGuyd. A few days after Deutsch’s post appeared, Sears (Craftsman) released this statement regarding the Max Axess. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Marc Lyman, Editor of HomeFixated, interview
  2. Stuart Deutsch, Editor of ToolGuyd.com, interview
  3. Stuart, Channellock’s Wide Adjustable Wrenches, ToolGuyd, July 14, 2009
  4. Stuart, Your Go-To Adjustable Wrench?, ToolGuyd, August 24, 2010
  5. Stuart, Ultimate Tool Gift Guide, ToolGuyd, December 8, 2013
  6. Stuart, The Amazing Knipex Pliers Wrench, ToolGuyd, August 28, 2014
  7. Ralph Fincher, Knipex Pliers Wrenches, Cool Tools, October 27, 2010
  8. Douglas Goldberg, Amazon customer review for Channellock 8WCB WideAzz 8-Inch Adjustable Wrench, Amazon, October 11, 2012

Originally published: July 8, 2016

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