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9 Best Spanner Wrenches

Got some nuts and bolts to turn or some pipe fittings to loosen? Here's a list of some of the best spanners and adjustable wrenches.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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For a simple, essential tool, a spanner wrench generates a fair amount of controversy, because there’s no consensus about what it actually is.

For some, only the familiar open-ended wrench (adjustable or not) that fits snugly onto square and hexagonal fasteners qualifies as a spanner wrench. Some people consider a box wrench, which fits entirely around the head, to be a type of spanner; they call it a ring spanner. Others consider pipe wrenches and basin wrenches to be types of adjustable spanner wrenches.

When shopping for spanner wrenches, keep a broad definition in mind to be sure you find a tool that does what you want it to do.

Buying a Spanner Wrench

If you need to turn a pipe or pipe fitting, you need a pipe wrench. If it’s a nut or bolt, a non-adjustable open- or closed-ended wrench that fits exactly will do it best.

However, if you want one tool that can do the job of a whole collection of these fitted wrenches, go for an adjustable spanner. A high-quality one, made with vanadium steel, is almost as reliable, and it’s a lot more convenient.

Ring spanners, AKA box wrenches, work better than open-ended wrenches because they grip more tightly and are easier to manipulate in tight places, like car engines. Combination spanners have an open-ended spanner on one end and a ring spanner on the other.

No adjustable spanner can match a ring spanner’s grip, so for maximum flexibility and torquing power, nothing beats a complete set of combination spanners. Add ratcheting action for the ultimate in usability.

When shopping for spanners, look for these characteristics:

  • Material: If you’re doing auto repair or anything heavy-duty, walk right on past the steel alloy tools with chrome coatings. They often fit sloppily, and the steel tends to compress and slip when you torque down on a stuck fastener. Choose a tool made of chrome vanadium or titanium.
  • Cushion grip: If you’re looking for an adjustable spanner, get one with a rubber grip. It’s easier to hold and safer to use in situations where electrical connections are involved.
  • Size: Utility non-adjustable spanners often come in sets that include only the most-used widths, but many fasteners are non-standard sizes. The more wrenches in a set, the more likely it has the size you need. If you’re shopping for an adjustable spanner, make sure the jaws open wide enough for your purposes.
  • Adjustability: Make sure the adjustment screw is easy to turn and the jaws respond immediately. There can be a lot of play in lower quality models that makes it difficult to lock the wrench tightly onto a fastener.
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Best Combination Spanner Set

The Efficere Master Combination Wrench Set includes 24 open-end/ring spanner combo wrenches, all made from drop-forged vanadium steel. They’re bundled neatly in a convenient fold-up carrying case that takes up minimum space in a toolbox or drawer.

The set includes Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) sizes from 1/4- to 1-inch, graduated in increments of 1/16-in. and metric sizes from 8- to 24-mm. That’s generally every size you need for around the house, in the garage or in the workshop.

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Best Ratcheting Spanner Set

Adding ratcheting action to the ring spanner end of a combination wrench makes the tool as easy to use as a socket wrench. No lifting the wrench to re-position it. Just swing the handle back and forth to tighten or loosen any fastener.

The ToolGuards 26-Piece Ratcheting Wrench Set provides all the sizes (both metric and SAE) you need for most around-the-house and shop work. The slim design allows better access to tight spaces, and the chrome-vanadium construction means the set will last for years.

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Best Flex-Head Ratcheting Spanner Set

Flex heads can tilt up to 90 degrees, letting you reach ring spanners that have them into awkward spaces in car engines and other machinery. You don’t always need this functionality, but even when you don’t, these wrenches perform as capably as their non-flex counterparts.

The Prostormer 20-Piece Ratcheting Wrench Set is one of the only sets to include both SAE and metric sizes. Each tool is manufactured from chrome vanadium steel, with box and open ends for maximum utility,

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Best Utility Adjustable Spanner

If you’re looking for the one wrench to rule them all, you can’t do much better than the Irwin Vise-Grip Adjustable Wrench Set.

This tool offers everything you need in an adjustable wrench. It’s sturdy and easy to hold, with jaws precisely ground for a tight fit. The jaws even feature a scale that allows you to adjust them before you reach into a tight place with limited visibility.

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Channellock 8 Inch Wideazz Adjustable Wrench Ecomm Via Amazonvia merchant

Best Adjustable Spanner for Car Repair

Three features of the Channelock WideAzz Adjustable Wrench make it the one to pick when you’re working on your vehicle. Extra-long jaws taper to a point for better clearance, and they open to a full 1-1/2-inches.

Made of chrome vanadium, it features a comfort grip with a handle that’s short relative to the jaw width so you can swing it past obstructions.

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Best Adjustable Spanner for Plumbers

The Proferred Plumbing Adjustable Wrench has a jaw width of 2.44 inches, which the manufacturer claims is 55 percent wider than traditional wrenches. Plumbers need the extra width to grip plumbing fittings and large nuts.

The throat is 30 percent deeper than most other spanners. The tool comes with an 8-, 10- or 12-in. handle, depending on whether you need better clearance or more torquing leverage. Made of carbon steel, it isn’t sturdy enough for industrial work, but its lightweight construction is perfect for plumbing jobs.

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Best Monkey Wrench

The term “monkey wrench” has meant different things over the years, but today it generally refers to an adjustable spanner with thin jaws. These wrenches allow you to turn fasteners and otherwise “monkey around” in close spaces inside car engines and HVAC equipment.

The jaws of the Bahco Slim Jaw Adjustable Wrench are 45 percent thinner than standard jaws. The precision adjustment scale allows for tight fits, and the thermoplastic coated handle reduces electrical risks when working inside HVAC or automotive systems.

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crescent adjusting wrench

Best Pipe Wrench

A pipe wrench is technically a spanner with jaws that extend perpendicular to the handle. The jaws have serrations to grip smooth-walled pipes, so a pipe wrench is an indispensable plumbing tool.

We like the Crescent 12-Inch Self-Adjusting Pipe Wrench because it eliminates the fuss of turning an adjustment screw. The jaws open to a maximum width of 1-1/2-in. and automatically lock down when you torque on the handle. It’s a notable improvement over the original pipe wrench design.

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Best Basin Wrench

A basin wrench is for hard-to-reach faucet connectors and other fasteners located behind sink basins where traditional spanners can’t go. It has locking jaws (like the Crescent pipe wrench mentioned above) that pivot on the end of a long handle with a T-bar.

You don’t use a basin wrench often so you don’t want to spend a lot, and the reasonably priced General Tools Telescoping Basin Wrench has all you need. It’s lightweight with adjustable length, and its two-inch capacity suits most purposes.

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Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been active in the building trades for more than 30 years. He helped build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up and helped establish two landscaping companies. He has worked as a carpenter, plumber and furniture refinisher. Deziel has been writing DIY articles since 2010 and has worked as an online consultant, most recently with Home Depot's Pro Referral service. His work has been published on Landlordology, and Hunker. Deziel has also published science content and is an avid musician.