Flare-Nut vs Regular Wrench: What to Choose?
We think everybody knows what a wrench is. If you’ve ever had to change the wheel on your child’s bike (or your own), then you’ve more than likely already used a wrench. A simple wrench comes with two straight jaws with a slightly rounded middle between the jaws. The distance between the jaws indicates the size of the wrench.
What does a Wrench do?
What, do you live under a rock or something? For the minority of you indeed live underground and have never seen or heard of a wrench before in your life, the tool is used by slipping it around a nut you want to tighten or loosen. If the nut is rusted and seized, even praying to the gods of tools won’t help you break it, and you’ll probably end up stripping the edges of the nut.
Disadvantages of Regular Wrenches
From our past experiences and those of others, there are many more disadvantages to a regular wrench than there are benefits. First of all, the grip around a nut is weak at best, and extremely horrendous at most. You’re more likely going to injure your hand by banging it against another hard surface than you are loosening that darned nut.
One of the only ways you’re going to be able to break seized nuts is if the wrench is extremely long. A longer handle gives you more leverage to release the nut’s demon-like grasp around the bolt. However, this also means the wrench won’t be able to fit in tight spaces like under the hood of a car.
An adjustable spanner is a type of wrench with adjustable jaws. Even though this lets you use one wrench for dealing with nuts of practically all sizes, it doesn’t provide a better grip. The same disadvantages in regular wrenches also apply to an adjustable spanner.
What about Box-End Wrenches?
There have been upgrades to the wrench, one of them being the box-end wrench. This wrench has sides opposed to the two of a regular wrench. It was designed to eliminate much of the gripping and slipping problems that a two-jaw wrench normally had to deal with. A box-end wrench has a closed end which wraps completely around the nut, giving it a tight grip and giving you better leverage.
However, it’s not always the most practical tool to use. For instance, working under the hood of your car where you need to loosen nuts to replace hoses can be a pain since the box-end wrench wraps around it completely. Also, nuts used for plumbing purposes are made of softer metals and can strip easily when using one of these tools. A regular wrench is at one extreme (too weak a grip) while the box-end is at the other end of the spectrum (too powerful).
A flare-nut wrench solves many of the problems that regular and box-end wrenches have. Instead of having two or six sides, it has five. This is possible due to one of the sides – the one farthest away from the handle – is completely open.
This is a tool that you’ve probably seen in your dad’s toolbox but never knew the purpose of. Many people, the childhood versions of us included, assume that a flare-nut wrench is a broken box-end wrench since it has an open end. In fact, for all intents and purposes, that’s basically what it is.
Flare-nut wrenches are used more for special tasks such as loosening nuts to replace hoses as mentioned above. The open end allows you to slip the hose through it easily and securely. It also provides a powerful grip around all types of nuts – soft or hard – while reducing the risk of stripping it. Plumbers can definitely find value in owning one of these babies.
Disadvantages of Flare-Nut Wrenches
There is one tremendous issue with flare-nut wrenches: its durability. Each side of the flare-nut wrench’s jaws is considerably thinner than those on a regular wrench. This significantly weakens the strength of the jaws, meaning that if you were to attempt to break a seized nut, the wrench’s jaws would have a higher likelihood of snapping before the nut moves a nanometer. This, unfortunately, means that the snapped jaw could go flying around your shop and lodge itself into places you don’t want it, e.g., your eye socket.
Another disadvantage of a flare-nut wrench is its overall usability. There aren’t many jobs where it’s the precise tool to use. Loosening nuts on your bike or pieces of furniture won’t really call for the use of a flare-nut wrench since an ordinary wrench will suit the job just fine. Simply put, there are extremely specific jobs where a flare-nut wrench would shine; for everything else, a regular wrench will suffice.
Flare-Nut vs. Regular Wrench: Which Should I Get?
If cost is an issue, then you have nothing to worry about. The cost of a regular wrench is just about the same as a flare-nut wrench. The main thing to consider is how you can utilize each of the tools.
If we were to recommend one over the other, we’d say that hands down, a regular wrench would be the more valuable tool. The flare-nut wrench is a little too specific for our tastes, and as people who have a one-tool-does-all-or-at-least-most ideology, we’d go with a normal wrench over its flared counterpart any day of the week.
This isn’t to say that the flare-nut wrench is a bad tool to own or if you have one that you ABSOLUTELY MUST be a plumber or professional mechanic. However, if you do find yourself doing more work on your car or fixing pipes, you’ll be glad that you have one of these tools into your toolbox. It never hurts to have a flare-nut wrench on hand for when it’s needed, no matter how scarcely you’ll actually use it.
Whichever tool you decide to get, just know that the possibility of injuring your knuckles due to the wrench slipping exists in both tools.