What is a pliers wrench and why you need it

If you thought an adjustable wrench is irreplaceable, you have not tried a pliers wrench. It works both as an adjustable spanner and pliers. Find out more about it in this article.

Water pump pliers or tongue-and-groove pliers have multiple uses including gripping and twisting fasteners such as nuts and bolts. I use them quite a lot in the garage and on DIY projects to grasp objects tightly and turn. Unfortunately, the serrated jaws of the pliers tend to mar surfaces or round off bolts and nuts when the jaws are squeezed hard. This makes the water pump pliers unsuitable for working on delicate surfaces such as plated gas pipes and removing tight fasteners. That’s where pliers wrench come in handy. They are far more effective and versatile than an adjustable wrench. Read on to find out more.

What is a pliers wrench

knipex pliers wrench
Knipex pliers wrench

A pliers wrench is a type of adjustable pliers that works both as a pliers and wrench. It looks similar to the water pump pliers or adjustable spanner but has some significant differences. First, it has smooth parallel jaws just like an adjustable spanner. In contrast, water pump pliers have curved grooved jaws.

Secondly, wrench pliers have a self-ratcheting action, making them faster and easier to operate than pipe wrench pliers or adjustable wrench.

Thirdly, they provide full contact griping and even compression on an object to prevent damage and backlash under pressure.

However, the wrench pliers are just as limited as an adjustable wrench in that you can only use them effectively on flat surfaces. This means that you cannot use them to grasp curved surfaces such as pipes.

Can pliers wrench replace the adjustable wrench

A common question people ask if pliers can replace a wrench. And the simple answer is “not always”. Sometimes pliers can do more harm than good. For example, the serrated jaws of regular pliers can mar the surface of delicate surfaces. Other times, the jaws can slip and round off nuts and bolt heads. Also, general-purpose pliers don’t always provide a firm grip on fasteners like boxed wrenches do. But wrench pliers are excellent. They do a better job than adjustable wrenches with their parallel jaws that provide a firm grip on fasteners.

Pliers wrench vs adjustable wrench

Unlike spanners, wrench pliers provide even compression on objects to avoid surface damage. They are also easy to operate with one hand and easy to adjust. Since I started using the Knipex pliers wrench, I have not turned back. The pliers are excellent and versatile. They grip tightly and don’t slip or round off the corners of fasteners like the adjustable wrench does sometimes.

Features of a good pliers wrench

Different brands of wrench pliers have unique features but a good one must have the following features.

Slim profile

Good wrench pliers must have a slim profile design for fitting tight spaces. This is very important, especially because most spanners have wide jaws that hardly fit small spaces.

Parallel jaws

The signature feature of pliers wrenches is the parallel smooth jaws. The jaws must remain parallel even when you adjust them to ensure even pressure on an object in whatever position. Otherwise,  if the jaws do not remain parallel, they can pinch and damage a surface especially the sensitive surfaces.

Self-ratcheting action

The self-ratcheting action is one of the things that set apart a pliers wrench from an adjustable wrench. Any wrench pliers worth its name must allow you to ratchet a fastener when tightening or untightening.

In other words, a good pliers wrench must engage in one direction and disengage in the other so that you don’t have to manually withdraw the jaws from the fastener as you do with an adjustable wrench.

Multiple adjustment positions

A pliers wrench must have multiple adjustment positions for a wide range of gripping positions. The adjustment mechanism allows you to open the jaws to grip different sizes of objects. It should be easy to adjust and the jaws should stay fixed for repetitive work.  

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