Water pump pliers or channel lock pliers are great for gripping and twisting round fasteners. However, they don’t do a better job than pliers wrench on hex nuts and bolts.
I use channel locks quite a lot in the garage and on DIY projects to tightly grasp and twist round objects. Unfortunately, the serrated jaws of these pliers tend to mar surfaces or round off bolts and nuts when the jaws are squeezed too hard. This makes them unsuitable for removing hex fasteners or working on delicate surfaces such as plated gas pipes. That’s where pliers wrenches come in handy.
What is a Pliers Wrench?
A pliers wrench is a type of adjustable pliers that combines the features of water pump pliers and an adjustable wrench. 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. Some brands such as the knipex pliers wrench have a locking mechanism that enables them to maintain the grip on an object, even after releasing pressure on the handles.
Thirdly, a pliers wrench provides full contact grip and uniform compression on a flat surface or hex-shaped object to prevent damage and backlash under pressure.
Unfortunately, wrench pliers are just as limited as adjustable wrenches in that you can only use them effectively on flat surfaces. In other words, you cannot use a pliers wrench to grasp curved surfaces such as pipes or severely rounded nuts.
Can Pliers Wrench Replace Adjustable Wrench?
A common question people ask is if regular pliers can replace a wrench. And the simple answer is “No”.
Regular 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.
But what about a plier wrench? Can it replace an adjustable wrench? The simple answer is Yes! IMO, pliers wrenches are far more effective and versatile than an adjustable wrenches.
Pliers wrench vs Adjustable wrench
Unlike adjustable wrenches or spanners, pliers wrenches provide even compression on objects to avoid surface damage. They are also easy to operate with one hand and easy to adjust.
Since the day I started using the Knipex pliers wrench, I have not turned back. These pliers are excellent and versatile. They grip tightly and don’t slip or round off the corners of fasteners like my crescent 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Best Pliers Wrenches
Some of the top-of-the-line wrench pliers on the market include: