Best Wrench Set For 2017 … Whether You’re a DIY’er or a Pro Mechanic
Buying your first wrench set (or any wrench set for that matter) is almost like a rite of passage - the bread to any true DIY’ers butter, so to speak.
Most average folks will simply go out and buy the most inexpensive set of combination wrenches they can find at their local hardware store, but before you jump the gun on anything too quickly, there are several things worth considering when it comes to investing in these all-too-important tools.
Wrenches, after all, are something that should last you a lifetime - the only time you ought to have to buy more is if you a) lose some, b) need a different size, or c) need something super unique or specialized (like an offset brake bleeder wrench).
Quick Look: Top Wrenches
Product Summaries: Top 4 Picks for the Best Wrenches and Best Combination Wrench Sets
The 20-piece GearWrench Combination wrench set gets our #1 pick for the best overall, entry-level wrench set.
These wrenches include all the popular SAE and metric sizes, so the set should cover just about any normal job you might have to do on your car or around the house. If you’re looking to invest in one wrench set to cover all your needs, go with this one.
If you’re a penny-pincher and you’re looking for the cheapest wrench set out there, the GRIP SAE/Metric Combo Set is actually a really well-reviewed product, and is an incredible value at under $30.
Moreover, the set actually comes with more wrenches (24) than the GearWrench set, with a couple of the more odd sizes that you very likely may need one day.
If you’re looking for the finest quality wrenches available, the Williams Supercombo MWS-18 line (by Snap-On) pretty much represents the golden standard, and unquestionably gets our pick for the #1 USA-made performance wrenches.
If you’re the type who accepts nothing less than the best in quality (and/or if money is of concern for you), you’ll definitely want to go with these.
(The Craftsman Professional line used to be made in the USA and were the go-to choice for standard wrench sets, but they’ve since outsourced most of their manufacturing. However you can still find some of their ‘new old stock’ USA-made stuff on Amazon for good prices, like this Craftsman 9-piece set for under 40 bucks).
And finally, if you’re looking for an inexpensive gift or something to keep in your car, truck, or boat for emergencies, the 22-piece SYM Tools SAE/Metric Combo set costs around $20, and gets our pick for the best portable/emergency wrench set.
Reviews of the Best Wrench Set and Combination Wrenches
Top Overall Pick: 20-piece GearWrench Combination wrench set
Like we mentioned, if you’re looking for that one set to get your DIY tool collection kicked off, this is the one we recommend investing in.
The 20-piece set has been one of the most popular buys for years now, and consistently receives top-notch reviews and great consumer feedback. We wouldn’t be surprised at all to find a set or two of these laying around a professional mechanic's shop.
One of the things you want to look for in a quality combination wrench is good balance and a comfortable grip, and tons of folks out there rave that these are far superior to Craftsman’s entry-level set in terms of performance and user-friendliness.
Moreover, the slim head shank helps you get into frustratingly-tight and awkward-to-reach places, which is a godsend when it comes to doing even the simplest of automotive work.
Things we liked:
Best overall value for what you get; well under $100 for a complete combination wrench set
Slim shanks make for comfortable use and allow you to get into tight spots
The 12-point box end side of the wrenches are ratcheting, which is an incredibly convenient feature over non-ratcheting wrenches
Things we didn’t like:
The set comes with 99% of the standard metric and SAE sizes that you’ll need, but we DID NOT like the fact that it skipped the 11mm metric size
Made in China (but then again, what’s not made in China nowadays…)
Best Cheap Wrench Set: GRIP SAE/Metric 24-piece Combo Set
The more we think about it, the more we realize what a value this 24-piece metric/SAE set is. Under $30 (including free shipping) for an all-inclusive combination wrench set? Unless they’re made out of paper mâché or something, you can’t go wrong with that.
The wrenches themselves are precision-machined and made of drop forged, heat-treated alloy steel, so if you’re worried about them not being well-made, don’t be.
The only difference you’ll notice is that instead of lasting a lifetime like the GearWrench set, they may only last ten years or so (or less), depending on how much you use them and/or what sort of climate/environment they’re stored in.
Things we liked
Come with more wrenches than the GearWrench set, and include all the standard SAE and metric sizes you’ll need (including that 11mm that’s non-existent in the GearWrench set)
Comes with a convenient roll-up / hangable storage case
Things we didn’t like
They aren’t the prettiest wrenches in the world - you’ll notice some knicks and rough edges here and there
Box end sides of the wrenches are non-ratcheting, unlike the GearWrench set
Best Performance/Made in the USA Wrenches: Williams Supercombo 18-piece set
Like we were talking about earlier, Williams wrenches are manufactured by the highly-coveted Snap-On Industrial Group, which is more or less the holy grail when it comes to pro-quality mechanic/automotive tools.
When you watch a pit crew zipping around and wrenching on a million dollar Indy or NASCAR race machine, more likely than not they’re using Snap-On tools.
But what makes them so much more expensive than our other top picks?
It ultimately comes down to materials, fit, and finish. These are made of 100% high-polish chrome, with rounded edges for the best and most comfortable grip possible, even when torquing down with all your strength.
Also, the Supercombo and Supertorque design features incorporate specially designed grooves in the open and box ends of the wrenches, which direct forces away from fastener corners and improving torque loads without rounding or deforming the fastener head.
Things we liked
Unrivaled USA-made quality
Lifetime Snap-On/Williams warranty
Most comfortable, powerful, and durable wrenches on the market
Things we didn’t like
Unless you’ve got a money tree growing in your backyard, these will put a serious dent in your wallet
Only the Williams ‘Supercombo’ wrenches are made in the USA - they also manufacture lower-quality satin chrome sets that are made in Taiwan
Best Emergency Wrenches for Keeping in your Car: 22-piece SYM SAE/Metric Combo set
It’s a great idea to keep a spare set of wrenches in your car, truck, or boat, and most folks don’t want to spend as much on an emergency/portable set as they do on their permanent garage set.
Taking that into consideration, the 22-piece SYM Tools SAE/metric combo set is an inexpensive option that’ll be your best bet for backup/emergency situations.
Most people like this particular set because they come snugly-fit in a durable plastic transport case, which is perfect for keeping them organized in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck.
Also, the 22-piece set should include all the standard metric and standard sizes that you’ll need for any emergency situation.
Things we liked
Very inexpensive option for a complete set of wrenches
Durable and convenient case/storage box to keep all 22 wrenches secure and organized
Chrome-plated finish on top of drop-forged steel - people are surprised at how good of quality they are
Things we didn’t like
We didn’t see any warranty information to speak of
Other Things to Consider when Looking to Purchase the Best Wrench Set
A quality wrench set should be able to check off two main things:
1) It should be durable and well-built (you should never have to worry about breaking a wrench)
and 2) It should include all the standard (SAE) and metric sizes (you do NOT want to be in the middle of a job and realize you don’t have the size you need)
All things considered, one thing you’ll want to avoid when buying a wrench set is getting poorly-made stuff that you’ll have to replace in a couple years.
A standard combination wrench set is a relatively inexpensive investment (compared to something like a table saw), so make sure you buy right the first time and get yourself something that’ll last the rest of your life (and hopefully beyond).
(Also, keep in mind that this article only considers combination wrenches - socket wrenches are a whole other ballgame (you definitely need both) that we’ll talk about in a separate article).
A combination wrench simply means that the wrench is open on one end, and is box end on the other.
Another thing to be aware of is that combination wrench sets come in either 6 or 12-point box-end configurations. 12-point wrenches are the standard for general use, but for heavy duty stuff (like disassembling a transmission or exhaust system) you’ll want to use 6-point.
6-point wrenches are better suited for higher torque loads because they have thicker walls and are less likely to flex under extreme force. Also, they make contact with and distribute torque on the flat sides of the fastener head (as opposed to the corners), which drastically reduces instances of stripping and/or rounding.
Conclusion / Bottom Line
All in all, if you’re looking for that one wrench set to get your DIY tool collection kicked off, we recommend going with our #1 overall pick - the 20-piece GearWrench Combination set.
These wrenches are good quality without being super expensive, they come with a lifetime warranty, and most importantly, the set includes all the standard metric and SAE sizes that’ll take care of all but the most specialized of fasteners.
A great set of wrenches that you’ll use for the rest of your life.