Allen wrenches are useful for a wide variety of common tasks. Working on vehicles, assembling furniture and repairing electronics, to name a few. And the cheap wrenches that come with items requiring assembly are not nearly as useful as a quality wrench set. Whether you consider yourself a hobbyist or just want to do repairs yourself, find out why you need your own Allen wrench set.
Use Allen Wrenches With Hexagonal Sockets
Hexagonally socketed hardware requires an Allen wrench, also known as a hex key. This socket design, patented back in the 19th century, began being mass-produced by the Allen Manufacturing Company in 1943 for bicycles and motorcycle engines. Today, fasteners with hexagonal sockets remain common on bikes and motorcycles and are also used in automotives, electronics, ready-to-assemble furniture and heavy tools. They are particularly useful in difficult-to-access places, as the small tool can be maneuvered in tight spaces and inserted in the fastener without looking.
There are more reasons than ever to have a tool set that includes a wide size range of Allen wrenches. Some sizes are more commonly used than others, but having access to a full range of wrenches provides you with tools to tighten or loosen almost any hex bolt or screw. Different Allen wrench types, such as L-style, T-handle, P-handle, ball hex and folding wrenches, are useful for different applications.
Assemble Furniture With an Allen Wrench Set
Most self-assembly furniture designed with hex bolts or screws comes with a disposable hex key. These cheap tools are designed for a single use. While many people keep these wrenches on hand to adjust the fasteners on various pieces of furniture, even a standard-sized Allen wrench does not provide a universal fit.
You can put together practically any piece of DIY furniture with a set of Allen wrenches. Even if a piece of furniture comes with one, a high-quality wrench or specialized tools such as a T-handled model with a long design, wrenches with extended arms or designs with ball ends or chamfered edges can make assembly tasks more comfortable, quick and easy to complete.
Work on Your Ride With Allen Wrenches
The T-handled type of Allen wrench is most commonly used in motorsports applications. This tool has a long T-shaped handle that can be spun quickly to generate more torque. Ratcheting drivers and Allen screwdrivers are similar types of tools that are particularly useful for working on cars.
When you use Allen wrenches for auto repair, you should select a set that includes the most common sizes. Here are the most common socket and wrench sizes for vehicles, as determined by the Society of Automobile Engineers:
For DIY bicycle repairs, you may prefer the portability of a folding hex key that encloses the wrench in the handle of the tool. Fold this tool out at a 90-degree angle to achieve maximum torque.
Use Hex Keys To Fix Electronics and Heavy Tools
Many electronics use hex fasteners because the compact design maintains the sleek profile of devices. Torque wrenches are the main type of Allen wrench tool used by electricians and device repair specialists. A torque wrench is suitable for delicate components but is not a replacement for Allen wrenches designed for heavy-duty applications. Handheld manual hex keys made for electronics can also be useful for other light-duty applications.
Torque wrenches often have useful features such as buzzers, lights or vibrating handles that alert operators as a fastener approaches and reaches the target torque. These smart tools may measure torques in Newton-metres, foot-pounds, inch-pounds, kilogram-force meters or kilogram-centimeters.
Equip a Power Drill With Insert Bits and Allen Drivers
Torque wrenches are not the only way to power the use of an Allen wrench. You can also attach insert bits or Allen drivers to a corded or cordless power drill or driver. Manual hand tools can have the advantages of small size and maneuverability when you need to access bolts and tools in tight spaces. However, if access is not a consideration and you want to work quickly, you can use a power tool. As with manual hex key sets, having bits or drivers in a range of sizes can be useful.
Keep in mind that there are some applications in which you need to exercise caution to avoid over-tightening hex fasteners or in which it is not possible to hold a power tool at the proper angle to tighten or loosen hardware. For this reason, you should also have hand tools in a full range of sizes.
Have the Right Allen Wrench for Any Task
While you could try to borrow an Allen wrench of the right size in a pinch or buy a single wrench in a size that has limited applications, you can save yourself time right now and potentially also save money in the long run by investing in a durable and high-quality Allen wrench set.
You should be aware that fractional and metric wrenches are not interchangeable. Never force an SAE Allen wrench onto a bolt or screw that is sized for a metric wrench. Most DIY experts recommend buying both imperial and metric wrench sets. It is important to keep your wrench collection organized so that you are able to find the exact tool you need to complete any task.
Select the Best Set of Allen Wrenches
Gear up for any task by getting an Allen wrench set that includes a full range of wrench sizes. Most of these tools are made of carbon steel. Higher-quality tools may contain nickel or have a black oxide coating to resist rust. You can also find premium wrenches made of chrome vanadium or chrome-molybdenum steel.
Though you can pick up a limited wrench set that includes the right types and sizes of tools for particular tasks, a set that has a wide range of wrench sizes can be useful for applications that you might not anticipate. Rather than being the guy who always needs to borrow or buy tools in the middle of a project, investing in a larger set of Allen wrenches ensures that you always have the right tools on hand.