How To Properly Use A Pipe Wrench? (Solved!)

The purpose of a pipe wrench is to grip and turn a soft pipe or fixture. Failure to properly use wrenches can result in serious injury. It is important to mount the pipe wrench correctly on the workpiece.

When using a pipe wrench, be sure to center the workpiece in the “v” of the hook. If the workpiece is not in contact with both sides of the “v”, it can reduce wrench gripping action and may result in failure of the hook.

To center the upper and lower jaw of the pipe wrench on the pipe making sure not to let the pipe touch the back of the upper adjustable jaw.

Once you have the pipe centered between the jaws, tighten the upper jaw down until a firm grip is accomplished and the teeth from both the upper and lower jaw are biting into the pipe. You’ll want to check for a firm nonslipping grip before you begin any work. Now you can tighten or loosen the pipe or fixture as needed.

The basics of operating a pipe wrench:

  • Place the wrench on the pipe so that the mouth of the jaw is facing the direction that you want to turn the pipe (see above).
  • Make sure the pipe is centered in the jaws
  • Adjust the jaw by turning the nut so that it fits the pipe snugly.
  • Pull or push the pipe wrench in the direction you want the pipe to turn.

What is a Pipe Wrench?

Pipe Wrench is a hand tool designed to turn pipe and tighten and loosen threaded pipe connections with round threaded fittings. Pipe wrenches are available in a variety of configurations, including ductile iron or aluminum handle versions.

Wrench Parts
Wrench Parts

Most often, pipe wrenches are used on threaded pipe, usually galvanized steel, black iron or similar metal pipes. A pipe wrench has two serrated jaws that are tightened and dig into the pipe for grip. The top serrated jaw adjusts up and down to fit different size pipes.

How To Choose The Correct Pipe Wrench?

Pipe wrenches come in different sizes, which are normally stamped right on the wrench handle. They are adjustable wrenches and there are guidelines on which size wrench is needed for specific diameter pipes and fittings.

12″-14″ is the most useful size. The lowes and HD have store-brand ones that are reasonably priced.

You typically want wrenches in pairs. holding a fitting and spinning a pipe is a very common activities.

Always use the correct pipe wrench. Pipe wrenches are available in a number of different styles and sizes particular to the job they are designed for below:

Straight Pipe Wrench – suitable for all forms of pipework

Straight Pipe Wrenches have a sturdy, ductile-iron housing and an I-beam handle with a full floating forged hook jaw, featuring self-cleaning threads with replaceable hook and heel jaws.

Heavy-Duty Straight Pipe Wrenches
Heavy-Duty Straight Pipe Wrenches

End Pipe Wrench – fast easy grip for close to wall and parallel work

End Pipe Wrenches provide a faster, easier way to grip pipe in tight spaces. An ideal wrench for pipe work close to a wall, in tight quarters or in closely spaced parallel lines.

Heavy-Duty End Pipe Wrenches
Heavy-Duty End Pipe Wrenches

Offset Wrench – provides easy entry to tight spots and awkward angles

Heavy-Duty Offset Pipe Wrenches feature a jaw opening parallel to the handle and a narrower hook jaw head. Provides easy entry into tight spots.

Offset Pipe Wrenches
Heavy-Duty Offset Pipe Wrenches

Compound Leverage Wrench – multiplies leverage: used for seized joints

The compound leverage wrench offers a unique design that multiplies the turning force applied to a pipe. Ideal for freeing locked couplings and joints frozen by age or damage. Replaceable jaws are hardened alloy steel.

Compound Leverage Wrenches
Compound Leverage Wrenches

Chain Pipe Wrench – ideal for extremely tight work

The light-duty model has a one-piece forged alloy steel handle and jaw. Ideal for use in close quarters.

Chain Wrenches
Chain Wrenches

Strap Wrench – suitable for polished, plastic or plated pipe

Strap Wrenches are best for any polished pipe. Strong, woven nylon strap treated with powdered rosin, which provides an extra tight grip. Two models are available with a special strap for plastic pipe.

Strap Wrenches
Strap Wrenches

What is the correct way to use a pipe wrench?

correct way to use a pipe wrench


Daily before use, clean the wrench to aid inspection and improve control. Handles and gripping surfaces should be clean, dry and free of oil and grease. Inspect the wrench for:

  • Proper assembly and completeness.
  • Wear. Clean the jaws with a wire brush. Teeth should be clean and sharp. Replace jaws if teeth are worn to reduce the risk of slippage.
  • Damage such as cracks, cuts, nicks, and deformation.
  • Bent or twisted handles. Do not straighten handles. Wrenches with bent handles have been overloaded. Remove bent wrenches from service.
  • Modification of any kind, including grinding or welding. Modification can weaken a wrench.
  • Discoloration or other indications of heat damage.
  • Proper operation. The hook jaw should move smoothly when the nut is turned. Springs in housing should allow the hook jaw to pivot slightly. This allows proper gripping and ratcheting action of the wrench.
  • Other issues that could affect safe use.

When using a pipe wrench of any size, a gap must be maintained between the shank of the hook jaw and the pipe itself. This permits the pressure of the two gripping points (the heel jaw and the teeth of the hook jaw) to produce the gripping action of the wrench.

Mount The Pipe Wrench Correctly On The Work Piece

Allowing the back of the hook jaw to contact the pipe greatly reduces the gripping action of the wrench and can cause the wrench to slip. It may also result in the failure of the hook jaw. Maximum grip and turning force are developed by maintaining a gap of approximately 1/2″ (12mm) between the back of the hook jaw and the workpiece.


Inspect the material to be worked with. Pipe wrenches are designed for use on round pipe and threaded fittings, or soft round stock. Do not use on hard (325 BHN maximum), square, hexagonal or other non-round material. The jaw teeth penetrate the stock to properly grip. A wrench may slip on hardened material or the teeth may chip when used on hex or square stock.

Pipe wrenches can apply high forces to pipes that can crush or oval the pipe, especially thinner wall pipe. Pipe wrench jaw teeth grip by digging into the material of the pipe. This will mar the surface finish of the pipe and could create sharp edges and cut hazards.

correct way to use a pipe wrench

Choose a proper size and type of pipe wrench for the job. Do not use on pipe larger than the pipe wrench is rated for.
(See Chart 1)

Pipe Wrench
Pipe Size
Pipe Size
6″1⁄8″ – 1⁄2″3⁄4″
8″1⁄4″ – 3⁄4″1″
10″1⁄4″ – 1″1+1⁄2″
12″1⁄2″ – 1 1⁄4″2″
14″1⁄2″ – 1 1⁄2″2″
18″1″ – 2″2+1⁄2″
24″1 1⁄2″ – 2 1⁄2″3″
36″2″ – 3 1⁄2″5″
48″3″ – 5″6″
60″3″ – 6″8″
Chart 1

Make sure the workpiece is stable and well supported to prevent tipping and falling during use.

When using a pipe wrench of any size, a gap must be maintained between the shank of the hook jaw and the workpiece. (Figure3).

Figure 3 –   Maintain Gap Between Hook Shank and Work Piece
Figure 3 – Maintain Gap Between Hook Shank and Work Piece

This permits the two gripping points (heel jaw teeth and hook jaw teeth) to produce the gripping action of the wrench. Allowing the shank of the hook jaw to contact the workpiece greatly reduces the gripping action and can cause slippage. It may also result in the failure of the hook jaw. (Figure 4)

Wrench Too Small For Work Piece, Hook Shank 
Touching Work Piece
Figure 4 – Wrench Too Small For Work Piece, Hook Shank
Touching Work Piece

Adjust the hook position by rotating the nut as needed. The wrench should be square to the pipe. Do not use the wrench at an angle to the pipe.

Using a RapidGrip Wrench
Using a RapidGrip Wrench

Compound Leverage Wrenches

Mount trunnion on a pipe close to threads, with the shank of trunnion pointing towards the threads as shown in Figure 6A.

Figure 6A –   Mounting Compound Leverage Wrench 
Trunnion On Pipe
Figure 6A – Mounting Compound Leverage Wrench Trunnion On Pipe

Run chain over the pipe, hook into ears of the trunnion and securely tighten with a chain screw handle. With the wrench head properly adjusted for workpiece size (maintain the gap between hook jaw shank and workpiece), place the end of the wrench handle over the shank of the trunnion. Place the wrench head on the workpiece. Secure the wrench handle to the trunnion shank with the cotter pin. (Figure 6B)

Figure 6B – Securing Handle to Trunnion
Figure 6B – Securing Handle to Trunnion


Once the pipe wrench is securely placed on the workpiece, assume a proper operating position. Do not overreach. Keep proper footing and balance at all times. Do not hang on the pipe wrench. A proper operating position enables better control of the tool in unexpected situations. When working at height (on ladders, scaffolding, etc.) use appropriate work methods and equipment to ensure stability and safety.

When working on a horizontal pipe such as in a pipe vise at waist height, it is often most effective to use your body weight to tighten and loosen fittings ( Figure 7). Do not lift your feet off the ground. Keep your feet firmly on the ground to maintain control of the wrench.

Figure 7 – A Proper Operating Position
Figure 7 – A Proper Operating Position

Pulling a wrench typically allows better control in unexpected circumstances than pushing the wrench.

Only apply force in the direction of rotation. Excessive side loading of the wrench can cause the wrench to slip or be damaged

Do not hang the wrench on pipe – always keep a hand on the wrench. Uncontrolled tools can fall and cause injury. Fittings can come loose, wrenches can slip – be prepared.

If greater torque is required, do not use handle extensions or other mechanical, hydraulic, or powered devices with the pipe wrench. Use a larger wrench or a compound leverage wrench.

Other methods may be needed to break connections loose, such as heat or hammering on the joint (do not hit the wrench).In some cases, it may be possible to disassemble the system at the next connection and break the connection loose in a vise or on a bench.

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