How to Use a Crowfoot Wrench | Uses and Benefits

If all you have in your toolset is the traditional wrenches with a long handle then you either have not come across a situation where you have to tighten a nut or bolt in an impossible space or you don’t know that there is something better available. Test it out, try a crowfoot wrench and see the difference. Do you want to know more about it and what it can do? Just keep on reading.

What is a crowfoot wrench?

You would be wondering what this tool is and what it can do so let us define it. A crowfoot wrench can be simply described as an accessory to aid the tightening or loosening of a nut or bolt (fasteners) in a restrained space. It is quite different from the other wrenches and at the first look, you would observe that it looks like a stunted open-end wrench or spanner and it has a hole on it.

The stunted look is because it does not have a handle and the hole is for the attachment of other tools for optimum performance. It comes in a set with different sizes or one adjustable set so it can capture any size you are hoping to work with.

Uses of a crowfoot wrench

As mentioned earlier a crowfoot wrench has its major advantage where tightening or loosening needs to be done in a limited space. The ability of the crowfoot wrench to fit into tight spaces comes from its ability to grip the fastener from the side instead of the top like other spanners or wrenches would. It can be used in the following conditions

  1. Any place where a typical open-end wrench can be used.
  2. In limited spaces when tightening fuel filters, clutch, and brake, steering, air fittings in trucks, etc.

How to use a crowfoot wrench

To properly use a crowfoot wrench, you should do the following:

Know the tools you need: As can be observed, the crowfoot wrench is not a stand-alone tool. Some refer to it as an accessory because it is used with other tools such as adaptors, ratchet, and/or torque wrench to perform its work. The hole, typically a 3/8 inch or 1/2-inch square allows for the attachment of other tools like the adaptor, ratchet, or torque wrench.

An adaptor is used to give more clearance and more than one can be stacked at a time depending on the clearance need. A ratchet serves like an arm; it creates a linear or rotary motion in one direction i.e. it converts the force applied by the hand to what rotates the fastener to be loosened or tightened. On the other hand, the torque wrench allows a preset force to be applied. The force is usually based on some calculations so you should do this before you use it.

The crowfoot wrench comes in various sizes, calibrations, and types depending on what is best for you. It can be metric (measured in millimeters) or standard (measured in inches). The size ranges from about 8mm to 19mm for metric measurement or from 5/6inch to 2inches for standard measurement this allows the wrench to be used on a wide range size of bolts and nuts. Different crowfoot makers cover different size ranges so be sure to buy the one that has the size that you would be needing most.

Secure the attachments: Make sure the adaptor, ratchet, or torque wrench can fit into the hole of the crowfoot wrench. Rotate the attachments you want to use till it aligns with the wrench then press them into the hole to secure them firmly.

Getting the right angle: This is very important especially when using a torque wrench as an improper angle would not deliver the right force. For proper positioning, the ratchet or toque wrench should be fitted at a right angle to the crowfoot. Usually, people get confused at this point due to the need for calculations involved in getting the right angle. You can do without that if you follow the above right-angle rule. At that angle, you would deliver the proper torque when using a torque wrench.

Attach to a bolt or nut: After setting the wrench to the proper angle, gently fit it around the bolt or nut to be tightened or loosened. If you are using a torque wrench, the torque should have been calculated and the torque wrench set to the required force. Before going ahead to rotate the wrench or rachet, confirm that the crowfoot wrench properly fits around the nut by shaking it lightly. If it stays firm you can then go ahead. If not adjust till it fits in properly.

Torque the nut or bolt: When all is set, apply force in the direction needed depending on whether you want to tighten or loosen the fastener. It may be difficult at first but then it gets easier if you are loosening a tight screw but if you are tightening a bolt, it goes from easy when loose to difficult when tight. Always make sure the right force is applied on a fastener as extra force may break it. When you tighten, make sure you stop at the right point. Always consult a professional if you are not sure.

Reset the crowfoot wrench: Except with the ratchet crowfoot wrench type which allows for continuous rotation, there is a need to reset the position of the crowfoot wrench after each turn to the original position.

Repeat the above steps: Usually, the screw would not tighten or open after just one turn. It would have to go several turns before the work is done so as long as it takes carefully repeat all the steps above.

Storage: after the work has been done, the bolt has been tightened or loosened, it is necessary to store the tool rightly. First of all, clean it from any oil stain using a rag then return it to the rack. Store in a cool and dry place. Even steel after prolonged exposure to moisture or water gets rusted so keep tools from a moist or wet place. If you want your tool to last, take care of them properly

Types of crowfoot wrench

The open-end crowfoot wrench: this type of wrench looks like the open-end spanner. It has a straight-end fork that grips the fastener. Its major drawback is that it does not have a very good grip and may require more setting and adjusting compared to the ratchet type. It also does not allow for continuous rotation hence you have to return the wrench to its original position after each turn.

The flare crowfoot wrench: this type of crowfoot wrench has a claw attached to the fork end which gives it a better gripping around the fastener. It goes about a ¾ cycle around the fastener. Like the open-end crowfoot wrench, it also needs to be reset after each turn to the original position to get a good working angle.

The ratcheting crowfoot wrench: this is a special type of crowfoot wrench as it goes totally around the fastener. This type does not need constant resetting as the others wrench. Its drawback is in its size which makes it difficult to use in some very tight spaces.

The adjustable crowfoot wrench: the name of this wrench comes from the idea that it can be adjusted to different sizes. It is more like a “many-in-1” wrench. It comes in two variants. The adjustable spanner is manually adjusted using a knob while the self-adjusting crowfoot wrench does its adjustment automatically.

Advantages of a Crowfoot Wrench

  • They are perfect for tightening or loosening in a tight space.
  • They are produced in standards hence they can be attached to commonly available adaptors, ratchets, or torque wrenches. (typical size of 1/2 inch or 3/8 inch).
  • They are durable, resistant to rust, and corrosion.
  • The adjustable crowfoot wrench is like a many-in-1 tool. Hence it is easy to carry. Instead of carrying several tools, you have one that performs multiple functions.
  • Whether you are carrying an adjustable crowfoot wrench or you are carrying a set of open-end crowfoot wrench there is less weight to carry compared to the conventional spanners.
  • Buying just one adjustable crowfoot wrench that serves the function of several spanners can be a way to save money.

Disadvantages of a Crowfoot Wrench

  • Those finished with chrome wear off easily
  • Some can be quite heavy.
  • They cannot be used alone like other spanners.
  • Calculations are needed to determine the right angle or torque.
  • It requires practice to be able to use it perfectly.

Don’t forget to mark your crowfoot wrench for identification because it is a common scenario when a group of people works together, they mix up amongst the tools belonging to different people.


This is one great tool you should have in your tool kit. It makes a DIY project quite easy as you do not have to stay in odd positions just to get a nut tightened or loosened. However, you should always watch out for the best that your money can afford. When buying, check out for materials that would not wear out easily like steel, a crowfoot wrench that is not so heavy, and that would properly fit into any attachment properly without falling off.

Photo of author

Jason D. Turner

Hi there! My name is Jason, a keen enthusiast in power tools and their mechanisms and the sole mastermind behind the Noisy Tools. Working in a multi-national construction firm in Brooklyn for over a decade, I have developed a fair flair for different construction devices, gadgets, and their diverse operational aspects. By the dint of this platform, I have researched and reviewed various tools with utmost details of even the most trivial matters that will provide valuable insights for any prospective user.

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