I've used adjustable wrenches for years but I still end up turning the wheel the wrong way half the time, widening the wrench when I need it narrow and vice versa until I figure out the orientation I'm holding it and do it correctly.

Is there an easy to remember shortcut way of knowing which direction to turn the wheel that I just never learned. For instance, when I grab an adjustable wrench from my bag, how can I quickly know based on the feel of the wrench in my hand or a quick glance that pushing the wheel up with my thumb will tighten or loosen the wrench without inspecting or fiddling with it for a few seconds.

This question assumes that most adjustable wrenches have the same wheel operation which probably isn't the case, however the 4 that I own work similarly to the one pictured. When held in this orientation it will widen when I push the wheel up with my thumb.

Would love to hear some suggestions. Thanks.

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  • 1
    practice. Then don't think about it. Oct 4, 2016 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


< frivolous >

You have really already provided your own answer to this question.

Up to widen the jaws.

As a mind joggler just remember "Up to widen your horizons".

Although this is useless if you flip the tool over.

< /frivolous >

If this is truly an issue why not paint, with red finger nail polish on each side, a turn direction arrow for the wheel and a corresponding one for the jaw direction.


Look at the wheel. Which way do the knurled lines lean? If you had a grid slanted like slashes /// and you pushed it up, anything caught in it would be pushed to the left. Down, pushed to the right.

If you had a grid slanted like backslashes \\\ and you pushed it up, anything caught in it would be pushed to the right. Et cet.

You don't have to memorize anything. You have to look at the wheel and picture which direction, left or right, the lines will move when pushed up or down.

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