Wrench Safety

On a recent Car Talk program there was a discussion about whether to use an open or clsed hand when pushing on a wrench. BOTH are extremely hazardous. You should never push on a wrench! If your hand or the wrench should slip, you run the risk of running your hand or other body part into something sharp or hard. You should always push on a wrench so that if your hand or the wrench slips, you hand will move safely back toward your body. I learned this at the numerous work safety classes that I attended in a 50 year career in the auto industry.

DUH. I meant that you should always PULL on a wrench!!!

This makes sense but sometimes you don’t have that option.

Often I will put an extension pipe I have on the end of the wrench so I don’t have to apply as much force. If it slips I have more control over my hands. You need to be more aware of not over torquing.

Mechanics gloves are a good option for hand protection.

Most importantly don’t use cheap wrenches or sockets. Those $5.99 sockets sets aren’t worth it. Just consider the consequnces if a wrech breaks resulting in breaking a knuckle.

That is good advice. Over they years I’ve gotten a little more careful with hand tools, actually thinking before acting and taking the time to find the correct tool.

That’s kind of hard to do when the nut has to turn the other way, and the place to stand on the other side is full of engine.

I’ve also found that if I tighten the bolt with a short wrench, like a 12" socket bar, I can easily loosen it with an 18" socket bar. When I have to push, I don’t have to put all my might behind it. I let the lever do its stuff. I do try to pull when I can, or at least push away from the car, like towards the ground in the wheel well.

Hand Tools are a common source of Hand injuries. The ‘root cause’ of many of these hand injuries are due to using a “cheater bar” over the end of the handle. This will also cause the nut or bolt to be “over torqued” and this could cause some other problems. (ie, warpped heads, sufaces not fitting together properly.)

As far as my opinion on “mechanics gloves” this will NOT “prevent” the hand injuries. This should be only used as a “last” resort. Remember, that personal protective devices should only be used as a “last” resort. (When no other opinions are available to loosen this nut or bolt.)

Use the right tool for the job.

Mechnics should protect the hands from solvents, and caustic cleaners. Rubber or Nitrile (not latex) gloves should be used by “all mechanics” wheather at work or at home.

This begs the question; just how often is your body in between the wrench and the hazard? Pulling or pushing, my body is not normally in the path of the wrench. I will say that you have a bit more control in pulling a wrench versus pushing on it but sometimes, you just don’t have the option. Common sense goes a long way but is often in short supply.

Next thing you know, wrenches will have the same number of caution stickers as a ladder…

lom1021 is right, there’s all kinds of weird, sharp stuff under/in a car that you mayn’t think about when you’re rushing. Yep, pull the wrench toward you- if possible. If you have to push it, never push with a closed fist. Also, never do this: Put an impact gun on a bolt rusted to the nut, grab a stubby wrench on the nut with a closed fist, trigger the impact gun, the wrench then crushing the fleshy part of

your pinky against the body metal like a car door locked on your hand, the guy next to you furiously rummaging his toolbox for a long screwdriver to pry the wrench off the nut, the other fellows enjoying the entertainment, and the service manager later reaming you for cursing so loud customers in the waiting room could hear.

I’m not sure why one would use a cheater bar to tighten a fastener; I am 50, skinny, out of shape, and can always install the fastener tightly enough with one wrench; most mechanics overtorque fasteners. “Use the right tool for the job” is excellent advice; but “Welcome to reality” is also. If Mrs McGillicuddy needs her car in one hour, it’s not your fault that another mehanic overtorqued the fastener, and

that Mother Nature rusted it, necessitating triple the manufacturer’s torque spec to remove it with the proverbial cheater bar. I’ve never had a Snap On man or even Sears refuse to replace an “abused” hand tool. Maybe SK.

Hey, tangential to the subject: you have 2 ratchet setups- 0ne is 3/4" drive; one is 1/2". Overall length of each setup is equal so leverage is, too. Which setup requires more strength on your part? (The fastener is on REALLY tight) Answer: 1/2" drive setup by far. The 1/2" drive ratchet is thinner,bowing as you apply force; so you have to apply the force necessary to overcome the “spring” in the 1/2"

ratchet as it tries to unbow; plus the force normally required to break the fastener free. An Old Timer told me this; the difference in exertion is incredible.

The reality is that sometimes you have no choice by to push. Hard.
I don’t use an open end wrench if I can use a box end.
I much prefer six point to twelve point in both wrenches and sockets. They seem to hold better. And don’t round off tiny bolt corners on hex heads.
I prefer a breaker bar with a socket (or a crow’s foot if open-end access is needed) to a “cheater bar”.
I wear leather work gloves. I like them better than anything else I’ve tried.

All the other replies seem to have this covered. Excellent advice, but sometimes you just have to push.

If you have the room, pull. One excellent example is the crank pulley bolt on Honda engines. It specs at 14 lbf PLUS 90 degrees - about 180 lbf total. Extensions laid on a jackstand to keep the torque at the right angle in combination with a 1/2 or 3/4 drive and a cheater bar are the only way to get this thing off - even an impact fails. Making sure to use the right tools and the right leverage aids is the only way to get this bolt off.

There are four kinds of tools:

  1. Tools you can hit yourself with.

  2. Tools you can pinch yourself with.

  3. Tools you can cut yourself with.

  4. Tools you can drop and injure your foot with.