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At a glance, a zero-offset ratcheting combination wrench (top) looks the same as a standard ratcheting wrench (bottom). But closer examination will reveal a one-way mechanism and a straight box end. These wrenches are still considered reversible — you just have to flip the tool to reverse the ratcheting direction.

What’s the appeal of this tool — the zero offset?  Sure, a perfectly straight wrench has its uses, especially in tight areas and when you have to hold the entire wrench flush against a surface. However, some people probably choose these wrenches because they’re cheaper than traditional reversible ones, or maybe they think the tool’s more durable due to fewer moving parts.

Let’s hear from you – do you find zero-offset wrenches appealing, or are they simply cheap alternatives to standard 15° offset wrenches?

Zero Offset Ratcheting Wrench [Gearwrench]
Standard Reversible Ratcheting Wrench [Gearwrench]


19 Responses to Hot or Not? Zero-Offset Ratcheting Wrenches

  1. Will says:

    I have a set of each Fractional Blue Points with the offset, and straight Metrics in Craftsman. I like the offset. Removing a bolt from a flat surface is hard without the offset. There just is not room for you fingers to get a good grip on the thing. Plus having to turn them over to tighten or loosen is a pain.

  2. eschoendorff says:

    I have both the one-way zero offsets and the reversible 15* offsets. I use both, but I tend to favor the reversibles.

  3. Bob Price says:

    However, if that 15 deg. offset wrench is 10 inches long you’ll need 2.5 inches of clearance to get it on the fastener. Hence, the zero offset wrenches allow you to get into tight spaces.

    Both types are good to have, zero offset fits unique situations. Take a survey of what you work on most, i.e. cars, scooters, boats, English motorcycles, and then see where all the nuts and bolts are. You probably don’t need a whole set.

  4. There’s a 3rd option.. the flexhead gear wrenches.. unbeatable.. I just wish there was a reversible version of them..


    And I further wish Sidchrome would make an AF version of them 🙁


  5. Toteadler says:

    I am a marine engineer and work on large diesel engines and I prefer the zero-offset wrenches. Even on large equipment there is often barely clearance for the wrench. If you need to tighten something and then loosen it, just take it off and flip it around, its not that big of a deal.

  6. Well given I have had a set of these for a good while. I think its made by GearWrench even though they are called signet (got em from House Of Tools where I work aka Western Tools). I gotta say they are definitely useful and I love them. However being a tool lover I have search around and found a much greater solution to the tight spot wrench problem. It saves you having to get a whole set of em and just needing to carry one in your socket case. Its a ratcheting crescent wrench. It is mighty handy!


  7. Peretz says:

    i got one of those ratcheting crescent wrenches and they don’t work in fact on the package it has a try me with a bolt there and its not a hex it curves in like a torx

  8. mike d says:

    I find I use the zero offsets a lot while working on my motorcycles. I, specifically use the gearwrench set pictured a lot because they’re very narrow and fit into tight places. But I never use the ratchet end to break fasteners loose.

  9. Joe says:

    They’re two different tools for two different jobs. You want to throw half-moon and S-style wrenches into the mix too?



  10. Old Donn says:

    Got both, use the reversable offsets, (bottom ), 90% of the time. Yeah, it’s no big thing to flip the tool, but it’s a lot easier to flip the switch.

  11. pencilneck says:

    I’ve used both flat and offset versions and like the offset versions better for the times you are working against a flat surface you can’t wrap your fingers around the flat versions for better torque. In open space, the flats ones are less likely to “walk off” the nut/bolt.

    But to that end, I only use my off set ratcheting wrenches when my 1/4″ air ratchet is too large to fit in the work space, so my ratcheting wrenches only get used a few times a week… but still I found them to be worth the investment.

  12. l_bilyk says:

    I don’t even care about the offset… there have been plenty of times where i wasn’t thinking and ended up backing the bolt up to a point where the wrench is no longer removable and therefore not reversible. And then I have to struggle trying to get the damn wrench off. Reversible all the way. I would not even consider the other kind now.

  13. Mel says:

    I’m with Dunc., I have both metric and SAE sets of flex Gearwrenches, think they’re great. Also, like Mike D, I don’t use the gear end to break loose a fastener.

  14. Fletcher says:

    I have a set of the zero degree non-reversible and found them great for really tight spots. The form factor of the wrench end is at a minimum (although I doubt a switch would really get in the way.) I’ve never been a fan of flex heads because of the tendency to flex when you don’t want them to. I thought I’d miss the reversible switch but flipping them has never been inconvenient and I like the simplicity (less stuff to break, I suppose.)

  15. John says:

    Wow, Fletch read my mind.

    My GearWrenches were purchased before the reversing or offset styles came out. I used to put the wrenches on the wrong way round all the time (loosening instead of tightening). A few sessions of actually watching what I was doing cured that. Now I can see before I even put the wrench on which way it’s going to turn. No flipping the switch back and forth three times (yes, I do that with my ratchets).

    The few times I have ever had a clearance issue, I don’t think a 15 degree offset would have helped. I had to either reach for an actual socket wrench or just use my fingertips for a few swings.

    And yeah, I am paranoid about the switch breaking.

  16. DavidtheDuke says:

    I have the Snap-On version of those, and the open-end is *really* helpful sometimes. Luckily I got them with a used price via ebay, and the snap on guy replaces them no questions. I can really lean on them without worrying about getting them warrantied etc. Plus they’re made in the USA. With the falling dollar and what not you get more and more bang for you buck with USA tools 😛

  17. Eddie says:

    I prefer zero if your working with small engines that have few flat spots, they are especially great when your under a bike drying to get the stuck or over torqued oil pan bolt off and need the torque.

  18. Neal says:

    Personally, I like the zero offset better (aircraft mechanic). I can work faster with a straight wrench. That 15 degree offset throws off my brain when I’m trying to zip nuts and bolts off. I know which way my wrenches turn, I know not to break tough nuts with the ratchet end, and I know before hand not to use the wrench where I won’t be able to remove it after backing out the fastener. And how much time and effort does it take to flip a wrench over?
    When I have the money, I’ll get the reversing 15′ offset (you can never have enough tools). If you want both sets like I do, the straight set makes a better starter set, it comes in handy more often.

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