When I came across the Kobalt Rapid-Adjust Squeeze Wrench, I put it through my typical “is it gimmicky junk or potentially usable?” filter, and I’m actually very interested in the design.
A typical adjustable wrench is adjusted by means of a thumbwheel. Even the best adjustable wrenches can be a little finicky at times, requiring some minor corrections as you move from nut to nut, even when working on fasteners of the same size.
Lowes claims that their new Kobalt Rapid-Adjust wrench will revolutionize the standard adjustable wrench, and we think there’s some potential to that claim.
The Kobalt Rapid-Adjust Squeeze Wrench is adjusted via a simple squeeze-handle trigger that closes the jaws in what Lowes describes as smooth and precise movements.
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There’s a quick release button, for one-handed jaw release.
So to use the Kobalt Rapid-Adjust Squeeze Wrench, press the release button, spread the jaws, place the jaws around a fastener, and squeeze the handle to grip down. Advanced gear technology keeps the jaws fixed in place, which should hold the setting as you move from fastener to fastener, or if a single fastener requires a lot of turning.
The 2-piece set comes with 6″ and 8″ wrench sizes. The 6″ Kobalt Rapid-Adjust wrench has a jaw capacity of 1/8″ to 1″, and the 8″ from 1/16″ to 1-1/8″.
Price: $35 for the 2-piece set, but we expect the holiday pricing to be LOWER
Although I was tempted to dismiss these as gimmicky holiday tools, I really think Kobalt is onto something here.
While these are unlikely to unseat traditional adjustable wrenches as the standard one-t00l-fits-most staple in many DIYers’ and pros’ tool bags and toolboxes, they do have the potential to be quicker and easier to use, if all of Lowes and Kobalt’s claims prove to be true.
Yes, I know, “the Knipex PliersWrench is superior to adjustable wrenches in every way.” Except it isn’t. The pliers wrench requires constant pressure to maintain fastener engagement, which isn’t always possible. Adjustable wrenches, including this Kobalt Rapid-Adjust wrench, can be set to a fixed jaw opening, which can make it easier to work on certain fasteners.
I do see a potential downside. Some fasteners require a little adjustment, even if you’re just repositioning the wrench after each turn. Maybe they’re rounded a little bit, damaged in another way, or just ever so slightly imperfect. And even perfect fasteners sometimes require minor resetting of an adjustable wrench.
With a traditional adjustable wrench, you can open the jaws and close them back with just your thumb on the adjustment wheel. These new Kobalt Squeeze Wrenches require you to release the locking mechanism, reposition the wrench, and squeeze down on the trigger handle to close the jaws.
It’s not yet clear whether the handle operates in a ratcheting-type mechanism, or if the release button spreads the jaws all the way automatically.
Different doesn’t always translate to good, especially when it comes to hand tools that come out this time of year. For example, I was optimistic about last year’s Kobalt self-adjusting compound leverage locking pliers, but ultimately didn’t much care for them.
As for the price, I don’t think the $35 list price is the true pricing. If it were, I’m sure Lowes would have packaged the 2 wrench sizes separately, perhaps at $15 and $20, or there would just be one size. If I had to guess, I’d think that the holiday season price will be $20 for the 2-piece wrench set. $25 seems to invoke a different psychological response than $20.
If you saw these wrenches on the shelf at your local Lowes, would you consider buying them?