I visited two local Lowe’s stores this weekend and came across either a new Kobalt tool or a tool so unsightly that I blocked out all memory of it – the Kobalt ratcheting rapid-adjust wrench.
I posted a quick in-store video of the wrench’s adjustment action to Instagram, and will link to it at the end of the post.
Basically, it’s a new take on the Kobalt Rapid-Adjust wrenches from a couple of years ago.
You squeeze the handle to auto-close the adjustable jaws, and then there’s a push-button release level.
Admittedly, ratcheting jaws do seem to make this wrench a little more versatile. However, I can’t help but feel this to be an abomination of an adjustable wrench.
Those jaws look like they’ll tear into delicate surface materials. Perhaps not, but they look like aggressive pliers jaws instead of what you might typically find on an adjustable wrench.
I bought one. It’s purely for some light testing and potential review purposes, but I feel pretty lousy about it. First of all, it was priced at $25, which I just know is too high. Next week, or the week after that, this gift-center special buy will almost definitely drop to $15 or so. $25? I can think of far better adjustable wrenches for that kind of money.
ToolGuyd Pick: Channellock Cushion-Grip Wrench via Amazon
If I were looking to shed a few dollars off my credit card bill, I’d look at Channellock’s plain-handle adjustables. You can buy a Channellock 8″ made-in-Spain adjustable wrench for $7 less than this Kobalt is currently priced.
I’m sure that the Kobalt ratcheting auto-adjust wrench is a fine substitute for… I don’t know. I’m not walking into this review very open-minded. There’s a good chance I won’t even remove it from its packaging and that it’ll go back to the store for a refund this week.
I can see myself testing it and coming to the conclusion that a quality adjustable wrench is a safer buy, or that one could budget towards a Knipex Pliers Wrench or similar for turning fasteners via a pseudo-ratcheting action.
Maybe the in-store display was a little wonky and left me with a little more hesitation than deserved.
I don’t have good feelings about this tool. Maybe that’ll change and it’ll surprise me during testing.
Can you see a use for this wrench?
Is this a solution to a problem? Or a gimmick aimed at less discerning tool buyers and gift givers?
If those black jaws were made of say, fiber-reinforced nylon, instead of mystery steel, I could actually see this being a useful tool for non-marring purposes. Maybe it could even come with smooth, small tooth and large tooth jaws that snap on and off.
As it is, it’s just another gimmick tool for the holidays, for people who go into Lowe’s looking for gifts for tool nuts and will go for the $9.99 sale gimmick tool since it’s “new” and hopefully something they don’t have.
$25 is WAY too much, and purchasing that stuff at those prices gives Lowe’s the wrong idea in their sales figures. That’s the kind if stuff we should be spreading the word about NOT buying so it stays on the shelves until after the holidays, goes on clearance for $1.97, and they decide never to carry it ever again.
Ditto. What he said.
I have the older versions from several years back given to me as a gift. They are awful!
I’d suggest people stay away, if it is anything like some of the ther kobalt gimmick tools. I have a set of kobalt self adjusting locking pliers ( think vise grip style, but auto adjusting, and with a shape to lock onto nuts and bolts) and they NEVER …. EVER … close properly around a nut or bolt!!!
Are those the laminated ones that came in a pack with two different sizes? I recently found them, unopened, packed away after I moved. The first time I tried them I literally threw the smaller one in the trash.
Yes, they are!
Sold as a duo in a blister pack, as I recall. I purchased them around some holiday, a few years ago, as can happen going around to big box stores, seeing all the stuff on display, … same year they also had some special duo set of sharp snips with interchangeable blades. Another meh.
Back to the locking pliers. I have yet to have one single successful proper use out of them. They never seem to exactly grip anything that is hexagonal, whether the nut or bolt properly. The adjustment knob is questionable. Every time I just toss it back in the drawer, and reach for something else … wondering if I am using it wrong … or how that thing was produced as a failure.
I pondered if they could be exchanged under lifetime warranty for something else, basic that actually works.
Totally agree! These KOBALT tools were so bad, I vowed to never buy another KOBALT tool…… and I haven’t.
Hope. The older I get the more I realize the proper tool for the job is worth far more than these gimmicky stocking stuffers.
It’s that time of year again, eh?
Black and decker came out with something like this years ago except theirs required aa batteries and it had a button you pressed to move the jaw. It was probably the biggest piece of sht ever made for any kind of application that you could use a wrench for. It was absolutely atrocious. Definitely in the top 3 worst wrench ideas to ever make it to production. I think this might earn the number one spot. This thing looks enormous and is obviously limited by the mechanism that you squeeze as to whether it actually grabs a fastener. If you can’t get a full squeeze in does it still grip or is it sloppy and you have to rely on the sliding teeth which are even worse? I’ve tried the pliers with the sliding tooth and they are the in the top 3 of the worst wrenches ever made. By the looks of it I think kobalt just beat out b&d for the title of the most useless piece of sht wrench ever made. Who’s letting these people think and why are they getting paid for it?
My mother-in-law bought me that battery powered Black & Decker adjustable wrench a decade or so when they were out.
If I didn’t really like my wife, we would have gotten a divorce. Instead, my MIL now needs to pre-authorize tool as gift purchases through my wife.
I’ll take a Knipex Raptor any day over this abomination, thank you very much.
It’s brave of you to try reviewing these Stuart. I set myself to thinking of what task they could be handy for… and am still trying to find one. Everything I come up with would be easier with a proper set of pliers or an adjustable wrench.
Even if you’re trying to ratchet on a bolt like the demonstration video, since these have aggressive-looking teeth which would presumably damage the bolt head, seems like you would be better off turning the bolt with pliers until the torque is too high, then switching off to an adjustable wrench.
Turning a pipe? Also easier with pliers.
Maybe this is better than pliers or a wrench if you live in a world were you can only own one? … although a pliers wrench is obviously the proper choice in those circumstances – the Irwin version isn’t that much more money right?
Dopey gimmicks don’t deserve attention from any of us who use tools seriously. Lowe’s shouldn’t sell something that maybe belongs on QVC or at a Dollar store. Shame on Lowe’s for offering this abomination.
Stuart, take it back or chuck it now – it’s not worth anyone’s time. The world’s awash in things that shouldn’t exist but are demanding attention. Reject the BS.
Unfortunately, I see it as my responsibility to be open-minded. And if it’s in a holiday display, there will be people wondering about its utility.
“You’re a better man than I” at least for trying.
Or most likely any of us here. ;-)~
This is like 99.99% (101%?) of the Kobalt crap that pops up for holiday sales.
Honestly, I have one of the non ratcheting style at work (machinist) and I love them. I dont ever use them in really high torque situations but I have had them for 2 years now and they still work well. I thought I would have hated them too.
Ok, I request a different take. I get that many of you are flaming this. I am an non-tool expert who falls for these gimmicks. Rather than flame the product, use your collective expertise to explain WHY this is a bad purchase. That will help a lot of readers. I doubt everyone here is a tool expert. It is a better use of time and more in line with the standards of this site. I had a battery powered wrench by SBD–I thought it was useful. Obviously opinions vary. I hope my request falls upon open minds because there are many tools that your collective expertise can prevent inexperienced people from falling for. How does one like me know it’s a POS? How does one know its a solution looking for a problem? Any useful clues to avoid wasteful holiday spending would be greatly appreciated. Hell, maybe even an entire post on that topic comparing a “good” stocking-stuffer purchase compared to a “bad” purchase. Both Lowes and HD will be full of stocking-stuffers. I hope you read this post, Stuart!
Product Claims: It seems that size adjustment is easier. Ratcheting jaws should allow for faster turning compared to the typical “turn, remove, re-engage, turn” cycle you have with traditional adjustable wrenches.
Potential Problems: The ratcheting mechanism seems unpredictable, at least in-store, but I might have been using it differently or the setup could have been flawed. The jaws look aggressive and could potentially round-off fasteners that you don’t intend to damage. The wrench head looks quite a bit larger than traditional 8″ adjustable wrench heads.
Price: Given the current pricing, you’re spending the same as highly recommend traditionally-styled adjustable wrenches. If it goes on sale, there will still be traditional alternatives that are competitively priced.
Compromise: IF it works exactly as intended, you have jaws that might mar fasteners and a bulky wrench head. Going with a traditional adjustable wrench might require more time and elbow grease, but you get a tried-and-true adjustment mechanism and a wrench head that can potentially fit in tighter spaces.
Concerns: Is this wrench designed to be a problem-solver, or is it designed to appeal to impulse shoppers and gift-givers?
This is an awesome way to respond to the previous question…exactly what helps people who do t know to learn which is why I love this website!
You don’t know of a use for this tool ? ?
What if a person went off the side of the road & found themselves & their car submerged in water ? This tool could be used to smash out a window so they can swim to safety. LoL
Or this gimmicky tool purchase might be a gateway tool for someone that never fixed anything in their life before. And this would be a stepping stone on their way to hard tools.
Or such a person, after buying and trying to use it, will feel defeated or further baffled by the “you can fix it” concept.
Really, no good can come from junk like this.