GearWrench Flex Head Wrenches
right tool for the job". It took me decades to learn the
implications of that simple statement.
My dad was what you might colloquially term a
"farm mechanic", and he's also an inveterate bargain hunter.
Although he was willing enough, you didn't want him around anything that needed
He took great pride in buying the fewest number of the cheapest pot metal tools
he could find (and cheap tools were really, really bad in those days!).
Combine junk tools with aluminum engine casings and "urban
myth" mechanical know-how and you've got a recipe for disaster!
It took me a long time to learn to appreciate
high-quality tools (and to overcome the generational guilt of spending real
money on them!) and also to understand how much easier and pleasurable a
project can be with the perfect tool for the job. My dad still gets on my
case for spending "good money" on name brand tools, but now I just
laugh it off and humor him.
I've also learned that many
motorcyclists don't even change their own
oil, preferring instead to have a dealer or repair shop do it for them. I
don't have a problem with that, understanding that it's not always easy to find the time or
the space to perform basic repairs or maintenance.
But it's also apparent
that many owners don't even have a decent selection of quality hand tools, relying
instead on a combination of the usually chintzy tool kit under the bike's seat
and whatever screwdriver happens to be in the kitchen's junk drawer. The right tool
can make a job much easier, and perhaps even give one the confidence to tackle
the job in the first place.
I also believe that working on our motorcycles
adds depth to the complex relationship that we have with them. I secretly think of my bikes as living,
breathing creatures with their own personalities. Touching, wrenching,
cleaning and filling them with high-quality vital fluids helps me to know and
understand them that much better.
Besides -- I'm not sure if it has to do with
being born in East New York, but there aren't many strangers I trust, especially
when it comes to my bikes. I like to know that my bolts are properly torqued and everything is correctly adjusted according to
Sure, I've made many bonehead mistakes (usually falling in the "haste makes
waste" category), but in the end, the sole responsibility of my bike's
safety and performance is in my own hands.
So I never spare an expense if I find a tool
that's just right for a particular job. Tool junkies will understand --
you can never have enough tools, because you never know when you'll need
precisely the tool you don't have (and you'll always need just one more!).
Motorcycles help feed this addiction;
their increasing complexity and the recent design trend towards centralized mass are
making it more and more difficult to access the basic maintenance and repair
items. Acres of hard-to-remove fairing bits don't help either. Since
there's a close correlation between complexity, decreasing size and maintenance
headaches, the only defense is to own the specialized tools that can make it
easier to get the job done.
We've been fans of GearWrench products for some
time -- our first experience with the GearWrench combination wrenches (see the wBW
review) found them to be very useful for working on motorcycles. Their
narrow profile and patented ratcheting box end that only needs 5 degrees of movement (vs. 30
degrees in standard 12-point box end wrenches) can really come in handy when working in the tight quarters of a
There's more than a few jobs I can think of for which a GearWrench is worth its weight in gold. For
example, the thin GearWrench and its short-distance ratcheting ability make it so much easier
to remove the bolts that hold the airbox and the transmission to the engine
casing in my old BMW Airheads, literally shaving multiple minutes of tedious work from the job.
Recently, the GearWrench folks have come up with a few new products,
including "stubby" length GearWrench combination wrenches and the new
"Flex Head" GearWrench, the subject of this review.
The flexible head for the box end makes the original
GearWrench concept even more useful for working on motorcycles. The box end of
the GearWrench Flex Head can be rotated through 180 degrees of movement to offset its
position, which can make a huge difference in the ability to access nuts or
bolts within the hidden depths of a motorcycle's chassis.
From left to right:
13mm GearWrench Flex Head, standard GearWrench, standard Sears
The Flex Head GearWrenches are made with the same
high quality as the original. They have a nice, sleek feel due to their
highly polished chrome, and the combination of their thin profile, flexible head
and their ability to ratchet with only 5 degrees of movement makes them ideal.
flexible head is mounted to the body of the wrench by a long hex screw, rather
than a cheap pressed pin. This provides strength and helps eliminate wear
and tear in that crucial area.
There's a spring steel washer hidden under
the joint that provides enough tension to make the flexible head stay at
whatever angle you set it to. This is much more useful than other flex-end
non-ratcheting box wrenches I've seen where the flexible end simply flops back
and forth with no resistance, and which can slip and cause skinned knuckles.
GearWrench has also added a new feature to their
wrenches, called the "One Touch Assistant". One side of the
tool's handle is knurled (photo left), which allows instant identification of
the drive side.
This is a simple and elegant solution to the problem of
trying to figure out which way the GearWrench box-end drive is working. Although
the knurled ridges could probably be slightly more aggressive for quicker
identification, they still provide an easy method to determine which side
is the drive side by feel alone to orient the wrench one way or the other for
either loosening or tightening the fastener.
Note that since the GearWrench must be flipped over to
change direction, in very rare instances when loosening a bolt with a limited
amount of space both above and below the head of the bolt, you may reach a point
where there is not enough clearance to remove the wrench from the head of the
bolt, and not enough room to slide it down over the bolt head, so there's a
potential to end up with
a wrench that is stuck.
This is an extremely rare condition, and the
benefits of the GearWrench far outweigh this drawback. It happened to me
once, but the bolt was out far enough to grasp with a pair of needle nose pliers
so that I could turn it back in enough to remove the GearWrench.
The GearWrench Flex Head wrenches also use the
GearWrench "Surface Drive" box end, which, they claim, "virtually
eliminates the rounding of fasteners". The Surface Drive
provides a flat area on each side of the box end, which is claimed to distribute
the load over a wider area when removing or tightening a fastener, helping
prevent the rounding of hex nuts when applying force.
I did a quick comparison of a
13mm GearWrench Flex Head with a 13mm Sears Craftsman basic wrench and a
13mm standard GearWrench. It's interesting to note that the
thick-handled basic Craftsman is the same weight as the thinner GearWrench,
but the GearWrench has more mass located around the box end, making up the
All GearWrench products carry
a lifetime warranty and are claimed to "meet or exceed ANSI, DIN and
U.S. Federal torque specifications for standard professional combination
Note that the box end of the Flex Head or other
GearWrenches are not designed to loosen frozen or over-torqued
Knowing how to use a tool is as important as using the
right one; this means that a frozen or heavily torqued nut or bolt should
first be loosened with the correct tool, such as a non-ratcheting 6-point
socket or wrench. The GearWrench is a precision tool -- don't yarn
on the end of one with a cheater bar and expect the ratcheting box end to
hold up. Common sense applies here...
FlexHead combination wrench is available in Metric and SAE sizes, and are sold
individually or in sets. The sets come with a nice tool holder. Each
GearWrench can be clipped into a spot on the holder, which can fit inside most
The 7-piece Metric set shown here
consists of a 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 17mm and
19mm wrenches. There's a 12-piece Metric set that adds an 8mm, 9mm, 11mm, 16mm and 18mm.
The 12-piece set is just the ticket
for working on motorcycles, because it contains about every size wrench you'll
probably need. A 7-piece SAE set is also available, consisting of 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8,
11/16 and 3/4 inch wrenches.
GearWrench products are designed in
the U.S.A. by the Danaher Tool Group and manufactured to specifications in
Taiwan. The Danaher Tool Group also owns KD Tools, which are specialty
automotive tools found in almost every auto parts shop.
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Review: GearWrench Flex
Retail Price: $69.99 for 7 piece SAE or Metric set
(street price ~$59.95); $149.95 for the 12 piece set.
Metric: 7-piece set contains 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 17mm,
19mm wrenches. 12-piece set adds 8mm, 9mm, 11mm, 16mm and 18mm
wrenches. SAE: 7-piece set contains 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8,
Comments: Excellent quality, appearance and
feel; highly polished chrome; lightweight; thin; Flex Head rotates
180 degrees; needs as little
as 5 degrees of sweep to move a fastener; lifetime warranty; Flex
Head is secured with hex screw, not pinned; washers provide continuous
tension so Flex Head keeps position. Also, new "One Touch
Assistant" knurling on handle provides reference to which side of
the wrench is the drive end.
See the wBW
Review of the Gearwrench
Ratcheting Combination Wrench; that review also has comments from webBikeWorld visitors who have
purchased Gearwrench tools.