Nutcrackers: Best spanners for motorcycle maintenance


A good socket set is generally top of the wish – or indeed, need – list for any home mechanic’s tool set. However, following it up very closely is a good set of spanners, as sockets without the best spanner sets are like a bike without petrol.

The best spanner set shortlist:

  • Draper Redline Combination
  • Hilka stubby Set
  • I Love You Dad Set
  • Halfords Advanced Ring set
  • Clarke Obstruction Set
  • Lazer Crows Foot
  • Kennedy Open-ended Set
  • Sealey Ratchet Spanners
  • Sealey Flexi Socket
  • Draper Flare Nut Set
  • Bike It Rear Axle Nut Spanner

What types of spanner are there?

There are two main types of spanner; open-ended and ring, though there are also sorts of other, more-specialised options. Each has advantages and disadvantages and if you can’t decide, then perhaps a combination set is for you – open-ended at one end and ring at the other.

Open-ended spanners will fit a nut or bolt and provide a drive on two of the flat sides which, assuming the spanner and nut or bolt are in good condition and a proper fit, can be the most efficient way to apply the necessary torque. However, as they will only fit on the flats, this means that you may need a 60° turn of the fixing to be able to get the spanner on again to make the next rotation. Sometimes, you may not have that amount of space.

In addition, it’s not uncommon for open-ended spanners to slip if the fastener is particularly tight, as a result of either rounding the corners off the fastener or the jaws of the spanner parting, meaning it won’t fit properly anymore.

Related: The best motorcycle accessories

A ring spanner sits completely around the fastener and typically drives on six of the corners of the nut or bolt. As a ring spanner would normally have 12 drive teeth, this means it only needs to rotate 30° before it can re-engage and continue to drive the fastener. However, as it drives on corners rather than flats, this can lead to rounding of either the fastener or the teeth in the spanner on tight fittings.

Typically, a ring or open-ended spanner will have different sizes at each end but a combination spanner will have the same size of open-end and ring, one at each end. This can be very useful but it does mean that if you are using two spanners for a job, you might need two sets if the nut head and bolt are the same sizes.

Price: £15.35

This best spanner set from tool expert Draper is Amazon's choice and with good reason. The company has an excellent reputation for tools and at just over £1 a spanner, this is excellent value. You get 11 spanners in metric sizes from 6mm up to 19mm and stored in a handy rack, ready to go straight in your toolbox. The open-ended jaws are offset to make it easier to work on fasteners with tight access and they are formed in hardened chrome-vanadium steel.

Rrp: £17.95

Price: £14.67

Another Amazon choice, these stubby combination best spanners from Hilka can be very useful for working with fasteners where space is tight. You won't be able to apply the same amount of torque as a longer spanner and so they may feel like harder work, but if you can't get a normal-length spanner into where the nut or bolt is, these may save the day for you. A ten-piece set with sizes from 10mm to 19mm.

Related: The best corrosion inhibitors and anti-corrosion sprays for motorcycles

At first sight, these appear to be a bit of a gimmick but they are manufactured from proper material and to proper standards and indeed, reviews suggest that these combination spanners, individually engraved with "I love you Dad", properly work. In chrome-vanadium steel, they come in a wooden presentation box and tool wrap and are sized from 8mm to 24mm.

We've used Halfords Advanced range of tools before and have always been impressed; they perform well and are not over-priced and this set of ring spanners should be the same. With offset heads to allow full rotation on nuts and bolts, where space permits, the eight separate spanners offer sizes from 6mm to 22 mm giving great flexibility and come with a lifetime guarantee.

Effectively a best spanner set, this strangely-shaped design for fasteners where access is obstructed and you can't get a straight spanner into position. This five-piece set caters for sizes from 8mm to 22mm and is made in chrome-vanadium steel with a polished finish. These can be a very useful addition to your toolkit and will only need to get to an awkward fastener once to make them worth owning.

Price: £29.07

Odd-looking devices designed to go on the fastener like a spanner but are driven by a socket extension, in this case, a 3/8in square drive. They are useful for fasteners where you can't get access for the length of the spanner and you also can't get a socket on. Available in both six-flat designs as here or with ring-spanner style teeth. Also useful for tightening fasteners to a specific torque when access is poor.

There's not a huge amount to say about this best spanner set of open-ended spanners from British manufacturer Kennedy. Made in chrome-vanadium steel, they come with a matt finish and polished heads which are angled at 15° for improved access, reducing the angle the spanner must rotate to pick up the fastener again. They come in a tool roll and in sizes of 6mm to 19mm.

A set of ratchet spanners can be incredibly useful, particularly if space is very limited. Open-ended at one end u2013 to initially release the fasteners, the other end features a 72-tooth ratchet that only needs 5° of rotation to move to the next tooth. The angled ratchet head means access can be even further improved and this set covers the main sizes; 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17 and 19mm.

A variation on a theme, these flexi socket spanners have an opened-ended head at one end and a pivoting 12-point socket at the other, for huge flexibility. These are from Sealey's Premier Hand Tool range and are drop-forged in chrome-vanadium steel and in a polished finish. The open-ended head and socket on each spanner are the same size with the set ranging from 8mm to 19mm.

Designed for the compression nuts fitted to all sorts of hydraulic systems, including fuel injection and brake systems, these spanners slid over the rigid pipe and located securely on the fitting, allowing the necessary torque to be applied from potentially high-pressure systems. Give better location and drive than traditional spanners and can be particularly useful for stubborn bleed nipples in brake calipers, for example.

This slim-design nut spanner will fit into any toolbox and it's handy to have in your kit. It's sturdy and gets the job done with a secure fit and grip. It's 32mm so you can even have it in your bag as you ride just in case. Sometimes something as simple as this spanner is just what you need.

- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us.