How to Use a Basin Wrench in Tight Spots

How Do You Loosen the Nut Under the Sink Faucet?

If you are removing or/and installing a faucet in your bathroom or kitchen sink, you will need to loosen or tighten the mounting nut underneath it.

That area is usually quite tight making the regular wrenches, pliers or channel locks useless. And that is where a basin wrench comes in.

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A basin wrench is a special wrench that allows you to tighten or loosen nuts in tight spots where regular wrenches cannot reach. It has a pivoting claw head, a long shaft (sometimes telescopic) and T-bar for turning the assembly either clockwise or counterclockwise.

To use a basin wrench, first determine if you want to tighten or loosen the nut then position its head accordingly. Grab the notches of the nut using the claw head then turn the T-bar clockwise to tighten the nut or counterclockwise to loosen it.

Start with the basin wrench’s head being perpendicular to the shaft.  If you want to loosen a nut, the opening of the claw head should be facing right and vice versa. Once you have grabbed the nut, turn the T-bar counterclockwise to loosen the nut or clockwise to tighten it.

Basin wrenches have a spring loaded head which means you can use them to loosen or tighten different sizes of nuts. Most basin wrenches can be used with nuts of between 3/8 and 1-1/4 inches. If you want a longer basin wrench, telescopic ones are available

How a Basin Wrench Works

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A basin wrench is not the most common type of a wrench but all plumbers and most avid DIYers will surely have one. They are mostly used to remove or install sink faucets as well as water supply pipes connected to sinks, toilets or other fixtures.

The one thing about the area underneath the sink is that it is too tight which means that you cannot freely rotate the usual wrench when tightening or loosening the faucet mounting nut. A basin wrench on the other hand will do the job just fine.

The design of a basin wrench is such that the handle is turned far from the nut, where you have room to do so.

A basin wrench has 3 parts:

1. The head

A spring-loaded and pivoting gripping claw head is fitted on the end of a long shaft. The reason the head is designed to pivot is so that you can use the wrench to loosen as well as tighten nuts.

For most of these wrenches, the claw head pivots around a 180 degrees angle. This means that the head forms a 90 degrees angle with the shaft while in use.

If you want to loosen the mounting nut, you will need to pivot the head so that its claw head opening is facing to the left. With the claw head facing left, once you grab the mounting nut you will only need to turn it counterclockwise to loosen it.

The opposite is also true for when when you want to tighten the mounting nut.

2. The Shaft

The shaft simply connects the head to the handle (also known as a T-bar). Since the head of the basin wrench can fit in tight spots, the shaft makes it easy to turn the handle away from the obstructions where you can turn it freely.

Most shafts are about 10 inches long but if you want more length you can opt for a telescopic basin wrench. Like its name implies, a telescoping basin wrench has an adjustable shaft which you can increase its length when you want the T-bar away from obstructions.

3. The T-bar

A basin wrench’s T-bar is basically the handle which is on the other end of the shaft. This is the part you grab and use to turn the whole assembly (the basin wrench plus the mounting nut).

It is called a T-bar since it forms the letter ‘T’ with the shaft. If you want more leverage when turning the basin wrench, you can slid the handle to one side so that it looks like an Allen wrench.

How to Use a Basin Wrench

Using a basin is quite easy. The following are the steps to follow to use a basin wrench effectively:

1. Apply Penetrating Oil on the Nut

You do not have to always do this but if the mounting nut has been in place for a long time and/or looks corroded then you should do it. This will make the nut come out easily.

WD-40 isn’t exactly a penetrating oil but if that is what you have it will work just fine. Spray the oil all over the nut then wait for about 15 to 30 minutes for it to penetrate.

2. Set Up the Wrench Head

The first thing you need to determine is if you want to loosen the mounting nut or tighten it. The set up for both are different.

If you want to loosen the mounting nut, you will need to turn the basin wrench handle counterclockwise. You therefore need to ensure that the opening of the claw on the head is on the right-hand side.

In other words, the opening on the claw head should be facing right.

If you want to tighten the mounting nut, you will be turning the T-bar clockwise. This therefore means that you will need to start with the opening of the claw on the head facing the left-hand side.

Anyway, even if you get the direction wrong you will know it immediately you start turning the T-bar. When the orientation of the claw head is good, you have a tight grip on the nut otherwise it will slip off.

2. Turn the Nut

It is important to make sure you have a tight grip on the mounting nut if you are to have success loosening or tightening it.

To do this, fit the basin wrench’s head on the mounting nut so that its ridges are gripping the notches of the nut. Make sure you position the claw head in a position where you will have the best leverage with the T-bar.

You may need to grab the T-bar with both hands if the mounting nut is very tight. Alternatively you can slide the bar to one side as I had mentioned as use it they way you would use an Allen wrench.

If the nut won’t budge, a great way to give yourself leverage is to grab the shaft with a standard wrench near the T-bar and use to turn the mounting nut.

When everything else fails, you will have to cut off the faucet from above the sink using a hacksaw.

And basically that is how to use a basin wrench. I hope the video below will also be of help to you.

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