I was looking to tighten and loosen a couple of nuts and valves on my radiator in an attempt to get it to cool down once in a while, but found that I have no spanners or wrenches that would be ideal for doing this job.

What else could I use instead of a spanner / wrench?

The solution would have to be pretty robust as the nuts are a bit old and will most likely be extremely difficult to turn either way so I will need to be applying a good deal of force the tool.

  • 2
    You could possibly repeatedly fold a piece of paper (lengthways) and the wrap it around the nut. This may give you enough grip to turn it.
    – Tim
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:01
  • @Tim Would you consider adding that as an answer with more detail, I really like the sound of it.
    – MrPhooky
    Mar 25, 2015 at 9:23

3 Answers 3


If you have a metal clamp, that could work well - the larger the better. A pair of pliers should also be able to do the trick, but I would try using a clamp first.

  • Related idea: vise-grip. Mar 17, 2015 at 16:37

Make your own spanner!


  • Bolt the size of what you want to screw.
  • PVC pipe slightly smaller than the outside of the bolt.
  • Metal rod to stick through the PVC (longer rod = more force).
  • Heat (any candle or lighter will do)
  • Something to stick the metal rod through the middle of the pipe (either drill or melt the the PVC with a heated rod).

The following recipe is based on an Instructable, but I've used it myself in the past. Works fairly well for spanners you only need a couple of times.


Consider PVC as a toxic material and do the following in a well ventilated area.

Heat the bolt. Push the PVC pipe over the bolt. The hot bolt will melt the pipe and the pipe will take the form of the bolt.

Now wait for it to cool, remove the bolt from the PVC and stick the metal rod through the middle of the PVC pipe. You got yourself a spanner!

  • Will the PVC pipe handle the torque MrPhooky wants to apply?
    – holroy
    Mar 17, 2015 at 22:16
  • @holroy He wants to tighten the bolts, not loosen them. That doesn't take a huge amount of torque.
    – Mast
    Mar 18, 2015 at 8:06
  • Well, @MrPhooky says "applying a good deal of force the tool", which I read as he needs some torque. But I do like the idea, do you by the way have a picture of the finished tool?
    – holroy
    Mar 18, 2015 at 13:49
  • @holroy It will basically look like a pipe spanner
    – Mast
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:48

You can make an improvised adjustable spanner with a second nut and bolt. Turn the nut towards the head until the gap between the nut and the bolt head is about the same width as the head you are undoing. Fit it over and adjust until it squeezes the head your are undoing. Wear gloves or wrap the shaft of the second bolt thread and turn it like a spanner handle.

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