Hex Key vs Allen Wrench: What is the Difference?

There are many different tools that are handy to have in your kit. One of these is a good set of Allen wrenches, or are they called hex keys? Is there a difference? In this article, we are going to discuss what these tools are and if there is any difference.

If this question of hex keys and Allen wrenches has been one you have struggled with, keep reading and have that struggle resolved!

What Is the Difference?

Hex key? Allen wrench? The truth is that both terms actually lead you to the same tool. It may depend on where you are from or what industry you work in as to which term you are familiar with. A hex key is a small tool used for tightening screws and bolts into materials. The unique hexagonal ends are what give it its name. As for Allen wrenches, which is the same tool, this name was given to the tool with respect to the man who created them.

The answer to whether there is a difference is no. These two names can be used interchangeably in regard to these small tools. However, there are different types of hex keys/Allen wrenches. In order to give you a little more insight into these tools, we will break them down and discuss them further.

Types Of Hex Key/Allen Wrench

These tools have been around since the 1800s, and in that time, they have evolved into different designs and sizes. These have all come about to embrace new technology and uses. Here are some of the types of hex key/Allen wrenches you may want to know about.

L-Style – When we all think of Allen wrenches, this is probably the one that comes to mind first. These are the traditional wrenches that come in premade furniture boxes. It is called the L-style because of the design. You can find them ranging in size from 1.5mm all the way to 10mm.

Folding – This type is a set of keys that come in a case that they can be folded out from. It is sort of like a swiss army knife design. The set usually folds out at a 90-degree angle and offers a good level of torque.

P-Handle – These Allen wrenches are very popular in professional shops. They look like a larger L-style type but they have a grip at the end of the tool that makes it look like the letter “p”, hence the name.

Allen Screwdriver – If you are dealing with a tight area and a low amount of torque, then this type of hex key might be something you could use. These are great for working on brakes. Most often, you will find these types of wrenches in sizes ranging from 1.5mm to 5mm.

Key Rings Sets – This is a set of L-shaped wrenches that are combined together on a key ring. The set will have a whole slew of different sizes.

T-Handle – This type is probably most familiar to people who are in the motorsports field. The design allows for the wrench to be able to be spin quickly with good leverage. These wrenches gain steam and are used by bike mechanics.

Ratcheting Drivers – In comparison to traditional Allen wrenches, this type of wrench works faster. This type uses bits and sockets to get the job done. Some can even be used with an electric drill.

Ball Hex Sets – These sets are very different from your standard Allen wrench sets. They have a ball molded into the edges.

There may be other varieties of the tool, but these are the most well-known options. Now that you have an idea of the differences in the wrenches, we can look at a few places that these tools will come in handy.

Popular Uses

We have all used an Allen wrench at some time in our lives, but if you’re wondering why you should invest in a set, here are some of the most popular uses for them.

These tools are very popular in bike maintenance. They come in a lot of different sizes, which makes them versatile and easy to transport. If you are someone who enjoys working on bikes, they are a must-have for your repair kit.

There is a lot of furniture that is constructed using bolts and screws that use a hex key design. The fact that the tools are so small is the main reason they are used. The size leaves the bolts and screws less noticeable. These tools are also used often when dealing with small spaces.

Sometimes, this style of tool is helpful in cars and motor vehicles when it comes to maintenance. This is especially true if you are working in the interior of a vehicle.

Other tools often use hex keys to change out parts or tighten pieces into place. Some saws will require you to use a hex key to change out blades.

Lastly, another place that hex key/Allen wrenches are used quite frequently is in electronics. If you do a lot of repairs on electronics, then you will definitely want to look for a good set of Allen wrenches.

These are just some of the places that these wrenches are used. Hopefully, you can see that, though these two terms can be used interchangeably, there is quite a bit of variety when it comes to the different options offered.


So we have answered the question – Hex key vs Allen wrench: what is the difference? It’s simple… There is none. The terms are attached to the same tool. Whether you call them hex keys or Allen wrenches, they are a handy tool to include in your kit.

They come in handy when you are working in tight spaces where you still need some torque. Where the difference comes in is when you look at the different types of these wrenches. Hopefully, this has answered your questions when it comes to the age-old question of hex keys or Allen wrenches.

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