This article goes over 12 handy Allen wrench substitutes that you likely have laying around the house or garage. I will show you how to use them and what you need to look out for. I’ll also cover whether you can use a drill as a substitute and whether hex bits and Allen keys are the same thing.
Note: The shape and size of bolts can vary wildly, so mileage might vary on the replacements listed below. Some will work better than others across the various types of bolts.
Everybody has a tweezer lying around in their household. It is meant for picking up small objects like hairs. However, tweezers’ tips can also be used as an Allen wrench.
To use it, find a pair of tweezers. Place the tweezers in the hole of the bolt or screw, then apply pressure while turning it. I have found that the slanted tips work best for this.
2. Nail Clipper
Like tweezers, nail clippers have two flat ends, which can be used as an Allen wrench. The only difference is those nail clippers are bigger and can provide more leverage.
To use this method, find a pair of old nail clippers. Place the nail clippers in the bolt’s hole, then apply pressure while turning. This should work for most situations, even those that require more torque to turn.
A screwdriver is not as common in households as tweezers or nail clippers. But most people have one lying around somewhere. The tip of a flathead screwdriver can be used as an Allen wrench.
To use it, find a screwdriver with a flat head. Place the tip in the hole of the bolt or screw, then apply pressure and turn. However, be careful not to slip and damage the bolt or surrounding area.
A knife can be used as an Allen wrench if you’re in a pinch. This includes a pocket knife, butter knife, or steak knife. You’ll have to be extra careful if you’re using a knife to substitute an Allen wrench.
To use it, find a knife with a solid blade. Place the knife in the screw hole, then turn. But be extra careful when using a sharp knife. You don’t want to cut yourself or ruin a good knife.
A paperclip is a common household item used as an Allen wrench in a bind. I have to warn you that paper clips can be flimsy and might break easily. So be careful not to apply too much pressure. Still, I have used them to open up small electronic devices like a computer mouse.
To use it, find a relatively solid paperclip. Straighten one end, place it in the bolt hole or screw, apply pressure, and turn. If the paper clip is too thin, you can try doubling it up.
The end of a spoon can be used as an Allen wrench. This is a common household item that can be found in any kitchen. It is much safer in most cases to use a spoon than a sharp knife.
To use it, find a spoon with a flat end. Place the spoon in the screw, then turn. The best part is that you can use the scooping end of the spoon for more leverage.
Some types of pliers can be used as an Allen wrench. All you have to do is find a pair of pliers that fits into the bolt hole or screw. I recommend using needle nose pliers for this task.
I know not everyone will have one lying around. So this method will only work for people with a thing for DIY projects.
8. Open-Ended Wrench
I have both an open-end and a box-end wrench in my toolkit, and I use them both regularly. An open-end wrench has a U-shaped opening that allows you to slip it over the bolt head or nut. A box-end wrench has a closed loop on one end that fits snugly around the bolt head or nut.
To use it on an Allen bolt, slip the open end of the wrench over the bolt head and turn. If you use a box-end wrench, fit the closed loop around the bolt head on a box-end wrench, then spin.
I have to admit – an open wrench is my favorite. It’s versatile, easy to use, and doesn’t require as much precision. It’s also great for those who aren’t avid DIY-ers. If you have a choice, go with an open-end wrench.
9. Crescent Wrench
A crescent wrench is another type of open-ended wrench. It has a U-shaped opening on one end and a V-shaped opening on the other, allowing you to grip the bolt head or nut at various angles.
To use it on an Allen bolt, slip the U-shaped end of the wrench over the bolt head and turn. On a box-end wrench, fit the V-shaped back around the bolt head and turn.
I find that a crescent wrench is more versatile than a regular open-end wrench. The V-shaped end allows you to grip the bolt head or nut at various angles, which can be helpful when working in tight spaces.
10. Adjustable Wrench
An adjustable wrench is a type of wrench that has jaws that can be adjusted to fit around different-sized bolt heads and nuts. Simply adjust the jaws to the appropriate size and then slip it over the bolt head or nut.
I like adjustable wrenches because they’re very versatile. You can use them on a variety of different-sized bolt heads and nuts, which is helpful if you don’t have a lot of space in your toolkit.
The issue with an adjustable wrench is that it can be tricky to use. The jaws tend to slip, damaging the bolt head or nut. And if you’re not careful, you can easily strip the threads.
A multi-tool is a handy tool that has a variety of different functions. The most common type of multi-tool is the Swiss army knife, which has a blade, a can opener, a screwdriver, and many other functions.
Most multi-tools also have an Allen wrench. Simply find the appropriate size and slip it over the bolt head or nut to use it.
You can purchase a multi-tool in any local homeware or DIY store, and they are usually fairly inexpensive.
Can You Use a Drill for Allen Wrench?
You can use a drill as an Allen wrench. All you have to do is find the appropriate size bit and attach it to your drill. I recommend using a bit that is one size smaller than the bolt or screw. This will make it easier to turn the bolt or screw. Just be careful not to strip the threads.
Are Hex Bits and Allen Keys the Same?
Hex bits and Allen keys are the same. They are both used to drive screws and bolts that have a hexagonal head. The only difference is that Allen keys are L-shaped, and hex bits come in various shapes. This shape difference allows you to use the tools in many situations.
12 handy Allen wrench substitutes:
- Nail clipper
- Open-ended wrench
- Crescent wrench
- Adjustable wrench
For more, check out Can Duct Tape Be Used Instead of Electrical Tape?
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!