put/throw a spanner in the works

throw a spanner in the works

or

put a spanner in the works

BRITISH
COMMON If someone or something throws a spanner in the works or puts a spanner in the works, they cause problems which prevent something from happening in the way that it was planned. If they're suddenly going to change the arrangement, it's going to throw a spanner in the works. It is clear Britain could have put a spanner in the works of the contract. Note: You can also just talk about a spanner in the works, meaning `a problem that prevents something from happening the way that it was planned'. Another possible spanner in the works is the weather, which may prevent us from travelling on the 18th. Note: The usual American expression is throw a wrench into the works or throw a monkey wrench into the works.
See also: spanner, throw, work

put/throw a ˈspanner in the works

(British English) (American English throw a (ˈmonkey) ˈwrench in the works) (informal) spoil or prevent the success of somebody’s plan, idea, etc: Let’s get this finished before the boss comes along and throws a spanner in the works.
A spanner or wrench is a metal tool used for fastening things tightly. The works are the moving parts of a machine.
See also: put, spanner, throw, work