Everything You Need to Know about Sockets

Everything You Need to Know about Sockets

Maintaining or restoring a car on your own saves money. Aside from that, nothing beats the experience of learning something new, especially if it involves learning how to use different tools.

The next time your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you’ll have the confidence to fix it on your own. Compared to letting the professional mechanics do the dirty work for you, this is definitely more fulfilling.

Knowing how to fix something is only one part of the equation. Finding the right tools for your project is equally important. When it comes to automotive projects, sockets are the tools that you will need every time.

For your convenience, manufacturers sell sockets in sets. This way, you can bring all the sockets with you wherever you go and you’re always ready for action.

Don’t just buy any socket set you see on sale. It’s such a waste of money if you find out that you don’t have what you need. The best socket set should have all of the tools you need for starting and finishing the job.

Therefore, it’s important to know about the different types of sockets and their uses. If you are planning to perform the maintenance or be the mechanic of your own car, this information is what you need to know.

The Different Types of Sockets

You may think that sockets are all similar because of their shape. The reality is, their main function is the same but their application can vary depending on the fastener or tools they are designed to be used on. The clues are in the name itself. For example, hex sockets are for standard bolts and nuts while pass through sockets are for pass through ratchets.

Hex sockets

Hex sockets are named for the number of sides. This is because most bolts and nuts have a hexagonal shape. This type of socket perfectly fits around a nut or bolt head without too much struggle. They come in 6-point and 12-point types.

The 6-point socket has thicker walls than the 12-point. It requires more precision to use, but it can provide more torque strength as there is no slippage while loosening or tightening bolts. This is why many prefer the 6-point over the 12-point.

On the other hand, the 12-point or double hex socket is more flexible in the sense that it can fit over a bolt head at any position. This is a better choice when working in a tight space or with a hard to reach the bolt.

Impact Sockets

To distinguish an impact socket from a standard hex socket, you only have to look at the color. Impact sockets are black with an industrial surface finish rather than the polished silver of a hex socket.

They are meant to be used together with impact wrenches because they can withstand the high force and vibration while removing fasteners. It’s not recommended to use an ordinary socket with an impact wrench, because they are too brittle and will break.

On the other hand, impact sockets are made from more ductile and less brittle steel graded for higher torque strength. Aside from this, you will also notice that they have thicker walls and are non-corrosive.

Socket bits

Socket bits look like a hex socket with a screwdriver bit. They are made of metal and either manufactured in one piece or in two separate parts that are fixed together.

They can also be used with impact drivers and other manual tools or ratchets. To connect it with a ratchet, you would connect the square ratchet end to the tool in the same way you connect a hex socket to a square drive.

The one-piece socket bits have a screwdriver bit permanently attached to one end, or the end will be shaped like a driver bit. The advantage of a two-piece socket bits is that the bits are detachable from the socket. Therefore, you can use the socket part independently when you do not need the bits. Like screwdriver bits, this type also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each one is designed for a particular style of fastener head.

Spark Plug Socket

A spark plug socket is specially designed for spark plugs from engines. They have a foam rubber insert which helps hold the spark plug and prevents it from getting damaged. Choosing the right size of spark plug socket is crucial to prevent damage to the spark plug. The worst case scenario for using the wrong size is that your socket won’t be removed from the car.

Pass Through Sockets

This socket is designed to be turned by a ratchet spanner. They do not have a square drive socket like other types have. The socket allows the bolt shaft to pass through its center and out the top of the ratchet. It is named for the pass-through hole that makes a hollow tube.

Universal Joint Socket

This socket is flexible and versatile, allowing you to work in confined places with ease. They have flexible angles and are ideal for using with an extension to turn corners or removing hard to reach fasteners. The best socket set should include an extension because they are helpful for dealing with fasteners positioned at an odd angle.

Insulated Sockets

Insulated sockets look like a standard socket, but have a plastic coating for electric current insulation. The coating typically appears in two layers of different colors.

This type of socket can withstand a safe live working current of both AC and DC. When you are working with high electrical currents, the insulated sockets come in handy.

The best socket set for this type should have an insulated turning tool to double the insulation against electric current and keep the user safe. The expense of owning this set means that professional mechanics often do not have or use it.

Top 5 Recommended Socket Sets

The best socket set for you should consist of the tools that you will use for all of your automotive work. To help you find the right brand, this article compiles some of the best-reviewed socket sets on Amazon. All five of them have more than 4 stars of satisfaction rating, ensuring first-rate sockets made of high-quality and durable materials.

Neiko 10288A Master Hex Bit Socket Set

Nothing beats tools created by Neiko, and that includes their Neiko 10288A Master Hex Bit Socket Set. This set has 32 pieces of SAE and Metric hex bit sockets of different sizes suitable for a 1/4-inch drive, 3/8-inch drive, and 1/2-inch drive. The SAE hex sockets range from 5/64-inch to 3/4-inch.

Meanwhile, the Metric hex sockets range from 2mm to 19mm. All of the bits are made of premium S2 alloy steel known for its durability.This material is also one of the hardest and least ductile materials used only by a few manufacturers.

On the other hand, the sockets are made of chrome vanadium steel that is comparable to 8650. This offers greater turning power and torque strength.

The mirror chrome finish of each socket is also long-lasting and provides protection from corrosion. All of the bit tips were made with precision ensuring uniform size and quality.

Furthermore, the chamfered bit ends can insert into any fasteners smoothly. This product is made in Taiwan and includes free shipping in the U.S. and other international countries. It is also backed by a 30-day money back guarantee. Lastly, it has a 4.7/5 stars satisfaction rating on Amazon.

Pros:

  • Strong and durable hex bit sockets, great for any type of automotive work
  • Offers greater turning power and torque strength
  • Covers all sizes of drives for both SAE and Metric

Cons:

  • More expensive than the other socket sets
  • Does not include wrenches or ratchets
  • Case has shallow foam for all the items

Stanley STMT71652 Socket Set

If you are looking for a large collection of sockets, then the Stanley STMT71652 Socket Set won’t fail you. This product has 123 pieces of sockets to satisfy every professional or beginner mechanic.

The set includes SAE sockets that are made of chrome vanadium to allow greater torque strength and durability. Each has a fully polished chrome finish for corrosion resistance.

Aside from this, the sockets also feature a Max-Drive design that is proven to provide 15% more power in tightening fasteners and turning rounded corners.

In other words, this added feature makes your tough job more manageable. The Max-Drive design also reduces fastener wear by minimizing contact on the fastener. The set also has drive tools made of high-quality steel with nickel chrome or black chrome finish.

To complete the set, the manufacturer added ratchets with ergonomic handles and a thumboperated reverse switch mechanism. The ratchets also feature low-profile quick-release buttons. All of the tools are arranged inside a snap toolbox that securely positions each item.

This avoids confusion about the sizes because they are arranged in order. All tools included have exceeded the high standards of ANSI specifications and come with Stanley’s lifetime warranty.

Pros:

  • A large collection of SAE sockets offers every tool that you need to finish any kind of automotive jobs
  • Comes at a very affordable price
  • Includes ratchets and drive tools

Cons:

  • Sockets are less durable than the first versions Stanley Tools made
  • The tools reportedly feel rough to turn and are not as greased as they used to be

Astro 7412 1/4-Inch Drive Flex Socket Set

The Astro 7412 1/4-Inch Drive Flex Socket Set is a small set of sockets that is a nice addition to your collection. It might not be something that you will always need for every automotive project, but they are sure to be a great help for specific projects. The set includes 12 pieces of Metric flex sockets, ranging from 5mm to 15mm, and was created by Astro Pneumatic.

What you will like the most about the tools are their flexibility and versatility. Since they are a flex type of socket, they are a better choice for working with hard to reach fasteners in small engines or engines with tight spaces. All of the sockets have 6 points so that they will fit well to fasteners and bolts without slipping.

Meanwhile, the sockets also feature surface drive technology for better gripping power and torque strength as well as flexible joints for reaching inaccessible fasteners. The manufacturer also included a 1/4-inch drive. The packaging is a foam case where all tools have a designated place. This product comes with a 1-year warranty from the manufacturer.

Pros:

  • Sockets have good flexibility, ideal for hard to reach fasteners
  • Comes at an affordable price

Cons:

  • Not as versatile as standard hex sockets
  • Does not include a case but only a foam tray

Sunex Tools 3/8-Inch Drive Master Impact Socket Set

If you are looking for tough sockets that can withstand wear and high pressure, you should choose impact sockets. This set from Sunex Tools is one of the best socket sets available today because of its outstanding qualities.

All 42 pieces are made of chromium-molybdenum alloy steel, which is a better choice than chrome vanadium when it comes to durability.

The set includes different sizes of Metric sockets and Deep Metric Sockets ranging from 10mm to 19mm as well as SAE sockets and deep SAE sockets ranging from 5/16 inch to 3/4 inch.

Sunex Tools also added essential equipment like a 3-inch extension and a 3/8-inch U-Joint that can pivot up to 22 degrees. This amazing set ensures that you will always have the right tool to use for general and specific projects.

Aside from the quantity, rest assured that the quality of the items is superior, too. To reduce wear on the fastener and increase torque power, all sockets feature radiused corners.

In fact, they all have passed the standards of ASME specifications and are backed up by a lifetime warranty. This feature is something only reliable brands can guarantee.

Pros:

  • Covers a wide range of sockets for both SAE and Metric types
  • Passed the standards of ASME specifications to ensure quality
  • Backed by the Sunex Tools lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Does not include an impact wrench
  • Radiused corners make the socket hard to remove when working with older, corroded fasteners

GearWrench 80550 57 Piece Socket Set

Last, but certainly not least, is the GearWrench 80550. This set consists of 57 sockets such as standard Metric, Standard SAE, Deep Metric, and deep SAE sockets.

All of them are made of full polish nickel chrome plated alloy steel that make them durable and hard to break. All of them also have 6 points, which is ideal for heavy duty work that needs precision.

The set also includes two kinds of ratchets that are compatible with all of the sockets. First is the 120-position 3/8 inch ratchet with a low profile head and flush mounted reversing lever, and second is the stubby full polish teardrop ratchet.

The ratchets are noticeably longer than the other brands to add leverage and control. To make the product versatile and suitable for any kind of work, the manufacturer even added 3-inch and 6-inch extensions and universal joints.

The sockets also feature Surface Drive Technology that reduces fastener rounding. Furthermore, the sockets have serration depth as deep as the fastener.

All tools have labels or large hard-stamped part numbers and size and are organized inside a blow mold case for easy identification. All tools are backed by a lifetime warranty from Apex Tools Group.

Pros:

  • Covers the majority of the socket sizes and types that professional and beginner mechanics need
  • All tools have labels for easy identification
  • All tools are backed by manufacturer’s warranty

Cons:

  • The ratchets included are unstable and lack quick release function
  • Sockets are unstable when attached to an extension

Conclusion:

All of the products listed above have unique features that can make them a better choice for one job or another. They each contain different types or sizes of sockets.

Therefore, it is safe to say that each of them deserves to be called the best socket set under different categories. If you are a beginner mechanic, you might want to settle for a socket set that is complete with both Metric and SAE requirements such as the Stanley STMT71652 Socket Set or GearWrench 80550 57 Piece Socket Set.

If you are after reliability and durability, then the Neiko 10288A Master Hex Bit Socket Set is a better choice. For special projects, it is either the Sunex Tools 3/8-Inch Drive Master Impact Socket Set or the Astro 7412 1/4-Inch Drive Flex Socket Set.

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