A Guide to Buying a Socket Set

Socket Set Advice

A Guide to Buying a Socket Set

Whether it is simple car maintenance or not, sockets are essential in your day to day garage work. Buying a complete socket set ensures you’ll always have the right tools to complete the job. Not only should beginners in DIY motoring tasks know the socket set sizes chart, but experienced men and women should too.

To familiarize you with the basics, this article lists everything you will find in a socket set as well as other factors to consider when buying one.Check to see if your socket set is complete.

Basic Socket Set

Metric, SAE, and Whitworth

SAE or standard-sized sockets are measured in inches and are usually used for older models of vehicles. On the other hand, most imported and domestic vehicles made today use metric hardware, which is measured in millimeters. Another type of socket is called Whitworth.

This socket is exclusively used on British vehicles. Like SAE, this one is measured in inches. However, it resembles or reflects the size of a bolt’s shaft or the internal diameter of a nut. This means that a 5/8-inch Whitworth socket is larger than a 5/8-inch SAE socket.

The best socket set for you depends on your needs. If you have older vehicles, you’ll need SAE. For modern vehicles, you’ll want a set of metric sockets. Whitworth is required if you have a British vehicle like an MG or Jaguar.

Drive Size

There are three drive sizes applicable to both metric and SAE sockets. Those are ¼-inch, 3/8-inch, and ½-inch. Each of the sizes has unique ratchets and accessories used for small or big jobs. Of course, smaller drive sizes are for smaller sockets while larger drive sizes are for larger sockets.

When in doubt, you should choose 3/8-inch drive size, as it covers the majority of the sockets you will need. The drives also come in handy for loosening or tightening small nuts, bolts, breaker bars, and fasteners.


You can also differentiate sockets by their shape or the number of points. A 6-point socket is stronger than a 12-point socket because they have thicker walls, so they’re less likely to flex. It is designed to fit well in the head of the fastener so that there will be no slippage or rounding over the corners.

On the other hand, the benefit of a 12-point socket is it’s easier to line up. It can slide onto hardware in multiple positions, making it ideal for most light work. For heavy hardware applications that require serious torque, 6-point sockets are the best choice.

Shallow and Deep Sockets

Some socket set size charts also include shallow and deep sockets, which are also useful in a variety of projects. Shallow sockets are more common and are typically used for engines with limited or tight space. They usually come with a socket wrench set so that you don’t have to buy them separately.

Automotive jobs mostly require shallow sockets, and deep sockets are reserved for only specialized projects. In other words, shallow sockets are for general use while deep sockets are for specific use. If you are using bolted joints, a deep socket is a much better option for your socket wrench.

When you have to use deep sockets, it is advisable to buy them individually rather than in full set. That is because you might only need one or two deep sockets for a specific job.

Aside from this, deep sockets also tend to be expensive because they are not considered a standard item for your toolbox. By purchasing them individually, you won’t end up with sockets sitting around in your workshop which will never be used.

Impact sockets

For electric impact or pneumatic wrenches, you need sockets designed for use with power tools like an impact socket. These sockets have a tougher construction that can withstand the high impact of power tools.

Other Accessories

Not all socket sets include ratchets and extensions. These are also important tools that you can use for any type of motor or vehicle projects when you need extra leverage to reach tight spots. If your set does not have any of these, or if you are just planning to buy one, choose a set that already comes with these vital pieces.

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