A socket set is designed to help mechanics loosen or tighten a variety of bolts and fasteners. Ranging from entry-level to professional-grade, a socket set is an essential part of your tool kit.
While you are choosing a good socket set, it is important to understand the basic parts of a socket and different types of socket. Several other factors like its size, material, or finish can also determine your choice. You might want to consider the accessories each socket set comes with like Ratchet handles, Universal joints, or Drive adapters.
Use this guide to choose the best socket set according to your particular needs.
Williams JHW50611A 95 Piece 1/4-inch & 3/8-inch Drive Master Socket & Tool Set
What is a Socket?
A socket is a tool that can be attached to a socket wrench, ratchet, torque wrench, or any other torque tool to fasten or loosen a fastener. A socket consists of two parts i.e. the head end and the drive socket end. The drive socket end fixes in the torque tool whereas the head end can be of various shapes and sizes according to the fastener it is supposed to tighten.
Types of Sockets
Depending on the nature and types of bolts or the turning tool they are used with, there are different types of sockets. Some of the most common types are the following:
- Hex socket is designed to turn the nuts and bolts with a hexagonal shaped head.
- E-Torx socket is used to tighten or loosen the E-Torx bolt.
- Pass through Sockets are used with a Pass-Through Ratchet.
- Spark Plug Sockets are used to fit or remove spark plugs from the engine.
- Insulated sockets have a coating to protect electrical current running through them.
How to choose the best Socket Set?
Besides considering the nature of the fastener or a tool that is to be used with a socket, you can choose a good socket set according to the following factors:
1. Metric or Imperial
These two types of socket sets can be distinguished by the two types of bolts they deal with i.e. Metric bolt or Imperial bolt. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two types of bolts is by looking at the head of the fastener. If the bolt head has lines on it, it is the standard or imperial bolt. If the bolt head has numbers on it, it is a metric bolt. The more lines on the imperial bolt head or the higher number on the metric bolt head indicates higher strength of the bolt. The two types refer to two different systems for measuring the thread of a fastener. Depending on the type of the fasteners you are dealing with, you can choose a metric or imperial socket set.
2. Points of Socket Set
Another classification of sockets that determines your choice of the socket set is the number of points a socket has. A six-point socket is believed to be sturdier than a 12 point socket because its inner walls are set against all six sides of hardware. 12 point sockets are characterized by their ease of operation and are mostly used for light domestic applications. 6 point sockets are used for large hardware applications where a lot of torque is required.
3. Socket Drive Size
The drive size of the socket set is determined by the type of work you will be doing. A socket set with a 3/8 drive size ratchet can be used in most of the applications. They are quite versatile because, with the use of an adapter, they can be used with the sockets of other drive sizes like ¼” or ½”. Choose your socket drive size according to the nuts you are dealing with.
4. Regular or Impact Socket Set
Regular socket deals with the fasteners that do not require a lot of force to tighten or loosen. Whereas Impact socket is almost always used with powered impact wrenches or drivers where greater force is applied to tighten or loosen a fastener. Mechanics use the Impact socket set to deal with seized nuts and bolts from automobiles.
Impact sockets are quite sturdy and can cope with the vibration caused by an Impact wrench or any other powered tool. A regular socket can easily shatter if a high impact is applied to it because the steel isn't hard enough to withstand the force.
5. The finish of a Socket Set
The finish of a socket protects it from corrosion or rust. Some of the most common types of surface finishes are black oxide, chrome plating.
Black oxide is used on impact sockets as it doesn’t chip off when subject to impact from a powered tool. Chrome plating is used on regular sockets and it is of two types i.e. standard chrome and matt or satin chrome.
Standard chrome gives the sockets a shiny mirror-like finish whereas matt or satin chrome gives the socket a dull finish.
The choice of the right chrome plating is quite important. Satin chrome does not reflect glare as well as it doesn't show fingerprints or scratches as much as the standard chrome. If you are working in a dark and confined space, using a lamp, standard chrome can cause glare and hinders the visibility. It is important to choose the socket coating according to the usage of the socket.
A socket set is an important part of your tool kit. While you can get away skimming on some tools, a socket set cannot be one of those. A good socket set makes tightening or loosening quite easy. As compared to other similar tools e.g. a spanner, it consumes less space and enables you to work more efficiently. Choose the best socket set according to your particular needs and make your next DIY project fun.