Ratchets are beneficial and flexible garage tools. The ratcheting socket wrench, often known as a ratchet, is the most common type. Pneumatic impact wrenches and hydraulic torque wrenches are two other ways to drive sockets.
To tighten and loosen nuts and bolts, you’ll need a ratchet spanner. Because the ratchet mechanism only allows it to undo nuts in one direction, you may swiftly undo or tighten nuts without having to repeatedly lift the ratchet off, as you would with a regular spanner.
Hexagonal sockets are referred to as “6-point” sockets because of the intersections where their six solid-sided facets meet.
Sockets are frequently sold as a “socket set,” which includes various sizes and types of sockets to fit the heads of various-sized fasteners. On the top, a rapid release button is frequently used for quick socket release of smaller sockets.
Using our SAE and metric chart, you may learn more about the different ratchets and their ratchet head sizes in our guide. (Read Standard Size Spark Plug Socket)
What are the sizes of sockets?
A socket set is a versatile and convenient collection of toolkit accessories that allow users to work with various sizes and types of fasteners, primarily nuts and bolts. Socket sets are typically sold as a single, convenient case, box, or pouch containing various replaceable attachments.
In fact, because there are so many varying sizes and shapes of nuts, bolts, and other fasteners, no single socket set kit and head sizes (also known as ratchet and socket sets, or socket wrench sets) are likely to have add-ons for every fastener type you can come across.
Sockets for most fastener types are included in most comprehensive sets. Still, knowing the nuts and bolt heads, you’re likely to face in your day-to-day work is a crucial consideration in determining which size sockets of SAE or metric measurements of your socket set – or combination is best. (Read Sae To Metric Conversion Calculator)
Ratchet and socket sets are typically used to tighten or loosen a variety of fastener sizes and types. Many standard socket sets have attachment sizes to meet the most common nut and bolt gauges on cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles.
Besides being convenient and versatile, socket sets can make certain strenuous activities easier by adding a layer of user-friendliness, such as spark plug sockets designed for this specific task, or a torque wrench to avoid too much torque.
Consider the following scenario:
- When dealing with rusty fasteners, having a well-stocked socket set and breaker bar on hand enables users to select a socket to fit almost perfectly over the nut or bolt head.
- Most sockets completely encircle a nut or bolt head, allowing the tool to grip the fasteners better than an open-jaw wrench while providing more torque, especially when using breaker bars. A torque wrench is often used to avoid over-tightening.
- This also reduces the risk of a non-socket head size slipping under force and resulting in injury.
How to use your socket set
Socket sets are usually straightforward to use, and virtually all of them come with a no-fuss quick-change feature that makes switching between different sized attachments on the same wrench or ratchet spanner a breeze. (Find the Best Ratcheting Wrench Set)
A socket set is a collection of various sized attachments that slot or snap into the handle of a socket wrench, also known as a ratchet spanner or similar turning tool.
This allows them to handle a wide range of nut and bolt shapes and gauges and provide significantly more convenience and portability than hauling about multiple individual spanners, ratchets, or torque wrenches, all of which are different sizes, from job to job.
- A socket wrench set will almost always be built around a fairly generic handled tool, at least one of which will be included with the set.
- The most popular versions of these tools include a couple of different ratchet handle sizes and a ratchet wrench with a ratcheting mechanism at the head end.
- There is also an exposed square or hexagonal drive-post connector at the head, into which the various attachments in the set, i.e. the sockets themselves, will be slotted for usage.
- The opposite end of the socket wrenches is placed over or into the fixture, loosened/tightened once the right size of socket for the fastener in issue has been selected and attached via its drive-post recess.
- Most sockets have a recessed or ‘female’ opening to fit over protruding nuts and bolts; however, ‘male’ versions are frequently provided in sets for female-type nuts and bolts with recessed heads, similar to a classic screwdriver/screw setup.
When ratchet wrenches are turned clockwise, the ratcheting mechanism allows for continual adjustment of the nut or bolt, but the tool rotates freely when turned anticlockwise.
When the user reaches the end of the comfortable turning arc or working in tight spaces, the wrench does not have to be lifted off and reseated. This directional bias is frequently reversed with a simple switch on the ratchet handle.
Different socket set types
The range of fastener sizes that the right socket size fits over the fastener head is usually the most significant distinction between them and a conventional wrench.
The different socket sizes can be purchased as a set, and here are the more popular socket wrench kits, or singular if it is something such as a spark plug spanner.
Impact socket sets
Impact driver socket sets work similarly to conventional socket sets, with the exception that they’re designed for use with power tools like electric or pneumatic air wrenches.
Impact sockets are typically forged from slightly softer but thicker alloys such as chrome-molybdenum steel and are dipped or coated to provide better anti-corrosion qualities.
Imperial or Metric socket sets
Socket sets with imperial measurements are still widely referred to as the SAE standard, an acronym for the Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States. Most other countries across the world now prefer the metric system.
Metric is measured in millimeters and regarded as more precise. However, it’s common to come across nuts and bolts still meeting imperial requirements, especially in older machinery.
Sometimes, you can use metric sockets instead of an SAE one, although this isn’t the best way to do it. A kit with both SAE and metric is often found with leading brands. (Find the Best Price Socket Sets)
Deep socket sets
They’re more widely found in smaller sets or as single attachments than standard sockets. Outside of automotive situations, toolkits with standard-length sockets and a smaller selection of deep sockets are typical.
Hex socket sets
A hex socket set, also known as a 6-point socket set, fits over a standard hexagonal nut or bolt head socket size with six contact points. (Learn How Many Sizes Of Torx Bits Are There)
Some six-point sockets, especially the high-end ones, have slightly convex interior socket faces for increased torque while reducing stripping or rounding the fastener’s head at its corners. Six points offer the best grip as you tighten in a clockwise direction.
12-point socket sets
12-point socket sets have a higher tooth count and work on the same idea as their 6-point hex siblings but have twice as many inner faces in the recessed holes of the sockets.
They provide 12 points of contact with the fastener, which can provide several significant benefits: A 12-point socket set accommodates square-head nuts and bolts and makes it faster and easier to seat the socket over most fastener head types.
Pass-Through Socket Head
Pass-through sockets let long bolts go through the socket head so you can use them instead of deep sockets that could be limited. You won’t find these fitting different types of ratchets as the handle needs a central hole.
What are the standard socket sizes in order?
When working with sockets, SAE and metric nuts and bolts are different sizes and interchangeable sockets. Different drive socket sizes are difficult to work on because some drive sizes cannot fit into specific socket sockets. To ensure that you’re working on the right drive socket sizes, make sure you’re using the right socket wrench sizes. (Read Light Bulb Socket Sizes Chart)
Most Common Drive Sizes
The drive socket on your socket wrench is the square section that sits in the square hole on your socket. (Learn How To Determine Allen Wrench Size)
You find three sizes for most scenarios, even though there are more.
- 1/4” Drives: Used for low profile sockets and low torque work in a confined space and smaller sized socket heads up to 14mm.
- 3/8” Drives: These are the most versatile regular sockets and cover sockets for jobs around the home, your car and many others in confined spaces.
- 1/2” Drives: Typically used for larger fasteners on vehicles where nuts need more torque and the correct socket for loosening fasteners. You find these 19mm socket sizes and above, often used with impact sockets.
|SAE to Metric Conversion Chart|
|SAE Socket Sizes||Metric Socket Sizes||Similar Socket Size|
|5/32”||5/32” and 4mm are almost the same|
|5/16”||5/16” and 8mm are similar|
|11mm||7/16” and 11mm are similar|
|15/32”||15/32” and 12mm are similar|
|15mm||19/32” and 15mm are similar|
|19mm||3/4” and 19mm are similar|
|23mm||29/32” and 23mm are similar|