Sockets can be the bane of a home workshop. Finding the best socket sets is often a seemingly huge task, and many of us have resorted over the years to purchasing insanely expensive sets from well-known brands just to avoid having to think about it.
Things don’t have to be that way, however, you can actually add a good, workable set to your toolbox for a surprisingly low price.
Top 5 Socket Sets in 2017
|Name||Number of Pieces||Accessories|
|GearWrench 80551 Set||57||2 Ratchets, 2 Extensions|
|EPAuto 1/4” & 3/8” Drive Set||69||2 Ratchets, 2 Extensions|
|DEWALT DWMT75049 Set||192||3 Ratchets, 5 Extensions|
|Grey Pneumatic (1281) Set||81||1 Extension|
|Stanley 97 Deep Sockets Set||11||None|
What is a Socket Set?
A socket set allows you to work with bolts. Combined with a ratchet or an impact gun they can allow you to make quick work of a lot of tasks. They can even be used to drive specialized screws for some applications, although by their very nature you may want to use a regular screw if you’re trying to get a flush finish.
- Top 5 Socket Sets in 2017
- What is a Socket Set?
A good set will include both metric and SI sockets and come with a good ratchet handle, making the box your one-stop solution to handling bolts for a wide variety of tasks.
What is the Advantage of a Socket Set?
Sockets sets are a lot simpler to use than end wrenches, and despite having moving parts they’re simple enough that a well maintained ratchet handle will hold up for as long as any but the toughest of end wrenches.
Sockets allow you to get into smaller areas as well, which is vital for tasks which have you working in a tight area.
Different sets are designed for different uses, which we’ll get into in a moment, it’s really not quite as simple as just snagging a set which has the sizes you need. There are some other things to take into account.
What Types of Socket Set are Available
There are really only a few types of socket sates available until you get into the various types of metal which are available.
Standard sets are measured in inches, depending on where you are in the world this can be a boon or a hindrance. If you’re based in the US, this is usually preferable for most tasks, but a mixed set is better for most people.
Metric sets are sized in metric measurements. Outside of the US these sizes of bolt are more common, but even modern American cars will often require a few sizes in these measurements.
Universal sets have some of both. Due to the number of pieces, they’re generally more expensive but they’re what you should really go with.
In addition, there’s a couple of different types which you may want to keep an eye out for.
Deep sockets are essential for car repairs. They allow you to get an extra bit of distance to get down to the bolt and you can access areas even a standard socket and ratchet wouldn’t be able to reach without any trouble.
Insulated sockets are vital for working around electricity. They’ll prevent electricity from arcing to you, and they’re pretty much required if you’re going to be working around any significant voltage.
What to Look for in a Socket Set
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re selecting a set, but it’s not ridiculously complicated.
Keep in mind that a cheap set might be the best option if you’re not planning on heavy use. In this case you may want to find a set that has a wide variety of different sizes in order to accommodate a variety of different jobs.
If you’re planning on heavy use, however, keep all of the following in mind.
Most ratchets sold in the US can accommodate a wide variety of different sized sockets, they’ve been standardized to fit both metric and standard sockets. Depending on what you’re planning on doing, smaller sets can save you a bundle while larger sets will allow you the widest variety of jobs.
As a general rule, once you get to ¾” and above, you’ll be using a different ratchet from the standard one.
For auto-repair a mixed set is usually desirable, as it will allow you to work on a wide variety of different vehicles.
Get some calipers and measure some of the bolts involved if you just need them for a specific task, otherwise you’ll be best served by getting the largest set you can afford.
Things get a bit complicated here, but we’ll make it quick and simple for you.
Chrome-based alloys are both more expensive and more brittle than standard tool steel sockets. The brittleness actually works to your advantage, being representative of the hardness of the metal. That is, if you’re using hand tools.
Chrome alloyed sets aren’t suitable for impact guns and they have a tendency to break when exposed to the sheer amount of torque modern power tools are capable of producing. With hand tools, however, they provide a long lasting and durable option.
Sets designed for impact wrenches and other power tools have a different construction and are generally labeled as such. Make sure you invest in them if you’re planning on using an electric or pneumatic tool to drive your sockets.
12 or 6 Point
There are a couple of different point types available with socket wrenches.
6 point sets are harder to get on the bolt but allow you to apply more torque when driving. They’re shaped like a hexagon. You’ll need to position the socket properly to get on the bolt, but they provide a more solid fit.
12 point sets are easier to get on, but lack some of the power of a 6 point set. These are recommended for tasks where you don’t have to be certain that something will hold up. It’s mostly just a matter of convenience.
A good set will have at least a few extensions and possibly a driver. The accessories are mostly a matter of personal taste, but extensions are super handy for getting into tough to reach spots.
Specialized sockets are sometimes included with a set, but be sure that they actually perform the function required and aren’t just gimmicks to raise the perceived value of the set.