Socket Set: Buying Guide For Wrench Sets, Organizers, Allen & Swivel


A socket set is a collection of sockets.  They will usually come in a hard case, with a set location for each piece.  A socket wrench is a wrench with a ratcheting mechanism onto which you can attach various interchangeable sockets of different sizes and types, allowing you to turn different size and type fasteners.  A typical socket is like a small cup with flat sides inside to grip the heat of a bolt.  Sockets come in all sizes and shapes.  Most bolts and nuts are made with hexagonal (6) gripping surfaces.  There are also square nuts still in use, as well.  Sockets are produced with 6 points (hexagonal), 8 point, or 12 point.  The 12 point sockets can be used for square nuts.  The fewer points, the stronger the socket is, and the less likely it is to be stripped.  Sockets, like the bolts and nuts they are usually used for, are available in both SAE and metric sizes.

Sockets are also available in different depths.  The shorter are known as standard or shallow sockets.  The longer sockets are referred to as deep well sockets.  There are also different sockets for high-torque applications known as “impact” sockets.  These sockets are often used in situations where an impact wrench is used, such as in the car industry or manufacturing facilities.  A standard socket would literally shatter if they broke under these high-torque situations, where an impact socket is designed to handle the force.  The impact sockets are easily identifiable, as they are finished in a black oxide or plastic coating.

The other option available for sockets is the driver size.  The common sizes are 1/4”, 3/8” and ½” drives.

The size of the set that you choose will determine how much is included in the set.  There are simple sets with the most common SAE sizes or metric sizes.  There are sets complete with both measurements in just one driver size, and there are more complete sets available with multiple driver sizes, as well.  You can even purchase complete sets with all three driver sizes, as well as all common sockets for each size, in shallow, and deep well sockets.

Socket Set Organizer

Typically, if you purchase a socket set, it will come in a case, or the sockets will often come on a quick-release bar to keep your sockets together, inline, and organized.  Most of time, when you purchase a socket set that includes wrenches, it will come in a hard plastic case with a spot for each socket, labeled with the size socket for that location, as well as locations for any adaptors, extensions, and wrenches.  If you purchase sockets separately, there are empty organizers available in which you add the sockets and wrenches to the organizer.  The advantage of buying sets with a holder is that the socket set organizer is going to have custom locations fit specifically for the pieces in the set, where a separate organizer is going to be generic, and your sockets and wrenches may not fit tightly.

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Socket Wrench Set

A socket wrench set is simply a set that is going to include not only the sockets, but the wrenches as well.  These sets are very common, and usually will also include adaptors to use a 3/8” driver with a ¼” drive socket, for example, or to adapt a ½” driver to use 3/8” sockets.  They will usually also include extensions, common in 3” and 6” lengths for each driver size.  These extensions you would usually have to purchase separately, and are not typically included in socket sets.

Allen Socket Set

A great socket set to add to any collection is the allen socket set.  This set is usually 3/8” drive dockets permanently equipped with various sizes allen bits.  These sets are fantastic, as they allow you more torque, and are easier to keep organized than standard allen wrenches.  These sets also give you the ratcheting ability that you do not have with allen wrenches.  The annoying part of using allen wrenches for fine thread, or long bolts is that when the head of the screw is in a tight spot, you keep having to take the wrench out of the screw.  Not once you add the ratcheting benefit of an allen socket set!

Swivel Socket Set

A swivel socket is one that has a pivoting point between the driver and the open end of the socket, allowing for odd angels when working in tight, hard-to-reach locations.  You could buy these sockets individually, but there is a distinct advantage in purchasing and entire swivel socket set.  If you work in automotive or manufacturing, you will find it a huge advantage to have a SAE and metric swivel socket set in your collection.  There are many times they will save you from having to break out the slow open-end wrenches.

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Amazon.com Products

The first socket set that I found on Amazon.com is the Stanley 92-809 MaxDrive 60-Piece 1/4 and 3/8-inch Standard and Metric Socket Set with Case.  This set incorporates much of the features that I mentioned earlier, and is a great starter set for someone wanting to purchase their first socket wrench set.  This inexpensive set sells for only $32.77 on Amazon.com with an amazing limited lifetime warranty.  It includes both SAE and Metric sockets in your standard sizes, for both ¼” and 3/8” drives.  This set is a socket wrench set, not just a socket set because it includes both a 1/4” and 3/8” wrench, as well as 24 1/4-inch sockets, 19 3/8-inch sockets, 1 3/8- to 1/4-inch adapter, 1 3/8-inch extension bar, 1 1/4-inch drive specialty bit holder, 10 specialty bits, and color graphic labels.  All these pieces come in an included socket set organizer molded specifically for this set.

Reviewers of this set found that it is much better quality than the cheap sets you will find in most auto parts stores.  They feel that it is a great buy for the money, and are happy with their purchase.    They point out that the case holds the sockets tight, so they have no worry about the possibility of losing a socket because it falls out of the case.   It is rated at 4.4 out of 5 stars by the customers who own it.

The next socket set I found on Amazon.com is the Neiko Pro Grade 13-Piece Metric Allen Hex Bit Socket.  Amazingly enough, this set is selling for only $16.99 (a HUGE discount over the list price of $49.99).  This set is advertised as a Professional Grade, and it sure seems that the users who have reviewed it agree.  It includes 1/4" drive socket sizes 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 5.5 and 6mm, 3/8" drive sizes 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12mm as well as 1/2" drive size 14mm.  The sockets are contained in a secure-fit latched ABS carry and storage case.   They are all made with Cr-V alloy steel, mirror polished and chrome plated, drop forged and steel heat treated.

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This set is rated at a not-so-surprising 5 out of 5 stars.  The reviewers feel that they are truly professional quality; they like the case, and love the size range included.  They also mention that the ribbed end for controlling grip is  a beneficial feature, and are amazed at the price, as it seems the set should cost three times as much (as the list price reflects).

The final set that I wish to tell you about today is the Genius TG-312M 12 Piece 3/8" Dr. Metric Swivel Impact Socket Set.  This set is combines two of the features I mentioned earlier-it is a swivel socket set as well as being impact sockets.   Since this socket set combines both of these features, it is not an inexpensive set.  At $80.15, though, it is still a great value.  This set is 3/8” drive, and includes 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19mm sizes.  This high quality set is backed by a lifetime warranty.  Since it is an impact set, you are not likely to break or round off these sockets, even with years of use.  This 12 piece set has no reviews on Amazon.com yet, so give it a try, and be sure to come back to leave your opinion.

Summary

Socket sets come in so many varieties of sizes, brands, quality, and features that the number of sets available is almost impossible to number.  If you are looking to purchase your first set, you will probably want to purchase a socket wrench set with an included socket set organizer to keep your sockets neat, easily find what you are looking for when you need them, and keep them in one location.  Happy wrenching!!

Jeremy D

Jeremy is the editor at TopToolTips.com where we're passionate about providing you with the best tips about a DIY and the tools to get it done. There are a lot of questions out there asked about all aspects of this topic and that's where we come in, to answer them quickly and helpfully.

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