A socket wrench is a great tool to have in any tool box.
When you need to do some heavy-duty wrench work, look no further than a trusty socket wrench. A socket wrench will help do a lot of fastening efficiently, on both SAE and metric fasteners.
How a Socket Wrench Works
A socket wrench is a hand tool with a ratcheting mechanism on its head. The ratcheting part attaches to a variety of sockets by way of a square nub called the drive. The ratchet can be set to loosen or tighten a nut. The ratchet keeps the socket in place while you turn the wrench handle.
A ratchet is a gear mechanism that holds in place when you go one direction, and releases if you pull the opposite way. The ratchet allows you to quickly tighten a nut or bolt without having to refit and remove the wrench. The ratchet’s handle gives you plenty of leverage for loosening and tightening. That leverage allows you to create a lot of torque. However, make sure you’re using the right socket size for your nut or bolt. Because of the heavy torque, a nut or bolt can be easily stripped if you use the wrong size.
There’s been debate on which type of socket head is better. A 6-point socket has six meeting points on the interior part of the socket, while a 12-point has 12 meeting points, resembling a circle. A 6-point socket will fit more snug on a bolt, leaving you less room for error and making it less likely that you’ll strip the bolt. On the other hand, a 12-point socket can give you more wiggle room, and allow you to use a socket that isn’t exactly the right size. However, using the wrong size can lead to stripping the bolt.
Socket wrenches typically come in sets, with a variety of different size sockets. For both SAE and metric, the ratchet’s drive is typically 1/2″. Smaller ratchets can be 1/4″ and usually come with a 1/2″ adapter. 3/4″ is another popular size. Anything larger is usually used in industrial work. A few wrench extension bars usually come with the socket sets. The extension bars can get your wrench in hard-to-reach places, like parts of engine block. The sets also come with clearly marked,different size sockets. Having a set will allow to do a variety of jobs.
You’ll find your typical socket wrench and then there are combination wrenches. Combination wrenches typically can be used with both SAE and metric fasteners. One end will have an open-end wrench, and the other side will have a ratchet. Sockets can be used with the ratcheting end, just like a regular socket wrench.
A flex head ratchet wrench is a socket wrench, with a flexible head. The head can move back and forth, giving you more leeway in tight spaces.