What is a Socket Wrench – The Ultimate Guide (2021)

In 90’s even before that, remember what our parents used to do when working on a particular removal or bolt or stubborn nuts? They used to use a set of wrenches from the tool box. One particular wrench for each size of bolt was assigned by then.

But come on, you’re living in 2017 and there should be some smarter, powerful and easier way of solving the same problem, right? And yes, there is.

Thanks to the person who invented the idea of a socket wrench. This had made our life a worker way more comfortable. A socket wrench is something that makes removing a bolt or nut easier that ever.

But before going to use one for your purpose, here are a number of facts, information and guide on what is a socket wrench & how does a socket wrench work. And that’s what this article is all about.

Keep reading and we’ll tell you all.

What Is a Socket Wrench?

Before discussing what is a socket wrench & how does a socket wrench work, let’s talk about the structure.

A socket wrench is just another wrench that has a ratchet with an angle of 90 degree. Also, they equip a number of cylindrical shaped sockets that varies in shape. In together, they are advanced version of regular sockets that can work on bolts of different size just after an alteration in the socket type.

To work with these wrenches re pretty simple. All you need to do is to use it for the first time, and I bet you’ll need no more guide to use it farther. However, we’ve added a complete how-to guide in the second part of this article on this. It will take you thought the step by step guide of using a socket wrench perfectly.

Socket Wrench Vs. Regular Wrench: What Makes the Difference

There are a number of concerns that created the basic differences between the ages-old regular wrenches and these socket wrenches. Here are a few of them :-

  • 1
    The ratchet, which is in the socket wrench with an angle of 90 degree to the body creates a great difference in control. Comparing to the typical wrenches, they are easy to control, and to imply more torque on the bolts or nuts.
  • 2
    The socket length is quite adjustable and long enough in some cases. As per the laws of physics, the longer the lever is, more forces/torques you can produce. So, users have a full control on how much pressure he’d like to imply on the bolt.
  • 3
    They are compatible to a number of bolt types. Regular wrenches need a new one each time you work on a new bolt type. Socket wrenches are completely free of this hassle.

Types of Socket Wrench

The functions of socket wrench are same- to make your work of tightening nuts and bolts easy. But to be technical, you can do it in many ways with different types of socket wrenches in hand. Before that, you have to know that which type is the best fit for you.

There are four types of socket wrenches in market :-

  • 1
    Air Driven socket wrenches.
  • 2
    Impact wrenches.
  • 3
    Manual socket wrenches.
  • 4
    Break bar wrenches.

We’ll be discussing on each of them in brief. Keep reading...

1. Air Driven Socket Wrenches

Air driven socket wrenches comes with a decent level of torques in action. They are extremely handy in removing many of the bolts. As example, an oil pan that can have more than 20 bolts, can be a hard nut to crack for an air driven wrench.

But the greatest benefit of air driven torque wrenches is, they are pretty fast in action. And also, in case of bolts or nuts that requires precise amount of torque, they do great.

There is some requirement in case of operating with an air driven socket wrenches :-

  • 1
    You need to have an air compressor and electric power to run an air driven socket wrench.
  • 2
    They are larges in size comparing to manual wrenches.
  • 3
    They are hard to use in tough cases like oil pans.

2. Impact Wrenches

Impact wrenches, also called impact guns re the quickest type of socket wrenches. They are better than any type of wrenches in case of those nuts or bolts that are meant to be moved with an impact wrench.

One example of impact wrench is the removal of lock-nut on a CV axle. If you ask me to name a model, I’d recommend you my very favorite Biltema 450Nm torque producing impact wrench. Unlike the air driven wrenches, it doesn’t ask anything else to run, except the electricity.

Some facts and properties of these types of wrenches :-

  • 1
    They are the quickest type of socket wrench.
  • 2
    They have an impact function that helps in loosening most of the bolts by creating a shock.
  • 3
    In case of unwinding and tightening, they can create ample amount of torque.

A number of minor problems occurs if you keep using these types of wrenches. Let’s have a look :-

  • 1
    They are not too much precise and air driven wrenches.
  • 2
    As the amount of toque is high, they can easily strip bolts and threads.
  • 3
    Don’t works on regular sockets. They need special type of sockets to function.

3. Manual Socket Wrenches

Manual socket wrenches are the most widely used and most versatile variant of socket wrenches. If you’re looking for a generally purposed socket wrench, this is the one that you should buy first.

They are almost for any types of general bolts and nuts. For users who’re just getting to use socket wrenches for the first time, manual wrenches are a good pick.

For your consideration to buy one, here are the topmost benefits of a manual socket wrench :-

  • 1
    They are reliable in use.
  • 2
    In the sense of amount of torque applied to a certain bolt, these are most premised ones.
  • 3
    Can be used in almost anywhere.
  • 4
    They don’t need any power or air compressor to operate.

Apart from these all goods, there are some drawbacks of these manual socket wrenches. First of all, they are all depended on manual strength. So, you can’t amplify or elevate the torque without manual effort.

As they are not automatic, they’re pretty slow in operation. This may cause you some extra minutes in operation.

4. Break Bar Wrenches

I have hardly found any bolt that survives these special types of socket wrenches. They are strong, cheap in price and easy in use. Specially, bolts that are hard and tight on their place, a breaker bar wrench can be used against these stubborn blots.

The goods of this wrench are :-

  • 1
    The can imply excessive amount of torque.
  • 2
    Completely controllable.
  • 3
    Cheap in price.

One drawback that I think is important is, they are pretty large in size. So, you can’t just use it like just another home utensil.

How Does a Socket Wrench Work?

The pretty simple working method pf a socket wrench is explained below :-

Firstly, you have to find the right size of socket for the bolt you’re thinking to move with it. Try with the smallest one. So that you can o though every socket in the set in an ascending way. To make the fitting right, you can use a brush or wire to clean the bolt.

Secondly, Now it’s time to find the right ratchet for the job. Longer ratchets gives more torque, while smaller ratchets produce less. It’s up to the bolt and the amount of force needed to move the bolts. Sometimes, while you’ll have to chose only one ratchet, it’s wise to use the longest one. Because keeping the maximum force to your side will always come in work.

Thirdly, it’s time to move the bolt. You need to place the socket perfectly and all the way down in the bolt. Make sure it doesn’t strip or break while in action. Turning the bolt right will tighten in, and vice versa. Now, start to move the ratchet till the very first movement occurs. Once it does, the rest it to keep it moving till the bolt comes out.

Tips to Increase Efficiency of a Socket Wrench

  • Make sure you’ve found the right fit of socket. Otherwise it may strip down.
  • Don’t take over-sized ratchets that the size of bolts.
  • Use oil or grease to lubricate the job in case of rusted bolts.
  • Make sure that you’re moving at the right direction. Otherwise it may get even tighter.
  • A number of extensions come with every modern socket wrench set. You can use it in various cases. Before doing this, make sure you’re trained properly about the use of the accessory.
  • It’s better to use long ratchets in most of the household cases.  

For more info, please check this video.

John Bryan

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