A good quality set of mechanics tools is one of the absolute
essentials of any homeowner for completing a multitude of
projects including the assembly of exercise equipment, outdoor
equipment and repairs on homes, cars, and bikes. Mechanics
tool sets include socket sets used for quick removal and replacement
of fasteners such as nuts, bolts an Torx fittings, often in
places too tight for ordinary wrenches or where the fastener
has seized and a wrench simply slips off.
In this guide, we set to explain the features and benefits
that you should look for when selecting a set. We will start
by matching quality to your requirements ant then explore
bare essentials, building up a picture of the core components
in a good set.
A good Mechanics Tools set contains a variety of actual sockets,
some means of turning them (ratchets, drivers) and one one
or more extension bars.
Why does a socket set need to be of good quality? That all
depends on the job that you want to do with it. For instance,
for fixing basic things around the home, such as shelves,
cupboards and washing machines etc, then a simple set will
probably suffice. This is because fasteners around the home
don't rust up and seize and aren't usually tightened to high
torques. For those involved in more demanding tasks like car
repairs, the socket sets will need to meet higher quality
Good quality sockets are made of chromium vanadium steel,
since this material provides exceptional strength and durability.
They are also plated with nickel chrome for maximum resistance
to corrosion and high quality appearance. Sockets have their
size (referring to the width across the flats of the fasteners
they fit) marked on them along the brand name.
Six and twelve point design
The design of the end of the socket, the bit that fits over
the nut or bolt, is critical to the effectiveness of the socket.
The most commonly used sockets are 12 point (bi-hex) because
they are easier to position for rapid seating on hex or 12
point fasteners. Although quite effective, bi-hex sockets
can lead to rounding-off of seized or low strength fasteners.
Rounding-off means metal is torn from the fastener head, making
subsequent removal extremely difficult since the fastener
has now lost its original shape.
||Rounded corner design sockets
ensure turning forces are transfered to the stronger,
flat areas of the fastener.
Stanley® Maxi-Drive™ technology improves the efficiency
of the 12 point and 6 point sockets by transferring the turning
force to flat areas of the fastener and away from its weaker
corners. This unique drive system with radius design allows
up to 15% more torque to be applied to the fastener while
reducing the risk of slippage and fastener rounding.
Six point hex design sockets should be used on stubborn
or worn bolts. It also allows for a slimmer wall thickness,
giving the socket a reduced overall diameter and making it
easier to access recessed or tightly confined fasteners.
Six point sockets must always be used on small fasteners
less than 13 mm or1/2" across the flats, since they are
frequently not made from high strength, high tensile steels,
but rather weaker steels, prone to rounding off, since they
are not usually subjected to very high loads.
Sockets can also come with a variety of bits including Torx
head, common screwdrivers, Allen or Hex heads, and these are
handy additions to Stanley® sets.
One drawback of any socket is the fact that its depth may
be too small to reach a fastener that has been tightened down
over a long stud. In these situations deep drive sockets are
available, which as the name suggests, have an increased depth
to cope with protruding studs or small fasteners in deep recesses.
Once fitted over a fastener, the socket has to be turned by
some means. For small fasteners, a simple hand driver allows
rapid turning and helps preventing over-tightening.
For transferring larger torques into the socket a ratchet
might be inserted into its square end. Generally speaking,
the larger is the square drive in the end of the socket, the
higher are the forces that socket is designed to transmit.
Most common drive sizes are 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2".
A 1/4" drive is essential for small fasteners of 10
mm (11/32") diameter across the flats or less. Although
the ratchet handle is much smaller, it is still possible to
over-tighten small fasteners, so extra care must be taken
at these sizes.
||A good quality ratchet handle
will have a reversing lever, push button socket release
and one piece handle and head.
The most popular 3/8" drive sets are available in a very
wide range of sizes and varieties, typically from 10 mm up
to 22 mm.
Beyond 22 mm, the torque required on high tensile fasteners
can exceed those recommended for 3/8" drive systems, so
1/2" drive should be used.
Ratchets are the real work horses of socket sets, since they
have to cope with repeated use. The actual ratcheting mechanism
is a critical part of the tool, since it contains the moving
parts and does all the hard work. The number of gear teeth
within the ratchet will determine the amount the handle has
to be moved before the ratchet will click and allow the fastener
to be turned. In very confined spaces the smaller this movement
is, the better and this corresponds to a higher number of
gear teeth. Typically, ratchets can come with 24, 30 , 45
and even 60 gear teeth.
Stanley® slim pear-head ratchets are equipped with a 40-tooth
gear mechanism that allows for a small 9 degree arc swing,
essential to maneuver fasteners in tight spaces. Additionally,
it features a single finger reverse mechanism that smoothly
switches during use and a quick release button that locks
or releases sockets.
Extensions bars are invaluable
for extending a socket down into awkward recesses and tight
spaces. Typical lengths are: 3", 6" and 9".
Hand in hand with the extension bar goes the wobble
bar, a sort of flexible equivalent. Wobble bars
enable the drive to be kinked over to avoid obstructions.
Universal Joints perform a similar
task to the wobble bar. These clever little devices enable
the socket, extension bar or ratchet to be kinked over in
order to avoid obstructions that hinder access.
Stanley makes the highest quality professional level sets,
sockets, drivers and accessories for industrial use under
the Stanley® Proto® brand. For more information visit