If you’re the type of person who likes to tinker with their car or motorcycle of a weekend, it’s likely that you need, or could at least make good use of, a socket set. What’s a socket set, we hear you ask? A socket set consists of various cylindrical ‘sockets’ which fit over nuts and bolts, and can be attached to a 90-degree socket wrench, ratchet or other torque handles, to help you tighten and loosen said nuts and bolts. This is done with much more speed and ease than using a traditional spanner (not that we’re knocking the spanner!)
So, Mr./ Mrs. Mechanic, which socket set should you choose to help you whip off tires and unbolt alternators quicker than you can say ‘do it yourself’? Read on for our comprehensive buying guide to the best socket sets available, to find out which one might be best for you and your automobile.
The Best Socket Set
Our first choice and a truly great all-rounder of the socket set world is this Stanley STMT71648 40-Piece Socket Set. This handy set contains (probably!) everything you will need for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts on your car or motorcycle and all for a very reasonable price. There’s also a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer, so you don’t need to worry about breakages or missing parts.
The set contains: 15 x ¼-inch sockets, 14 x 3/8-inch sockets, 1 x 3/8-inch pear head ratchet arm, 1 x ¼-inch socket driver handle, 1 x 3/8 – ¼-inch adaptor, 1 x 3/8-inch extension bar, 1 x ¼-inch drive specialty bit holder and 6 x specialty bits. All pieces snap securely into place (note that some reviewers reckon a little too securely!) inside the blow molded case, for excellent organization. Take it ‘on the road’ with the convenient carry handle.
40-piece socket set
Max-Drive design gives 15% more torque
Constructed from high-alloy steel
Heat-treated for high performance
- Weight3.91 lbs
Second on our list is this Dewalt DWMT73804 34-Piece Drive Socket Set. With only slightly fewer pieces than the Stanley socket set, this portable offering from Dewalt has plenty of sockets and drives of various sizes, to meet your socket needs. The set is contained in a chunky case that forms part of Dewalt’s customizable, interlocking tool storage system – making it a great choice if you’re looking to expand your tool collection in the future (and let’s face it, who isn’t?!)
The included components of this ratchet and socket set are: 1 x 3/8 drive quick release ratchet, 1 x 3/8 drive 3” extension, 1 x 3/8 – ¼ drive adaptor, 7 x ¼ drive standard SAE sockets, 7 x ¼ drive standard metric sockets, 8 x ¾ drive standard SAE sockets, 8 x 3/8 drive standard metric sockets and 1 x 3/8 drive drill adaptor.
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34-piece socket set
Polished chrome vanadium finish
Part of Dewalt’s customizable tool storage system
- Weight5 lbs
Billed as the ‘number one selling mechanic’s toolset’, this Craftsman 230-Piece Mechanics Tool Set comes with an impressive 230 pieces, all made from a durable alloy steel with a silver finish. It’s considerably more expensive than the previous two options, but that’s pretty justified when you consider its vastly superior size, and the inclusion of other items, such as combination wrenches.
Included in this monster socket wrench set are 3 x quick release ratchets, 116 x sockets, 2 x extension bars, 6 x combination wrenches, 1 x magnetic handle, 12 x nut driver bits, 50 x screwdriver bits, and 40 x hex keys. Most of these come in both SAE and metric measurements.
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Impressive 230-piece socket set
Made from alloy steel with a silver finish
Includes 3 quick-release ratchets and 6 combination wrenches
- Weight20.3 lbs
From a monster to a mini, this Niko 10074A 13-Piece Hex Bit Socket Set includes just 12 sockets and no added extras like ratchets or wrenches. This makes it a great option for a mechanic, or someone who already owns a lot of their own tools, and only wants to add sockets. This is also a metric socket set, so ideal if you don’t really know your inches from your ounces!
The sockets included with this set are 6 x ¼-inch drives (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm), 5 x 3/8-inch drives (7mm, 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 12mm) and 1 x ½-inch drive (14mm). This small socket set is packed in a slim-line case which can be easily slotted into your bag or toolbox, for your convenience.
13-piece metric hex bit socket set
Machine cut bits to ensure accurate sizing
Made from durable S2 alloy steel
High torque strength
- Weight1.5 lbs
The second socket set from Stanley on our list is this 92-824 Black Chrome and Laser Etched 69-Piece Socket Set. The black chrome finish of these sockets not only looks cool but provides greater protection from corrosion compared to traditional chrome sockets. As with our top pick, the sockets in this set also feature the Max-Drive radius corner design, which provides 15% more torque, making it easier to turn rounded corners, and less likely to wear away fastenings.
This awesome Stanley socket set contains: 30 x ¼-inch sockets, 33 3/8-inch sockets, 1 x 3/8-inch drive pear head ratchet arm, 1 x ¼-inch pear head ratchet arm, 1 x 3/8-inch spark plug socket (5/8-inch), 1 x 3/8-inch spark plug socket (13/16-inch), 1 x ¼-inch extension bar (3-inch), 1 x 3/8-inch extension bar (6-inch). All this comes in a blow molded carry case, and again, there’s a slot for every part, so you don’t have to worry about losing anything (great for the clumsier among us!)
69-piece black chrome and laser etched sockets
Max-Drive design gives 15% more torque
Black chrome offers better corrosion resistance
Laser etched sockets for high visibility markings
- Weight10.4 lbs
The Tekton 45-Piece ¾-inch Drive Socket Set is another comprehensive collection of sockets, extensions and a ratchet, but unlike some other socket sets, it also includes a universal joint, which can be very useful for those awkward angles. It’s also worth noting that the ratchet can operate with as little as 5 degrees of swing, so this set really is a great choice for hard-to-reach fastenings.
The exact components of this ratchet and socket set are 8 x shallow sockets, 8 x deep sockets, 12 x shallow sockets (metric), 12 x deep sockets (metric), 1 x 3/8-inch drive ratchet, 2 x extensions, and 1 x universal joint. These are all held securely in a snazzy, red-orange storage case, to help you stand out from the crowd.
45-piece, 6-point socket set
Made from chrome vanadium steel with a mirror-plated finish
Includes a universal joint and 6-inch extension
72 tooth ratchet needs only 5 degrees of swing to function
- Weight4.96 lbs
Next up is this PSO40 40-Piece Drive Socket Set by Great Neck Saw, which includes a wide selection of socket sizes and a reversible ratchet. As a complete socket set, it’s unbeatable for the price, and a great starter option if you won’t be using it often – just be aware that, as several reviews mention, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. If you want a similar sized set and don’t mind spending a bit more for peace of mind, we recommend our top pick, the Stanley socket set.
This Great Neck Saw set includes, amongst other things: 1 x 3/8-inch drive reversible ratchet, 1 x ¼-inch drive 6-inch spinner handle, 1 x 3-inch extension bar, 13 x ¼-inch 6-point sockets, 13 x ¼-inch 6-point metric sockets, 3 x 3/8-inch drive 6-point SAE sockets and 3 x 3/8-inch drive 6-point metric sockets, all in a molded plastic case.
40-piece socket set, metric and SAE sizes
Triple chrome plated sockets
3/8-inch reversible ratchet
Cheap, entry-level option
- BrandGreat Neck Saw
- Weight2.03 lbs
For our next pick, it’s back to a small socket set in the Astro 7412 12-Piece ¼-Inch Drive Flex Socket Set. The sockets have a polished finish for a shiny ‘new’ look, and the surface drive technology minimizes rounding off fasteners by gripping them on the flat. Many reviews comment on the quality and durability of the sockets, with some saying they have used them daily for months, or even years, with no problems.
This compact set includes 12 x ¼ inch 6-point flex sockets in metric sizes, all presented in a smart foam case. We think this would make a great gift idea for a mechanic or car enthusiast!
12-piece, 6-point metric socket set
Flexible joints for hard-to-reach fasteners
Full polished finish
Presented in a padded foam tray
- BrandAstro Pneumatic Tool
- Weight14.4 oz
What makes the Crescent CX6PT20 X6 Pass-Through Ratchet and Socket Set special is the unique design of the sockets, which fit over six different types of fastener – 6-point, 12 points, partially rounded hex, square, e-torx, and spleen. Although 6-point (hex) fastenings are by far the most common, having the option to fit other types makes this socket set a great all-rounder, and could save you from having to buy more sockets in the future.
As well as 18 x sockets in both SAE and metric sizes, this set also includes a 3/8-inch adaptor to allow for use with a square drive socket and a ratchet. The pass-through system of this ratchet and socket set eliminates the need for deep drives, as it works over long threaded rods, and the ratchet is up to 50% thinner than a standard one, which allows you to reach those awkward areas.
20-piece ratchet and socket set
Sockets fit 6 different shapes of fastener
Unique pass-through design for hard-to-reach areas
Up to 40% stronger and 50% thinner than a standard ratchet
- Weight1.5 lbs
As socket set sizes go, this next one is one of the smallest. The EPAuto 13-Piece Torx Bit Socket Set features 13 torx bits, and doesn’t come with a ratchet or socket wrench. This torx socket set is a great option for those whose vehicles feature a lot of torx screws (reviewers have used these in everything from a Jeep to a Mini Cooper).
This small socket set includes 7 x ¼ inch drive torx star bits, 5 x 3/8-inch drive torx star bits and 1 x ½-inch drive torx star bit. All the pieces are made from chrome vanadium alloy steel, with a mirrored chrome plating, for a shiny finish. They come in a small plastic case that will easily fit inside most larger tool chests.
13-piece torx socket set
Made from chrome vanadium alloy steel, with mirror plating
Contained in a plastic case
- Weight1.25 lbs
Reviews of the Capri Tools CP30002 S2 Hex Wrench Bit Socket Set suggest that this is another well-made, high-quality small socket set, again for those looking purely for socket bits, and not a ratchet and socket set. The socket bits are crafted from a heat-treated S2 steel alloy that’s designed to last, and finished with chrome-vanadium plating, for oil and corrosion resistance.
The set features 7 x ¼-inch drive sockets, 4 x 3/8-inch drive sockets, and 2 x ½-inch drive sockets, all in metric sizes. They are suitable for use with breaker bars, torque wrenches and ratchets (not included). The sockets come presented in a slim, blue carry case – perfect if you want to add some color to your garage! – and there’s a foam-lined lid to prevent the pieces from rattling around inside.
13-piece metric hex socket set
Hex bits made from heat-treated S2 steel alloy
Sockets made from chrome-vanadium for strength and durability
Contained in a slim blue carry case
- BrandCapri Tools
- Weight1.45 lbs
The Sunex 3342 3/8-Inch Drive Master Impact Socket Set is the first impact socket set on our list, designed for use with impact and power tools. Made from chromium-molybdenum alloy steel for maximum durability, these impact sockets also feature an internal radius corner design, which is intended to catch the flat sides of fasteners, for increased torque and reduced wear to the fastener corners. (See our FAQ below for more tips on how to reduce fastener wear when using sockets).
This impact socket set includes: 10 x metric sockets, 10 x deep metric sockets, 8 x SAE sockets, 8 x deep SAE sockets, 1 x 3-inch extension and 1 x 3/8-inch universal joint. The pieces come in a red, blow molded carry case, for easy portability.
42-piece impact socket set
Made from chromium-molybdenum alloy steel
Radius corners for increased torque and reduced fastener wear
Includes shallow and deep sockets, and a universal joint
- BrandSunex Tools
- Weight8.5 lbs
Another great impact socket set is this 19-piece 84934N ½” Drive Deep SAE Impact Socket Set from GearWrench. It’s got less than half the amount of pieces as the Sunex set (because there are no metric sockets, only SAE), BUT it is made from the same hard-wearing chrome-molybdenum alloy steel and features the off-corner internal shaping to reduce fastener wear.
Included in this impact socket set are 19 x 6-point, ½-inch drive deep sockets, in various standard SAE sizes. All sockets have clear, laser-etched markings, so you can easily tell which one you need (just remember to put your glasses on before you start working!) and the set is contained in a chunky, grey molded carry case with re-enforced steel hinges, that looks as though it means business!
19-piece SAE impact socket set
Made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel
Black phosphate coating for corrosion resistance
Laser etched markings for easy socket identification
- Weight18.92 lbs
Because we can’t get enough of these impact socket sets, the penultimate entry on our list is this Tacklife 18-Piece ½-Inch Drive Impact Socket Set. This one is similar in size to the above GearWrench option, with sockets made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel and a black phosphate coating, but this one is a metric socket set.
Contained in this set are: 15 x ½-inch drive sockets (all common metric sizes) and 3 x extensions bars, up to 10 inches in length (the addition of the extension bars will be welcomed by anyone trying to unscrew hard-to-reach lug nuts!) The sockets are contained in a similar heavy duty case to the GearWrench option above.
18-piece 6-point metric impact socket set
Made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel with a black phosphate coating
Suitable for use with power tools and hand tools
Includes 3 x extension bars
- Weight9.1 lbs
Finishing off our list is this AmazonBasics Mechanic’s Socket Set with a whopping 145 pieces. For a very affordable price, this complete socket set contains all the most common sockets in both metric and SAE sizes, as well as a ratchet, wrenches, hex bits and various accessories – making it a great basic essentials tool set for someone who is just starting out. For such a reasonable price, you might expect there to be quality issues, but there are many positive reviews that mention it being ‘well-made’, and it’s covered by a limited AmazonBasics 1-year warranty.
This mammoth mechanic’s set includes: 24 x ¼-inch sockets (metric and SAE), 22 x ¼-inch deep sockets (metric and SAE), 20 x 3/8-inch sockets (metric and SAE), 8 x 3/8-inch deep sockets (metric and SAE), 10 x nut bits (metric and SAE), 8 x combination wrenches (metric and SAE), hex keys, 25mm bits and various other accessories, including a ¼-inch drive handle and a 3/8-inch drive 5/8-inch spark plug socket. Phew, not much then Amazon!
145-piece socket set
Made from chrome-vanadium steel
Includes all the most popular sockets in both metric and SAE sizes
Also includes a ratchet, wrenches and hex keys
- Weight13.12 lbs
Best Socket Sets Buying Guide & FAQ
Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shiny socket sets on the market? Wondering whether you really need one after all? We don’t blame you! Have a read of our buying guide and FAQs to help you understand more about what socket sets are, and which one you should invite into your workshop.
Things to Consider When Buying Socket Sets
- Type of fasteners
By far the most common shape of the bolt is the 6-sided, hexagonal bolt, and this is, therefore, the shape of most socket sets. However, other shapes and styles do exist, so you should check what type of fasteners you are working with before buying a socket set. For example, some cars feature a lot of torx screws, and so, in this case, you may need a torx socket set.
- Metric or SAE sizing?
Nuts and bolts come in either metric or SAE (inches) sizing. As above, check the fastenings on your vehicle before purchasing a socket set to determine which measuring system you require, or whether you want the option of both.
- Impact or non-impact?
Do you need an impact socket set, or is a non-impact one sufficient? This will depend on whether you just want a socket set for DIY and occasional automotive repairs, or if you will be doing more hardcore construction work, and want to an impact wrench – in which case you will need specific impact sockets.
- How difficult are your fastenings to reach?
Depending upon the location of your fasteners, you may decide you need a socket set which includes deep drives or extension bars, in order to make sure you can reach all your nuts and bolts. An example of when you might need an extension is to access engine spark plugs.
Advantages of Using Socket Sets
- Easier than a spanner
The main point of using a socket and ratchet system is to make tightening and removing fastenings easier. A socket will fit snugly around your nut or bolt and the attached turning tool can then be ratcheted by sometimes as little as 5 degrees, to easily tighten or loosen the bolt.
- Better access than a spanner
Slim ratchet handles, deep drives, universal joints and extension bars all mean that you no longer have to be a contortionist in order to unscrew your hard-to-reach bolt.
- Less likely to damage the fastener
Hex sockets provide 6 points of contact with the bolt, rather than the 2 of the traditional spanner, making them less likely to damage the bolt when turning, as the pressure is distributed evenly. Many sockets also feature an internal radius corner design, which ensures the socket grips the flat edges of the bolt, making it less likely to wear away the corners.
- Universal sets work with almost anything
Gone are the days when you’ll be half-way through your Saturday tinkering on your bike, only to be met with an awkward bolt that you don’t have the tools to undo. A good, comprehensive socket set will contain all the most common fastener sizes, to ensure you can continue your tinkering without interruption.
Having a socket set with multiple sized options all in one place, and with only one turning tool, will save you space when compared with having the same amount of spanner options hung up in your garage.
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Types of Socket Sets
Non-impact sockets made from chrome or other polished metal are the most common type of socket on the market. You would generally use this type for car and motorcycle repairs and light DIY. The second type of socket is an impact socket, which has thicker walls and a carbonized surface, and is designed for use with an impact gun for heavier-duty jobs, involving higher – yes, you guessed it – impact.
The most common shape of the socket is the 6-point, or hexagonal - but they also come in other shapes, including square, rounded and 12-point (double hexagonal). Socket sets also include socket drives in different sizes, the most common being ¼ inch, 3/8 inch, ½ inch, and ¾ inch. These can also be shallow or deep varieties. You should always try to use the appropriate drive size for your job.
Socket sets themselves are available in a variety of sizes – the larger the set, the more socket options you will have. Which type is best for you really depends on what you will be using the socket set for, and the variety of jobs you’ll be undertaking. A universal socket set will generally feature a good selection of sockets and is a great all-around option for the indecisive among us.
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Maintaining Your Socket Set for Long Lasting
In order to ensure your socket set stands the test of time, you should clean your sockets thoroughly after every use. Brush away any dirt with an old toothbrush to help to prevent corrosion. It is also important to make sure your sockets are completely dry before packing them away, in order to prevent rust. Store your sockets in a protective case (most socket sets come with one), to keep them dry and secure when not in use, and ensure you don’t lose any. There’s nothing more frustrating than an incomplete socket set – you can guarantee the one that’s missing will be the one you need!
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Best Socket Sets FAQ:
Q: What is socket sets exactly?
A: A socket set consists of a number of different sized socket heads, that can be attached to a ratchet, socket wrench or other turning tools. This can then be used to tighten or loosen fasteners, such as nuts and bolts, with more speed and ease than a traditional spanner. Socket sets may also include extensions, or deep sockets, in order to reach difficult-to-access bolts. Ultimately, a socket set is designed to reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to tighten and loosen fasteners. Sounds good to us!
Q: How should I use a socket set?
A: You should use a socket set to help tighten or loosen nuts and bolts on your vehicle. To use, place the correct sized socket over the bolt (attaching an extension if needed), and attach the ratchet. Hold the socket with one hand, and use the other hand to drive the ratchet. Turn clockwise to tighten the bolt, and anti-clockwise to loosen it.
Q: Can I use a general hex socket with an impact gun?
A: No, you should only use impact sockets with an impact gun. This is because the higher torque output from an impact gun poses the risk of damaging or shattering a general hex socket. Impact sockets feature a carbonized coating, which makes them strong enough to be used with power tools.
Q: What to do to prevent round off of fasteners?
A: Preventing the rounding off of fasteners is all about making sure the socket doesn’t slip as you tighten or loosen the fastener. In order to ensure this, use a 6-point socket with radius corners, as this will have more traction on the flat sides of the bolt, and is less likely to slip and round the corners of the bolt as you tighten. If you are using a deep socket, make sure to keep the ratchet in line with the center of the bolt, to prevent it slipping. If a bolt is particularly stuck, it may help to heat it up first with a blow torch, which will cause it to expand and loosen, or to lube it up with some silicone spray, to allow you to hopefully remove it without rounding it off.
Our Top Pick
Our number one pick of the best socket sets on the market is the Stanley STMT71648 40-Piece Socket Set. This is one of the best, affordable offerings from arguably the best socket set brand around - a Stanley socket set will not let you down. This complete socket set includes various-sized sockets, a ratchet, extension and specialty bits, which is pretty much everything you’ll need to tighten and loosen all the fasteners on your automobile, faster than you can say ‘Usain Bolt’.