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Have you been reading socket set reviews and wondering if it’s time to buy one? Well, it’s easy to buy a set, but you should take the time to learn how to use it.
Just as you won’t settle for anything less than the best screwdriver set, you must always get the best sockets you can buy. Once you have the set, it’s time to put them to work and loosen/tighten those fasteners.
1. Choose the Socket
Sets come with dozens if not hundreds of sockets. Make sure you pick the right size or the socket and fastener might get damaged.
Check what socket size the fastener needs, and use only that socket. This isn’t as hard as you might think as most sockets have laser etchings which indicate their size.
If you are not sure what size the fastener needs, choose the one that looks like the closest fit.
Do not put the socket on yet. Just check if it fits, too small or loose. If it doesn’t fit, check the other sizes.
If the socket is too small, try the next largest size. If the socket is too large, move down a size.
Socket sizes are given in imperial and/or metric sizes, so check those too just to be sure.
Use the socket with a drive socket which corresponds with your ratchet’s drive square size. So this means if you’re going to use a 13 mm socket it must be with the appropriate drive.
2. Connect the Socket on the Ratchet
Once you have chosen the right socket, attach the ratchet and socket together. You can only do this if the socket drive square and the ratchet drive square are of similar size.
If you want to use a drive square socket with a ratchet drive of another size, you’ll need an adaptor.
Most socket drives either have groove or notch, but others have a side hole. If it has a side hole, line it up with the drive square ball bearing.
There are also ratchets with quick release buttons along the ratchet head. This lets go of the ball bearing and may require pressing to connect the socket on the drive.
Tap the socket on the ratchet drive square after it has been properly lined. You’re going to hear a snap as the ball bearing fits in the notch or side hole.
3. Inspect the Turning
Ensure you’re turning the socket in the appropriate direction. Hold the socket with your left hand and use your right hand to move the ratchet left and right.
To loosen a fastener, turn the ratchet counterclockwise. Turn the ratchet clockwise to secure a fastener.
If the ratchet doesn’t move as expected, change it before putting on the fastener. At the back of the ratchet is a lever, and you just flip it left or right to loosen or tighten a fastener.
4. Put the Socket on the Fastener
Like the best soldering station, precision is needed with sockets and ratchets.
Position the head so it lines up with the fastener nut or head. Rotate the socket a little if necessary.
Put the socket head on the nut or fastener head. Tighten or loosen the fastener with the ratchet. Turn clockwise to tighten or counterclockwise to loosen, just as mentioned earlier.
5. Faster Turns
Rotate the handle so it moves in the direction you want the fastener turned. If there is no more space for a handle swing, rotate the handle in the opposing direction.
You can also do this when you have got to the point you’re comfortable gripping it. By doing this, the mechanism won’t turn the fastener or socket.
This means you can reposition the socket’s handle to the beginning point and do more turns.
If the fastener is very loose it will be necessary to grip the socket so it doesn’t turn the wrong way. Without resistance, you won’t be able to get the ratchet to work.
6. Keep Turning
Continue what you did in the previous step and keep the ratchet swinging until the fastener is removed or tightened.
Once you’re done, use the quick release button to take the socket off. This button is usually on the ratchet head and just needs to be pressed.
Quick release ratchets have a spring which is released from the ball bearing. This mechanism is activated when you press the button.
Some ratchets don’t have a quick release button. In this case, you need to physically detach the socket of the ratchet.
This might need some force as these ratchets can be quite tight. Just give it a good pull.
What is the Difference between a Wrench and a Ratchet?
A ratchet is a type of wrench with a ratcheting system on its head. This mechanism is used to attach to sockets via its square driver.
There are sockets for different types of fasteners in metric and SAE. If you’re starting a socket collection, look for those with six-point hex sockets, 3/8-inch square drive mechanism, and quality sockets.
The most important benefit of these ratchets is its mechanism as it remains in position when pulling in one direction and releasing in the opposing end. This makes it easy to loosen and tighten fasteners without having to refit or remove the ratchet.
It also helps if you get a long ratchet for additional leverage. The more leverage you have, the more torque you will get to tighten or loosen a ratchet. Use a nut driver if you don’t need a lot of torque.
Tips and Warnings
- Invest in a quality socket set as they come with lots of commonly used sockets and socket drives.
- Never use a socket that’s too large for the fastener. Doing so might lead to slips, stripping or damage.
- Extensions: socket wrenches have good reach, but if it is not enough you can always use an extension bar. An extension bar gives you additional leverage along with extra reach.
- Measurements: socket wrenches come in metric or SAE sizes. This should not be a concern because US ratchets work with both.
- The square nub is usually ½” but the smaller ones are ¼”. The majority of socket sets have an adapter which can be used for ½ to ¼”.
- You will sometimes find ratchets with a ¾” nub, but these are uncommon. They’re often used on airplanes and other industrial applications.
- Most socket sets have extension bars so you can use the ratchet in hard to reach spots. An extension bar is especially useful for engine block spark plugs.
- Make sure your ratchet’s jaw hasn’t been damaged as you’ll need that intact when applying pressure.
- Don’t use regular sockets with impact tools as it will damage the sockets.
As you can see there is nothing to learning how to use a socket. Once you get the hang of it, you can check out the 10 must-have tools for every homeowner to complete your toolbox.
If you’re going to buy a set, don’t forget to read socket set reviews to get an idea of what to buy. It also helps if you learn as much as you can about how they work as described here.