What Are the Different Types of Socket Tools?

Dan Cavallari

The most common types of socket tools are the sockets themselves and the various sizes of drivers used to turn those sockets, but other types of tools exist as well. Screwdriver-style socket drivers are great for small jobs in tight spaces; torque wrench drivers are great for tightening bolts to a specific torque specification; swivel sockets are useful for accessing bolts at odd angles; socket wrenches are a useful alternative to bulkier drivers; and so on. The types of socket tools a person will need will vary according to the types of projects that person is likely to undertake.

Various nuts, bolts and screws.
Various nuts, bolts and screws.

Automobile mechanics or anyone else who plans on working on cars will need some specific socket tools. A spark plug remover, for example, is a type of socket that features a rubber gasket inside the socket to protect the spark plug during removal and installation. This gasket also serves to help create a strong bond between the socket and the spark plug; this prevents slippage of the tool and rounding of the face of the spark plug. Other socket tools an automobile mechanic may need include an extender and a swivel socket.

Lag screws -- also called lag bolts -- are similar to screws, only they can be tightened and loosened with a wrench.
Lag screws -- also called lag bolts -- are similar to screws, only they can be tightened and loosened with a wrench.

An extender is essentially a long bar that connects the driver to the socket itself. This bar is useful when the bolt that needs to be accessed is at a faraway point that will not allow movement of the driver. The user can then extend the socket toward the bolt while still keeping the driver far away from the bolt itself. This will reduce the amount of torque the user can apply, however, which can risk slippage and damage to the bolt.

A swivel socket is a type of socket that is hinged to allow the user to make good contact with a bolt at an odd angle. The swivel socket attaches to the driver or extender as normal, but the socket itself is broken into two pieces that allow the bolt to be at a non-perpendicular angle from the driver. These socket tools come in a variety of sizes to accommodate several size bolts.

A torque driver is perhaps one of the most important socket tools. This driver prevents the user from overtightening bolts by disengaging the ratchet system when a certain level of torque has been reached. Sometimes a bolt must be driven only to a certain point of tightness, after which it may cause damage to itself or the component being secured. The torque driver will help a user tighten the bolt to a specific tightness without overtightening.

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