LAST UPDATED: July 6, 2019
Best Socket Sets: A Must-Have For Car And Motorcycle Repair
These top socket sets can be used in your garage and around the home
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON July 6, 2019
If you plan on doing any type of work on your car, truck, or motorcycle, there's a good chance you will need to use a socket set. Modern machines have a variety of different-sized nuts and bolts that require you to have a versatile kit on hand. Check out our buyer's guide to find the best socket set for car and bike maintenance.
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Benefits of Socket Sets
- Save time and money. It's much more convenient to purchase a set of sockets that attach to a single ratcheting socket wrench than to buy several, individual socket wrenches.
- Simple to use. Even though socket sets have moving parts, they're easier to use than open-end wrenches. The best socket and wrench set will last just as long as a sturdy open-end wrench.
- Great for tight spaces. When you work on your car, you may find yourself trying to maneuver in a small area. A good ratchet set will help you access hard-to-reach areas.
Types of Socket Sets
Imperial vs. Metric
Most socket sets include both imperial and metric sockets. Imperial sets are measured in inches, while metric sets have metric sizes and are more common outside of the United States. Unless you know you're only going to use a socket set for one particular item that has either metric or imperial fasteners, it's more cost-effective to buy a set that includes both. However, if your budget is small, choose a set you're likely to use the most.
Impact vs. Non-Impact
The most common type of socket is manual/non-impact for hand tools. We recommend this type of socket set for auto and motorcycle repair as well as jobs around the house. However, if you use air or power tools, you will need an impact socket. This type can cope with higher torque because it is made of malleable steel.
Craftsman was founded in 1927 and produces professional-grade tools for carpentry, automotive, electrical, and plumbing jobs. The brand was owned by Sears but is now managed by Stanley Black & Decker. One top product is the Craftsman 165-Piece Mechanics Tool Set.
The DEWALT Products Company was formed in Leola, Penn., in 1924 with the launch of the electric universal woodworking machine, mortise, and jointer. In 2018, the company celebrated its 100th anniversary of the Product Service Division of Stanley Black & Decker. One popular product is the DEWALT Mechanics Tools Kit and Socket Set.
Frederick Stanley founded the Stanley Works in New Britain, Conn., in 1843, and professional carpenters and homeowners have been using its products for more than 175 years. One recommended product is the Stanley 123-Piece Socket Set.
Based in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, Sunex Tools has been designing innovative tools for the automotive aftermarket for over 40 years. One of its popular products is the Sunex Socket Set.
The Snap-on Industrial Brands include Williams, Bacho, and CDI. Williams has been in business since 1882 and was one of the first manufacturers globally to mass produce drop-forged tools, a 15-degree angle wrench, and heavy-duty slugging wrenches. One recommended product is the Williams 3/8-Inch Drive Socket and Drive Tool Set.
GearWrench, based in Sparks, Maryland, released its five-degree ratcheting wrench in 1996 and soon turned into a go-to brand for professional automotive technicians. One top product is the GearWrench 57 Piece 3/8-Inch Drive 6 Point Socket Set.
Socket Set Pricing
- Between $40 and $200: The price of socket sets is correlated to the number of tools in the kit as well as the brand name. A kit containing about 25 sockets can cost as little as $40, while a more expensive, premium kit with as many as 128 sockets can cost a couple hundred dollars.
Number of Gear Teeth
The more teeth a ratchet has, the fewer rotations you need to move it one click. This is particularly important if you're working in a small area and there's not much room to swing the handle back to grab the nut or bolt. Teeth counts can vary between brands. A ratchet with the finest teeth may only require a five-degree movement, while a coarser one may require a 10-degree movement.
Number of Points
A 12-point socket is better for light work, while a six-point (hexagonal) socket is sturdier due to its thicker walls. Six-point sockets are less likely to slip off of round edges, and they have more grip because they're designed to apply force to the flat sides of a fastener. They are best for vehicle, lawnmower, or motorcycle repairs.
- Durability: The best socket set will be strong and last a long time. Choose tools that are made of chrome vanadium, a material that is powerful, durable, and good for torque. A tool with a chrome finish is also less likely to erode and rust, making it more cost-effective in the long run.
- Quick Release Button: Tools with this feature allow you to press a button, and the socket falls off. It also locks the socket in place so it doesn't stick on a bolt head and become adhered to the engine. Without a quick release, you have to jerk the socket off the ratchet, which can be challenging with greasy fingers.
- Finish and Design: The best socket ratchet will have a smooth finish, which is easier to clean. You simply wipe it off with a cloth. Socket sets with a textured finish may hold dirt and grime in the sharper-edged areas. Ratchets may have either rounded edges or a more squared-off design.
- Reversing Mechanism: Good socket set brands will have a lever-activated reversing mechanism instead of a dial design. While either type will work in an open area, the lever is easier to use in smaller, tight spaces. For a more versatile socket, choose one with lever action.
- Case Construction: The best socket set for cars and motorcycles typically comes in a plastic case. Some cases are of higher quality than others. A few brands have cases with hinges and snap latches, while others have draw-bolt latches with snaps and hinges with pins, making them more durable. Some brands feature cases in which it’s easier to remove the tools.
- Number of Sockets: It's not uncommon for a brand to boast about the number of tools in its kit. But keep in mind that it may contain several tools you don't need or already own, such as hex wrenches and screwdriver bits. Instead, look at the number of sockets included, both metric and imperial, as well as the range of sizes instead of the total tool count.
Best Socket Set Reviews & Recommendations 2021
This 108-piece set features a quick-release, 72-tooth ratchet for high-torque ratcheting and a knurled control ring. It includes two pear head ratchets and several different sockets, extensions, and adapters. The sockets feature direct torque technology to help prevent rounding of fasteners and to provide better grip. The set also contains a durable, anti-slip, vinyl grip bit driver for maximum comfort.
The ratchets feel durable and solid, and the quality of the sockets and ratchet handles is great. The sockets do the job well and are tough and durable. The pieces are firmly set in the case and will not fall out or roll around. The product is perfect for working on cars, motorcycles, appliances, and other items in your home, particularly if you're a novice mechanic and are looking for a good-quality starter kit.
There have been some complaints that there are not enough sockets for each size, whether 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch, and it may not be as useful for the seasoned mechanic. Also, it can be difficult removing the sockets in and out of the case, particularly in cold conditions.
This 34-piece socket set can easily be transported between work areas. It features a removable inner tray that fits in most tool chests, and it has side hinges that interlock with similar DEWALT mechanics tool sets. It includes a 72-tooth-count ratchet to access tough-to-reach spots. The sockets and wrenches feature hard-stamped markings to easily identify the tools. The set has a lifetime warranty.
It has standard metric and imperial socket sizes and also a drill extension. The tools are solidly built, well constructed, and last a long time. The ratchet handle is very comfortable, and the sockets pop on and off very easily when the center button on the handle is depressed. The case is small enough to slide under the back seat of your vehicle, and it has most of the sockets you need, making it a practical emergency set or simple DIY set.
One downside is the ratchet is a little bulky and heavy, and the set doesn't include some deep sockets that a garage mechanic may require. Also, the extension may break easily, and the sockets are embedded so deeply in the case that they can be hard to access if you have greasy hands.
The kit’s tools are made of Cr-Mo (chromium-molybdenum) steel for strength and flexibility. The radius corner design reduces wear and increases torque, and the chamfered opening quickly aligns the fastener to the socket. It includes SAE 5/16-inch to 3/4-inch and metric 8mm to 19mm sockets. The kit meets ANSI standards and has a heavy-duty storage case and universal joint that adapts any socket for use in swivel applications.
This is a handy and practical kit if you have a compact impact driver. The tools feel tough in your hands and are well made. The case is tough, compact, and laid out very well: there are no skipped sizes, and both shallow and deep sockets are included. The sockets have a durable coating and are both laser etched and stamped to show the size. You can use the sockets for tasks such as changing the shocks or installing a sway bar.
One downside is the universal wobble socket may break under heavy use, and sometimes the sockets don't stay in place in the case. Another problem is the kit may inadvertently include two identical sockets and may be missing a needed socket. Also, the sockets don't always have a snug fit and are bulky.
This socket set comes with 26 pieces and ranges in metric sizes from 2 to 14mm or SAE sizes 5/64 to 9/16 inch. To construct the socket set, premium S2 alloy steel is used. This increases longevity and reduces wear by making the pieces incredibly hard. They are then coated in professional-grade chrome vanadium.
You’ll find using this socket set easier due to the high-contrast laser etching. This makes the size marking more visible and easier to read, even in low light. The set also comes in a durable plastic carrying case. This makes the set portable and convenient.
Unfortunately, the set tends to break when you apply too much force. This means the torque tolerance is low, and they won’t be effective at loosening or removing tight or stubborn bolts. The sizing can also be slightly off, which makes matching and using the pieces difficult.
This 10-piece triple square set is designed for use while working on European cars. The sockets are constructed from a drop-forged and heat-treated S2 alloy steel. This gives the pieces durability and reduces wear. They are also coated in chrome vanadium to increase turning power. Each socket is stamped with its size, and the entire set comes in a heavy-duty storage case.
This set resists rust and corrosion for long-term use. The tools have a mirror-like chrome finish. They have also received a zinc phosphate treatment. You’ll enjoy using this set thanks to the precision chamfered bit ends. This makes insertion into the ratchet and onto the fastener smooth and easy.
Unfortunately, the sizing of the sockets isn’t always accurate. This can make for a frustrating experience when trying to match the size of your bolts. They’re also not very durable and can snap under too much pressure.
This 15-piece socket set features sizes 10 to 24 mm. Each socket is a 1/2-inch deep. You can purchase the set with or without the extension bar. They have a six-point socket design that grips the flat sides of the fastener. The sockets are made of heat-treated and forged chrome vanadium steel. Then they’re finished with a corrosion-resistant black phosphate coating. The set meets or exceeds ANSI performance standards.
What makes this set stand out is that it’s designed to withstand high torque. The six-point grip helps to prevent the rounding off of the corners on your fastening hardware. The sockets also feature a high-contrast laser etching to make the sizes easy to read in all light levels.
The downside of this set is that the size labels may be inaccurate. The sockets don’t lock into the case, which results in them falling out any time you open the case. They can also get chewed up during more heavy-duty applications.
This metric socket set comes with 12 pieces. They have a six-point fitment, are 1/4-inch deep, and range in size from 5 to 15mm. Each socket is outfitted with a flex joint. They also have a polished finish to give them a crisp look.
What makes this set stand out during performance is the six-point fit to better grip the flat sides of the hardware. This enables you to apply more torque without worrying about rounding the corners. The flex joint makes these sockets ideal when working with hard-to-reach fasteners.
Unfortunately, the socket gets stuck on the bolt after you’ve used it to tighten it. The screw holding the joint together can come out, which renders the socket useless, and you’ll need an Allen wrench to fix it.
This 19-piece socket set is heavy-duty and comes in a secure plastic case. Each socket is a 1/2-inch deep. It also comes in other sizes, including 1/4 DR, 3/4 DR, and 3/8 DR. You also have the option of purchasing a set with more or fewer sockets. Sets range from seven to 29 pieces. Your final option is to decide what measurement system you want: metric, SAE, or both.
What makes this set stand out is that it’s coated in black phosphate for corrosion resistance. They’re laser etched to make reading the sizes easy. The sockets are strong, as they’re made from chrome molybdenum alloy steel.
Unfortunately, the coating isn’t very protective, and the sockets can begin to rust. The finish can also wear off, and the sockets can snap during heavy torque applications.
This socket set comes with everything you need, as it’s a 47-piece set. You’ll receive a range of sockets, including four drive tools, eight shallow standard six-point sockets, eight deep standard six point sockets, 14 shallow metric six-point sockets, and 13 deep six-point sockets. The sockets have a 3/8-inch deep drive. They come in both standard and metric, and the entire set is made from high-grade chrome vanadium steel.
You’ll appreciate using this set because the sockets have super torque lobular openings. This gives you great turning power and torque handling ability. You also have the option of buying the exact size you need, including 1/4, 1/2, and 3/8 drive. You can buy one or multiple sizes for a complete socket set.
One downside of this set is that the sockets will wobble during use. The wobble occurs at the ratchet connection and at the bolt connection. They also have a low tooth count, which makes them useless in tight places.
This 32-piece socket set comes neatly organized in a secure blow-molded heavy duty case. Each piece is constructed from durable S2 steel and chrome vanadium steel. They have a chrome finish to help them resist corrosion and rust. They come in drives of 1/4, 1/2, and 3/8-inch, and the sizes range from 2 to 19mm.
What makes this large set stand out is that it meets or exceeds ANSI performance standards. The set also comes with 16 metric sockets and 16 SAE sockets. The entire set is precisely machined to ensure the bits are accurately sized.
Unfortunately, the case doesn’t hold the sockets very securely, so they come loose and fall out when you move the case. There are foam rubber pieces that are supposed to hold them in place; these just move around in the case. They can also break when you apply too much force when using them with a torque wrench.
- A high-quality socket set contains either metric measurements, inches, or both. SAE (Society of American Engineers) sets use inches. Most ratcheting socket wrenches in the United States fit both metric and SAE sets.
- Sockets come in a variety of lengths and are either shallow, semi-deep, or deep. The average DIYer will only need shallow or semi-deep sockets. However, if you frequently work on your car, the best deep socket set will enable you to work on hard-to-reach nuts and bolts.
- Do not force a fastener because it can break, so make sure to use the right-sized socket. Also, use a lubricant on fasteners that are difficult to move.
- Clean your socket set every time you use it, and make sure all the tools are dry before you pack them back into the case to avoid rust. Store in a dry spot.
Q: What do socket sets include?
A: They include the sockets and the ratcheting socket wrench. Some sets also have drive adapters, an extender for areas that are hard to reach, deep sockets, and a spark plug socket or other specialty sockets.
Q: Can I use regular sockets with an impact wrench?
A: Technically, regular and impact sockets use the same drive sizes. However, impact sockets can tolerate significantly more torque. If you use a regular socket on an impact wrench, it's more likely to crack or shatter the socket.
Q: What drive size should I use?
A: While a 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch drive have their own purposes, a 3/8-inch drive usually works well on most tasks. The thicker, 1/2-inch drive is preferable for higher torque, while the 1/4-inch drive is helpful in tight spaces or for recessed nuts.
Our pick for the best socket set is the DEWALT 108-Piece Mechanics Tools Kit and Socket Set. It includes a 72-tooth ratchet for high-torque ratcheting and direct torque technology to prevent rounding of fasteners and for better grip. The sockets perform well and are tough and durable. It's perfect for working on cars and motorcycles.
For a less expensive option, consider the DEWALT 34-Piece Drive Socket Set.