Sockets, wrenches and ratchets (socket wrenches) are used in nearly every vehicle maintenance procedure. This article will explain how each tool works together.
The fastener you are working with will determine which socket or wrench you will need to use. The following fastener types are used in our maintenance procedures.
This is an Allen socket and wrench.
This is a Phillips fastener and screwdriver.
This is a flat-head fastener and screwdriver.
This is a TORX® fastener and the corresponding wrench and socket.
A ratchet, or socket wrench, is a tool that has a ratcheting (turning) mechanism that allows for fasteners to be loosened or tightened more easily than with a hand wrench. A socket wrench has an anvil, or drive, on one end that connects the socket to the ratchet. Connect a socket to the ratchet before use.
The three standard sizes of ratchet are 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch. These sizes refer to the anvil size of the ratchet. The size of ratchet used is determined by your personal preference and the amount of space you are working with.
A socket attaches to the anvil of a wrench or ratchet to loosen or tighten a fastener. Below is a diagram of the parts of a socket and an explanation of the important components of a socket. Sockets are measured in fractions of an inch or millimeters, unless noted otherwise.
Drive socket: The drive socket is the end that attaches to a wrench or ratchet.
Socket head: The socket head is the part of the tool that is used to tighten or loosen the fastener you are working on.
Points: This refers to the shape of the socket head. In this example, a six-point socket head is shown.
Sockets come in 6-point or 12-point styles, shown below. Be sure to use the correct type of socket for the fastener you are using. Note: 6-point sockets apply more torque and are stripped less easily than 12-point sockets.
Universal joint socket: A flexible socket that allows you to reach tight places. Never torque a bolt with a universal joint socket.
Impact socket: A heavy duty socket rated for use with an impact tool. Chrome sockets like the ones shown above are only rated for use with a hand tool, like a ratchet or torque wrench.
Pictured below are impact universal joint sockets.
A wrench is a hand tool that is used to apply or release torque from a fastener or bolt.
1. Torque wrench: Applies a specific torque (rotational force) value to a fastener. Values are measured in inch-pounds (in-lbs), foot-pounds (ft-lbs) or Newton-meters (Nm).
2. Adjustable wrench: A wrench that allows the size of the opening to be adjusted.
3. Combination wrench: A wrench with a socket on one end.
Some maintenance procedures require the use of specific wrenches like the ones shown and described below.
Oil filter wrench: Attaches to a socket wrench to grip and remove the oil filter.
Spark plug wrench: Attaches to a ratchet and is used to remove spark plugs. A spark plug wrench is included in your vehicle’s tool kit.
Crowfoot wrench: An extension for torque wrenches to help reach tight areas.
TORX® is a registered trademark of Acument Intellectual Properties, LLC.