Best Socket Sets: Sock It To Ya

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Socket Sets

We’ve covered mechanic’s sets in the past but, in this updated post, we are going to focus on dedicated socket sets. That means no sets with piece-count padders like Allen keys in an obscure size or that one tool that only serves to remove the Färhfvingenator on your clapped-out Volkswagen.

If you disagree with our picks or have a favorite you’d like to add, be sure to toss it in the comment section. We’re always up for suggestions from the B&B. Now, block off some time this weekend and get wrenching!

Table of Contents

1. Editor’s Pick: DeWalt Impact Socket Set, 3/8" Drive Metric/SAE: 23 Pieces

There’s a reason your author started both this a DeWalt product: they simply work exceptionally well. We’ve all had experiences with ratchets that have worse teeth than your average British person in the 1970s, with said ratchets refusing to permit even an ample quarter turn when trying to work in tight spaces.

All the sockets included in this set are shallower than your average TikTok socialite, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want deep sockets. However, these are impact-grade six-point units that include both metric and standard measures (don’t lose that 10mm!). A single 3/8-inch drive ratchet is included.

Pros

  • Top-notch ratings, impact quality

Cons

  • No deep sockets

Bottom Line

  • A solid set of shallow sockets

2. Neiko 3/8-Inch Drive Impact Socket Set: 44 Pieces

Nei-who? Neiko, apparently. This never-heard-of-em brand of sockets is all over Amazon, garnering mostly positive reviews (and, yes, we read them before recommending something here on TTAC). This is so-called Master Set has 44 pieces and includes both deep and shallow sockets.

Made of heat-treated material and robust enough to warrant approval for use with an impact gun, these six-point sockets are made of heavy-duty drop-forged premium chrome vanadium steel to resist corrosion and absorb extreme levels of torque changes. Big markers mean even you can see what size they are, old-timer.

Pros

  • Wide variety of sockets, AARP lettering

Cons

  • Reports of a cheap case

Bottom Line

  • Organize these sockets in your own toolbox

3. Milwaukee 1/4" Drive Ratcheting Socket Set: 50 Pieces

The city of Milwaukee is famous for a couple of things - beer and tools not being the least of them. While some of their products are made overseas, the company has recently invested nearly $50 million into American production facilities.

This set is aimed squarely at the lighter duty jobs, or at least ones that require a modicum of finesse. All the sockets here are 1/4-inch drive, a size which comes in handy depending on the job. Like many others on this list, metric and standard measures are included but deep sockets pop up here as well.

Pros

  • Includes a couple of extensions and a ratchet

Cons

  • Frightening lack of reviews on this particular item

Bottom Line

  • Read the other Milwaukee reviews

4. WORKPRO 3/8" Drive Socket Set: 39 Pieces

If all you're looking for is a basic set to see you through a couple of light repairs, one could do worse than this particular off-brand set. Absent of piece-padding Allen keys or screwdriver bits, this just-the-facts socket set is a decent selection for beginners.

They're all shallow sockets, ranging in size from 5/32" and 4mm to 1/2" and 13mm. While the included screwdriver-type handle looks cheaper than chips, the ratchet handle is said to be of good quality. It also comes with a very basic blow-molded case.

Pros

  • That price

Cons

  • Not many socket sizes

Bottom Line

  • Your First SetTM

5. Bosch 3/8-Inch Deep Well Socket Set: 8 Pieces

Bosch seems to lend its name to nearly every product on the planet. Witness its brand popping up on items as varied as underhood car components and your author's set of stainless steel kitchen appliances. I made a tasty baked pasta dish in a Bosch-branded oven just last night.

They're in the socket same too, apparently, with this 8 piece set of stout deep well sockets that are fit for consumption by impact guns. Fitting a 1/2-inch drive, not included, these standard-sized sockets range from 7/16" to 15/16". The nearly 100 product ratings from real-world customers are overwhelmingly positive.

Pros

  • 4.9 out of 5-star rating, der Bosch name

Cons

  • Costly for eight sockets

Bottom Line

  • It seems that one gets what they pay for

6. Spurtar 1/2" Drive Extractor Socket Tool Set: 5 Pieces

Can't get your nuts off? Us, either. Immature jokes aside, we've all tried to remove damaged bolts and fasteners at some point in our gearhead lives. Wailing on them with a torque wrench, called The Persuader around these parts, rarely helps. And melting the things off with fire is satisfying but can leave long term scars on both yourself and your car.

Enter these products which purport to grip and bite into damaged fasteners like an angry dog on the postman's leg. This set is built for big nuts, as the Spurtar twist sockets set includes 17mm to 22mm units plus a drift punch nut removal bar. All of these things are designed for general automotive applications.

Pros

  • The satisfaction of removing a stubborn bolt

Cons

  • Only four sockets here

Bottom Line

  • Your sanity is worth 20 bucks

7. TACKLIFE 1/2" Drive Impact Socket Set: 18 pieces

In a confession that will totally give away my rural Canadian upbringing, Tacks were always a good set of CCM hockey skates. Add the suffix ‘Life’, however, and one apparently ends up with a set of hearty sockets ready to take the abuse of an impact wrench. They’re deep-welled and a full 95% of over 5000 customers gave this set a 4 or 5-star rating

Offered in either standard or metric – but you’ll have to choose unless you want to buy both – these sockets are a six-point design that enlarges surface contact and prevents the rounding off of bolt heads. The metric set comes with one extra socket because that's the system you should be using - here's lookin' at you, America.

Pros

  • Stellar reviews, markings etched with freakin' lasers

Cons

  • You gotta choose between inches and millimeters

Bottom Line

  • Stop whining and get both sets

8. Sealey Impact Socket Set: 16 Pieces

Here's a metric-only socket set (ducks the swooping bald eagle) that comes highly recommended by real-world customers who plunked down a not-insignificant amount of money for sixteen sockets, all of which accept a 1/2-inch drive.

Though it is not readily apparent in the ad, one respondent was good enough to list the socket sizes that are included in this kit. Apparently, they go all the way from the always-lost 10mm up to a staggering 32mm. The latter is reserved for brutish farm equipment or that infernal anode rod in the camper's hot water tank.

Pros

  • Great variety of sizes

Cons

  • No ratchet included

Bottom Line

  • Lots of kudos from customers

FAQs

Which brand is the best for socket sets?

Some reputed brands that are best known for manufacturing quality sockets are:

Sunex

Known for impact sockets.

Crescent

Known for general-purpose sockets.

DEWALT

Known for professional-grade tools.

What are the strongest sockets?

Impact sockets are considered to be the strongest because of the following two characteristics:

Material

Impact sockets are made of chrome-molybdenum that is a steel alloy with increased ductility. Because of this, the impact sockets can handle more vibrations and torque without getting shattered. However, since chrome-molybdenum is costlier than chrome-vanadium (used in manufacturing regular sockets), the impact sockets are expensive and are considered to be of premium grade.

Locking

Impact sockets have a locking pin at the drive end that is used to lock them so they don’t come off because of vibrations. This is something that is not available in regular sockets.

You Should Also Know

When it comes to distinguishing between regular and impact sockets, the following points help you with the process:

Color

Because the surface of impact sockets is carbonized to make them hard so they can handle abrupt torque fluctuations, they are black in color. With that said, this difference in color helps you in identifying impact sockets easily and quickly.

Application

You need impact wrenches and drivers to work with impact sockets as they can handle more pressure than the regular ones. Simply put, impact sockets are manufactured in a way that the material can easily take and absorb vibration that could be caused due impact wrenches.

What is the best material for a socket set?

The best material for a socket is chrome-molybdenum which is a type of steel alloy. Although the products made of this element are costlier than the standard ones, they offer more durability. That is why chrome-molybdenum is mostly used to make impact sockets that are less prone to shattering due to high ductility.

Furthermore, the sockets made of chrome-molybdenum (usually impact sockets as discussed earlier) can bear more vibrations and higher torque without getting damaged.

Additional Info

Although there is another material called Chrome Vanadium Molybdenum or CVM that, as the name suggests, has molybdenum in it and is mainly used in manufacturing screwdriver bits that can work with impact products.

What socket sets do mechanics use?

Even though the mechanics may have their preferences when it comes to selecting socket sets, some that most professionals appreciate are listed below:

Stanley Drive Socket Set (123 pcs.) ( Buy here!)

These are made of chrome vanadium steel and are corrosion-resistant. Now, you don’t have to confuse these with impact sockets merely because of their dark color as they are not carbonized but have a coating of black polish that is applied to them.

EPAuto (40 pcs.) ( Buy here!)

This socket set is present under the Amazon’s Choice category. The sockets are made of chrome vanadium and are shipped in a quality case to enable convenient and strong storage. These are available in both Metric and English size sockets.

Tekton Drive Socket Set (45 pcs.) ( Buy here!)

This set is from one of the most admired companies and therefore is a bit costlier than others. Because of this reason, some professionals avoid using these sockets, unless the service station they work for makes them mandatory. As with the above two, even these sockets are made of chrome vanadium steel.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit: Ensuper/Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Vivek Nayyar
Vivek Nayyar

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Comments
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2 of 18 comments
  • SnarkyRichard SnarkyRichard on Jun 13, 2022

    My two best socket sets are the Husky 3/8 inch drive SAE set I inherited from my dad who bought it in the mid-60s at Two Guys department store in NJ and the 1/4 inch Craftsman set I bought in the early 90s mostly to wrench on my metric motorcycles .

  • RHD RHD on Jun 29, 2022

    This shill article for imported Chinese junk sold on Amazon is to genuine journalism what the Peel P50 is to Formula One racing.

  • Alan Like all testing and analysis work you need a good set of requirements. If you don't you'll find or end up with gaps.
  • Alan In aviation there is more vigourous testing, well, until Boeing changed things.
  • Alan This outcome was certain.The US, Australia and Canada need to approach this differently. A policy towards plug in hybrids should of been a first step. As in CAFE gradually tighten FE from there.There's no reason why you can't have a 2 litre F-150 with electric motors putting out 400-500hp. A 2 litre turbo is good for 200hp more than enough to move a pickup.Also increase fuel tax/excise every year to fill the void in loss of revenue.
  • Doug brockman hardly. Their goals remain to punish us by mandating unsafe unreliable unaffordable battery powered cars
  • Lorenzo It looks like the curves are out and the boxy look is back. There's an upright windscreen, a decided lack of view obstructing swoop in the rear side panels, and you can even see out of the back window. Is Lexus borrowing from the G-Class Mercedes, or the Range Rover?
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