Wrench's center pins retract and its outer pins surround a fastener to deliver a tight grip. Features a torque of over 100 pounds. Self-adjusts for all shapes and sizes. Works well on rusted and damaged heads. Features a 3/8-inch drive.
Side prongs sometimes get stuck in place during use. May require you to push down hard to wrap the wrench around a bolt.
Works great for indoor and outdoor tasks, car, motorcycle and bike repairs and any other projects that require you to screw or unscrew various shapes of bolts or nuts. Chrome steel construction guarantees the wrench is built to last. Features 54 durable steel pins. Intended for use for up to 3/4-inch bolt heads and 2-inch eyebolts.
May be tough to use the wrench in tight spaces. Grip sometimes can be uncomfortable.
This chromium-vanadium steel model features 54 spring-actuated steel rods that instantly conform to the shape of the fastener. The wrench comes with an adapter so it can be easily attached to your electric drill. A limited one-year warranty is also included.
This item isn't recommended for heavy-duty use, as it may sustain damaged if too much force is applied.
Fits standard 1/4- to 3/4-inch nuts and bolts. Affordable. Durable. Adapts to power drills for lightning-fast jobs. Available in blue, red, and silver.
This socket features a relatively shallow head.
The clever design of this pass-through socket wrench allows you to quickly change the socket size, making it adaptable to a wide variety of situations. This chromium-vanadium steel tool features a rubber-coated handle for comfort and to help prevent slipping during use.
The tool is a little bulky at the ends, and it doesn't have a ratcheting mechanism, so it is not a good choice if you need to work in a tight area.
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One problem with tools is that you need to have so many on hand “just in case.” Even the simple act of loosening a nut or bolt requires having an arsenal of wrenches in both Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and metric sizes, because the two units of measurement are not interchangeable. If you choose the wrong wrench, you could damage the nut or bolt, making it extremely difficult to unfasten. Your solution is to purchase a universal socket wrench.
A universal socket wrench is a versatile tool that can save you time and money for lighter-duty jobs. This device fits securely over whatever it is that you need twisted off. It doesn't matter if it’s a 1/2-inch square bolt or a 12-millimeter hex bolt, you can use the same tool.
If you’d like to learn about what to look for in a quality universal socket wrench, keep reading. However, if you just stopped by this page to find some quick recommendations for the best universal socket wrenches on the market, consider one of the models we've spotlighted in this article.
There are two main types of universal socket wrenches: self-adjusting (pins) and rotating head.
Self-adjusting (pins): A self-adjusting socket wrench features a number of durable pins, usually made of steel, that are very similar to 3D pin art toys. Basically, you place the tool over virtually any nut or bolt and it automatically conforms to the shape, allowing you to begin work without fussing over selecting the right size socket.
On the downside, these types of socket wrenches may slip and round off a nut or bolt, and they aren’t able to work on anything too deep or too shallow.
Rotating head: This type of socket wrench features a rotating head with four different sockets on each end. The sockets are designed to fit over a number of shapes. The average rotating head model can tighten or loosen up to 48 different nut or bolt heads.
On the downside, while the angle of these tools is adjustable, the heads are bulky and they don’t tend to feature a ratcheting mechanism.
To zero in on the tool you need, answer these three questions.
A self-adjusting universal socket wrench can be used manually with a handle, or it can be attached to an electric drill. The socket itself can be attached to either, but if you don’t own a socket set, you won’t have a handle unless the model you’re purchasing comes with one. Likewise, if you don’t already have an adapter for an electric drill, you’ll need to purchase one.
All socket wrenches attach to the handle or adapter in the same manner. However, the part it attaches to — the drive — comes in different sizes. If you’re purchasing a universal socket wrench that needs to fit a part that you already have, you must match sizes. The most common options are a 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, or 1/2-inch drive.
Yes, you do, because this allows you to tighten or loosen without removing the tool from the nut or bolt. Luckily, this feature is standard on self-adjusting universal socket wrenches. If you choose a model with a rotating head, however, you’ll likely forfeit this handy feature. Also, it’s important to note that different ratchets feature different tooth counts. The higher the tooth count, the less room you need to operate the tool.
After determining the type of universal socket wrench you prefer and answering the above three questions, there are only a few other factors you need to consider before purchasing your ideal universal socket wrench.
If you’re using your universal socket wrench manually, an ergonomic handle that’s coated for a comfortable, nonslip grip is best.
Most self-adjusting universal socket wrenches have somewhere around 54 pins. As a very general guideline, more pins tends to mean greater adaptability but less strength. Some models feature fewer pins of thicker diameter, which allows you to apply more torque, but in most instances, this may not be an appreciable difference.
Typically, universal socket wrenches have a range that fits nuts and bolts of 1/4 to 3/4 inch or 7 to 19 millimeters. If you have nuts or bolts outside of those ranges, be certain the model that you’re considering will meet those needs.
Most self-adjusting universal socket wrenches only work straight on with an electric drill or at a 90° angle with a handle. If you need to work at an angle, you may need to purchase an adapter that allows you to do this or use a model with a rotating head.
The taller the socket, the deeper the pins can retract. Still, most only retract less than half an inch. If you have a unique situation, be sure the model you get will work for you. A model with a rotating head design, for instance, typically has a pass-through socket that allows the tool to be slipped over a longer bolt.
Some universal socket wrenches are colored so they are more easily identifiable in a crowded toolbox. If this sounds desirable, look for a colored model.
The faith that the manufacturer has in its product is reflected in the warranty. Look for a universal socket wrench with an impressive warranty.
Inexpensive: The universal socket wrenches that cost less than $15 are mostly a honeycomb socket with an adapter so the tool can be attached to an electric drill. There are a few light-duty, bargain models that feature a handle in this range as well, but those might not offer the durability you desire.
Mid-range: From $15 to $20 is the best range for value. At this price, you can find four-piece sets of two sockets and two adapters, a universal socket wrench with a handle, or a universal socket wrench that features a rotating head (instead of the more common honeycomb design). The average homeowner will most likely be happy with the products in or around this price range.
Expensive: For the most part, universal socket wrenches top out between $20 and $30. Unless you need a larger socket, you shouldn’t need to pay this much.
As you've discovered by reading this article, most universal socket wrenches function in a similar way, but they have a variety of features that can make them better suited to your particular needs. Here are three more options that have slightly different perks. The Linkstyle Universal Socket Grip Adapter is actually a set of two affordable sockets and two adapters, so you always have a backup on hand if needed.
If you want to try something a little different, the Doublesmt Universal Socket Wrench only works on hex bolts. Doublesmt's model features six self-adjusting sides that are manufactured to handle higher loads than the pin design.
If you have a nut or bolt that’s larger than what the standard universal socket wrenches typically accept, the AbbottoKaylan Universal Socket Wrench is the model for you. It features one 7 mm to 19 mm socket and one 11 mm to 32 mm socket.
Q. Why would I want a universal socket wrench?
A. The biggest benefit is convenience. When you’re working on a job that has nuts and bolts of different sizes, using a universal socket wrench means you won’t need to keep switching out your tools for a proper fit. Additionally, when packing the tools you anticipate using for a job, you only need to bring one universal socket wrench, not a handful (or more) of wrenches. Last, a universal socket wrench features a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to tighten or loosen without the need to remove and refit the head of the tool with every turn.
Q. Are there any downsides to using a universal socket wrench?
A. Unfortunately, there are a few. But fortunately, in most instances, they aren’t deal breakers. The biggest drawback to using a universal socket wrench (honeycomb style) is that there is considerably less contact between the tool and the nut or bolt. This means the tool won’t feel quite as sturdy in your hand, it can slip and round out the corners of a nut or bolt, and it isn’t reliable for heavy-duty jobs such as automobile work.
Additionally, the moving parts can make it wear more than a basic wrench, and it isn’t designed for special use situations, such as spark plugs or oxygen sensor removal/installation. However, a universal socket wrench excels in lighter-duty tasks, making it much easier for the average handyperson to get the job done. In short, like any tool, as long as you’re using it for the purpose for which it was intended, you won’t be disappointed.
Q. What happens if I accidentally round off the corners of the nut or bolt that I’m working on? Can it still be removed?
A. Yes. There are a number of techniques you can use to manually remove a rounded nut or bolt. The best technique for a universal socket wrench is to use a metal file to make the sides flat again, so your universal socket wrench has something to grab onto.
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