Adjustable pin design makes this unit compatible with all sizes of screws and nuts. Easy to maneuver into hard-to-reach spots. One of the most dependable and durable units on the market.
Need to read instructions before use; can damage unit if handled improperly
Works great for indoor and outdoor tasks, car, motorcycle, and bike repairs, and any other projects that require you to screw or unscrew various bolts and nuts. Features 54 durable steel pins.
May be tough to use 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 unit also comes with an adapter so it can be easily attached to your electric drill.
Not recommended for heavy-duty use. Can sustain damaged under stress.
Fits standard 1/4- to 3/4-inch nuts and bolts. Affordable and durable. Adapts to power drills for lightning-fast jobs. Available in multiple colors. Great for casual use and small projects.
It features a relatively shallow head.
Built with 54 steel rods to adapt to wide variety of nuts and bolts. Fits most electric drills and manual ratchet wrenches. Includes 105-degree angle driver for getting into tight spaces. Vanadium steel construction.
Angle driver isn't capable of high-force operations.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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 get 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 to twist 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.
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.
Do you need a handle or an adapter? 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 getting comes with one. Likewise, if you don’t already have an adapter for an electric drill, you’ll need to get one.
What size drive do you need? 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 getting 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.
Do you want a ratcheting mechanism? 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, there are only a few other factors you need to consider before choosing 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 tend 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 select 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 universal socket wrenches that cost less than $15 are mostly honeycomb sockets 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.
From $15 to $20 is the best range for most users. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.