Socket Wrench Blues

I have several socket sets, but have basically had a lot of my sockets and handles stolen.

I lost one when my car window was open too much, and someone got in, opened the trunk, and stole my best set.

I lost one when a similar problem happened, and I lost a tool box that had some sockets and a handle.

I lost some by misplacement, and that’s where I’m at now.

I’m also feeling paranoid about storing things in the garage. It seems like tools get more disorganized there. Maybe someone gets in and steals things.

I purchased a couple from cheapo shops. One was a cheap small set from Harbor Freight. It’s OK for light work.

I purchased another from Autozone. This is for the car. It’s $20 and useful only for very light duty work. It’s junk, basically.

Building a New Set

It’s easy to go buy yet-another-set, but I have so many sockets already, it might be cheaper to build up a set to work with my car, an old 1995 Toyota Corolla.

I need to put together a complete set that’s got decent sockets, and a good handle. I also need spares for specific sizes. My goals are to replicate the Husky Mechanics Socket Set, but only in metric. The Toyota Nation Forums have a thread about what sizes to get.

Lowest quality would be Duralast, Harbor Freight (Pittsburgh, better quality).

Sizes: 8mm, 10mm, 12mm,14mm, 15mm, 17mm, 19mm.
Duplicates: 10mm,14mm
Spark Plug Socket
8mm and 10mm are 1/4″ drive
8mm open and box end wrench for brake bleeder
A 3/8″ handle, a 1/2″ handle, and a 1/4″ adapter.
And a box to hold all these things.

JIS spec sizes are 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 22

I need to dedicate a few hours to gather all my stuff into one tool box. There are so many disorganized parts, rolling around. I need to get organized.

All the SAE sizes should get sold off on Ebay or Craigslist, to fund purchasing the core set of sockets.

My Other Use Cases

  1. Fixing a bicycle
  2. Fixing a washing machine
  3. Fixing small machines

Basically, I think I don’t need socket wrenches for these. I have regular open end and box end wrenches, vise grips, pliers, and the like. The car is really the only thing that demands torque, and ways to reach and turn nuts and bolts in odd locations.

Determining Quality

The main things that make the crap socket sets so awful are:

  • Low tolerance between the handle and socket, so the socket is loose or wobbles. A good quality handle fits tight.
  • Low tolerance between the socket and the bolt head. If it’s too wide open, it’ll round the corners of the bolt head. You also won’t know if the socket is on the bolt head at the correct angle.
  • Ratchet head is loose. This could break.
  • Metal is soft. I’ve had sockets that deformed when you twist them with high torque. They widen, and then round the corners.

So, you have to stick with the better brands. There’s just no getting around that. The decent shade-tree mechanic brands: Husky, Dewalt, Craftsman, Stanley. The lesser brands: Pittsburgh Pro (Harbor Freight), Duralast (Autozone), Hyper Tough (Walmart). I’m not sure where Milwaukee fits in, but probably decent.

The best ones are companies like Snap-On, Matco, and Mac Tools, but those are very expensive. The main reason pros buy those are the tight tolerances, better design, warranty, and delivery service. (The stores go to the mechanics.)

This review on Amazon goes into detail about some brands I don’t know, all owned by Danaher.

Shopping Links

The main tool people use are socket rack holders: available on Ali Express for around $5 each. I have one.

Craigslist Los Angeles “Socket Set”

Ebay “Metric Socket Set”

Home Depot Socket Set Page

Lowes Socket Set Page

Harbor Freight Metric Socket Set

Amazon Metric Socket Set

WalMart Metric Socket Set

Northern Tool Socket Set

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