It’s never too hard to distinguish between a hammer and a wrench, even for a beginner. But when it comes to differentiating two wrench types, it can get tricky. For someone experienced, understanding differences between a socket wrench and a ratchet wrench is a no-brainer. But for newbies, this isn’t the case.
To be honest, once you understand the core differences between these two tools – which are really simple – you’d have an easier time picking the right one yourself. We’ll talk about the differences as well as how you can easily figure out which tool you need in this article. Hopefully, after reading, your confusion will go away.
Socket Wrench vs Ratchet Wrench Comparison
Let’s now talk about the major differences between a socket wrench and a ratchet wrench.
Both the socket wrench and the ratchet wrench can be used to loosen or fasten nuts and bolts. But since there are some differences between them, they’re good for specific cases. You shouldn’t really consider one as the alternative of the other.
Think of the two as closely similar but somewhat different on specific levels.
Types and Basic Usage
Socket wrenches come in a variety of styles. The major two types are shallow and deep sockets. Shallow sockets can work in places where there isn’t much space to move. They’re suitable to work with small, less threaded bolts and nuts. Deep sockets, on the other hand, are suitable for long threaded bolts and nuts.
There’s another popular socket type: universal socket. This type can work with nuts and bolts with different head types. Suppose you need to work with a spline and square socket head at the same time.
You can do so using two different torques. But using slightly different tools might not be something you like to do. What’s the solution?
The solution is using an universal socket. You can use different socket heads depending on the type of nut you’re working with. The socket heads are plug-and-play. You don’t need to attach the heads with a screw or anything. They just fit with the help of a magnet. It’s simple to use and saves a lot of time.
Also, unlike the stiff socket type, there’s another type of socket which provides a flexible body style. The design is modular and can be adjusted according to any shape that the user likes.
Ratchets come in different styles too. Major two ratchet types are geared and gearless ratchet type. Geared ratchets use toothed ratchet heads to hold on to the head of nuts and bolts properly. On the other hand, gearless ratchets have a bearing inside their heads to do the same thing.
Both of these ratchet types are equally good. Some prefer gearless type since it allows a lot of gear movement under less hand swinging. It’s not that the geared ratchet is less good, it’s basically a matter of personal preference.
Ratchets also come in flexible bodies. This is actually great when you need to work in tight spaces. The ability to tighten and loosen the head of the wrench is helpful too while working with nuts of various head sizes. But you must do good maintenance and oiling ratchet wrenches to get the best support.
Well, you attach both the ratchet and the socket with one another by using locks. Locks come in many shapes and sizes. So, before you want to pick a lock to join your wrenches, look if the lock fits with the wrenches. Also, some locks will allow more or less movement depending on the type of ratchet and socket you’re using.
You’ll find both the socket and the ratchet in almost all the sizes. Be it a small nut or a large industrial bolt, there’ll always be a ratchet or socket for that size. Ratchets offer gear drive sizes while socket wrenches offer specially designed heads to fit in nuts of a variety of styles and sizes.
Both sockets and ratchets are made of metal. Sometimes they come in corrosion protective metals.
So, Should You Use a Socket Wrench or Ratchet Wrench?
This question is commonly asked by beginners. People who are new to wrench based tooling sometimes think these two are alternatives to one another. But the truth is that both of them can work as a complementary tool to each other.
Let’s talk about a real life scenario. Suppose you’re working in a machine’s engine. There are a lot of nuts and sockets here and there. Depending on the type of nut you’re working with, you’d need to pick a ratchet one time and another time, a socket wrench. You’re constantly changing the tools as you work.
But if you know some ways to combine both the tools effectively without changing between them so many times, you can save a lot of time. Work with the nuts and bolts can be really time consuming but this doesn’t have to be. You need to learn which tool is best for which job and how to combine them to get the best output.
You should try to have both of these two tools at your disposal. Now you know about socket wrench vs ratchet wrench comparison. You also have some clear ideas about which tool is best suitable for what task.
There is a lot more to know about these tools but if you’re, at this moment, a little less confused than you were previously, then it’s great. As you work with the tools practically, you’ll start to get a deeper idea on both of them.