6 Point Sockets vs. 12 Point Sockets

Are 12-point sockets as good as six-point sockets? Find out the answer—and why—before you buy that expensive set of socket wrenches at the auto supply store.

Question: My gearhead neighbor keeps telling me I should quit using my 12-point sockets and buy a set of six-points. Is this really necessary?

Answer: It’s true that 12-point sockets are fine for most lightweight repairs, but heavy wrenching calls for a six-point socket. A six-point socket is much less likely to slip off a stubborn fastener or round over the corners.

Here’s why: (1) Six-point sockets have thicker walls, so they’re less likely to flew. (2) A six-point socket is designed to contact the head of a fastener well away from the corners so contact is made on the thickest part of the fastener. This dramatically reduces the likelihood of slippage and rounding over of the corners. And (3), the edges of a socket are angled back a few degrees to allow the socket to slide easily over a fastener. The angle on a six-point socket is less than on its 12-point counterpart, again providing more contact area inside the socket.

One last point. Most high-quality sockets are chrome plated to prevent rusting and make cleanup easy. However, after years of use, the chrome finish can flake off. Don’t use a socket if the chrome is peeling. The chrome will be sharp as a razor blade. Any reputable tool company will replace one of its tools that has peeling chrome.

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