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Tip: 6 point vs. 12 point sockets

In this article I’ll share with you a tip about 6 point vs. 12 point sockets. Your fixing journey is likely to bring you in contact with rusty nuts and bolts at some point, and in these situations your choice of socket could make a difference. Both have their place in your toolbox, but each type has its own strength and weakness.

6 point sockets

picture of 6 point sockets
6 point sockets

The clue is in the name, 6 point sockets have…err…6 points. They are hexagon shaped, the same (probably) as the nut or bolt you’re trying to undo. I say probably because you do sometimes encounter 12 point bolts, aka triple square. An example I encountered recently was the axle bolt on an Audi A3.

Advantages of 6 point sockets

6 point sockets are the ones to use if you’re trying to undo tight, rusted or seized nuts and bolts. This is because they have a larger contact area with the fastener, so are less likely to round it off. The vast majority of sockets for use with impact tools are 6 point.

Disadvantages of 6 point sockets

There aren’t as many angles for putting the socket onto the fastener. This means that if you’re using a breaker bar or other tool without a ratchet, you may have to play around with the positioning of the socket on the bar and on the fastener to get a position that works for undoing whatever you’re tackling.

12 point sockets

picture of 12 point sockets
12 point sockets

Yep, you’ve guessed it, these sockets have 12 potential points of contact between the socket and fastener.

Advantages of 12 point sockets

For ‘everyday’ work, they are easier to use. The additional 6 contact points mean positioning the socket on the fastener is easier: so the problem of positioning I mentioned as a disadvantage of 6 point sockets isn’t an issue here.

Disadvantages of 12 point sockets

The main issue is the contact area is smaller and closer to the points of the fastener, so it is easier to round off fasteners with 12 point sockets than with 6 point sockets.

Summary

That’s it! My quick guide to 6 point vs. 12 point sockets. If you’re undoing rusty, stuck fasteners, or any type of fastener tightened to a high torque, use 6 point sockets. Otherwise, 12 point sockets will be fine!

If you’re out shopping for sockets for the first time, I’d suggest getting some 6 point sockets first, then expanding your collection from there if required. I did it the other way round and wish I’d bought 6 points first.

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