Jump to content

- - - - -

Dumb Question About Socket Wrench Sizes

  • Please log in to reply
21 replies to this topic

#1 ryanlogsdon


    Stage One Kit Fitted

  • Noobies
  • PipPipPip
  • 68 posts
  • Location: Pasadena

Posted 11 August 2020 - 05:11 AM



Dumb question time.


Can anyone shed some general tool knowledge on me?  Are there clear reasons to choose 1/4-inch vs 3/8-inch vs 1/2-inch socket wrenches over one or the other?


Here's my understanding:


1/4" wrenches have nice, short/small handles; torque is limited, but they're good in tight spaces.


3/8" wrenches seem to be your all-around balance. good torque, neither big nor small handles.


1/2" wrenches seem to get into their stride when you need a breaker bar but you don't want to walk over and pick it up.


I'd like to pick up a new set of socket wrenches.  The main use will be normal maintenance on my Mini as well as upgrading her to all-electric (soon enough!).  I'll get a good set and keep it for life, so I don't necessarily want to get a 1/4-inch set just because it'll fit in tight compartments on my current project.


Thanks for listening!




#2 Revd


    Passed Test

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPip
  • 30 posts
  • Location: Warwickshire

Posted 11 August 2020 - 05:24 AM

40 years ago I bought a comprehensive 1/2 inch Britool set with every size from 3/8 to 1-1/2. In the intervening years I’ve added Facom 3/8 and Halfords 1/4. They all get a regular outing, it’s just a case of selecting the best socket for the job

#3 imack


    One Carb Or Two?

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,217 posts
  • Location: Orpington, Kent

Posted 11 August 2020 - 05:25 AM

I probably use 1/4 and 3/8 mainly. You need all 3 sizes really.

#4 Moke Spider

Moke Spider

    Moved Into The Garage

  • TMF Team
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,513 posts
  • Location: NSW
  • Local Club: South Australian Moke Club

Posted 11 August 2020 - 05:55 AM

If I had to choose 1 drive size, I'd say 3/8", however, to cover the whole car, as Revd mentioned, you'll need a 1/4 Drive and 1/2 sets and a couple of 3/4" drive sockets too.


It maybe (?) more economical though, in regards to the 1/2" drive just get some loose sockets, a Ratchet and a Breaker Bar. If you have a 3/8" Drive set, then in 1/2" all you'll really need is 1/2", 9/16". 5/8", 11/16", 3/4" and 15/16"


The 3/4" Drive Sockets, you'll need a 1-5/16" and a 1-1/2 Deep Socket, along with a breaker bar.

#5 RustyAutoCityE


    Mini Mad

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 281 posts
  • Location: Sussex

Posted 11 August 2020 - 07:13 AM

All good advice above.

Personally for me, I brought a 1/2 drive socket set as one of (if not) my first tools. It is still my go to when I am attacking a car, but can be cumbersome.

#6 kit352


    Mini Mad

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 164 posts
  • Location: Guildford

Posted 11 August 2020 - 08:38 AM

I thonk its best to buy a really good 3/8 set first and build as you need it. If you have the cash to drop now you can certainly pick up a really good 1/4 and 3/8 set now however. For 1/2 i woukd probably just get a nice breaker bar and a cheap socket set. Its rarely used on the mini and you dont need anything crazy.

Im also a big fan of buying good used tools as well. New ones generally cant compare to old ones in quality. My TW spanners are roughly 90 years old and literally havent let my family down for generations. Is that even possible with newer tools?

#7 Mini Manannán

Mini Manannán

    Well I'll be buggered if I can find it

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,652 posts
  • Location: Middle of the Irish Sea
  • Local Club: man Estate

Posted 11 August 2020 - 11:16 AM

1/4" are the nicest to use and I'd say I use that size the most, dead handy with a screwdriver/ bit driver thingy as well.  My Beta set has lasted and lasted: it's worth forking out on a really decent set.

#8 sonscar


    Super Mini Mad

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 560 posts
  • Location: crowle
  • Local Club: none

Posted 11 August 2020 - 06:54 PM

If I had to guess there are probably 10 sizes of nuts or bolts on a mini,just buy them in shallow,deep 6 and 12 wall drive in all three drives.Steve..

#9 viz139


    Speeding Along Now

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 366 posts
  • Location: Ireland
  • Local Club: Irish Mini Owners Club

Posted 12 August 2020 - 07:55 AM

I bought a similar set to this many years ago and its great as a one box fits all (nearly)



Handy to throw in the boot when going on a run, has fixed many a mini on the side of the road.

#10 Ethel


    ..is NOT a girl!

  • TMF Team
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 23,572 posts
  • Local Club: none

Posted 12 August 2020 - 09:02 AM

I'd go 1/2" if I could only have one. Also opt for one that covers the bigger sizes (15/16", 1",1-1/8"). 


You can buy cheapo 1/4" sets for under a tenner. Not great quality, but good enough to spin the small stuff that's awkward to get to.

#11 Wiggy


    One Carb Or Two?

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,030 posts
  • Location: Hampshire

Posted 12 August 2020 - 03:46 PM

I have a 1/2" and a 1/4" socket set. Married with a set of adapters and a 3/8" extension. I've never been foxed by a nut or bolt yet on many different cars.

1/4" sets often come with a bit adapter and bits. Saved me many times when there's an awkward Torx hidden away.

3/8" isn't much cop on very tight bolts.

#12 MrBounce


    Up Into Fourth

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,377 posts
  • Location: The Manroom in Ipswich

Posted 12 August 2020 - 03:52 PM

I started with a cheapie 3/8" socket set. This was superceded by a Halfords' 1/2" Imperial and Metric set. Since then I have expanded to 3/8" in both imperial and metric and 1/4" in imperial and metric. I have 4 ratchets, 3 sets of extension bars, torque wrenches, star sockets and a full set of impact sockets. I still feel I need more. It's like a disease!!


A standard 3/8" set in both metric and imperial will be an excellent starting point, then it's all downhill as you start to collect... :D

Edited by MrBounce, 12 August 2020 - 03:52 PM.

#13 Curley


    Speeding Along Now

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 447 posts
  • Location: Basingstoke, Hampshire
  • Local Club: Not MINI friendly

Posted 15 September 2020 - 05:29 PM

Hi Ryan, you've pretty much got it covered. Only thing I'd add about 1/4" - when doing things up - is that, I find, it helps to not over tighten things as you're typically working with less leverage.

#14 nicklouse


    Moved Into The Garage

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,450 posts
  • Location: Not Yorkshire
  • Local Club: Anonyme Miniholiker

Posted 15 September 2020 - 05:55 PM

never needed any 3/4" drive sockets as they are available in 1/2" drive.


if i was starting anew i would buy a 3/8" set which will cover just about everything. and then buy others as needed.


and the set would be as good as i could afford. i would not start with a 1/2" drive set up as you can find that they can make things difficult due to being that much bigger.


if buying a tool for a one off job don't worry about the quality.


as for what brand i cant help as i dont know your brands.

#15 mini-mad-mark


    Speeding Along Now

  • TMF+ Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 349 posts
  • Local Club: northants wot no brakes

Posted 15 September 2020 - 08:38 PM

I used 1/2" drive for years (good quality set) and never had too many problems but then I bought a 3/8" drive set about three or four years ago and it was a revelation; easier to use for most stuff  - they were medium price so will probably need another set in the next couple of years; will buy a good set then and hopefully one of my kids will inherit them (but none interested in cars/mechanical/fixing stuff as yet/maybe never)


I would say 3/8" drive for most things with 1/2" useful (better?) on suspension, brakes and the big stuff (subframe towers, crank bolts, diff, etc) where I would use 1/2" drive or 3/4" drive if you have them but 3/4" stuff is seriously expensive and I just couldn't justify getting it for the few sizes I needed so I bought a few large 1/2" drive loose sockets to go with my set. (might be just me but the cheap 3/4" drive sets look really cheap and nasty and the good ones are pretty expensive)


As Ethel mentioned cheapy 1/4" drive sets are available which I have, as they are mostly for the smallest sizes  (3/8"/10mm or less) that don't need much turning so I decided to compromise on quality a bit - handy with the odd difficult to reach bigger size but generally I would use the 3/8" set.


I suppose there is an optimum chart somewhere for the sizes as there will be some overlap?

I would say: (metric as its easier to type, but take these to the nearest imperial sizes)


1/4" 4-14mm (is there a smaller size than a 4mm socket?)

3/8" 6-21mm

1/2" 10-38mm

3/4"  24-64mm

1" for ships, tanks, steam trains, the Eiffel tower etc (yes I know the Eiffel tower is probably riveted but I was going for comedy effect.......)


I also have a small rail of 3/8" drive deep sockets handy for some things (3/8-3/4" AF) and I also have two deep sockets in 1/2" drive - 1/2" and 9/16" AF


I have a small rail of 1/4" drive deep metric sockets 5.5-12mm - never used them!!!.....I didn't buy them specially, they came in a tool box I bought for the toolbox mainly but there were some useful tools there too



As MrBounce says - you can get carried away.......

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Mini Spares