How do 6 point and 12 point sockets differ, and where would you use them? At which point should you have both of these in your toolbox? Let’s find out.
Is a 6 Point Socket Better Than a 12 Point?
Not necessarily. While 6 point sockets are better suited to high-impact applications, 12 point sockets are more versatile. 12 point sockets can be used on hexagonal, and 12 point fasteners and are ideal for work in confined spaces.
6 Point Socket
A 6-point socket wrench is a wrench that has six corners and sides, at 60° angles, in a socket well. These are used tightening and loosening bolts and nuts and generally come in standard or deep-well sizes. Standard depth sockets have a well of around ¾ inch (20mm) deep, while deep-well sockets have a well of one inch or deeper, depending on the bolt diameter.
Pros and Cons of 6 Point Sockets
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of 6 point sockets, starting with the cons.
Not Great For Confined Spaces
Using 6 point sockets could be problematic in confined spaces, especially if your ratchet doesn’t have a high tooth count. Since the socket only has six positions of engagement with the nut, you must turn it 60° to reach the next available position. In confined spaces, you often don’t have the necessary swing arc available to do this, and thus using a 6 point socket becomes difficult.
Can’t Use 6 Point Sockets on 12 Point Bolts
6 point sockets also don’t fit on 12 point nuts and bolts, so you can’t use them in every situation. However, the 12-point bolts are less common when compared to hexagonal bolts.
Better Grip, Less Likely to Strip Bolt
That said, 6-point sockets are less likely to strip bolt heads, making them ideal for situations that require lots of force. A high-quality 6 point socket makes contact with the nut or bolt on its entire wall, offering greater grip. When the bolt slips, a large amount of material must be shaved off the bolt head’s corners before the head gets rounded off.
Can Handle Large Force
6 Point sockets have thicker walls than 12 point sockets. This offers better resistance to wear and tear, making the 6 point socket better suited to situations where a large amount of force is necessary. Examples include loosening a flywheel and most other automotive applications.
Hexagonal Socket Uses
6 point sockets are used in applications using hexagonal fasteners. This is obvious since the 6-point socket will not fit on any other shape bolts. They are also ideal for situations that require a large amount of force due to their greater wear resistance. Typical uses include automotive applications and outdoor work.
12 Point Socket
A 12 point socket wrench has 12 points at 30° angles in a socket well. As with the 6 point socket, these come in standard and deep-well configurations. Standard depth sockets have a well of around ¾ inch (20mm) deep, while deep-well sockets have a well of one inch or deeper, depending on the bolt diameter.
Pros and Cons
Easy to Use in Confined Spaces
A 12 point socket has 12 contact configurations available. Paired with a ratchet that has a high tooth count, this eases work in confined spaces considerably. Here, you can loosen a fastener incrementally, even in spaces that allow a tiny swing arc.
Can be Used on Hexagonal Fasteners Too
12 point sockets fit on hexagonal fasteners too. Suppose you’re working in low-impact applications that don’t require much force. In that case, this halves the number of tools you need since you won’t require 6 point sockets for hexagonal fasteners.
Higher Risk of Stripping Hex Bolts
Since 12 point sockets have less surface contact with fasteners than 6 point sockets do, there’s a greater risk of stripping bolts. When using a 12 point socket on a hexagonal bolt head, the amount of material that must give way for the bolt to be stripped is less than a 6 point fastener. This increases the risk, especially in applications requiring a large amount of force.
Uses of 12 Point Sockets
12 point sockets are used to loosen and tighten both 12-point and hexagonal head fasteners. It is necessary when working with 12 point fasteners such as ARP engine bolts since no other socket will fit the fastener. A 12-point socket on a 12-point head will provide maximum areas of contact and hence less chance of stripping compared to a hexagonal nut or bolt.
They are also well-suited to low-impact applications that use hexagonal fasteners. The 12 point box wrenches (ring spanners) and ratchet wrenches are commonly used for scaffolding, in machine shops, tool rooms etc.
Can I use a 12 point socket on lug nuts?
A 12 point socket can be used to fasten the lug nuts. However, if the socket or lug nut is worn out, it is likely to slip and damage the nut. To avoid this use the correct size hexagonal socket with lug nuts.
I recommend using an impact rated socket if you are removing lug nuts with an impact driver or impact wrench.
6 Point vs 12 Point Sockets: Difference in Working Angle
The following two graphics explain the difference in working angles between 12-point and 6-point wrenches.
As you can see in the figure-1, with a regular hexagonal socket you need to rotate the wrench to 60-degrees before you can reach the next point of contact. This can be a problem with the space is a constrain especially with long handle wrenches.
Compare the 60° movement with the 60° movement of 12 point wrench below.
Here, you only need to rotate the socket half of the 6-point socket to engage the next flat portion of the fastener.
When to Use 6 Point or 12 Point Sockets?
While 6 and 12 point sockets can be used interchangeably in most situations, some call for choosing a specific one. Generally, 6 point fasteners are better suited to high-impact situations or situations that require a large amount of force. Here, their greater wear resistance and the decreased risk of stripping a bolt head make them the winner.
When working in confined spaces, opt for a 12 point socket if the situation doesn’t require much force. A 12 point socket is easier to maneuver in small spaces. It works well when paired with a high tooth count ratchet.
If the application involves 12 point fasteners, you will need a 12 point socket since no other socket will fit.
Standard vs. Deep Sockets
Standard sockets are shallower than their deep-well counterparts. Apart from the well depth, these are identical, and they can be used interchangeably in many situations.
Deep-well sockets allow for greater reach. This is necessary when loosening a nut tightened on a long bolt. Here, the standard depth socket won’t reach the nut since there’s too much thread in the way. Deep-well sockets can’t handle much force, though. The considerable distance between the connection point and the ratchet creates a large torque, which could crack or break the socket.
Standard sockets are shallower and thus can’t reach far, but they are well-suited to work in confined spaces. They can also withstand much greater force than their deep-well counterparts. For this reason, they’re best suited to applications requiring a large amount of force.
12 point sockets are versatile and can be used on hexagonal and 12 point fasteners and are excellent for work in confined spaces. However, they’re not suited to high-impact applications due to the increased risk of stripping the fastener head. 6 point sockets are suited to high-impact applications but cannot be used in 12 point fasteners.
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