Triple Square vs Torx (Differences & Uses)

The Torx and Triple Square drives are specialty fasteners used in various applications. What’s the difference between these drives, and which should you use?

Torx Screw with Triple Square screws in background

Main Difference Between Triple Square and Torx Drive

The Triple Square and Torx drives are used in similar applications but differ in one key area: geometry.
The Triple Square drive is three squares overlaid at 30° angles. The Torx drive is hexalobular, shaped like a six-pointed star with rounded inner edges.

Design and Geometry

The figure below illustrates the difference in the driver slot profiles.
Triple Square vs Torx Geometry

Triple Square Drive

The Triple Square fasteners are designed to have twelve points, laid out in a spline-shaped design with three ridges. These bits are easily distinguished from similar ones when you spot the 90° corners on the tips and see that they form three squares overlaid at 30° angles.

This type of fastener head requires a specific triple square driver bit and is incompatible with all other bits. If you use a different bit on the Triple Square fasteners, you’ll end up stripping it, even if it seems to fit initially.

Torx Drive

The Torx drive has a hexalobular design. Here, a six-pointed star profile is laid out with rounded inner corners.
An upgraded version of the Torx drive is the Torx Plus drive. The Torx Plus has a similar design to the Torx but with flattened ends to increase torque transfer and grip. More on that in this article.

Torx vs. Triple Square Comparison

Strength

The Torx and Triple Square drives were designed for high-torque applications and are pretty strong. They do have some differences, though.

Triple Square Strength

The Triple Square bit was designed for extremely high-torque applications and, as such, is incredibly strong. This fastener fits snugly in the drive, resulting in a 0° drive angle. Since there’s no movement between the fastener and the drive, the risk for cam-out, head stripping, and other accidents is minimized. It also allows maximum torque transfer between the drive and fastener, resulting in tighter installation.

Torx Strength

The Torx drive is far better than the traditional fasteners and incredibly strong. This fastener has a 15° drive angle, allowing some play between the fastener and the drive. For this reason, it can’t go as tightly as the Triple Square drive.

Efficiency

The zero-degree drive angle makes Triple Square drives more efficient than the Torx drive with a 15-degree driving angle. However, the improved Torx Plus design has a 0° drive angle, making it nearly as efficient as the Triple Square drive.

Durability

Both the Triple Square drive and the Torx drive are durable and meant to be used in high-wear applications. That said, the Torx drive is typically less durable than the Triple Square drive due to the difference in drive angle.

Since the Triple Square drive has a 0° drive angle, there’s no movement between the tool and the fastener, minimizing the risk of wear and tear during installation and removal. It’s also not likely to cam out, provided you use the correct size driver bit or wrench.

One mistake I often find is that the mechanics use the wrong type of driver bit with triple square fasteners. It is a specialty drive, and many people might not own a triple square driver bit. Instead, they try to use a square bit or Torx bit, which can go inside the screw socket. Don’t do this. If the driver bit slips, it is much more likely to cam out.

The Torx bit, with its 15° drive angle, has comparatively more wear and tear during regular operation. Here, the play between the tool and the fastener is to blame. As these chafe against each other, the tool and the fastener wear down, eventually leading to stripping and cam-out.

That said, Torx drive is much more reliable than hexagonal drives and Philips screws.

Size

The Triple Square drive is available in nine sizes, ranging from M4 to M18, while the Torx drive comes in five sizes, ranging from T1 to T100.

In plain speech, this means that the Triple Square drives fit bits from 4mm to 18mm in diameter, while the Torx drive fits bits from 0.81mm to 22.13mm in diameter.

So, the Triple Square drives cover a small section of tools, while the Torx drives are available in an extensive size range. This fits the applications since Torx is used in many applications. At the same time, Triple Square drives are typically limited to automotive applications.

Applications

Triple Square

The Triple Square drives are typically used in extremely high-torque applications, such as the automotive and aerospace industries.

They’re generally used in German cars, especially on the engine blocks, where high-torque fasteners are essential to keep everything fitting together snugly.

Torx

Torx drives are used in many applications, requiring high torque and precision. These include electronics, furniture, industrial machinery, home appliances, and the automotive industry.

Can You Use a Torx Key on Triple Square Bolt?

Technically, you can use a Torx key on a Triple Square bolt, but it’s not advisable. At first glance, it will look like the Torx key fits in the Triple Square bolt, although it has a bit of play. But, when you turn the drive, the bolt will strip, and the key may be damaged in the process. This creates far more trouble than it’s worth, so it’s best to use the right tool for the job.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros and Cons of Triple Square

The Triple Square drive is a robust tool and has many positives going for it. These include

  • Extremely high torque
  • Very low risk of cam-out
  • Robust fasteners with minor wear and tear

The negatives include

  • Incompatible with any other tool drive
  • Not commonly used outside the automotive industry
  • High risk of cam out if you use the wrong driver/wrench.

Pros and Cons of Torx

The Torx drive is highly versatile and offers a great many advantages.

  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • High-torque applications

There are some disadvantages, though:

  • Some risk of cam-out
  • Wear and tear on driver bit and fasteners
  • Incompatible with other tool drives

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Triple Square and Torx tool drives are both excellent tools. The Triple Square drive is a must-have if you’re working on older cars, especially German ones. It’s robust and can handle a lot of stress, so it will stay put no matter where you fasten in.

The Torx drive can’t handle as much stress as the Triple Square drive. Still, it’s ideally suited to high-precision applications, like electronics, furniture manufacturing, and some automotive applications. Suppose you’re working on a project that requires more torque and precision than a typical fastener would provide. In that case, the Torx is probably to tool to use.