Socket/Ratchet sets what size

Have a bunch of pretty crappy socket sets of various sizes that I’ve acquired over time. Noticed that they tend to round off bolts and/or sockets themselves. I do have a old set that is pretty abused from my old man 1/2" but hardly ever use as they tend to be too big for most jobs. Question, for basic maintenance should I go 3/8 or 1/4??


Motorcycles I’d go with 3/8s, there are some things that 1/4 will do but very little that would need 1/2

For my two penneth you need both and then some, as a rough guide sockets should be used as follows

1/4" drive to a maximum of 15 Nm torque or 10 mm sockets or M6 nuts/bolts
3/8" drive to a maximum of 75 Nm torque, 19 mm sockets or M12 nuts/bolts
1/2" drive to a maximum of 300 Nm torque, 27 mm sockets or M20 nuts/bolts

These are ball park maximums which means that you may get away with using a 1/4" drive socket on a 13 mm M8 bolt torqued to 25 Nm but you risk breaking or rounding the socket, rounding the nut and skinning you knuckles.

For home mechanic use have a look at this Halfords 50 Piece 1/4" & 3/8" Drive Metric Socket Set.

Halfords anyways have a set on offer, is wait for the one you want to be on sale and get that.

Don’t get Imperial, you will only need them on very old British things.

I’ve got the small Halfords one, then bought a couple of sockets on the other sizes as I need them (like a 36mm for my axel one) I

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I recently got this set from Amazon.

As mentioned, I have no idea what I’m doing tho haha.

Sounds like I should have made sure it had 3/8 instead of 1/2 :upside_down_face:

There’s no real difference between the two, just comparability when you start adding to and replacing it

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Halfords advanced 100 piece
Combination of all 3 sizes as well as Hex pieces

When I did my apprenticeship we had an annual allowance of £50 to buy tools but were not allowed any choice because we didn’t really know what we needed. The 1970’s were difficult too as it was a period of transition from the imperial AF and WW sizes to metric sizes. All three spanner sizes could be found on most 1970’s vehicles. I still have sets of AF and WW size spanners and sockets but as @Boris says they’re hardly used, rarely see the light of day and are not required unless you’re working on pre 1980 or American vehicles.

The 3/8" drive sockets and bars are without doubt the most useful, there will be times when a more compact tool is required and the 1/4" drive sockets and bars will be more handy but not necessarily essential. There are some parts on a motorcycle (clutch basket, flywheel, swingarm pivot, wheel axel, rear sprocket etc) where 1/2" drive sockets and bars are essential. You’re choice between 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" drive sockets should depend on the clamping force (torque) you need to achieve.


Thanks all, didn’t understand the max torque by size so thanks to @National_Treasure.

I’ve gone with a base set of teng tools 3/8 sockets. Should cover majority of my needs, have a decent enough 1/2 torque wrench and associated sockets with my inherited 1/2 set. Sure I’ll still break or sheer something somewhere!!

If you’re working on Japanese stuff, then it’s worth getting a set of JIS screwdrivers, as although their screws may look like they’re normal Phillips, they’re not. A Phillips screwdriver will sort of fit, but not exactly & will therefore end up damaging the screw.

The Japanese made Vessel ones are all sorts of lovely, but you can now get sets much cheaper from Sealey and Laser.

Imperial can be handy if you have a damaged for part rounded head. You can go to a slightly smaller size with imperial.

But generally you’re right that unless you dealing with something old then it’s not really going to be an issue,

For the money, I would say you get a lot farther with US Pro Tools (ebay) rather than Halfords Advanced owning both. I have just created a spreadshet for a friend who’s bought his own new old car with no tools. For cars I find more tools are required so you won’t need all but this could be used as a guide. I think your money goes a bit further if you buy everything separately rather than all at once

Priority 1 is what I would buy before attempting work, priority 2 something can be added over time. Priority 3 may increase productivity but there will always be a workaround.

Please let me know all if you have any tools that should be added or if you disagree on priority!

As for sizes: I basically only ever use 1/2" if I am using a 1/2" torque wrench or a massive breaker bar. 1/4" for little fastners and hard to reach places. If you have a couple of ratchets though, I can’t think of many situations where I wouldn’t have been fine with only 3/8"

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oh and 12 point sockets will round things much easier than 6 point sockets

We’ve morphed into a tools, tools and too many tools thread :wink:

Are you trying to re-invent the wheel here? The first tool on any home mechanics list should be a workshop manual. You cant go to far wrong with a Haynes and included in the reference section at the back there are pages on maintenance and minor repair tools, repair and overall tools, specialist tools etc.

For my two penneth you’ve gone over the top with ring spanners, deep sockets, torx, star and E torx sockets/bits (unless you need to tackle those types of fastenings), long shanked Allen key, long shanked torx sockets, 4 piece mole/vice grips (two will do one pair straight jaw and one pair curved jaw), 3 piece water pump pliers (one 10" pair will do), 4 piece long nose pliers (one pair of straight long nose pliers will do), oil filter straps (better is a (edit) 3/8" square drive oil filter socket), pry bar set.

You include 1/2" ratchet and extension pieces but not 1/2" sockets? I didn’t notice bull nose pliers, side cutters, feeler gauges, conventional screwdrivers, spark plug socket, circlip pliers, digital multimeter, vernier gauge, steel rule, ball pein hammer, oil/coolant drain pan, brake/clutch bleeder kit, drive chain tool and probably something else.

Like I said in my post, this was a sheet I threw together last night for a friend and it is car specific. While it doesn’t answer the cooltempo’s question in that they only asked the correct socket sizing, I had the resource to hand to share so I shared it.

WIthin the scope of the question 3/8, as said in my post.

But no I am not trying to reinvent the wheel by suggesting tools. You were actually the first to bring this thread off topic by suggesting brands, so I’ve just added my own experience to the subject. These were probably both justified diversions as I think we both infered that cooltempo is trying to standardise/modernise their tool collection to reduce frustration when fixing their (assumed) bike.

I’ve not gone over the top with ring spanners etc. I can’t work on many jobs on my cars without them. As explained in my intro to the sheet, there is an attached priority. Long allen/torx are shown as being least important. There are times when things are buried beneath hoses etc and it is quicker to take a long allen key than trying to work out the right stubby allen socket and extension bar combo. Regardless of personal financial situation, those multi piece plier sets cost next to nothing and I’ve just attached a link to highlight what I mean for my friend who has no clue about tools and cars yet. A 3/4" square drive oil filter socket is not better when you’ve just picked up a new motorbike and you’re changing your oil and filter at 11pm the night before a weekend in europe only to realise you’re oil filter socket is the wrong size, I’ve been there.

Thank you for noting what I am missing (no sarcasm) I’ll get round to adding them as necessary for my friend.

When I put that together last night I’d been up for 4 days straight so you’ll forgive me a few lapses.

Cooltempo, I’m sorry if I have been unhelpful with sharing that spreadsheet. 6 years ago I knew nothing about fixing anything, now I am rebuilding my cars engine on the drive and there is next to nothing I’d take my car to the garage for. All I’ve tried to share here is my list of tools and the order I would buy them if my tools were stolen one night and I needed to replace them. Bike is the opposite though interestingly enough as I need it for work, so within reason whatever it costs, the garage fixes it. If you do take anything from my post it would definitely be that 12 point sockets and spanners have their place in that you can get them on easier in a tight squeeze, but these could potentially be why you round some bolts? I don’t know

Typo error that is a 3/8" square drive oil filter socket (not 3/4") its 65 mm x 14 points which fits more motorcycles than not as well as many cars. I also have a back up in a 1/2" square drive oil filter chain wrench but its a two handed tool and a little awkward in use especially in confined spaces, the oil filter socket is one handed and simple slips on/off the end of the filter.

I find the off-set of my ring spanners makes them difficult to get into the confined spaces on modern vehicles, much like you say with your long shank Allens and torx.

I’m thinking I’ve offended you with the reinventing the wheel comment which was not my intention. I just wanted to point out Haynes publish lists of tools with colour photographs and tips on using them in the reference section at the back of their manuals.

Other tools that have come to mind and you may want to add to your list are a 400 mm 3/8" square drive extension, square drive universal joints, power drill to square drive adaptors and a square drive socket step up/reducer set. Its the same old story with tools we’ve always got too many but never got enough.

I own a hammer.

Is it a ball pein hammer?

Or sledge hammer, club hammer, pin hammer, claw hammer, brick hammer, chasing hammer, dead blow hammer, electricians hammer, half hatchet hammer, soft faced hammer, welders hammer, blacksmiths hammer, tack hammer, cordwainers hammer or some other hammer?

16oz metal claw hammer. I think I used it to punch out the plastic bits on my top box and plate to install Givi’s electric bits.