How to Use An Impact Socket

by Joost | Updated on:  August 2, 2018

Works ranging from accessing far-hidden areas to accurate twisting require a socket wrench to render your mechanic life incredibly simpler.

Apart from being attached to impact sockets, socket wrenches can be used for a number of jobs. For example, you can fix your bicycle’s cycle chain, tighten and loosen nuts on your car among other nuts.

Impact sockets are a must-have accessory for impact drills. They make your work easier and they are resistant to vibration.

What is an Impact Socket?

Impact sockets are made of softer steel that can handle impacts better. They are thicker since steel is easier and softer to bend, although not easy to break.

Softer steel takes impacts better because the entire piece of metal compresses a tiny bit while distributing the impact’s energy through the entire socket.

Impact sockets are used with impact wrenches most of the time. Mechanics use impact sockets to remove seizes nuts and bolts. The sockets are sturdy and resistant to the vibration caused by an impact drill.

What’s the difference between an impact socket and normal sockets?

The main difference between the two is the hardness of the material and the wall thickness. Both types of sockets are manufactured out of steel. However, the impact sockets are treated to be vibration and impact resistant. This means they are treated to a lower hardness compared to the normal sockets. Thus, they are sturdier and less prone to breakage.

Never use chrome sockets meant for regular wrenches with impact tools. Always use the impact sockets to prevent shattering.

Here is a set of impact sockets:

Neiko 02447A 1/2-Inch Drive Shallow Impact Socket Set with Extension Bars, 32-Piece | SAE (3/8″ to 1-1/14″) Metric (10-32 MM)

What is a Socket Wrench?

A Socket Wrench is a handy tool made of metal/steel and it is commonly used by tradesmen, mechanics, DIYer’s, and individuals involved in repair/maintenance work.

It is one of the most important tools in a socket set aiming at providing support for all your house and industrial works.

Using a socket wrench with impact sockets in a correct manner diminishes the chances of processing problems and errors.

A ratchet releases itself while moving in the opposite direction and usually tends to gear the mechanism while moving in the correct direction.

How to Use a Socket Wrench with Impact Sockets:

1. Identify and select the correct socket for the right job

Different impact sockets are loaded to Socket Wrenches for various operations. Before you commence operations, you need to identify the correct impact socket size perfect for a particular job. This is called ‘sizing up’ the impact socket.

Matching the socket with the size of the nut is essential for matching purposes. Ideally, you can get the correct size.

However, you can try to match the nuts and the impact socket size you are planning to work on. Smaller and regular nuts are recommended compared to larger ones which are quite hard to handle.

2. Match the nut measurement with the socket

Engaging in some official measurements is vital once you have identified and selected the best sizes for the job.

It is essential to know accurate sizing since it makes work more comfortable by reducing the chances of further loosening or tightening of nuts.

Sockets are customarily labeled with the best matches on the sides. These measurements enable you to decide on sizes accurately.

Here’s a list of all the socket sizes from the smallest to the largest.

3. Attach the socket to the handle

First, place your wrench on the ‘forward’ setting. After identifying the correct match for the nut, attaching the socket to the handle is the next crucial step.

You need to locate your selected socket’s square-shaped hole and carefully attach the handle to the shaft. You can place the bolt in the hole manually and then add the nut on the end. Place the socket over the nut. Next, make sure to pull the trigger of your wrench until you feel it tighten the nut.

Identify the square knob on the handle which makes a click sound once attached to the socket. The click sound is a clear indicator that the socket has appropriately attached to the handle and can be used for operations.

4. Identify the correct direction

After adequately attaching the socket to the handle, the next step is determining the correct direction. Adjust the switch found on the socket’s side before moving the socket. The switch provides you with guidance about the loosening and tightening direction.

If the switch bears no direction guidance, then you can turn the switch to the left for loosening and on the right for tightening. You should always determine the correct directions before commencing work.

This aspect is based on the fact the excess pressure can lead to extreme tightening which is impossible to reverse.

5. Master the twists

You can master the twisting art only after acquiring the right control over the handle and the impact socket.

You need to understand the different sizes of the nut you are working on and then twist. Once you figure out the amount of rotation needed for the job, you can twist as much as needed.

It is possible for you to use the socket like a regular nut. However, you should possess a perfect idea of the amount of space required for twisting. You are recommended to move in the opposite direction whenever you lack enough operational space. Rather than putting unnecessary pressure, you should try repeating the twisting procedure for better results.

Advantages and disadvantages of using impact sockets compared to manual sockets


  1. Fewer chances of injuries caused by sockets shattering.
  2. Can be used to exert a greater torque to a fastener.
  3. Can be used with both power turning and impact tools as well as with the manual ones.


  1. More expensive than manual sockets
  2. They are only sold with a black oxide coating.

Safety tips when using wrenches


When in doubt whether to use impact sockets or not, we compiled this list of common questions about impact sockets and we answered them to make it convenient for you.

Can I use an impact socket for everything?

No, it’s not necessary to use an impact socket all the time. Keep in mind that impact sockets are softer, therefore they do wear out faster. But, if you are fine with repurchasing them every so often, feel free to use the impact sockets for any type of wrenching and drilling job.

Do you need impact sockets for impact drivers?

Yes, you need to use impact sockets with the impact driver because regular sockets can’t withstand torque and pressure so they can break.

Can I use regular sockets with an impact driver?

No, you can’t use regular sockets. The normal sockets crack and break when used with impact tools. The reason is that they are made out of a brittle material that is not vibration resistant.

Do impact sockets make a difference?

They definitely make work easier. The sockets absorb sudden torque changes. Therefore, they are resistant to impact and less likely to break. Although they do wear down quicker, you work faster when you use them so they are a worthy investment.

What makes these sockets easy to use is their black color. They have their sizes laser-etched into them and you can identify them easily. Since they are black they are easy to spot and different from the regular sockets.

Why do impact sockets have a hole?

The hole actually has an important purpose. The name for it is a retaining pin and its role is to make sure that the impact sockets and the impact gun or wrench function well together. The pin (hole) prevents the socket from falling off the end of the wrench. This can happen as a result of the intense vibrations of the wrench, so the hole is an integral part of the impact socket.

Who makes the best impact sockets?

As with all reviews, there are many opinions on the matter. However, the following 5 brands are known for their excellent impact sockets:

Check out this Tekton set:

Are impact sockets stronger?

Impact sockets are designed to be used with power tools like air wrenches or electric wenches. They are not necessarily stronger but made differently.

Impact sockets have a carbonized surface layer which makes it harder. Since it is surface-hardened, the socket can better absorb impact in the form of torque changes.

In fact, impact sockets are made out of softer steel that cand handle the vibrations and impact better. The sockets are thicker because the steel is thicker. It is, however, easier to bend, but this doesn’t mean that it is brittle or prone to cracks, it’s just designed to handle impact better.

How are impact sockets made to withstand vibration and high torque loads?

It all comes down to manufacturing. Most regular sockets are made out of a chrome vanadium steel material. But, impact sockets are made of chrome molybdenum which is less brittle. The chrome vanadium is actually quite brittle and can’t withstand the vibrations of an impact drill. The chrome-molybdenum combination doesn’t shatter under torque forces, instead, it deforms because it’s ductile.

What should you look for in impact socket sets?

Before you buy a set of impact sockets, make sure to consider the following:

Final Thoughts

Understanding the primary mechanism of an impact socket and a socket wrench isn’t a hard nut to crack. You are only required to pay close attention to the simple details.

You should also monitor the thing capable of causing operational problems. Otherwise learning the operational procedures is a matter of dedication and a few minutes.

Still not sure whether to get impact or chrome sockets? Check out this video and find out: