12-Point Socket Vs. 6-Point Socket: Which One Is Better?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

A socket set is likely one of the most valuable tools within any handyman’s arsenal. Socket wrenches can help navigate even the tightest of spaces, making it easier to remove those tough to reach nuts and bolts.

You may have noticed that there are 6-point and 12-point sockets. But what is the real difference? The main difference is that the 6-point socket is built for jobs that require more force. Typically, 12-point sockets are more ideal for use in hard-to-reach spaces or areas that can’t be seen but can be reached.

What are Sockets Used for?

Sockets can serve a wide range of tasks. Generally, they are a tool (a bit) that attaches to either a socket wrench, torque wrench, ratchet, or some other type of turning tool. They are meant to loosen fasteners like bolts or nuts by turning them.

Generally speaking, sockets feature a hexagonal hole meant to fit over the hex design on a screw or bolt. You would generally require a socket in instances where more force is required. For instance, you would not need a socket for a standard screw (never mind the fact that it would be too big for the screw).

An Overview of 6-Point Sockets

Despite their general usage, there is a time and a place to use one or the other. The 6-point socket is generally used in jobs that require more force than usual. You may use a 6-point socket for removing lug nuts from a tire, for instance, because of the tremendous force involved.

Less likely to slip. One important feature of 6-point sockets is that they have additional contact surface. Along each of the flat edges of the socket is an additional contact surface that makes the socket less likely to slip.

Stripping. Slipping while using a socket can strip a bolt. When a bolt gets stripped, it becomes infinitely more difficult to remove. Using a 6-point socket lessens the chances of stripping the bolt and having to deal with that nightmare.

Added strength. Another distinction of 6-point sockets is that they have thicker wall construction. Because 6-point sockets are used for jobs that require more force, it is important that they are able to hold up to the additional force.

The Advantages of a 6-Point Socket

Different jobs and scenarios dictate having a wider array of tools. Whenever possible, giving yourself options is always the best-case scenario. Besides, there is nothing worse than seeing the job before you and not having the tools to do it. That said, there are distinct advantages to using a 6-point socket to do the job.

  • More power. Simply put using a 6-point socket is ideal for jobs that require a lot of force. Whether it be something like removing a tire or trying to get off a rusted bolt, more torque is needed. The 6-point socket is meant to support and deliver that additional torque.
  • Improved surface coverage. Though it may not be something that jumps out to novice handymen, the improved surface coverage is important. Stripping a bolt is the last thing you want to do. With more contact surface area, there is less likelihood of slipping. No slipping means no stripping. Which tends to mean that the job is easier to pull off.
  • Thicker walls. With additional contact surface coverage comes improved strength. The thicker walls are what reduce the flex within the socket and prevent it from slipping.
  • Greater durability. High-force jobs don’t just mean more difficulty in removing the nut or bolt. There is also additional tension on the tool itself. Those thicker walls mean that the socket is far less likely to bend or break under extreme tension. It can definitely happen with the wrong tool and a 6-point socket cuts down on the chances of snapping and breaking.

An Overview of 12-Point Sockets

The easiest way to think of 6-point sockets vs 12-point sockets is that the former is power while the latter is finesse. The additional points on a 12-point socket make them easier to connect with the heads of different fasteners.

Trouble areas. The biggest reason for using a 12-point socket would be working in trouble areas. Sometimes there are spaces that can barely be reached. For those spaces, it may not be possible to see what you are doing.

Fasten at more angles. Because of its additional points, the 12-point socket is great for working in tighter spaces. The 12-point socket is capable of connecting at more angles faster than a 6-point may. When access is not easy, connecting the socket should be. And using the 12-point socket, it tends to be much easier than using a 6-point socket.

The Advantages of a 12-Point Socket

Though they share aesthetic similarities, there are major differences between 6-point and 12-point sockets. More importantly, there is a time and a place to implement them both.

  • Easier connection. The main advantage of a 12-point socket is that it provides an easier connection with the head of the fastener. When the bolt is tougher to see, being able to “feel” your way onto the fastener head can be tricky with the wrong tool.
  • Improved range of motion. When working in tight areas, range of motion becomes one of the most essential factors. The more space you have to maneuver, the quicker you can remove the fastener. A 12-point socket really comes in handy for providing additional gripping angles. The caveat here is that its need is negated should you have a ratcheting socket wrench.
  • Needed for 12-point fasteners. The most obvious instance of needing a 12-point socket is in the instance of a 12-point fastener. The good news is that these types of fasteners are somewhat rare, so you should not come across them very much.

Are Snap On Impact Sockets Worth it?

One of the biggest selling points for 6-point sockets over 12-point sockets is the improved amount of force that it delivers. That said, there are times where even a quality 6-point socket can’t get the job done on its own.

Impact sockets. That is where an impact socket comes in handy. Impact sockets are meant to handle vibration caused when using an impact tool. Impact tools are generally used to remove seized bolts and nuts and generally from vehicles.

It is important to note that impact sockets are not meant to be used with standard fasteners. The increased force and tension could snap the fasteners, getting them stuck in the hole. That means even more effort to get the broken portion out.

Are they worth it? Though they don’t have the same wide range of use as a standard 6-point socket, impact sockets can definitely be worth it. In particular, they are great for those who work on vehicles on a regular basis.

Seized nuts and bolts are a monumental project without an impact socket. The worst-case scenarios usually involve chiseling them out with a hammer and chisel before any torque can be applied. Impact sockets apply exceptional force to break those seized fasteners free without breaking them off in the hole. Faced with seized fasteners enough, the impact sockets can become more than worth it.

So, Which One is Better?

It should be mentioned that both have very different uses in different situations. Not to mention the number of points on the fastener can quickly determine which socket gets ruled out. But past that, there is a clear winner.

6-point sockets. When push comes to shove and there is a choice to be had, the 6-point socket gets the clear nod. The reason for this selection are two-fold. It basically comes down to improved torquing power and slipping.

While the 12-point socket may have more angles for connection, slipping is a real possibility. Stripping a bolt is a major no-no and often requires quite a bit more work to get the fastener out. Avoid stripping the fastener wherever you can.

Because of the importance of more torque and combatting stripping, the 6-point socket is the clear winner. There is less risk of having to deal with a stripped bolt than would otherwise be true with a 12-point socket.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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