Friction Ring Vs. Pin Detent Impact Wrench: What's The Difference?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Having the right tools for the job is half the battle. With the right tools, you can take on any task in front of you. Without them, though, the job gets a lot harder to complete. For that reason, socket sets are a popular option for do-it-yourself of all types.

The main difference between a friction ring and a pin detent is in how they fit into the impact wrench. The pin detent holds the socket in place and is mostly for using one socket a lot. The friction ring is easier to remove and great for instances where you need to swap out sockets.

This article will give a brief overview of both friction rings and pin detents, as well as the pros and cons of each so you can tell which is which, as well as which is best.

Friction Ring Overview

So, that brings us to the question of just what that little square pin is on your impact wrench. Don’t assume that all impact wrenches are the same; these connections are quite different and serve different purposes.

The friction ring is a rubber ring that helps keep the socket seated to the square. Rubber is more flexible but also tends to be less sturdy and more prone to tearing and other damage.

The reason for the friction ring has to do with removing the socket. Because it is less secure, it is ideal for swapping out multiple sockets. On jobs that require more than one size of the socket, a friction ring is probably ideal for easier removal.

What Are The Pros Of Friction Rings?

The biggest pro of the friction ring is the ease of use. Whenever multiple socket sizes are needed for a particular job, ease of changing sockets is essential. Having to fight to change out a socket each time can be a huge negative.

Friction rings are also typically sturdy enough to hold up to most jobs. It is only in the high-torque situations where a pin detent on the impact wrench may be a better idea.

What Are The Cons Of Friction Rings?

The only downside to the friction rings is that they are not quite as durable and sturdy as detent rings. The rubber is susceptible to damage and tears, requiring the need to replace it before using the impact wrench again.

Pin Detent Overview

On the other side of that coin is the pin detent. The pin detent is either a locking ball or a locking pin that holds the socket into place. The principle is generally the same as the friction ring; it is about holding the socket into place.

The difference here is that the pin tends to be a bit more secure and heavy-duty. It holds the socket quite tight to the impact wrench, providing a more secure connection than the friction ring and its rubber connector would.

Pin detents are ideal for securing the socket into place. For tougher jobs or ones that require the same sized socket, a pin detent is probably the better choice.

What Are The Pros Of Pin Detents?

The biggest pro regarding the pin detents is the durability and stability offered. Remember that impact wrenches are meant to be used in situations where lots of force is required. Having a sturdier connection to hold the socket in place is key.

What Are The Cons Of Pin Detents?

That said, there is something to be said about flexibility. Pin detents tend to offer less flexibility and make it more difficult to swap out sockets. When you need to move between sockets, using a pin detent can be a real hassle.

How Does It Work?

When the detent is installed, there is a spring-loaded ball that projects out of the pin shaft. That ball that goes into the hole or detent and locks the pin into place.

Removing the pin can only happen when the user pusses the designated button at the top, releasing the pin.

What Is An Impact Wrench?

There are a pair of tools, the impact wrench, and impact driver, that may sound like the same thing. But it is important to know that the impact wrench – which has the pin detent or friction ring – has very different uses.

Car Repair

Impact wrenches are most commonly used to loosen or tighten bolts and nuts. Given that they deal with sockets, that only makes sense. Impact wrenches, for this reason, are generally used for car repair than anything else.

Impact wrenches also tend to deliver a lot of power. When there is a need to remove seized and stripped nuts and bolts, that extra power will more than come in handy.

Related Questions

How Do You Get a Stuck Socket Out of an Impact Wrench?

As covered above, one of the biggest downsides of using a detent pin is that it can be quite difficult to remove the socket. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to replace the existing socket with a new one only to meet resistance.Ideally, giving it a few tugs will remove the socket. But when that doesn’t work, the most likely solution will require a vise. Set the socket on top with the open end up. Leave the extension dangling between the jaws but do not clamp them tightly.

Can I Use Regular Sockets with an Impact Wrench?

Contrary to popular belief, not all sockets are interchangeable. When it comes to the use of an impact wrench, the burning question for amateur DIYers is whether or not they can use standard sockets with their impact wrench.The shower answer is “no.” Simply put standard sockets are not rated to handle the kind of force that impact wrenches deliver. The material tends to be brittle in comparison. Using a standard socket with an impact wrench will more than likely lead to that socket shattering.

What is the Difference Between an Impact Driver and Impact Wrench?

Despite the shared “impact” designation, it is important to note that the two are quite different in their applications. The quick explanation is that one drill while the other loosens.Impact drivers are for drilling long screws into metal or wood. Impact wrenches, meanwhile, are used to loosen or tighten bolts and nuts. Both deliver higher amounts of force than standard versions of those tools (hence the “impact”).

Which Is The Better Choice?

Personal preference is the most important factor in considering which one to go with. Neither is necessarily “bad” and offers its own set of benefits when in use. That said, DIYers tend to have a preference and that is the friction ring.

Simply put there is no matching the versatility offered by friction rings. Though they may not offer the same level of support while holding sockets into place, they do offer increased flexibility. Many jobs require moving from socket to socket. Being able to change them out quickly can make a job go that much quicker.

Even when time is not necessarily a factor, it can be quite difficult to remove the pin detent. It is safe to assume that the vast majority of DIYers out there have run into an instance where they simply couldn’t get their socket out of the impact wrench.

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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