Triple Square Vs. Torx Drill Bits: What Are The Major Differences?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

To the novice, drill bits all seem the same. The simple fact of the matter, however, is that there are so many different options that it can become confusing. Take Triple Square and Torx screws, for instance. They may seem the same, but there are important differences.

It can be difficult to spot the differences, however. Torx has a star-shaped head to its bit. Triple square is as it sounds: three squares all at 90-degree angles. The former is used in bicycles, motorcycles, vehicles, and computer systems. Triple squares tend to be most prevalent on vehicles. Despite common misconception, they are not the same thing.

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An Overview of Torx Bits

The Torx bit was created back in 1967 and has become characterized by its 6-point star-shape. They cannot be removed with standard Philips or flathead screwdrivers, limiting their accessibility to those without the right screwdrivers.

Where are they used? Most commonly, Torx screws can be found in motorcycles, automobile, bike brake systems, computer systems, hard disk drives, and consumer electronics. So, they are fairly common these days.

Tamper resistance. Initially, Torx screws were highly tamper-resistant because there were not screwdrivers or drive systems widely available. Since they have become more common, there are variants that are tamper-resistant.

Resistance to camming. One of the biggest benefits of the Torx bits is that they resist cam-out better than a traditional Phillips or flathead would. Cam-out is where the screwdriver slips out while turning the head. Repeated cam-out can damage the screw head, making it difficult to use going forward.

A construction favorite. Torx bits have become particularly popular within the construction industry. Due to its cam-out resistance and tamper resistance, it has become a more consistent, better choice than most traditional Phillips and flathead screws.

Greater torque. Another major reason that Torx screws are so popular is that they allow for a higher torque transmission than most other screws. That means tightening bolts and screws more securely, creating greater stability than is offered by traditional screws.

An Overview of Triple Square

Whereas the Torx bits feature a star-like shape, the triple square bits are the opposite. They are simply a trio of interlocking squares all at a 90-degree angle. The two are often mistaken because they share a lot of the same applications. The triple square’s use, however, comes primarily in the automotive world.

Where are they used? Triple square bits are typically used for automotive components. They also tend to be found in a lot of European-made vehicles. German manufacturers Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Porsche all favor the triple square design.

High torque applications. The reason for the implementation of triple square bits is due to the high torque applications that vehicles can require. When it comes to drive train components and cylinder head bolts, the triple square bit offers a higher allowable torque to remove even the toughest or most seized components.

Versatile use. The great thing about triple square bits is that they have a variety of implementations. They work quite well when used with torque wrenches, breaker bars, and ratchets. It is important to note that they should not be used with impact tools, however.

Heavy-duty construction. The vast majority of triple square bits are also made of chrome-plated vanadium. That improves corrosion resistance so that they can hold up for longer.

Advantages of Torx

As you can see, there are some similarities between the Torx and Triple Square bits. No, they are not the same thing as is commonly thought. That said, there are some distinct advantages to using Torx over a square bit.

  • Neatness. Torx screws just happen to look neater. When it comes to high-end applications, there may be a need to line up square slotted heads. With the 6-point drive, there is no “lining it up.” That means less of a random look. The small things matter.
  • Cam-resistant. Anyone who has used a traditional screwdriver more than a few times has likely experienced cam-out. It can be frustrating in the moment and make removing a screw that much more difficult. Torx is great at reducing cam-out, making for an easier overall removal experience.
  • Durability. Because of the improved fit and its ability to take on larger torque capacity, Torx bits tend to make removal easier. Not only is that better for the user, but it is better for the overall durability of the bits themselves. There is a reason why Torx bits tend to last a long time.
  • Versatility. Torx bits are also more widely available than in the automotive world. Because of the improved torque capacity and protection against cam-out, they have become popular in the construction world. Better grip + better torque capacity = greater security when screwing things down.

Advantages of Triple Square

It is important to note that there is a somewhat limited overlap between Torx and Triple Square. While Torx can be used for construction applications, triple square is pretty much exclusive to the automotive world. That said, there are some distinct advantages to using Triple Square.

  • Optimum torque. Anyone who has worked on a vehicle knows how difficult it can be to remove a seized nut or bolt. Triple Square is great for high-torque applications. For automotive needs, that means things like drive train components and cylinder head bolts which can be tougher to remove than other components.
  • Greater torque versatility. While it is important that the bit be able to stand up to the extra torque, it is not the only important component. The tool used to do the job plays an important part in getting the job done. So, being able to use triple square with things like breaker bars, ratchets, and torque wrenches gives it the versatility advantage here.
  • Euro-centric. Though there are other vehicles that make use of the triple square head, most European vehicles feature them prominently. German vehicles like Volkswagen, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi in particular all use triple Square. If you have a German vehicle and plan to do your own work, pick up a set of triple square bits first because they will come in handy at some point.
  • Durability. Due to their need in high-torque situations, it goes without saying that triple square bits need to be durable. They are built to hold up against repeated use in those high-torque situations, meaning that a set of bits will last a good, long time.

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Which One is Better?

That’s a hard question to answer because of the different applications. If we were grading them simply on their qualities, Torx would win based on versatility alone. Torx bits can be used in automotive-like triple squares, but they have so many other applications as well.

When it comes to the automotive world, they are very similar. Both are recommended for high-torque scenarios. Both are built to be durable and stand up to the constant pounding that a lot of torque can deliver to a part.

For European vehicles, Triple Square is better. If triple square was the preferred choice of fastener head in every vehicle, triple square would be the definitive pick. Its ability to be used with ratchets, breaker bars, and torque wrenches means being able to get even the most seized of fasteners out with ease. The problem is that they are less common in other types of vehicles.

For general automotive and other uses, it’s Torx. But the versatility of Torx is too hard to ignore. Even when it comes to automotive needs, Torx is simply available in more types of vehicles. That means being able to get a wider array of bits and tools to handle the job.

Moreover, there are the construction applications of Torx. You can conceivably have an entire toolkit of Torx bits and have a hundred different uses for them. With triple square, you know what they are going to be used for.

That level of versatility is hard to top. And for that reason, Torx is the superior choice for just about any application that requires a little bit of extra force and torque.

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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