If you’re doing automotive repairs, you won’t get very far without sockets. With auto manufacturers using different styles and sizes, a mechanic has to have an entire drawer dedicated to fastener removal. So before you get knee deep into a repair and see a funky bolt that makes you raise an eyebrow, check to make sure you’ve got all the sockets you need.
Along with some recommendations from fellow gearheads at Autoweek, we completed this list with some top-rated choices from Amazon. Remember, invest in the right socket for the job—rounded nuts and bolts can become a nightmare. Do it once and do it right with these essential 3/8-inch drive socket sets.
Experts Love These 3/8-Inch Drive Cordless Impact Wrenches
6-Point Impact Socket Set
A basic socket set is essential, and this kit from Casoman has everything you need for a solid price. Unlike their shiny chrome counterparts, these impact sockets are shatter-resistant when used on power tools. With deep and shallow sockets ranging from 8 to 22 millimeters and 5/16 to 3/4 inches, the kit includes most of the common sizes you’ll need to work on your vehicle. This chrome socket set looks great on hand tools, but we advise against using them with impact tools.
6-Point Low-Profile Impact Sockets
Low-profile sockets, like the ones in this Autoweek–recommended set from Astro Pneumatic, can be incredibly handy. In sizes ranging from 6 to 19 millimeters, they are 35 percent shorter than your typical shallow socket. They’re also fitted with a 17-mm outside hex so you can use them with a wrench for even more access.
12-Point Impact Socket Set
There are pros and cons to 12-point sockets, but it’s nice to have a set of both. With double the grip points, it can be easier to get onto a bolt. However, you do lose some grip integrity and are more prone to rounding off that bolt. For speed, though, it’s tough to beat a 12-point. This impact set from Sunex has all the basics. And if you’re looking for some nice chrome 12-points, we like this set.
Spark-Plug Socket Set
Spark-plug sockets feature a rubber insert that grabs the tip of the plug and pulls it free once completely unthreaded. They’ll save you the hassle of trying to fish the spark plug out from the hole. This set from Powerbuilt includes five sockets that’ll yank out all but the rarest spark plugs.
Universal Impact Socket Set
Oh, these things are genius. Universal joint sockets, commonly known as swivel sockets, allow unmatched flexibility when accessing hidden fasteners. These swivel sockets are built to handle the abuse from impact tools, but you lose significant torque when used at an angle. The garage guys at Autoweek recommended this set. For access they’re excellent, but for power they lack.
Low-Profile Oil-Filter Socket Set
More and more oil filters are being used in housings that feature a large built-in nut. If you’re dealing with a GM Ecotec, the 32-mm socket with a long extension and a swivel joint will be your friend. As auto manufacturers continually use cartridge filters, it’s a good idea to be prepared with this set.
Torx and E-Torx Bit Socket Set
You’ll run into Torx fasteners on anything, but they’re commonly used on European cars. This kit features T8–T60 Torx bit sockets and E4–E22 E-Torx sockets. Just note that not all of these take a 3/8-inch drive—the smallest take 1/4 inch drive; the largest, 1/2 inch—so be prepared with the correct-drive ratchet or impact.
Hex Bit Socket Set
You occasionally run into hex-bit fasteners, similar to Torx. This kit features 16 metric bit sockets and 16 SAE bit sockets, so you’ll be covered unless your bolt is really funky. The set features a range of drive sizes, so be ready with the proper ratchet for your needs. Be wary of rounding out the inside of the fastener with hex bits—make sure you have the tightest-possible fit before trying to loosen.
Triple-Square Bit Socket Set
Triple square, ugh. The bane of many mechanics. Commonly found on BMW and Audi vehicles, the unique fasteners might look like Torx, but are very different and require special sockets. This set from Capri Tools will cover the basics, but be cautioned—triple squares have a habit of rounding out in the middle. Make sure you have a tight fit before attempting removal. We also like this Autoweek-recommended low-profile set for hard-to-reach places.
If you end up rounding the head of a nut or a bolt, these bolt extractors might be able to save the day. They feature reverse spiral flutes that bite into the metal, therefore adding extra grip. This kit features seven sizes for small to medium fasteners.
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