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What Is The Difference Between A Ratchet And A Socket Wrench? (All You Need To Know)

What Is The Difference Between A Ratchet And A Socket Wrench? (All You Need To Know)

Wrenches come in various sizes and shapes, as well as have a variety of functions. When one hand is holding a fastener and the other reaches for a tool, even an experienced craftsman may request “the wrench with the thing” rather than a “ratchet wrench and a half-inch socket.”

Though most of you know what wrenches are and use them regularly, few people know their exact technical specifications. It can be a big problem assuming that a wrench with a ratchet must be a socket wrench when ordering tools for assembly lines or maintenance rooms.

The ratchet is a subtype of a socket wrench. Both are used for removing or loosening fasteners efficiently. Both are, however, slightly different.

The main difference between the ratchet and socket wrench is that the ratchet is a type of socket wrench with two handles that rotate around a central drive pin. A socket wrench has one handle and is fixed in one position.

Moreover, a ratchet is typically used to remove screws or bolts that are too tight to turn with a socket wrench. A socket wrench can only be turned so far before it becomes difficult to move the tool due to the amount of torque applied.

Let’s indulge in the details of both tools by reading the whole article!

What Exactly Is A Ratchet?

A ratchet is a tool for tightening or loosening screws, bolts, and other fasteners.

A ratchet is a type of wrench used to loosen threaded bolts. You can find a handle at one end and a rotating drum or cone at the other.

The handle is turned anticlockwise to tighten the drum or cone against the bolt while it loosens the bolt clockwise. This rotation causes the screw, bolt, or fastener to be tightened or loosened.

When used correctly, a ratchet allows continuous linear motion in one direction while restricting motion in the opposite direction. Generally speaking, ratchets are socket wrenches that have ratcheting action.

Facts About A Socket Wrench

A socket wrench has a socket on one end and a hexagonal head on the other.

The socket portion is used to tighten or loosen screws, bolts, or nuts in a fixed location. The hexagonal head is used to turn screws or bolts at an angle.

Hardware tools including hammer, pliers, wrench and many more.
Handy tools that you can use for fixing things

Socket wrenches are used for removing bolts and screws with either a standard type of screwdriver or an extension. There are also special socket wrenches explicitly designed for tightening screws.

Socket wrenches come in many sizes, but the most common are 6-inch and 8-inch. The size of the wrench is based on the size of the screw it is meant to remove.

For example, a 6-inch wrench is meant to remove screws that are 2 inches in diameter, while an 8-inch wrench is meant for screws that are 2 and a half inches in diameter.

There are also specialty socket wrenches made for specific tasks. One example is a hex socket wrench, designed to remove screws with six different-sized heads.

What Are The Differences Between A Ratchet And A Socket Wrench?

The main difference between a wrench of each type is how they’re operated: a ratchet wrench is operated with a handle that turns, while a socket wrench is operated by squeezing the handles together.

Some of the other differences between the rachet and the socket wrench include the following:

  • Ratchets are typically used on smaller bolts and screws, while sockets are more commonly used on larger bolts and screws.
  • Ratchets have a straight handle, whereas sockets have a bent handle.
  • Ratchets have one or more ratcheting gears that allow the user to rotate the wrench very fast, unlike sockets which don’t have ratcheting gears, so they can only be rotated slowly.
  • Ratchets usually have shorter heads than sockets.
  • Ratchets are suitable for tight spaces, while sockets are better for more expansive spaces.
  • A ratchet is designed to turn in one direction, while a socket wrench can turn in both directions.
  • A socket wrench has more gripping surfaces than a ratchet, which makes it better at holding onto objects.
  • A socket wrench is larger and usually has more teeth than a ratchet.

You can find the summary of these differences in the following table.

Socket WrenchRatchet Socket Wrench
It is used on larger screws and bolts.It’s used on smaller screws and bolts and even wires.
Its head is large with more teeth.Its head is relatively smaller.
You can use it in wider spaces.You can use it in tight spaces.
It doesn’t have ratcheting gears.Rachets have one or more ratcheting gears.
It can turn in both directions.Its turns only in one direction.
Socket Wrench vs. Rachet Socket Wrench

Learn more by watching the short video clip that elaborates the differences between socket and ratchet wrench.

Socket vs. Ratchet Wrench

Uses Of Wrenches

If you use a socket wrench or ratchet, you can turn nuts and bolts more easily than a regular wrench. 

The ratcheting feature in this wrench allows you to keep the wrench on the bolt at all times, eliminating the need to refit the wrench every time you need to make a turn on that bolt.

Sizes of Socket Wrench and Ratchet Socket Wrench

Common sizes of these wrenches include the following:

  • 1/4 inch
  • 3/8 inch
  • 1/2 inch
  • 3/4 inch

Sometimes, these wrenches come with a 1-inch drive.

What Can You Use Instead Of A Socket Wrench?

This is a pretty interesting question. Whenever you have to tighten or loosen any nuts and bolts, you need a socket wrench or other similar thing.

If you are working on tightening a bolt, you can use a few of these things as a replacement:

  • A duct tape
  • Two coins
  • Another nut and bolt
  • A zip tie
An image displaying different types of wrench.
Different Types of Wrench

Final Thoughts

  • When it comes to wrenches, there are two main types: a rachet wrench and a socket wrench.
  • A ratchet wrench uses a rotating action to tighten or loosen a bolt or nut. Ratchet wrenches are typically smaller than socket wrenches, making them better suited for tasks requiring delicate handling.
  • Socket wrenches, on the other hand, use a standard ratcheting mechanism to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts. They’re typically larger, making them better suited for tasks that require more torque (the ability to turn screws with great force).
  • Ultimately, it depends on the task at hand which wrench is best suited for you. If you’re only looking to tighten or loosen a few bolts or nuts, then a ratchet wrench is probably all you need.
  • A socket wrench is your best bet if you need to handle more torque and are working with larger objects.

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