Very large sockets and drivers are typically powered by hydraulics to achieve torque. A socket is typically a cylinder which has a female six— or twelve-point recessed opening sized to fit over the common male hexagonal head of a bolt or nut fastener. The opposite end of the socket wrench has a standardized ANSI B, ISO, or other consensus standard square recess to accept the socket wrench's drive size. Male drivers are also produced for use with socket head cap screws, and are often called Allen drivers trademark or the generic term male bit drivers. The principal advantage of interchangeable sockets is that, instead of a separate wrench for each of the many different fastener sizes and types, only separate sockets are needed for each size and type.
Because of their versatility, nearly all screw and bolt types now have sockets of different types made to fit their bolts or nuts. Sockets often come as a "socket set" with many different sizes or types of sockets to fit the heads of different-sized fasteners. A ratchet of the "set size" is often included with the socket set. Sockets are commonly available in fractional inch and metric sizes, and in short shallow and longer deep varieties.
Wrenches in the form of sockets —that is, a female driver to envelop the male head of a fastener—have existed for centuries. Early examples include the keys used to wind clocks since the Middle Ages. The heads and sockets were typically square; hex heads eventually became more common starting in the 20th century. The ratcheting socket wrench, with interchangeable indexable sockets, was invented by an American, J. The tool was patented Pat. Square heads and sockets were the easiest to make in the era when hand filing was the typical method of manufacture.
With the proliferation of modern manufacturing methods, such as milling , shaping , broaching , and advanced die forging, it became just as easy to make hex heads and sockets as square ones. The hex form allows easier wrenching in confined surroundings where nearby obstacles obstruct the swing of the wrench , because fewer degrees of arc are needed on each swing before it is possible to reposition the wrench onto the next set of flats. Ratchet wrenches further reduce this problem, as the wrench need only swing as many degrees as it takes for the ratchet pawl to catch the next tooth.
The advantages of the system of a ratchet wrench with indexable sockets are speed of wrenching it is much faster than a conventional wrench, especially in repetitive bolt-on or bolt-off usage and efficiency of tooling cost and portability it is much more efficient than a set of non-ratcheting wrenches, with every size head having its own handle.
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Fine-tooth ratchets have finer teeth on the ratcheting components; these can be useful for tighter locations. Dual-pawl ratchets click twice for each tooth on the gear, effectively doubling the granularity of the mechanism. A number of other specialized ratchets—with hammer heads, multiple drive sizes, and other unusual features—are built by various manufacturers. There are also power tool versions of "air" pneumatic ratchets which use compressed air power to drive air powered socket wrenches which tighten or loosen nuts or bolts. A second major variety of compressed air powered tools are impact wrenches which are used for common tasks such as lug nuts on wheels.
Electric powered impact wrenches for the same tasks are not uncommon. Small cordless 12 volt and 18 volt impact drivers are often used today as powered ratchets to remove and install nuts and bolts. Hydraulic motor ratchets with their characteristic higher torque are rare outside heavy industry. The sockets used for impact duty called "impact sockets" are made with thicker walls and tempered to a lower hardness so as not to shatter under the impacts of the impact tool.
They are typically finished in black oxide rather than the usual chrome plating of the hand-tool variety. Standard sockets i. There are two main types of socket wrenches: Common sockets are colloquially referred to by counting the number of "points" pointed corners of walls present in the shape of the socket nut opening.
For example, the hexagon shape is commonly called a "6 point" socket because the hexagon forms 6 "points" where walls intersect to create six sharp pointed corners. This system of description using "points" generally works well in avoiding confusion, with the exception of "8-point" and "point" where two very incompatible shapes exist with both having 8 "points" and 12 "points".
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The vast majority of larger common nut and bolt heads are produced with the 6-point hexagonal gripping shape. Less frequently used shapes include the square 4-point, triple square point not to be confused with point double hexagon , octagonal 8-point not to be confused with the more common 8-point double square shape.
These less common shapes are typically found in special applications or particular industries such as aircraft, PVC plumbing fittings or German and UK made automobiles. With rail cars, valve adjustment screws and pipe plugs, the 4-point square shaped driver can still be found in wide use both male and female configurations. Nuts and bolt heads are also produced in point double hexagon shapes and various types of splines, more common to aircraft and aerospace applications.
Most manufacturers of sockets for larger bolts produce them in 6-point hexagonal and limited sizes of point double-hexagonal configurations. Male bit drivers are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "sockets", but are in fact the opposite of a socket, in that bit drivers fit into a socket head cap screw or pipe plug, rather than fit over a male drive head on a nut or bolt as a socket does.
A socket is a "female" recess or opening which receives another object, together as a fitting connection. A socket is not a protruding "male" connection. Common male bit drivers of this type include Allen hex wrenches in both metric and fractional inch sizes , Torx T-3 thru T spline wrenches, 4-point square , and point triple square male bit drivers.
Other specialized screw heads that are often installed or removed with screwdriver type handles and appropriate type tip have socket varieties that fit the various screw head types and a can be attached to a socket wrench. Conversely, for low torque situations, a "socket spinner" screwdriver handle with a socket wrench type fitting on one end can be attached to many different types of sockets, bit drivers and extensions.
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A socket wrench, with the correct type of socket, can be used to loosen or tighten a large variety of fasteners with lower cost, greater ease and often more torque than can be applied with a screwdriver handle. A common use of these different "screw" head type sockets is to attach to power versions of the socket wrenches impact sockets which allow the fasteners to be loosened or tightened much faster and more powerfully than can be done by hand.
When working with common 6-point hexagonal fasteners, the point shaped socket offers double the amount of starting points or possible positions by which to put the socket on the nut. This is of large importance on a box wrench which is typically adjustable in 15 or 30 degree increments. This versatility of fitting position is normally of small importance on a socket wrench which can be easily rotated in small increments regardless of socket type.
Since loading contact points between the nut and socket are at the corner points not the flats , twelve point sockets have more than adequate strength for most applications where nut and socket are in good condition. If the nut or socket is rounded by wear, using a "double" shaped socket is more likely to result in slippage or further rounding off and possible stripping of either the bolt head, nut or socket. This versatility is the main purpose of the point shape found in common sockets, but is essential when working with point bolt and nut heads. Socket strength is mainly a function of the alloys and heat treatments used to make the socket along with wall thickness of the socket wrench as measured at the corner points thinnest section.
Specialized "wobble" or swivel sockets are made, that have a separate socket head and socket wrench connection. This allows the socket to wobble or swivel over a limited range, independent of the socket wrench or tool position, when it is attached to the bolt or nut.
This may be a distinct advantage in some applications with restricted access. They are often found in impact sets since they can be built sturdier than a common universal joint socket. Many socket types and sizes are available with a universal joint between the socket and the ratchet attachment for tightening or loosening fasteners which are not easy to access with the socket wrench, plus standard socket arrangement. Also available are short universal joint extensions that allow any socket to be attached to a ratchet at with a universal joint between the two.
Wobble extensions can serve the same purpose and may be easier to use since they often give a more solid socket attachment without all the flexing common to universal joint sockets.
Some specialized sockets are made with a specialized "6 flute" etc. Some specialized sockets are made to fit specific specialized applications and are designed and sized for that specific application. Spark plug sockets, oxygen sensor sockets, ball joint sockets, axle nut sockets, etc. Due to the twisting or cam action of the socket on a bolt or nut head, nearly all of the torque is applied at or near the corners of the nut or bolt.
Whether one uses either a twelve or six point socket, the same stresses are applied in the same locations. Under load, nearly all of the flats of the nut are not touching the socket at all. It is only a small amount of the surfaces near the fastener corners which bears the torque loads. In nearly all applications over-stressing a bolt or nut will result in stripping the bolt or nut threads or breaking the bolt long before the socket will break.
Tougher, thicker impact sockets are made for impact gun use. Occasionally when the corners of a bolt head or nut begin to become worn or damaged, the material the nut is made from can eventually smear or tear under load and create a situation where the corners are effectively "rounded off".
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Some socket users believe that six point sockets are less likely to damage a fastener head, but tool evaluations and lab tests document that there is no difference in performance. A distorted or corroded fastener head may not fit a six-point socket but a twelve-point socket can be made to fit. When a fastener head is "rounded off" the nut or bolt, it can often no longer be turned without special repair or extraction tools. These rounded-off heads can incur substantial penalties, both direct and indirect.
Deteriorated fasteners often inhibit the routine assembly and disassembly of the host components that rely on them, which can in turn deter users from performing normal maintenance procedures. Addressing the problem may require cost and effort, and potentially sidelining valuable equipment until the component's damaged fasteners have been replaced. Over the years, nearly all manufacturers of quality sockets have introduced convex walls and other similar optimizations to the socket geometry in an effort to minimize such problems.
These changes are intended to spread the applied torque away from the corners of fasteners and instead target the thicker, more reinforced areas of the nut or bolt head. Successful designs can greatly reduce the likelihood of eroding the vulnerable corner areas of the fastener, with the benefits increasing as the nut or bolt head is subjected to higher and higher loads. Such design modification strategies are typically inexpensive to implement and have been demonstrated to be commercially successful, particularly in the automotive maintenance and repair sector.
Spline sockets have a ridge in the center of the side wall and contact the fastener at the approximate midpoint of the side. As a result, these sockets do increase the torque that can be applied without damaging the fastener head and are perhaps the best option for removing frozen or stuck fasteners. An added benefit is that the required tolerance accuracy is minimized, and one socket can correctly fit a wider range of fastener head sizes. Spline sockets are sometimes sold as "universal" sets because the same socket can fit both SAE and metric fastener heads.
Many applications use air driven or electric impact wrench or impact driver to deliver the amount of shock and torque required to tighten or loosen the different bolts or nuts in use. Inside an impact wrench there is a rotating hammer, usually driven by electricity or air pressure, that is used to incrementally rotate the output shaft.
The impact wrench is designed to deliver high torque output with minimal exertion by the user, by storing energy in a rotating mass, then delivering it suddenly to the output shaft via a hammering action. Even if the socket attached to the impact wrench does not turn, it is still subjected to successive shock blows by the impact wrench's internal hammer s. SAE Specialty 8. Socket Type see all Socket Type.
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