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Most manufacturers of sockets produce two varieties: impact, and chrome. As far as a I know the only difference is impact can be used in impact wrenches. Why would you ever get a socket set that isn't useful for impact wrenches? The price difference seems absolutely minimal.

Are chrome sockets better at anything?

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  • 1
    Chrome sockets can be used with impact wrenches also, not everyday but once in a while. Impact sockets are usually a bit thicker and sometimes you need a thinner socket to fit.
    – crip659
    Jul 30 at 22:24
  • 5
    @crip659, disagree. Chrome sockets are not rated for usage with an impact wrench. This isn't considered safe practice. Jul 31 at 0:50
  • @crip659 Disagree seen chrome sockets shatter when used on impact tools. If impact sockets were not needed they would not be made.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 31 at 6:36
  • Are we talking 1/2" or 3/8"? I've never used impact sockets on my 3/8" impact, and never had a problem using chrome. The 3/8" models are not that powerful to break them. 1/2" is a different story.
    – rtaft
    Jul 31 at 21:55
9

Yes. The normal sockets have thinner walls, and thus are able to reach bolts that are set close-in. (The designers of those machines need to be close, and are well aware of the dimensions of standard sockets; though there is an argument to be made that socket head cap screws are the better choice for close clearances).

Also, every socket has a bevel to help it center on the nut, and that bevel has a height. This precludes it from being used with extremely shallow nuts, such as those found on sandwich mounts, glands, conduit nuts, etc. Impact sockets have a deeper bevel, which makes it harder to work with thin nuts or bolt heads.

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  • Also impacts are heavier. I've been know to slide a few sockets into my pockets to climb ladders, extra weight in addition to the size is uncomfortable. Jul 30 at 23:36
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Impact sockets are much thicker and robust than, what you call, "chrome sockets", which are much thinner and engineered to withstand human strength, not impact drivers.

With a high torque impact driver, you could easily crack open a non-impact socket and maybe send pieces flying...wear protective goggles if you try using "chrome" sockets on an impact driver. ....Actually it's a good idea to wear protective goggles in either case, but esp. for sockets not approved for use on an impact driver.

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  • For you to put in quotes makes me think I'm using an unacceptable name for it. If so, feel for to correct me. I'm a home gamer here. I'm at Cosco and looking at chrome sockets and wondering what they have to offer. Jul 31 at 2:23
  • @EvanCarroll Didn't mean to dis on "chrome sockets" per se, other than they are usually thinner and less robust than sockets attended for an impact wrench. Perhaps I should have referred to them as "normal sockets" vs. "impact sockets". But you referred to them as "chrome sockets", so I used your terminology, sorry for the confusion. Jul 31 at 4:44
  • I think the idea that these will "easily crack open" is certainly not the case. It can happen but after having done it literally 100s of times without a single failure, it it not all that likely.
    – jwh20
    Jul 31 at 10:03
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    @jwh20 You can use a normal socket with an impact driver as many times as you like, if the torque to turn the nut is low enough for the socket to handle. But often you don't know that beforehand, and using a power tool there is no feedback to tell you afterwards either. This is a classic "it's perfectly safe to do this, unless something goes wrong" situation.
    – alephzero
    Jul 31 at 11:59
  • @jwh20 agreed. It really depends upon the driver. I have an "air ratchet" which is perfectly safe to use with normal sockets. I probably wasn't specific enough, I was thinking of the impact wrenches normally used to remove and replace lug nuts on car/truck wheels. It was drilled into me during my high school autoshop class (when they still had those), that you used impact rated sockets for the heavy duty impact wrenches. (Shows you how old I am!) And yes, I have personally split a normal socket (deep well) using one of the heavy duty impact wrenches, so it does happen. Jul 31 at 14:37
0

More often, chrome sockets are bi-hex, although impact are available as such. Single hex impact are usually better, but the wall thickness is greater, making them not-so-useful in tight situations.

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