What is the Difference Between a Ratchet and a Socket Wrench

Published on: January 10, 2022
Written by David Rowan / Fact-checked by David Rowan

Wrenches have wide applications while working with fixing or making something. Because of their versatility, it has become easier to increase the grip of machines. It is done by fastening or loosening the nuts and bolts of any machinery. Prominently there are two types of wrenches that are used mostly. One is a Ratchet Wrench, and the other one a Socket Wrench. Though their usage is similar, their mechanism is quite different.

Both of their features, mechanisms, benefits, and stoppages are discussed below:

what is the difference between a ratchet and a socket wrench

Difference Between Ratchet and Socket Wrench

Ratchet Wrench

It is a mechanical apparatus allowing repeated linear or rotary fluctuation in only one direction while in the opposite direction, the motion is avoided. 

Ratchet wrenches have a round rig or a linear rack of teeth and a spring-loaded handle called pawl. The pawl engages the teeth. 

The teeth are asymmetrical. They are edged on one side and slightly precipitated on the other side.  When the teeth move freely on one side, the pawl slides up easily. But when the teeth are forced to move in the opposite direction, the pawn restricts it from going forward. 

Ratchets are manufactured from comfortable materials. So it makes the user comfortable to hold it while working. They are versatile. Even after working for a long time, ratchets do not scratch surfaces. Read more: 7 Best Cordless Impact Wrenches for Lug Nuts

Ratchet wrenches are famous for pulling out so many functions. Some of them are:

  • Cable ties
  • Capstan
  • Clock
  • Freewheel
  • Grease Gun
  • Jacks
  • Typewriters
  • Handcuffs

Some of the most prominent Ratchets are:

  • Gearwrench Ratcheting
  • Stanley Metric Ratcheting

Socket Wrench

It is a particular type of wrench which is inserted inside the socket to turn it faster like a nut or bolt. 

The mechanism of the socket wrench is much simpler. It assimilates a reversible mechanism. The user can turn the tool in a back and forth direction to turn its socket.

The socket is shaped hexagonal. It is attached to the driving tool. 

The tool that drives the socket allows the user to provide the twist to loosen or tighten the fastener as much as needed. For large drives, an extra twist is required, where much less twist is required for small drives. 

The most mentionable benefit of a socket wrench is that only different sockets are needed for loosening and fastening rather than distinctive wrenches.

There are mainly two types of sockets. They are:

  • Six points for hexagonal nuts
  • Twelve points, for use with hexagonal nuts.

Where used

Socket wrenches allow users to turn nuts and bolts more easily than a regular wrench. 

Socket wrenches are widely used for different purposes. One of the most common places where it is used is automotive garages. It is used to remove bolts from tires. Mechanics often use it to tighten cylinder head bolts of car engines. 

Few trendy Socket Wrenches are:

  • Stanley 92-839  Laser Etched Socket Set
  • ​The Craftsman 108 Piece Tool Set 

What Are the Divergences Between Ratchet Wrenches and Socket Wrenches

The most prevalent variation between Ratchet and Socket Wrench is that ratchet moves in only one direction. And a  socket wrench is allowed to move in any direction to spin freely. 

There are certain applications where it is more preferred to use a socket wrench rather than ratchets. Because the socket wrench is easy to use and less time is needed. 

A socket wrench is commonly used for heavy-duty applications. They work fast, and accurate results are delivered. So for electronic accumulations, they are used. To attach the rotating part, it is safe to use socket wrenches—for example- maintenance of helicopter, fan, jet engine repair, and aircraft, etc. 

Ratchets are mostly used for light works generally. Applications like plumbing and other household work ratchets are used more. 

Socket wrenches are used for adjustments and tightness of definite nuts and bolts. They have flexible torque settings. It allows free locomotive mechanisms. So it is easier to exert the right amount of pressure according to requirements. 

Ratchets lack adjustable torque settings. So it is challenging and time-consuming to work with it. Much effort and patience are needed while working with it. More pressure has to be exerted to loosen or fasten the nuts and bolts. 

Socket wrenches serve multiple purposes rather than a ratchet. Working with a socket wrench saves time. Hand fatigue can be avoided as less effort is needed, which is quite the opposite in the ratchet case.

The socket wrench is designed to tighten nuts and bolts only. But Ratchet can do both of the works simultaneously.

In the case of removing rusty nuts and bolts, it is beneficial to use a Ratchet rather than a socket wrench. Because socket wrenches can hold nuts as Ratchets do. So a decayed nail can break and damage the socket wrench.

Another disadvantage of the socket wrench is that it needs space to work with. If there is not sufficient space, then the socket wrench cannot be used. But even in the steepest corners, Ratchets can be used since it works sideways.

Ratchet wrench comes in a single piece, so it is easy to arrange. But the socket wrench comes in many different shapes of the socket. So it is very much common to lose sockets if not arranged carefully.  

Again, different shapes serve distinctive purposes. So users must understand which specific shaped socket is to be used when needed. Wrong shaped sockets will not work if they don’t match with the shape of nuts. And there are no such problems while working with ratchet wrenches. 


Wrenches are one of the essential tools used by mechanics. In the above chapters, differences between Ratchet Wrench and Socket Wrench have been explained briefly. Going through these, users will have an idea about what kind of wrench is required for their work.

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About This Writer

david rowan author

Hello, I am David Rowan. I am a professional contractor with 10 years of experience in home building, different tools used, construction, home remodeling, and other home improvement work. I have already built many custom homes and continued to do several woodworking projects along with how to deal with all categories of tools.

Hello, I am David Rowan. I am a professional contractor with 10 years of experience in home building, different tools used, construction, home remodeling, and other home improvement work. I have already built many custom homes and continued to do several woodworking projects along with how to deal with all categories of tools.

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