6-Point vs. 12-Point Socket – Which One Is Useless?

Did you know that 100% of impact sockets are 6-point?

But why? And why do people have to invent hundreds of socket variations? Just for you to suffer the confusion of which one to choose? Well, you may have the answer to those questions when you know how many types of fasteners out there.

So, get back to the problem “6-point vs. 12-point socket”. Yes, they have their own applications. However, as a mechanic, 6-point is 99% what I need.

Let’s dive in to know why!

6-Point vs. 12-Point Socket – Basic Differences

To start you off, here are the basic differences.

Differences Explained

I can see the smile on your face after knowing the simple differences between the 6 and 12-point socket fasteners. This segment encompasses a deeper explanation of the basics for a better understanding.

Design

Several factors determine why the designs differ from each other.

The 6-point sockets

  • Have thicker walls with six (hexagonal or hex) contact configurations
  • They have a wider surface area for better gripping and less slipping when working with 6-point fasteners. (see the image below)
  • The robust structure makes them suitable to withstand high torque tasks.

On the other hand, the 12-point sockets have

  • A double hexagonal or 12-point contact configuration – make it easier to put the socket onto the fasteners
  • Thinner walls – easier to break
  • Smaller contacting area on 6-point fastener

Torque transfer

For this factor, you have to take into account what fasteners you’re working with.

99% of the nuts and bolts you’ll encounter is probably 6-point. In that case, 6-point sockets have a higher torque transfer because of 2 reasons

  • Thicker wall structure.
  • Higher contacting area

Comparatively, the 12-point sockets are more likely to slip under high pressure. And when it slips, it’ll round off your fasteners, which is something you never want to happen. Trust me, removing a rounded bolt is absolutely a nightmare, even for a mechanic.

However, when you’re trying to open a car’s engine, 12-point bolts are what you may deal with. That’s when the 12-point sockets come into the game. It allows maximum torque transfer on 12-point fasteners.

On the other hand, 6-point sockets are useless when you’re working with 12-point fasteners.

Application

If you’re a DIYer, 6-point sockets should be everything you need. It can work perfectly on 6-point fasteners. You also can use it on an e-torx bolt (not really ideal, but a decent choice if you don’t have the right e-torx socket).

12-point sockets can fit onto more types of fasteners:

  • 12-point (ideal)
  • 6-point, e-torx (6-point variation)
  • And even 5-point (was very common 50 years ago)

Because 12-point sockets can get on bolts more easily, they are often used for hard-to-see bolts or some tight spots where you can’t rotate the sockets.

Other Types of Contact Points

Different tasks require different socket contact points. The below is what you may encounter:

6-point variations

E-Torx

You can find e-torx bolts in many German cars. They fasten or open these starlike with precision and less wear. Society of American Engineers or SAE codes these gadgets with an E, with E4 being the smallest on the chart and a progression to E44 as the largest.

E-Torx plus

It is an advanced variation of the e-torx, with the ability to fasten easier with longer working life. You will have a better torque transmission and precise fastening.

Spline – a 12-point variation

One advantage that you will always have is the ability to fit into any type of socket shape with ease. The narrow vertical star-like threads make gripping easy on any spline bolt.

4-point (square socket)

This robust socket is ideal for square fastening with a perfect 90 degree four-sided shape. It fits on the 4 and 8-point fastener providing a powerful grip. Significantly, it comes with a cheaper price tag and widely affordable. You will find it with the automobile, construction, and airplane technicians.

Despite its powerful torque, it is less flexible to fit on most fasteners.

8-point (double square socket)

You can call it the latest upgrade variation of the 4-point version. It comes with double square, 8-point contact points which is good for both the 4 and 8-point fastening. Ideally, it is the most robust socket of choice for heavy to light heavy-duty fastening work.

5-point (pentagon socket)

Most people refer to it as the utility socket fastener and for good reasons. The 5-point or pentagon socket is common on water, oil, electricity, and other utility installations in the field. They have a versatile range spreading from 1/3” to 13/16”.

10-point (double pentagon)

It is a 10-sided socket version with a wide drive range. This socket is popular with light-duty mechanical work such as automobile clutch, and seat fastening. It is the socket of choice for Honda and Mitsubishi mechanics.

Conclusion – Are 12-Point Sockets Useless?

If you’re a DIYer, then yes, they are useless. And 6-point sockets are everything you need to make the job done. 12-point will do nothing but rounding off your fasteners.

On the other hand, if you’re working on an engine bay, you’re going to miss those 12-point sockets at some points. So, yea, they are not useless at all.

FAQs

  1. Can I use a 6-point socket on a 12-point nut?

The answer is no. Many people may try to use a 6-point socket on a 12-point nut in their daily work. The problem comes with the depth of the nut since 12-point nut tends to be deeper from the surface than where a 6-point socket can reach. If the nut is reachable, then the 6-point socket may work for the emergency without the user applying greater pressure on the nut.

  1. Can a 12-point socket be used on a hex head bolt?

Yes, it can but with some considerations. The 12-point socket can fit on the hex head bolt without any problem. With less socket to head bolt surface area contact, the socket may not be convenient for a larger torque performance that comes with the hex bolt. That may lead to the socket slipping and wearing the bolt head.

  1. Why is the 12-point box wrench more common than the 6-point?

Well, it is not significantly better than the 6-point wrench, but most people use it because of the convenience. A 12-point box wrench serves better where you have a worn or damaged bolt head since it fits well with its numerous side contacts. The reason being, a 12-point box wrench makes it easier to put the wrench on the fasteners.