Impact wrenches were designed with higher torque in mind — they bust bolts loose or torque them up in excess of 1000-foot pounds. It seems natural that when a person uses an impact wrench, they would use an impact socket.
However, we often noticed that technicians are using regular sockets with impact wrenches. Not only does this affect the tool’s performance, it’s a significant safety concern.
Standard sockets aren’t equipped to handle the high torque of an impact wrench. Part of this is due to the materials used to make standard sockets and impact sockets. Standard sockets are made from chrome, which is fairly brittle and can split and shatter with too much vibration.
Impact sockets are designed to handle the torque and flexibility without the product failing or shattering. It is made from a softer, more malleable material called chrome molybdenum. This material is softer and more flexible to absorb the higher impact in situations where regular sockets would shatter. While it may be convenient to use a standard socket, safety is a major concern. The socket could shatter, sending fragmenting pieces in all directions. This can injure you and the people around you. You may also lose control of the impact wrench, causing it to fly off the bolt. When you consider that some impact wrenches turn 5000 – 6000 rpm, shattering pieces can go far.
Impact sockets are manufactured specifically to work well and fail safely with impact tools. Impact sockets have many safety features that are simply not present in hand sockets, so it is important to use ONLY impact sockets on an impact tool. Impact sockets protect both the tool and the mechanic by absorbing much of the punishing vibration delivered by the anvil of the impact tool.
For the user, sockets are distinguished according to their way of operation, impact sockets will fail safely by deforming in one piece. Hand sockets, made from harder steel, can shatter or fly apart when they fail if used on an impact tool. Causing potential injuries to anyone nearby, as those pieces can fly off at high speeds. Never confuse hand operation and machine operation.