Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Yet Strong, The Gator Grips Universal Socket Is A Wonderful Tool!

The Good: Durable, Strong, Generally works
The Bad: Not entirely adaptable, Requires some oiling occasionally.
The Basics: Easy to use and generally strong and adaptable, the Gator Grips Universal Socket requires a little more maintenance than other socket heads.

I am not much of a tool buff. In fact, my tool collection is fairly anemic, but my former father-in-law gave me a Craftsman socket set and as time has gone by, I have found myself using it a surprising number of times. I've been surprised about how many times I have used the 3/8" socket wrench in the set. Recently, I did the unthinkable; I broke a socket and I lost another two in the move. This necessitated my buying a new socket. When it came time to buy my new one, I was convinced to buy the Gator Grips Universal Socket.

Craftsman and Gator Grips are two different brands of hardware manufacturers and the universal socket was is manufactured by Gator Grips. The concept of the universal socket is simple; instead of requiring a different socket for each shape and size of nut, bolt or such, the universal socket handles everything from 3/16" - 1/2" across. Made of solid steel, the universal socket is solid and durable on the outside, flexible and strong on the inside..

The back end of the Gator Grips Universal Socket is a standard 3/8" square hole. A 3/8" socket wrench has a metal protrusion that is a block 3/8" wide on each side and about 3/4" deep. The socket wrenches accept and socket fixtures that have the proper female ends (the square hole 3/8" square). The Gator Grips Universal Socket has the appropriate 3/8" end.

This universal socket is 1 1/2" long. The 1/2" deep of the female end of the universal socket is steel that molds around the 3/8" male end of the socket wrench. When the universal socket is placed on the end of the socket wrench, it becomes a solid unit, as if the socket and wrench are one piece. The universal socket does not have any play on the wrench, which is perfect. This allows the universal socket to act as a strong tool for turning nuts and bolts.

The opposite 1/2" of the universal socket is an atypical socket end. Instead of being molded in a single shape to fit a single type of nut or bolt, the universal socket is filled with round steel rods. There are 54 of these little pins, each only a few millimeters in diameter. The socket end is not solid, though; the centermost row of pins forms an opening that will fit a 3/16" hex nut. The six-sided socket perfectly fits a 3/16" hexnut. The pins appropriately wrap around the nut's head and allow the wrench to torque it in whichever direction it needs to be twisted (either on or off).

What makes the universal socket different is that the socket fits hundreds of different styles of nuts up to the 1/2" hexnut. Simply pushing the socket onto the head of a hexnut or wingnut up to 1/2" wide, the pins retract. This makes the socket adaptable to different sizes of nuts. The 1/4" depth of closest to the opening of the socket is the working space of the universal socket; most nut heads are less than 1/4" tall. The pins retract into the middle section of the universal socket and when the socket is removed from a nut head, the pins push back to the edge of the socket.

My chief concerns about the universal socket when I purchased it were that the pins would either bend or would remain retracted when they were pushed around larger nut heads. As it is, though, somewhere in the middle 1/2" of the socket (between the wrench-joining end and the socket-head end) there is a spring that the pins to be pushed back to the head of the socket. This forces the pins to the head and allows it to truly adapt to the size of the head being turned. Thus, the default state is for the smallest hexnut and after months of having the universal socket, I've never had a time when the socket head has not appropriately reverted to what it is supposed to.

As for the bending of pins, this, too was a fear that did not pan out for me. The universal socket's pins are solid steel and because of how they are packed into the socket, there is no play. They do not bend, quite simply because there is no room for them to bend within the socket head. And the grip that the universal socket has on every nut head that it fits is so solid that it may as well be any of the specifically-designed sockets the universal socket mimics.

The only aspect of the universal socket that is quirky is the need to oil it. Because the socket head has pins that move, if one uses it excessively, it may wear down the springs slightly and in order to keep it adaptable, it needs to be oiled occasionally. Working oil into the moving parts is easy enough, but it is an extra step one does not usually have with sockets. There are also some heads that it does not quite fit as well (smaller square nuts, for example), but the ones it does fit, the tool works exceptionally well on.

Generally, though, the Gator Grips Universal Socket is solid, adaptable and easy to use.

For other tool reviews, please visit my takes on:
Stanley 6 5/8 60-003 Screwdriver
Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff style hearing protection
Great Neck Saw 15" Versabar


For other tool reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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