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What is a universal socket?

What is a universal socket?

What is a universal socket

A universal socket looks like a standard deep socket but the head is full of small metal pins. As the name suggests, they are compatible with a range of fasteners and bolts. This makes them a great tool for any DIYer or professional that uses sockets regularly.

How does a universal socket work?

Universal socket is pressed onto the fastener head pushing pins back and compressing the springs behind them

The pins inside the head of the universal socket are spring-loaded. As the socket is placed over the head of a fastener, the pins in contact with the fastener head are depressed, leaving the remaining pins to surround and grip the fastener head.

Turning a screw with a universal socket

This design allows universal sockets to fit many different fastener sizes and head designs, as well as enabling it to turn damaged fastener heads in some cases.

Gator grip universal socket

However, the pins inside the socket head do not depress very far, so the universal socket is only able to grip the top of a fastener’s head. Universal sockets can come in general socket sets, read our Best Socket Set Review to see our recommendation.

What universal socket sizes are available?

Different sizes of universal sockets

Universal sockets come in different sizes, but most commonly there are only two: standard and large. The standard size has an overall diameter of 1″ (25.4mm) and can be used on fastener heads ranging from ¼” – ¾” (7mm-19mm). It also has a ⅜” drive for connecting a turning tool.

Standard and large size universal sockets

The large size has an overall diameter of 1½” and can be used on fastener heads ranging from 7/16″ – 1¼” (12mm -32mm). The drive size of the large universal socket is ½”.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of universal sockets?

List of advantages and disadvantages



Can be used on both metric and imperial fasteners.


Can turn a wide range of fastener head designs.


Can turn worn or damaged fastener heads.


Can fit several size fastener heads.



Cant apply as much torque as a standard socket.


Does not fit the fastener head exactly so may round it off.


Pins don’t depress far so limited bolt head clearance.


Larger diameter than many small sockets so may not be able to access fastener heads in confined spaces.

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