What Are Impact Sockets? – Definition, Uses, and Types

What Are Impact Sockets

Photo: toolsbio.com

Impact sockets are designed to be used with impact guns in high speed, high torque applications such as when removing tight nuts and bolts. A perfect example is when untightening tire nuts.

Structurally, the sockets are built to be soft and ductile so that they can easily deform and reform due to the immense stress exerted by the hammering action of an impact gun.

What are Impact Sockets?

To explain what an impact socket really is, we have to go into its metallurgy. As stated above, these tools are made using soft and ductile material, in which chrome molybdenum or Chromoly steel is used.

In comparison, regular sockets are made using chromium-vanadium or 8650 steel, which is hard but very brittle.

As such, impact sockets can easily withstand heavy stress and continuous hammering, making them usable in almost all kinds of applications.

On the other hand, a regular socket cannot be used with an impact gun because the excessive pressure and vibrations will shatter it.

What is an Impact Socket Used For?

Since it is mostly used when attached to an impact wrench, the two combine forces to make it very easy to remove seized nuts.

As a result, most mechanics use the socket to undo tight/stuck nuts in vehicles while car racing teams utilize the high torque hammering effect to quickly undo and redo tire nuts when replacing wheels during races.  

Types of Impact Sockets

Types of Impact Sockets

There are two types of impact sockets: one-piece and two-piece. A one-piece impact socket has a unified structure that cannot be separated.

On the other hand, a two-piece socket consists of a split structure that can be dismantled for repairs. This design makes maintenance cheaper because, in case of damages, only the broken section is replaced, rather than the entire socket. 

The two-piece type is common among large industrial sockets due to the cost factor associated with replacing them.

Difference Between Impact Sockets and Regular Sockets

Standard Chrome Socket

Impact Socket


  • Small outside diameter
  • Narrow wall thickness
  • Fits in tight spaces
  • Wide outside diameter
  • Thick wall
  • Not ideal for tight slots

Material Used

  • Chromium vanadium
  • 8560 steel
  • Chromium-molybdenum
  • Chromoly steel


It cannot withstand high impacts; the socket easily shatters when used on an impact gun.

High wear resistance, low toughness.

It can withstand heavy impact consistently.

Very tough, slightly lower wear resistance.


Shiny chrome finish

Black oxide industrial surface finish


Designed to go on ratchets with ball retention systems

None. The smooth inner surface is designed to go on an impact gun with a hog ring retention system

Grooved Ring


Some have one hole. This is designed to go on an impact wrench with a pin retainer system




Buying Advice: We recommend you to buy an impact socket set because it is metallurgically compatible with any kind of force or stress. This makes it ideal for use on either a hand tool or an impact tool.

A standard chrome socket can only be used on a hand tool (ratchet) because it cannot withstand the forces of an impact gun.