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40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, MoHo/RV

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Small Socket Set
Item: 40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set
Item number: 47902
Retail price: $4.99
Frequent sale price: $2.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $2.99
Item Link

They're something about a $2.99 socket set with a lifetime warranty that makes one just have to buy it. This 40-piece set is compact and just the right size for carrying in your vehicle for some unexpected emergencies. I lamented earlier about being trapped out in my van doing a pick up of an item which turned out to be unexpectedly large. Specifically, I just needed one wrench or socket to make the job of loading much, much easier and to save half an hour of juggling and groaning. This one would have saved my butt.

First impressions: We generally like this set, but it's definitely light-duty or occasional medium-duty. All of the sockets are 1/4" drive except for the 4 largest which are 3/8" drive. Of course a 3/8" to 1/4" adapter is included, but the use of a 3/8" drive ratchet with this set is somewhat misleading in as much as one might expect the sockets to be the same drive size. The fact that the ratchet itself is the larger 3/8" drive is probably a good idea because its mechanics are correspondingly stronger than a comparable-quality 1/4" drive ratchet. We've only used this set a few times, but it does seem to perform OK for its size and better than might be expected from its very low price. We do advise that you keep the form-fitted box that this set comes in because the latch on the plastic case is very weak and not expected to last long. So keep it neatly cased, unless you want to find yourself picking up the sockets spilled across the ground.

And the performance? The small protrusion on the socket side of the 3/8" to 1/4" adapter which holds the socket securely on the adapter is defective on our test unit. This leaves the sockets continually falling off when tipped at the 'wrong' angle (which is almost every angle). We strongly suggest that you open the package and closely check the 3/8" to 1/4" adapter for the specific socket set you are buying before you leave the store. The ratchet itself has considerable free-play. Our test unit's ratchet moves about 15 degrees or so before the gear mechanism engages to drive the socket; this translates into several inches of wasted movement at the end of the handle. Both of these defects are annoyances but tolerable considering the very low price and the fact that we plan on using this set only occasionally for light-duty work.

We are still pleased with our little set and will probably not even take it back to see if Harbor Freight has a 'better' set available at our local store. It's three bucks and it's a 'spare' set kept for occasional light-duty use. It's just fine considering the price and our intended purpose.

How does this set compare with a more expensive set? Well, the most obvious way is that a better-quality set would most likely include a higher quality 1/4" drive ratchet and a 1/4" to 3/8" adapter needed for only the 4 largest sockets rather than visa versa as this inexpensive set requires. More expensive ratchet means a smaller drive size is sufficient because of the higher-quality materials and workmanship. Harbor Freight kept the cost of this set very low by using a lower-quality, but larger drive ratchet. Also, we wouldn't tolerate the free-play in the ratchet or the defective 3/8" to 1/4" adapter with a significantly more expensive set. For frequent use we would advise investing in a better quality socket set such as that offered by Craftsman, but we stand by our original conclusion that this is a good set for occasional bench and unexpected travel use.

This set has you covered in both SAE and metric sizes up to 11/16" and 15mm. Of course more serious roadside repairs require a more serious socket set, such as the 52-piece set reviewed earlier which includes a 1/2" ratchet that will take you up to 7/8". We actually recommend that you carry that set with you if you are serious about making your own roadside repairs or if you do MoHo maintenance while traveling. But this set is even cheaper and more compact, so no excuses not to carry something in every vehicle.

We use a 1/4" drive Craftsman socket set for most of our bench work requiring this type of tool. The cost of this set is considerably more, $19.99; unfortunately, that's for just the SAE sockets. The metric socket set is another $19.99. So, the Craftsman equivalent of this $3 Harbor Freight socket set costs around $40 or over 10-times as much. We can stand a little free-play in our ratchet and some dropping sockets for that price difference, at least for our duplicate socket sets that we only use occasionally. The Craftsman 1/4" socket sets are great tools and regular use often demands the better-quality tool but be prepared to pay for it.

We wouldn't expect this set to stand up to heavy-duty work or even regular medium-duty work. After all it's a $3 socket set that even includes metric sockets. However, it's suitable for light-duty work and can find use as a bench set for electrical or other light repairs. It's compact size makes it even easier to stow than our recommend toolkit, so even those disinclined to carry tools for roadside repairs have no excuses for not carrying at least this small set. You never know when you'll be out shopping and find that the newly purchased barbecue grill just misses fitting in your trunk by four little nuts.

Bottom line: A $2.99 socket set with a lifetime warranty? Gotta have it! This compact set is fine for occasional light-duty use or even for some emergency roadside repairs and other needs when traveling.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!

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