Hex bit sockets make Allen keys irrelevant

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Allen “keys” are crap. Get a good set of T-handle hex wrenches.



How are the hex-bits fastened to the socket adapter? We know the shame about hex bits is they tend to shear out the head of an ancient hex-bolt on a bike, but does torque on these bits shear the socket adapter that holds the hex-bit?


You don’t work as a field technician, eh? Enjoy carrying about 60 kilos of tools to and from customers six times a day? Socket wrench sets are fine when you work in-house.

(I agree with eric_poulsen, T-handle allen keys are the way to go.)


Allen keys are great. You have a ball end for low torque situations where you need to drive at an angle because of side clearance, and you have the straight end with a slightly longer lever arm for “high” torque applications or to snug up the final 1/4 turn, but not such a long lever arm that people over tighten them and risk damaging the head.

Dedicated ball drivers are more comfortable than allen keys, although I find that even with them, a lot of people manage to apply more torque than is appropriate for the ball head, rather than switching to a straight bit to finish off the job.

Socket hex drivers like this are fine for larger size screws, but the thought of someone using a 12" socket wrench on a 4 mm socket head is kind of scary.

T-handle are the worst since they require clearance on both sides and usually a lot of top clearance. They are good for deeply recessed screws in consumer electronics where an interchangeable bit is too short and a ball driver / allen key can’t safely apply enough torque to break the screw free.


I prefer using Allen insert bits. Then I can use them in a screwdriver, a drill/driver, a 1/4" ratchet driver, with a 6" extension, whatever seems like the right tool at the moment. I have them in the short, ball end, and “power bit” sizes. Also keeps the kit weight down.


At the bike workshop where I volunteer, we are using Allen wrenches all the time. There is one Allen socket set in the back room that comes out once every couple of weeks - much more often we find we have to put a length of pipe on the end of a pedal wrench.

The socket wrench would be a ridiculously heavy and cumbersome pain in the butt 99.95% of the time, but it sure is nice to have for the 0.05% of the time we do need it.


Exactly. Why buy an unnecessary set of sockets, and force yourself to use a 3/8" ratchet on a 3mm Allen screw, when you can get a set like this:

that works with a wide variety of drivers, and allows you to select the appropriate tool for the job.

Or, for 90% of what most people need, one of these keeps all the keys together and gives you ample torque:


Ever tried getting an over tightened socket head screw out of a 40 year old motorcycle’s drain pan

On my vintage Brit iron, everything’s been stripped for repairs and rebuilt so many times that this is scarcely a problem. My '65 Norton practically disassembles herself at a glance.


I use a crescent wrench on the allen if I can’t turn it easily by hand. You need to be experienced with the “feel” of the crescent if you’re going to use it on a small allen key, though.

Some of the hex socketed fasteners I need to reach are deep enough that I have to use the long shaft; these other widgets (which I also own) are very short and won’t work for those.

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I’m with you. That neoconservative asshole was bad enough before he went Full Birther against President Obama.


I found out the hard way why that last option you list is an issue. In cramped spaces, you can wind up with next to no room to actually rotate the thing. I had to disassemble an Ikea stainless steel kitchen island last weekend, and 4 of the ones I had to remove from it were in such tight spots that I could manage maybe 1/32 of a turn each time with one of those. Never again!

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I had already read this thread once. But when I saw it again on the BBS front page, for a split second I read it as “Hex bit sockets make Alan Keyes irrelevant.”

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They are very solidly fixed in the chrome socket adaptor piece. I have not stripped anything using these.

I have imperial and metric versions of this, they are difficult for tight spaces.

One of my airheads seems to want a breaker bar and penetrating oil for everything.

Agreed, which is why it was my second choice. It’s convenient where it fits, and cheap enough to buy one for the easy jobs. The 1/4" hex bits are the most versatile, because of the range of tools they fit. You can always find something that works, even if imperfectly.

I have those too, and a set of torx in the same format.

When I’m working in really tight places, I take the bolts out and remove an individual bit, and use an old manual brake adjuster bar stuck in the eye to turn it. Fits in places where a socket wrench or regular allen key won’t go at all!

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I should put some shots of a few meanly placed bolts on the bikes and the Vanagon.

The thermostat on a water cooled Vanagon with AC is a stellar example. You can almost be certain you’ll be swapping that thermostat every 20-30k miles (or more frequently) and it is put in an impossible location. For extra enjoyment of wrenching, you have to angle the nose DOWN so all the coolant doesn’t pour out and require you bleed the whole thing, making reaching back in there even harder. If the back left nut has corroded at all (on a cooling system, where wet is not unheard of) breaking it free is impossible.


I found a nice set of hex and other bits with a solid compact ratcheting driver.

It is really nice for getting in tight spots, like tightening the allen screw on the bottom of a tub spout.

However, it is a bit expensive, even for the good build quality.

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You monster!   Dr. Porsche is spinning in his grave!


You’re much better off with the standard inserts and inexpensive holders, not least because you can easily replace the ones you break or lose.

And I’ll plug the Leatherman Wave, my everyday carry, which has a proprietary insert holder, and an accessory insert set with hex, torx & screwdrivers which fits in the Leatherman case. Have used the hex bits MANY times.