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How do I know what socket set to buy to do some repairs? In my case it is 2003 Toyota Camry and I need to do the following tasks:

  • Replace mirror
  • Reattach front bumper cover

While a direct answer is great, I'd really like to know how to find such information myself. There are few related questions I have as well:

  1. I know that there are metric and imperial sets available. I also know that Camry can be Japanese or American. How can I identify that as I assume that might make a difference? (Was bought in Australia).
  2. Should the same socket set fit most jobs on the same car or multiple sets are usually required?
  3. I am an amateur and not sure when I will use these tools again so I don't want to spend too much. The price range for seemingly similar tools however is quite wide and I am not sure where should I target.
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You'll want metric tools. A Camary, whether made in the US or in Japan will have metric fasteners. Even some US designed cars have metric fasteners (even we know that our measuring system is bonkers).

Socket sets come in different drive sizes, which are always (in my experience) stated in US measurement. The common ones are 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" and they have overlapping ranges of sockets. For starters a metric 3/8" drive socket set would probably be quite useful, both on cars and in other parts of your life.

The set may skip some sizes, because not all of them are in common use. But as best I can tell there is no good way to select the ones to skip. For example, Harbor Freight a purveyor of not awful tools and not awful prices in the US skips some sizes in their sets that seem to work well for Japanese cars, but which do not work well for German cars.

The pricing of sets (in the US at least) is so much better than the individual tools that it makes sense to buy the biggest set that you can talk yourself into. If you are picky about such things it is worth checking to see if any tools you buy in sets are also available from "open stock" so that you can replace missing tools and/or expand the range of your set.

Another thing to consider is that there are many, many choices for what you put on the end of the socket… Most sets will include 6- or 12-point sockets for conventional nuts and bolts. But you may also need hex (internal 6-point), or Torx (6-pointed star), or triple square (internal 12-point), and those are just the common ones…

Sounds like you're not in the US, so I can't recommend specific places to look at tools, but I'll be if you poke around you'll find stores that specialize in tools at decent prices. "Professional" tools are often priced at a premium that has very little to do with the usefulness of the tool – the value comes from things like delivery method, level of service, warranty, etc.

By the way, the mirror and bumper cover may be pushing the range of a 3/8" drive set. The mirror might be closer to a 1/4" set (or may not use sockets at all).

  • Thanks for your answer. Yeah, I noticed that some sizes are skipped and that was one of my additional concerns but according to your answer I guess I shouldn't worry about that too much. Saying that I really don't want end up buying a set that doesn't have the size I need. BTW, I am in Australia. – Eugene S Aug 30 '16 at 6:25
  • Better sets will have everything. If price is an issue you may have to be careful when you shop to make sure you get the sizes you need right away. One way to do your research is to read the how-to articles for the project(s) you have in mind. They will often list the wrench sizes that you need. You'll quickly start to see a pattern. – dlu Aug 30 '16 at 6:29
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    Thought of more stuff to add. Spend some time wandering around in good (in terms of variety) tool stores or grab some catalogs if you can. You'll learn a ton about what is available and you may find that ideas come to you when jobs get challenging. – dlu Aug 30 '16 at 6:36
  • Thanks for the clarifications. I followed your advise and found a how-to article where 10mm socket. Not sure what that'd be in inches. 2/5? – Eugene S Aug 30 '16 at 6:45
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    10mm socket is just a hair larger than 3/8" socket. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 30 '16 at 9:14
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You should carefully review the products on the shop online to select tools appropriate in size and budget. Here is the chart showing common bolt and socket sizes: socket size

and Size of Ratchet Wrenches

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange. Answers consisting of links to other sites are frowned-on, because the link might go stale. Its better to include the essence of your answer here. – Criggie Sep 26 '16 at 10:01
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Dlu's answer is very good, but here's the actual advice: build your tool inventory.

Get both metric and imperial-sized sockets. Buy them as sets, it's cheaper. 1/4"-drive is only good for "screw-sized" fasteners, believe me, I've broken many 1/4"-drive sockets, reducers and ratchets. Your best bet, as Dlu pointed out, is a 3/8"-drive set. They are strong enough for most automotive things outside the suspension and wheels. I've seen 3/8"-drive sockets as small as 10 mm, anything smaller you would need 1/4"-drive or an actual box wrench could do. If you intend on doing anything suspension-related or even just taking your wheels off, get a 1/2"-drive set. See picture below if you're fuzzy on what we mean by drive size (it's the size of the square hole you fit the ratchet into: picture shows 1/2"-drive, two 3/8"-drive then 1/4" drive)

Drive size

As far as the sockets themselves, Dlu touched on the 6-point and 12-point variants. Get 6-point sockets, all 12-point sockets are good for is removing rounded bolts, or making rounded bolts. See picture below.

6-point vs 12-point sockets

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