Ratchet Up Your Home Garage a Few Notches With This Milwaukee Socket Set
With its quality and size selection, this socket set is an ideal option for the home mechanic.
Milwaukee has a reputation for making some of the best-quality tools in the business, so it comes as little surprise that its socket set is one of the leading options for home mechanics. When put to the test against six other socket sets, Milwaukee’s 56-piece ratchet and socket set proved to be the best equipped to handle household duties, be it working on a car or handling other non-mechanic jobs that demand a socket set.
I put the Milwaukee socket set through its paces on both a truck engine and lawn-mower engine. Since engines aren’t the only things for which sockets sets are used, I also tested this set by using it to drive 3-inch-long ⅜-inch lag bolts into two 2x4s. While testing, I considered how easily the ratchet and sockets could tighten and loosen bolts, including how snugly they fit on the bolt head. I also tested for durability by subjecting the ratchet and sockets to high amounts of torque.
Additionally, I looked at how snugly the sockets in the set fit over corresponding bolts. Durability was also key; I noted the heft and thickness of each bolt, and I also considered how easy it was to ratchet bolts. Through all tests, I found Milwaukee’s set to have excellent build quality and one of the most well-rounded collections of socket sizes, extensions, and drivers.
Milwaukee 3/8-Inch Drive 56-Piece Ratchet and Socket Set: At a Glance
- Tremendous build quality with heavy-duty sockets and pro-level drivers
- Well-curated selection of sizes that fit into a relatively compact carrying case
- Sockets have a square shape, which allows for use with standard wrenches
- Expensive price tag given the number of pieces included
- Lacks the broader range of socket sizes other sets have
- Additional 12-inch socket driver does not fit inside the carrying case
Get the Milwaukee 56-piece ratchet and socket set at:
What is the Milwaukee 56-piece ratchet and socket set?
At 56 pieces, the Milwaukee ratchet and socket set is by no means the largest out there, but that’s OK. A socket set designed for home use doesn’t have to be massive to meet the needs of the average DIYer. Milwaukee’s set clearly goes for quality over quantity.
Milwaukee chooses the socket sizes a DIYer is most likely to use, with SAE sizes that run from ¼ up to 1 inch and metric sizes that range from 6 millimeters (mm) up to 19mm. Milwaukee also includes deep sockets (necessary for working hard-to-reach bolts and bolts with long, exposed threads) for each size, with the exception of the 15/16-inch and 1-inch SAE sizes. There are also 3-inch and 6-inch extensions and a universal joint, all three of which make it easier to access bolts inside an engine and to ratchet harder.
Milwaukee’s set includes not just one, but two ⅜-inch drives. This middle-size ratchet is the one most commonly used. It’s small enough to fit into tighter spaces inside a car engine, yet still large enough to provide ample torque. I like the fact that Milwaukee includes two lengths of ⅜-inch ratchet: an 8-inch and a 12-inch length. The smaller is more nimble and easier to fit into tight spaces, while the longer one provides the torque needed to work larger bolts.
How does the Milwaukee socket set perform?
One of the things I like best about Milwaukee’s socket set is the design of its carrying case and tray. Yes, pretty much all socket sets use molded trays to hold their sockets in place. But some sets are so bulky they can be unwieldy to carry or keep at arm’s reach while working under a car hood.
At just 12 pounds, Milwaukee’s set is more compact and lighter than other sets I tested for the best socket set buyer’s guide. And unlike other socket sets that use a single case, all the sockets in this set fit inside a removable tray that rests inside the case. Since the tray is smaller and less bulky than the case, I found it easy to place the entire set on the car engine or beside me on my garage floor while I worked. By having the entire set at my side, I found it much easier to go through the trial-and-error process of matching a bolt that’s deep inside a car engine with the right size socket.
The sockets also sit inside the tray, which is a welcome design difference from the many socket sets that have sockets and drives that snap into their assigned spots. I found it difficult (and hard on the fingers) to snap in or snap out sockets and wrenches on other sets I tested, so the tray style was a change I appreciated. My only gripe with the Milwaukee set’s case is the fact that the longer 12-inch ratchet doesn’t fit inside.
How well does the Milwaukee ratchet and socket set work?
Milwaukee does a number of things right with this socket set that made it easier to use than others I tested. A socket set’s worth is largely about how well it can generate torque on bolts. Part of being able to do that is how well the sockets fit onto the bolt head. Since the company’s sockets are precision cut, each socket I tested in this ⅜-inch socket set fit snugly onto the corresponding bolt head with little to no play. This made it easier to tighten and loosen bolts— plus it meant I didn’t have to worry about rounding off bolt heads or causing the socket to pull off the bolt, even while applying all of my body weight to the driver.
The drivers are also a higher quality than those of any of the other sets I tested. Drivers have toothed wheels inside them, which give them their ratcheting action. The more teeth, the faster you can ratchet a bolt on or off. A higher tooth count also equates to a smaller swing arc, which is the number of degrees you have to move the ratchet handle for it to catch. A smaller swing arc makes it easier to ratchet a bolt in tight spaces, such as inside a car engine.
Most sets have ratchets with 72 teeth and a swing arc of 5 degrees, but the two ratchets in this set have 90 teeth, and therefore a smaller swing arc of 4 degrees (for the sake of comparison, professional mechanics have 120-tooth ratchets with tiny swing arcs of just 3 degrees). With the Milwaukee ratchets, I could tighten and remove bolts more quickly and work bolts, even with very little clearance, to turn the ratchet.
How well is the Milwaukee set designed?
Aside from the above features that make the set so easy to use, Milwaukee includes other notable characteristics. For example, though most sets have sockets with a round shape, Milwaukee’s have a square shape. This creates two benefits. First, you don’t have to worry about sockets rolling away when you set them down. Given that sockets have a tendency to roll off a surface and into the depths of a car engine, this is no small thing.
The flat sides also allow you to grip the sockets with a monkey wrench or adjustable crescent wrench. This is necessary in some situations where you need to generate a lot of torque or turn a bolt in tight spaces where an 8-inch long driver simply won’t fit.
In addition, attention to detail differentiates this set from others. Large oblong ends on the driver handles make them more comfortable to use, especially when applying a lot of pressure. There are also knurled grips on the socket extensions that provide purchase for the fingertips when manually threading a bolt. I also like the large stamped sizes on the sockets, which eliminates the need to squint to identify each socket.
Some users may not like the fact that there is no locking mechanism to hold each socket to the driver, which is a feature found on other drivers. But I didn’t have any issue with sockets separating from the driver during testing, even when using the extensions and universal joint.
How durable is the Milwaukee socket set?
Given that Milwaukee’s power tools and hand tools are highly regarded for their durability, I had high expectations for this set. It didn’t disappoint. The sockets have a heavier feel than those in other sets I tested. While these sockets are by no means suitable for impact drivers (you’ll need an impact socket set for that), they showed no signs of cracking or giving way, even when I subjected them to greater torsional forces with the 12-inch driver.
The blown molded case also feels like it could hold up to a fair amount of abuse. It suffered only cosmetic scratches after I dropped it repeatedly on a cement driveway.
Is the Milwaukee socket set worth the money?
Milwaukee is a premium brand of tool and thus comes with a premium price tag. There are socket sets with more pieces that cost less than this set. That said, buyers won’t find the quality they can get with these sockets and drivers in those more affordable options.
The sockets have a higher grade of construction, so they are less likely to slip and round off bolts or crack under pressure during use, and the high tooth count and handle design of the drivers make them easier to use than those found in lower-priced sets.
Although this set might not have all the sizes and adapters that come with larger sets, those additional pieces often don’t see much use. I’d much rather have this compact set—which is easier to tote and keep by my side while working—than those cumbersome larger sets. I also like the versatility Milwaukee offers with features you simply won’t find on any other socket set, including the two sizes of driver and the squared-off sockets. Given its design quality, selection of pieces, and durability, Milwaukee’s ⅜-inch socket set is easily worth its price tag.
Is the Milwaukee socket set right for you?
While Milwaukee may offer a top-notch socket set, it might not be right for everyone. With this set, you’re paying for the high quality that comes with the Milwaukee name. These tools will last for a long time and can handle intense use, which is worth the steeper price for home mechanics who do a fair amount of work on their own vehicle. It’s also ideal for handymen who may find themselves using a socket set fairly regularly—not just for working on vehicles and yard machines, but for other projects around the house.
That said, this set is likely overkill for some DIYers. If you don’t work on your own car and only need a socket set for the occasional odd job around the house or to make a repair to your lawn mower, then it might not make sense to pay the relatively high price tag that comes with this set. It probably makes sense to look for a more reasonably priced socket set.
On the other end of the spectrum, this set might not meet the demands of serious mechanics. It’s not suited for use with an impact driver—that kind of work requires an impact driver set made from heavy-duty carbonized steel. This set also won’t work for those in need of a socket set to work on a motorcycle or certain European car brands, such as Mercedes and BMW, all of which require a Torx socket set.
Where to Buy the Milwaukee 3/8-Inch Drive 56-Piece Ratchet and Socket Set
Get the Milwaukee 56-piece ratchet and socket set at:
Meet the Tester
Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Angi, Popular Mechanics, Futurism, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Switchful, and more. Tony has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.