Locking socket extensions are useful when you don’t want to risk dropping or losing a socket.
A dropped socket into a piece of equipment, engine, or vehicle often means downtime while you hunt for the lost socket. Dropping a socket from a height could mean downtime as you go to retrieve the socket or a replacement, or worse – injury to someone below.
Sometimes locking socket extensions can also be used to prevent sockets from sticking to fasteners. Have you ever lifted a ratchet or extension after finishing with a fastener only to find that the socket’s still attached to the fastener and not the tool? A locking extension would prevent that from happening in most cases.
I only have one locking extension in my toolbox, and started using it more and more. It’s a 3/8″ locking Wera Zyklop extension. It’s a great extension, but locking and unlocking sockets is done via small button that can be hard to press with or without gloves on.
I looked at a couple of other options, and Proto’s seemed to look good. Proto targets industrial and aerospace users, and so I figured their locking extensions were worth a shot. I ordered the 3/8″ 6″ extension, model 5260-06L.
The Proto locking extension is well made. Knurling on the extension is convenient, and the knurling on the locking collar is necessary. The extension is as easy to operate with gloves on as it is bare-handed.
So here is how it works. Step 1: pull down on the knurled locking collar. Step 2: attach a socket. Step 3: release locking collar. Sockets are removed in a similar manner.
When the collar is in its locked position, a small metal bar applies pressure to a plunger behind the ball detent. When in the unlocked position, a thinner part of the metal bar is in contact with the plunger, allowing the ball detent to retreat when a socket is attached or removed from the extension.
If you try to remove a socket without pulling down on the locking collar, pressure is applied to the ball detent, which pushes on the locking plunger, which pushes on the locking bar, which is in contact with the inside of the attached socket’s drive recess. Thus, that ball detent won’t budget, keeping the socket attached until you intentionally release it.
I’m pretty pleased with the build quality and usability of the extension. I’ve got just this one in my drawer, and don’t anticipate needing additional sizes anytime soon. For the rarer occasions that I might need a 1/4″ locking extension, I have two in my small Wera socket sets.
This isn’t the type of drive accessory that gets used all the time, but it’s what I use when I need to be sure of the extension-socket connection. For other times, regular extensions are quicker to use as you don’t need to mess around with a locking collar. Plus, regular extensions have fewer parts that could potentially break, not that I think this extension won’t give me a lifetime of reliable use.
If you have a basic collection of drive tools and accessories, and don’t know if you’ll need something like this, there are plenty of other accessories to buy first, such as wobble extensions, adapters, breaker bars, and the such.
After the first time you duct tape a socket to an extension to make sure it doesn’t come loose is when you should look to add a locking extension to your toolbox. This of course doesn’t apply to industrial or professional applications where there’s a risk of FOD (foreign object damage) or personal injury. In those cases, absolutely use a locking extension or whatever other tools are appropriate.
I paid about $15 via Zoro with a coupon for the 3/8″ x 6″ extension. It has a typical street price of $20-32. Right now, it looks like Zoro offers the best pricing on this and possibly other sizes.
These extensions are made in the USA.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Buy Now(via Zoro) *better price at the time of this posting
Buy Now(Other sizes via Amazon)
If you use locking extensions, which brands do you recommend? And do you use a particular size more often than others?
i have sk locking extensions and blackhawk locking adapters in 1/4 and 3/8 drive. the proto versions for years. it appear to use the same mechanism for locking the socket to the extension and they have proven quite useful. i am guessing someone has the patent and has allowed various mfg’s to use it.
I concur. The manufacturer of this retention mechanism sells to many brand names, including the truck brands.
SK for one sells adaptors that allows one to attach it to any standard extension using set screw. If one was to buy one, I’d recommend getting an adaptor first to try out. It offers versatility.
I’ve bought one for each drive size and attached them to the end of select extension/drive tools.
I probably use 1/4 drive Armstrong locking impact extensions the most in 7 and 12 inch lengths. I really like them. I also have locking extensions from Proto, SK, Snap on, and Mac. The thing I like best about the MAC versions is that in addition the extension shaft being knurled, MAC also puts it around the female square drive end, where you need it most.
I like this article alot and Proto makes some great tools. I’ve been looking at one of these for a while now. I’m going to pull the trigger but not on Zoro.
Zoro’s site is an abomination. No matter how good their prices are they don’t deserve business. Typing in socket extension on their site in the search bar produces 4113 results. The first being Socket Weld Y Strainers. followed by a few socket extension and then into extension ladders, extension cords, extension springs. its ridiculous.
Its almost 2015 and websites were novel 15 years ago now they are a matter of business fact. For Zoro to have such a bad search engine and expect us to waste hours trying to find the right product is insane.
Yes, Zoro’s site is abysmal and the search function is at times worse than Sears. I try not to browse there too much, and typically search by model number. Otherwise it turns into a frustrating and time-consuming mess.
All true – but when they are having a 30% off flash sale – I try to forget the searching is search issues
When you do a search for:
it is a search for socket AND extension. It will return everything with both keywords, such as ‘extension cord with NEMA 5-15 socket’ or ‘extension ladder with swivel shoe socket’ etc. Try searching for:
instead and you’ll more easily find what you are looking for.
Sorry as a consumer and huge tool buyer for my business i dont have time to go old school on a tool site. Zoro needs to keep with the times before they garner my business.
Do the same search for socket extensions on home depot.com and guess what!!
Socket extensions show!! No ladders, extension cords, etc. We all know HD carries that stuff but their site is intelligent enough to filter and give you what your asking for without quotations.
Well, my apologies for trying to be helpful to you. You can be assured it will not happen again.
Sorry didn’t mean to come off as an a**hat. My apologies. The frustration should have been directed at the incompetence at Zoro not you. Again I am sorry.
I probably read too much into it, too. Let’s just chalk it up to communicating over a faceless medium.
I had a set of Craftsman locking extensions in 3/8 drive that work really well, but for some reason I couldn’t find them anymore. Their only real drawback was that the release was a button you slid towards the end of the extension to release it, which could potentially snag on something as it turned in use.
nice write up – I’m looking for a few simple tools to gather for a brother in law that has nothing. I know I can’t fathom it either – but he has no tools other than the one he was born with.
so I’m using this as an opportunity to weed out some of my triplicates, and others – and at the same time get him some necessities.
II have a set of socket retention devices from Stahlwille. the design is similar to the proto system – except they aren’t attached to anything. they have a set screw that you can lock into any of the extensions (ie run set screw into the ball detent on the end of the extension). based on this I think I’ll buy 2 sets of the proto extensions.
Stahlwille sources them from the original manufacturer and sells them (They now offer their own locking extension design though). Same can be said for the Italian brand, Beta.