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.
If you use locking extensions, which brands do you recommend? And do you use a particular size more often than others?