There’s always one bolt. One bolt that’s just out of reach, placed just awkwardly enough that you can’t get a socket on it. The bolt that after hours of wrenching will make you give up and wonder why you didn’t just drop your car off at the dealer instead. Those are the most insidious bolts, the ones buried deep within engine bays and dashboards, the ones that are hardest to reach. Unless, that is, you have a universal socket joint on hand.
Universal socket joints, like the one shown above, are supremely simple, logical tools that make life as a DIYer far, far easier. As the name suggests, the tool is an adjustable joint that can be attached to a ratchet’s extension, allowing adjustment of the angle of attack for the socket. Bolts and nuts that couldn’t be broken loose before become easily accessible thanks to universal joints. Whether fasteners are buried under exhaust manifolds or tucked amongst miles of wiring and hoses, a universal joint will likely be able to reach them.
Attacking bolts at weird angles isn’t the only use for universal joints. They can also be used as simple ratchet extensions in a pinch. Universal joints can even make other universal joints more maneuverable by stacking them onto one another. Get creative enough and there’s no limit to the sorts of nuts and bolts that can be broken loose.
And because universal joints are small, simple tools, they’re also cheap. Any DIYer who plans to tackle jobs beyond the occasional oil change should have at least one in their arsenal, no excuses. A three-pack from StrugDeas with 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch sizes is priced at just $10.49 on Amazon right now. For impact driving using universal joints, we recommend picking up this metric set from Gearwrench. The 23-piece, $158.81 collection includes a handful of universal joints with metric and SAE sockets attached for even easier use. And because they’re designed to be used with impact guns, they can take a lot of stress. On the cheaper side, Craftsman makes a three-pack impact-rated joint set for just $47.88.