Useful Tool: Universal Socket Joint

In the course of almost every DIY boat project, Dave mutters one of two things. Sometimes both:

  • Ten pounds of “stuff” in a five pound bag
  • They must have installed this and built the rest of the boat around it

Basically, it means that there is absolutely no room to get to a nut or bolt that he needs to. No room to swing a regular wrench; no way for a regular socket to reach.

And then his special tool comes out: the Universal Joint Socket Adapter. With it, he can reach just about any nut or hex head bolt he needs to and apply the leverage necessary to break it free.

Mechanics probably already know about this one, but if you’ve never seen or used one, here’s how to do it (as Dave notes, you’ll almost always use it with a socket extender in order to reach the bolt or nut, so that’s how he’s demonstrating it).

The four pieces (you can get universals for 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” drive sockets – the set Dave recommends below has all three):

How can you reach that one nut or hex bolt that's just out of reach? Learn how to use a univeral joint socket adapter and socket extender to reach just about anything.

The socket extender goes on the socket handle – good ones have what are called “detent” balls and notches so they don’t come apart while you’re using them. Basically these are like a tiny little spring-loaded ball and matching indentation for it to fit into. You can see the detent ball on the rachet handle near Dave’s index finger (this is what you’re retracting when you press that button under his thumb to get the socket off the handle).

How can you reach that one nut or hex bolt that's just out of reach? Learn how to use a univeral joint socket adapter and socket extender to reach just about anything.

Then the universal adapter:

How can you reach that one nut or hex bolt that's just out of reach? Learn how to use a univeral joint socket adapter and socket extender to reach just about anything.

And finally the socket:

How can you reach that one nut or hex bolt that's just out of reach? Learn how to use a univeral joint socket adapter and socket extender to reach just about anything.

NOTE: The Universal gives you up to about a 45 degree angle.

Vary the length of the extender to reach what you need – and you can use another extender after the universal, too.  Dave has never found a nut or bolt that he couldn’t somehow reach.

His choices, available from Amazon:

These are made of chrome vanadium steel. A few people have asked about the advisability of having stainless tools on the boat due to concerns with rust. Stainless would be nice but frankly are cost prohibitive for most of us.

A wipe down with an oily rag does a good job of protecting most tools. Of course, anything that goes in the water (intentional or not) gets rinsed with fresh water, dried and sprayed with WD-40 to remove all traces of moisture in the little nooks and crannies.

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6 Comments
  • Jim Coolbaugh
    Posted at 21 March 2016 Reply

    The other great tool is the easy out screw extractor. Cheap and very valuable

  • Michael McIntosh
    Posted at 21 March 2016 Reply

    Often referred to as a Knuckle.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 21 March 2016 Reply

      Hadn’t heard it called that before (maybe a regional thing?) but what a perfect description!

  • Jim Cain
    Posted at 21 March 2016 Reply

    I’ve had one for years.

  • Rick Garvin
    Posted at 22 March 2016 Reply

    I love it, I can hear Dave’s voice in this article.

  • Jacques / SKANA
    Posted at 08 April 2016 Reply

    I also often use the ”wobble” extension bars a lot.
    Either with or without the u-joint.
    It gives you about 15 degrees over a straight extension bar.

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