We recently reviewed a sizable Kobalt mechanics tool kit destined to activate the salivary glands of many gearheads. However, not everyone needs 200+ pieces of chrome goodness. If you need socket set access around the home, shop or on the job and don’t want to tote hundreds of standard and metric sizes with you, you might want to take a peak at the new line of Xtreme Access sockets and ratchets from our friends over at Kobalt.
Similar “go-through” style sockets have been on the market for a while now, including the Craftsman Max Axess line mentioned by our buddy Stu over at ToolGuyd. Even Harbor Freight got into the “go-through” socket game, although their set has separate sockets for both standard and metric. Kobalt sent us a small promo kit of their also uniquely spelled Xtreme Access line to check out, and if you’re more of a Lowes shopper than Sears, read on for our thoughts.
Kissing Deep Sockets Goodbye
How many times have you pulled out your handy socket set only to find the nut you’re trying to wrench on or off has a length of bolt that keeps your socket from reaching? In my case, the socket is usually just a millimeter or two shy of reaching the nut, resulting in about ten minutes of futile efforts to angle the socket to reach the nut. When that fails, you’re left with the painful and tedious option of using pliers or a conventional wrench to get the nut within reach, or busting out a cut-off tool and removing the offending length of bolt. Of course, many jobs suited for ratchets and sockets don’t offer much room for a wrench or a cutoff tool, leaving you with limited options and a fertile environment for bouts of profanity. With the Xtreme Access sockets, you can happily ratchet away on a nut with two feet of exposed bolt if you had to. The Xtreme Access socket simply slips over the end of the bolt providing you with, wait for it; XTREME ACCESS! This benefit alone makes having one of these tool sets handy well worth it.
One Size Fits Several
Aside from overpowering the efforts of long bolts that seek to thwart your ratcheting prowess, the Xtreme Access sockets are able to handle both metric and standard sizes and numerous fastener styles with a single socket. Think of them as the multi-tool of the socket world. 6 point, 12 point (both in standard and metric), spline, star, square and most rounded fasteners can all be handled by the Xtreme Access kits, but keep in mind fit won’t be as tight as you might be used to with conventional standard and metric sockets. We read a couple reviews complaining of stripped fasteners using Xtreme Access sockets. Would those fasteners have stripped otherwise? We don’t know. But, it’s one potential drawback to be aware in some limited situations. Aside from that, the Xtreme Access sockets deliver a lot of versatility with a much smaller number of sockets.
The ratchet that came with our promo kit had a nice, smooth action. Unlike the retail version, our ratchet also had an all-chrome handle (similar to the ratchets included in the Kobalt 227 piece mechanics tool set we reviewed). Depending on our outlook, Kobalt’s decision to go with a molded handle instead of all chrome could be good, bad or both. On the plus side, the molded handle looks like it provides a more solid and secure grip. On the downside, keeping an all-chrome handle clean is typically easier than cleaning rubber or plastic. I’d also wager the all metal handle is more durable in the long-haul. Either way, you’ll still get the job done. One detail we were not big fans of is the directional switch on the ratchet. The switch seemed undersized and just not substantive enough for a ratchet of its size. We would have liked to see a switch closer in size and function to the switches on the regular Kobalt ratchets seen compared in this paragraph’s photo. Minor design details aside, the ratchet functioned well for us.
Both Xtreme Access kits include several adapters, including adapters so you can use regular sockets. Of course, if you already have a ratchet and sockets that are exact size and you don’t need the go-through functionality, then you’d probably just want to use those rather than adapt the Xtreme ratchet to conventional sockets. But it’s an option if you need it. Kobalt also included a standard hex driver bit adapter which I found very practical. This setup is great if you need to drive a screw in an area with minimal clearance. While not quite as nimble as the little Neiko right angle driver we reviewed, the ratchet handle gives you a lot of leverage for any stubborn fasteners tucked away in hard-to-reach nooks.
Are these Xtreme Access kits for everyone? Likely not. If you’ve never found yourself cursing your lack of a deep socket, these might not be for you. If the possibility of stripping a fastener when your socket wasn’t sized exactly for it causes a mild panic attack, stick to conventional socket kits. However, if you’re looking for a compact, light weight, versatile and inexpensive kit to cover most of your nut and bolt needs, then take a close look at the Xtreme Access lineup. Their 16 piece kit is a bare bones 1/4″ drive set that will cover most weekend warrior needs. If your the type whose hands are routinely covered in grease, then the 49 piece kit is more likely to satisfy your broader ratchet and socket needs. You’ll find links to both below. Before you do any Lowes shopping, don’t forget to check out our Lowes deals and coupons article for all the hotest ways to save on your tool purchases. Happy wrenching!
You can pick up both the pint-sized and more robust Xtreme Access Kits via Lowes for around $30 and $80 respectively:
Kobalt 16-Piece 1/4-in Drive Xtreme Access Go-Through Socket Set 86238
Kobalt 49-Piece 1/4-in, 3/8-in, and 1/2-in Drive Xtreme Access Go-Through Socket Set 86235