Al's Tool Tips


Ratchet buying guide: Types, Uses and Features

The interchangeable construction of a socket wrench or socket tools enables the use of many tools with various socket sizes and attachments. We will explain the basic components for ratchet systems so you can select the correct tool.

What is a Ratchet

There is a wide range of ratchets and all of them are designed to help out in different jobs but the idea is the same. A ratchet is designed to take a socket on its square drive gear that vary in size for example 1/4" , 3/8" , 1/2" and 3/4". The square drive then can rotate / ratchet back and forth allowing a fastener to be tightened or loosened. So if the Ratchet is set to loosen a fastener it will only catch / grip in the counter clockwise direction and will slip in the clockwise direction this allows the operator to move the ratchet back and forth to aid in tight spaces and save time as the ratchet itself dose not need to rotate 360 degrees but the fastener still can rotate 360 degrees to remove or install it.

A Ratchet for every scenario

Ratchets come in a range of shapes to make the different range of jobs easier. Some of the different styles are listed below.

  • Standard: good allrounder with a fixed head and a reasonable length

  • Flex head: has a head that moves normally 180 degrees allowing access to fasteners in awkward places

  • Stumpy: like a standard ratchet but only a lot shorter normally fist length allowing access to tight places

  • Round head: this is like a flex head ratchet but its round read allows 360 degrees of swivel

  • Passthrough: this ratchet design doesn't have a square drive it has a ring that the sockets sit in to so if you had a long bolt the threads can pass throught the socket and ratchet

  • low profile: a slimmer design for tighter spaces

Ratchets vs Wrenches / spanners

with a spanner you have to remove it from the fastener to get the next rotation where as with a ratchet you can operate it back and forth this saves time. Ratchet spanners are also available these are better than a standard spanner but you need a spanner for each size and with a ratchet you only need one ratchet an the sockets for the sizes needed this leaves the ratchet more versatile than a spanner.

How a ratchet works

A ratchet is made up of a round square drive gear, this is the gear a socket would fit onto and has teeth on the outer edge the more teeth the finer the ratchet mechanism. This gear sits within a sealed head of the ratchet and below the main gear sits the ratchet pawls this it what is adjusted to change ratchet direction. The pawls also have teeth on them and these teeth interlock with the teeth on the main gear allowing the gear to lock in the chosen direction.

What is the diffenace in a corse and a fine tooth ratchet?

The more teeth a ratchet has the finer it is meaning you need les of a turn to get the next tooth. This helps in tight spaces if you haven't got much room to maneuver. for example the BOXO 90 tooth ratchets (linked below) only need 4 degrees of turn to get next tooth

My verdict on the best ratchets

The best allrounder for the DIY i have chosen the BOXO 3 piece 90 tooth ratchet set it contains 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" drive. also comes with a lifetime warranty.

The best allrounder for mechanics i have chosen the BOXO 3 piece 100 tooth ratchet set it contains 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" drive. also comes with a lifetime warranty.