What are Different Types of Ratchet Tools?

C.L. Rease

Wrenches, screwdrivers, electrical crimpers and pipe cutters are common ratchet tools. A ratchet action tool allows an operator to keep the tool attached to a material while moving it. This eases the process of using the tool in tight areas where other tool styles will not fit and work correctly. Using, storing and maintaining ratchet tools correctly will keep the tool in proper working order. Improper use causes the ratchet action of the tool to function incorrectly and cause injury to the operator if the tool should slip or lock up during use.

Come-along with ratchet and cable.
Come-along with ratchet and cable.

Ratchet handle wrenches are a common sight in garages and construction sites. Held within the head of the wrench is a gear mechanism that allows the handle to turn while an attachment on the head remains attached to a fastener. Moisture entering the connecting point between the ratcheting head and the ratchet handle causes the internal components to rust. Regularly oiling the connecting points keeps the gears of this ratchet tool loose and in proper working order. A ratchet handle is not the style of ratchet tools that requires regular maintenance to keep the internal gears free of corrosion.

The ratchet screwdriver works like a ratchet wrench, allowing the user to constantly crank the device without taking it off and repositioning it.
The ratchet screwdriver works like a ratchet wrench, allowing the user to constantly crank the device without taking it off and repositioning it.

Chain-style cutters used on cast iron, terracotta and clay piping employ a ratchet action head to apply pressure to the cutting chain. Lubricating the point at which the cutting chain enters the ratcheting head will eliminate rust forming on the ratcheting gears. Unlike a ratchet handle wrench, the cutting chain is connecting directly to the ratchet head. This allows water to travel into the ratchet head as the chain pulls around the pipe. Constant lubrication of the cutting chain ensures moisture does not travel into the casing surrounding the ratcheting gears.

Sealed ratchet tools do not require constant lubrication to ensure proper working order but are more delicate than their heavy-duty counter parts. Ratchet action screwdrivers have a sealed area where the tool holder enters the screwdriver body and ratchet action electrical crimpers keep the area around the ratchet action jaws sealed with a rubber gasket. The plastics and rubbers used to seal this style of ratchet tools eliminates the need for lubrication but makes the tools more susceptible to damage during use or when improperly stored. Keeping each tool in a cushioned tool box and taking care not to drop or throw the tools during use will keep the plastic components of the tools from cracking or coming loose from the tool body.

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Discussion Comments


@OeKc05 – A similar thing happened to me with the ratchet wrench slipping. I was pulling a tire off of a truck, and I had an old wrench that was no good anymore, but I didn't know that at the time.

I got the first tire off with no problem. The second tire was on a little bit tighter, so I put a pipe on the end of the wrench and pulled. Needless to say, pipe and forehead became one.

After that, I took the wrench to my boss, and he said he would repair it. He handed me another, along with an ice pack.


@OeKc05 – The best way to take care of hand tools like these is not to leave them in the driveway, but since it's too late for that, take some lubricating oil and spray it into the ratchet portion of the wrench on both sides. Work it back and forth, and it should free up any catches or snags you have in there.

Some higher end automotive tool companies sell rebuild kits, and the really nice ones are guaranteed for life. They give the kit to you for free, but you have to get with the tool dealer for this.

You should be fine, as long as the wrenches aren't fully rusted. If that still doesn't work, you can get a small can of penetrating oil and soak the wrench in it overnight.


What is the best way to properly maintain ratchet tools? I accidentally left mine in the driveway, and it got moisture in it. Every time I try to use it now, it seems like it is hard to go in the right direction.

Every once in awhile, it will slip, and I will hit my hand on something unintentionally. It is really starting to aggravate me, and I don't want to have to go buy another set.

Is it too late to repair the damage on this set, or is there a way to fix this? Believe me, I plan on taking good care of my tools from now on.


I am a mechanic, and I think ratchet tools are the best invention since the light bulb. They make my job so much easier.

They are so many types, sizes, and shapes. I usually use a 3/8 socket wrench, but they also come in ½ inch and ¼ inch. The size you need depends on the requirements of the job.

I also have a wrench with a ratchet in the box end, and that is a rather useful tool for tight places. Let's just say I use it at least two or three times a day.

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