Best Ratchet

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The name "ratchet" can refer to a few different kinds of tools, but there is one common attribute that they each share. The head of the tool rotates in one direction and prevents rotation in the opposite. It's a pretty simple concept that makes any fastening job easier and faster. The main categories are manual, air powered and electric. Manual ratchets function much like a crescent wrench, but eliminate the need to re-position the wrench with every turn. Air powered ratchets require a compressor or air pump, which must be bought separately, but they offer unparalleled power. Electrical models can either come in battery operated or wall plug versions. The wall plug models will usually be much more powerful, but they are not as versatile and useful in jobs outside of the shop.

Whether it's manual, air powered or electric; all ratchets are based on the same idea of unidirectional gears and the smaller the teeth of these gears are the smoother the action of the ratchet. This is especially important in manual ratchets where smaller teeth translate into finer working movements. The range you need to move the handle for the ratchet to engage will be smaller and allow for work in tighter situations.

No matter the power source; you want your ratchets to be built sturdy, deliver the power needed for the job and function smoothly. Not only should a tool stand up to your abuse, but powered ratchets deliver enough force that they would destroy themselves if not built well. It should also be understood that more power isn't necessarily better because an air powered ratchet delivering 85 foot-pounds of power is going to rip the head right off a small fastener. Good function includes smooth gearing, low vibration and a low chance of busted knuckles.

Pick from the right list and you'll find the right tool for your job.

Best Manual Ratchet:

I've been in too many shops where the power tools are all expensive and well respected brands, but the hand tools are junk bought at a bargain store; skip the bargain basement junk and get a real tool. The manual ratchet is a more complicated and important tool than it’s often considered to be and the best manual ratchets selected for this list are heavy in the hand thanks to solid construction and high strength steel. They also sport respectably long handles to add leverage when a job calls for extra power, and function smoothly thanks to a high tooth count on the internal components. A high tooth count also means you can operate the ratchet with a much smaller range of motion, which is great in cramped situations. Rest assured, each ratchet listed below will be worth a moment of appreciation on first use and continually after years of flawless service.

SK Hand Tools 45179 3/8" Drive Professional Reversible Ratchet 10.3"

This ratchet is very well balanced, operates smoothly, is a pleasure to use and isn't prohibitively expensive. The knurled, solid, 10.3 inch handle offers great leverage and grip while the easily accessed internal components are very solid with smooth action and no wiggle. Read Full Review

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    SK Hand Tools 45179 3/8" Drive Professional Reversible Ratchet 10.3"

    BAHCO 7750 8" Fine Tooth Bi Mold Comfort Grip Enclosed Head Ratchet

    The addition of a smooth rubber grip makes this ratchet pleasant to hold and easy to grip. 80 teeth inside the sealed head mean smooth operation and an operating motion of only 4.5 degrees. Read Full Review

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      BAHCO 7750 8" Fine Tooth Bi Mold Comfort Grip Enclosed Head Ratchet

      Craftsman Premium Grade 3/8" Drive Ratchet

      A sleek handle design is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Comfortable to hold but lacking grip in oily situations so I wish this had some knurling for improved traction. 84 teeth make for smooth action but the same operating arc of 4.5 degrees as the 80 tooth models on this list. Read Full Review

      Craftsman Premium Grade 3/8" Drive Ratchet

      Proto J5252F 3/8" Drive Standard Length Round Head Ratchet

      A thick, knurled handle makes for a solid grip on this Proto ratchet. The low profile head makes is a great tool for tight spaces and 72 teeth allow for operation with as little as five degrees of movement. I would prefer a flip switch for the direction changer as the knob mechanism isn't easily operated with one hand but that's a minor issue. Read Full Review

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        Proto J5252F 3/8" Drive Standard Length Round Head Ratchet

        Snap-on 3/8" Ratchet, Sealed Head, Dual 80 Technology

        The price is a bit high but reasonable for a tool of such quality. 80 teeth means smooth action with minimal motion of only 4.5 degrees. Read Full Review

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          Snap-on 3/8" Ratchet, Sealed Head, Dual 80 Technology

          Best Ratchet Set:

          It's nearly impossible to not enjoy using a ratchet because the clicking, the weight and the action of a well-made ratchet is like meditation to the point that you might almost be sad when it's over. On the other hand, a poorly made ratchet is nothing but a source of frustration and wrist pain. Save yourself a little money and start with a good ratchet set rather than buying each piece individually.

          What makes a ratchet set good? Firstly, the ratchet itself needs to be of high quality with good weight, a decently long handle and a high number of teeth on the internal gears. Next, the included sockets need to be as durable as the ratchet. You don't want a single piece of the set to fail before you do. Lastly, a good storage case makes a big difference because you don't want to have to dig through a drawer of tools to find one 10mm socket, so the case should be sturdy and well organized. The sets included in this list are some of the best you can get and I promise they will treat you nicely for years to come.

          SK 18 Piece 3/8" Drive 6 Point Standard and Deep Fractional Socket Set

          Both the sockets and the ratchet included in this set are of extremely high quality. SK Hand Tools rivals the most expensive professional brands without the price tag. Read Full Review

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            SK 18 Piece 3/8" Drive 6 Point Standard and Deep Fractional Socket Set

            Snap On General Service 6-Point Socket Set

            Extremely high quality, but coupled with a very high price tag. The ratchet feels amazing and operates beautifully thanks to a gear system with very fine and strong teeth. Read Full Review

            Snap On General Service 6-Point Socket Set

            Kobalt 63-Piece Standard (SAE) and Metric Combination Mechanic's Tool Set

            You are very unlikely to find a better ratchet set for cheaper. It's versatile, extremely high quality and readily available at an affordable price. Read Full Review

            Kobalt 63-Piece Standard (SAE) and Metric Combination Mechanic's Tool Set

            Blue-Point General Service Set inches/mm, 3/8" Drive, 49 pcs

            Blue-Point is a great option for those of us who can't afford Snap-On but still demand good quality tools. A heavy and smoothly operating ratchet coupled with good quality sockets in a compact case makes this a great set for the shop or the truck. Read Full Review

            Blue-Point General Service Set inches/mm, 3/8" Drive, 49 pcs

            Bahco S380 Socket Set 38 Piece 3/8In Drive

            This set is a step down in price from the most expensive options but without sacrificing any quality. Every piece is impressively well made but the ratchet is really going to sell you on this set. If you have the money I think this is one of the best to consider. Read Full Review

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              Bahco S380 Socket Set 38 Piece 3/8In Drive

              Best Air Ratchet:

              Fast, powerful, clean and efficient; these are the qualities that make air ratchets essential to any mechanic's shop. Adding an air ratchet to your armory of tools will improve speed, reduce down time and expand your list of potential projects many times over. This is one tool any serious mechanic should work with.

              The air ratchets we’ve chosen for this list will deliver some serious power with a minimum torque of 50 ft-lbs. That's enough power for almost any job but the strongest on this list more than triples that capability. To control all that power, each of these ratchets will be equipped with an effective clutch preventing bashed knuckles and broken fasteners.

              Some form of power control will also be included with each model and in some cases that will be a variable speed trigger while in others, a regulator. Lastly, the following tools are built with high quality materials ranging from steel to composite plastics, all of which come together to form a durable tool that will last you for years.

              Matco Tools MT2858A 3/8" Heavy Duty Air Ratchet

              A sturdy tool with the power to tackle the vast majority of my jobs and the finesse to complete more delicate tasks without ripping the head off a fastener. The build quality on this air ratchet is top notch and the light, compact design makes it a pleasure to use. Easily one of the best on the market. Read Full Review

              Matco Tools MT2858A 3/8" Heavy Duty Air Ratchet

              Chicago Pneumatic Air Ratchet Wrench 3/8" Drive, 150 RPM

              180 ft-lbs of torque makes this the strongest air ratchet on the list. All that power is controlled by an adjustable power regulator and a clutch that will save your knuckles from imminent doom. A sleek design makes it useful in somewhat tight situations but it is a large tool. The price is about half what I would expect to pay for that much torque but the quality is top notch. Read Full Review

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                Chicago Pneumatic Air Ratchet Wrench 3/8" Drive, 150 RPM

                Ingersoll Rand Ingersoll-Rand (IRT2015MAX) 3/8" Low Profile Hammerhead Impactool Air Ratchet # 2015MAX

                This is one of the best air ratchets you will ever hold. It's too bad that it's prohibitively expensive. The maximum 70 ft-lbs of torque is enough for the vast majority of jobs and too much for some, but it can be dialed down to 50 ft-lbs for tasks that require a little less oomph. Read Full Review

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                  Ingersoll Rand Ingersoll-Rand (IRT2015MAX) 3/8" Low Profile Hammerhead Impactool Air Ratchet # 2015MAX

                  Snap-On FAR7200 Heavy Duty Air Ratchet

                  130 ft-lbs is more torque than most people will ever need but this air ratchet delivers that power precisely thanks to a well made, variable trigger. The composite body reduces hand fatigue thanks to dampened vibration and lighter weight. Adjustable exhaust helps keep it out of your face when working and this tool is also available at a reasonable price. Read Full Review

                  Snap-On FAR7200 Heavy Duty Air Ratchet

                  Ingersoll Rand Ingersoll-Rand (IRT1207MAXD3) 3/8" Premium Air Ratchet # 1207MAX-D3

                  Plenty of power for every job that comes through my shop and lots of control to regulate that for lighter tasks. An enclosed head design helps prevent damage and wear on both the air ratchet and the surrounding surfaces. Easy on the hands. This air ratchet makes work a real joy even if it's not the easiest on your budget. Read Full Review

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                    Ingersoll Rand Ingersoll-Rand (IRT1207MAXD3) 3/8" Premium Air Ratchet # 1207MAX-D3

                    Best Electric Ratchet:

                    At one time air ratchets were the undisputed kings and pneumatic systems were the measure of a quality shop. Now the electric ratchet is here and stepping up to the plate in a big way by offeringsome great advantages over pneumatic tools.

                    The internal battery cuts the leash of the air hose and vastly increases portability by leaving the compressor at home. The startup cost is generally lower because you don't need a compressor or pneumatic system at all which will cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For many years this meant sacrificing power but improvements in design have continued to close that gap and electric ratchets are ever encroaching on their pneumatic brethren.

                    So, what qualities make a good electric ratchet worthy of being one of our best picks? The electric ratchets on this list will provide a good deal of power,  are built sturdy and made by reliable brands with a track record of worthwhile air ratchets, as well as having good battery life.

                    While these models can't offer the same maximum power as air ratchets, but don't settle for a tool that can't loosen a stuck bolt. A 3/8" drive with at least 30 ft-lbs of torque will make sure you have the power you need.

                    Being built sturdy means using high strength materials such as composite plastics and quality steel and that's why I suggest choosing a known brand with a good record. The best air ratchet companies aren't going to sacrifice their name on something cheap and flimsy.

                    Lastly, who wants a tool that only has the juice for half the job? Good batteries and an efficient charge speed are an absolute must. Check out the selections below and cut the cord, it's time to try out electric ratchets.

                    Ingersoll Rand (IRTR3130K1) 20 Volt 3/8" Drive Cordless Ratchet

                    Powerful, but light enough to be comfortable for a long day of use; this ratchet is a bit expensive and worth every penny. The composite and metal body make this a very durable tool. Ingersoll Rand is a name you can trust. Read Full Review

                    Ingersoll Rand (IRTR3130K1) 20 Volt 3/8" Drive Cordless Ratchet

                    Milwaukee 2457-21 M12 Cordless 3/8" Lithium-Ion Ratchet Kit

                    Smaller than I thought it was going to be and well designed to fit the hand while being built strong; this is a comfortable tool for all day use. The price is a bit high for the power, but it will do most jobs without much trouble thanks to the 35 ft-lbs of torque. Read Full Review

                    Milwaukee 2457-21 M12 Cordless 3/8" Lithium-Ion Ratchet Kit

                    Durofix RW2001 Li-ion 18V 3/8" Ratchet Wrench

                    Very expensive but this is an amazing tool. High torque with a well designed clutch that can handle the power encased in a comfortable as well as well a balanced body that will make quick and easy work of most jobs. Read Full Review

                    Durofix RW2001 Li-ion 18V 3/8" Ratchet Wrench

                    Blue Point 14.4V Cordless Ratchet

                    This tools offers good quality that matches the price but provides lower power than I would like. The function is very nice and does the job without much chatter. This ratchet is very large and feels a bit bulky in the hand but it's still well balanced for the size. Read Full Review

                    Blue Point 14.4V Cordless Ratchet

                    Snap On Cordless Micro Lithium Ratchet,14.4V 2.0aH, 3/8" Drive

                    High quality but over priced for the power it delivers. The construction of this tool is impressive and the action is smoother than most others I've ever tried. Well balanced and comfortable in the hand this is a smaller ratchet for single hand use. Read Full Review

                    Snap On Cordless Micro Lithium Ratchet,14.4V 2.0aH, 3/8" Drive
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