Buddies, beer, and bustin' your knuckles - three things that are great about customizing your truck. You also meet new friends, share good times at shows and cruise nights, and work hard int he garage creating what you consider to be automotive art. One tool that is used front to back, top to bottom when wrenching on your truck is a 3/8-inch ratchet. They come in different shapes, colors, and configurations, but at the end of the day, the goal is the same - effectively (and hopefully comfortably) loosen, tighten, and install nuts and bolts.
In a pinch they can be used as a hammer, they fly far when thrown in frustration, and if you choose the right one from the start, will last you a lifetime. A great thing about a 3/8-inch ratchet is they're used at every level of mechanical know-how. From high school kids learning to modify their new ride to ASE-certified master mechanics, a 3/8-inch ratchet is a must. In this month's Truckin Tough segment, we take the vast world of ratchets (readily available from tool/parts stores) and determine which one garners the seal of approval from The World's Leading Truck Publication.
We started by closely examining initial quality, ergonomics, design, and value. Once the formalities were out of the way, we got to work using them just like you would. Hard-to-reach spaces, tight confines, maximum torque situations, and degree of handle flex/head slop, were all test performed on each ratchet. We then timed removal of a 1/2-inch bolts in each direction to determine fluidity of ease-of-use when switching forward to reverse with sockets attached. After a full day of testing, we had a clear-cut winner and we bet it's not who you think.
14-inch Extendable, 45-teeth
Several months of testing tools have taught us one thing: Husky makes a pretty darn good tool. Winning af ew or our tool shootouts, Husky proved it hasn't been a fluke, as they handily won our ratchet test. For less than $20, the 14-inch extendable ratchet features a lockable flex-head, relatively low-profile head design, and extra torque always on tap from the extended handle. As a bonus, the kit also included a six-piece standard socket set. during our torque torture test, it was the only ratchet in the group that busted loose the 1-1/8-inch nut that was torqued to 120lb-ft. That's serious power in a 3/8-inch package. It isn't flashy, nor the best feeling ratchet in your hand, but that does everything we asked of it at a high level, and without compromise.
Cushion Grip, 72-teeth
Targeted towards the professional mechanic and home DIY enthusiast, we expected big things from the GearWrench cushion grip - and it delivered. Extremely comfortable in your hand, the two-part cushioned handle took the traditional ratchet to the next level. Combine the nice grip with a 72-tooth low-profile head design along the 9-1/2-inch overall length, and you have an impressive pro-grade tool that costs a fraction of the other major tool companies.
Roto Ratchet, 72-teeth
Imagine melding the best attributes of a ratchet with the ease of use of a nut driver and you have yourself the GearWrench Roto Ratchet. With its ingenious rotating head design, the Roto can instantly be turned to accommodate awkward angles, or turn straight out to be used as a fast-working nut driver. If you're concerned with head slop, we didn't experience any during our testing, but there is a Torx set screw that can be adjusted to tighten or fix the head angle. Again, GearWrench nailed the grip, as it's both comfortable and confidence inspiring.
Ultra Light, 72-teeth
When we bought the Durlast Ultra Light ratchet from our local Autozone, the salesman behind the counter said, "I have th at some one, and I can't bust it." We looked at each other and said, "Challenge accepted." Only we couldn't bust it either. Even when we applied more than 120lb-ft of torque to it via a jack handle extension, the Duralast didn't break a sweat. Honestly, it's hard to find much fault with the Ultra Light ratchet. it is in face light, it has a small, compact head, which is perfect for hard to reach areas, it features a 1/4-inch adapter that gits snugly inside the bottom of the handle, and it's great value.