Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How to Use a Ratchet on a Car

ratchet

Professional mechanics understand the value of having the right tools for the right job. When it comes to removing bolts and nuts that might be secured tight or in hard to reach locations, using a ratchet and socket to complete this task is a choice most mechanics prefer. For those who may not know, a ratchet is a hand-held tool that works in conjunction with a socket (a round tool that fastens to a bolt or nut). It can be adjusted to turn clockwise or counter-clockwise to remove or tighten a bolt or nut.

The ratchet works by applying leverage during the removal or tightening of a bolt. As the mechanic turns the ratchet in the desired direction, the bolt or nut is turned in the same direction. However, when the mechanic can no longer spin the ratchet, he or she is able to reverse the direction of the ratchet handle without moving the bolt or nut. Essentially, this is similar to a loose sprocket on a bicycle that only moves the chain forward and is free to spin in reverse.

The free spinning motion of the ratchet is why many mechanics prefer to use this tool to remove bolts and nuts on a vehicle. It's more efficient and can save the mechanic from hitting their hands on potentially sharp objects.

Part 1 of 2: Knowing the different types of ratchets

There are several ratchets that mechanics can choose from, each with a specific function. In general, ratchets come in three different size options:

  • 1/4" drive
  • 3/8" drive
  • 1/2" drive

There are also ratchets with swivel heads, different sized extensions and even swivels on extensions, allowing the mechanic to reach bolts and nuts on an angle. A good mechanic knows the value of keeping a full set of ratchets: shorter and longer for leverage, as well as different sized sockets in US standard and metric sizing. On the average, more than 100 individual pieces make up a full ratchet and socket set for uses on most US and foreign cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Part 2 of 2: Steps for using a ratchet on a car

The actual process of using the ratchet is rather simple; however the steps below will outline the typical thought process of selecting and using a ratchet for use on most cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Step 1: Examine the bolt or nut that needs to be removed: Before the ratchet is selected, the mechanic needs to factor in several facts about the bolt including its location, proximity to obstructing parts and the size of the bolt. In general, follow the steps below to determine what type of ratchet and socket combo is best to utilize.

Step 2: Determine the location of the bolt: If the bolt is hard to reach, use a ratchet with an extension so that you maintain leverage over the bolt.

Step 3: Determine the size of the bolt and select the right socket: Either refer to the service manual or physically inspect the bolt or nut that needs to be removed to determine the size of the socket.

Step 4: Secure the socket to the ratchet or extension: Always make sure that all connections snap together for safe use of a ratchet.

Step 5: Select the position and direction of the ratchet: If you need to remove a bolt, make sure the forced direction of the ratchet spins counter-clockwise. If you're tightening a bolt, spin clockwise. When in doubt, remember: "lefty – loosey; righty – tighty."

Step 6: Secure the socket and ratchet to the bolt and move the handle in the correct direction.

Once the socket has been secured to the bolt, you can spin the ratchet continuously until the bolt has been tightened or loosened. One thing to remember is that some bolts or nuts are secured together, they will require an equal-sized end wrench or socket/ratchet to hold the back end until the service has been completed.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...


Related questions

Q: It is possible to bring all of your tools by motorcycle? If yes, how?

If you have a powerful enough motorcycle, you can probably pull a small trailer with tools behind it. This also depends on the level of mechanic. A beginning mechanic with few tools may be able to carry everything in saddle...

Q: Best AutoZone and Advance Autoparts tools

They sell various tools. Go there and see what warranty they have. It's not going to be like mine--mine is a top-notch, professional one. I didn't pay 9000 buck for it. I got it for free because I used it...

Q: Transmission cooler line fitting removal

Typically, the line removal tool is the same as the 3/8 type fuel line disconnect tool. The tool number is T90T-9550-C. This tool should make it easy to get the fitting off.