Once You Use A Cordless Ratchet, You'll Want To Use It On Every Job

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Image: Project Farm / Jason Torchinsky

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at a tap socket to restore damaged threads, a cheap jump-start battery pack that actually works and a brake fluid tester pen that can help you maintain your car’s braking system. This week’s cool tool is a cordless ratchet that can save you so much wrenching time you’ll want to use it for every job.

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This suggestion came from a number of readers. I didn’t think this tool was a must-have until I used one to replace brakes on one car and wheel hubs on another. Now I will be adding this tool to my own collection.

A cordless ratchet isn’t going to replace any tools in your toolbox, but it can save you precious time on jobs with lots of long fasteners. If you’ve ever removed a long bolt, you know how annoying it is to sit there going back and forth with your ratchet until the bolt finally frees itself. On a big job, removing these fasteners can gobble up a lot of time, and that time is spent removing an already loose bolt.

I used a cordless ratchet to assist in replacing brake rotors and pads on the Saturn Ion that I delivered to a friend in Tennessee. Later, I used the same tool to help in replacing the wheel hubs on a Chevrolet HHR.

Note: That beer wasn’t mine. Wrenching and drinking don’t mix!
Note: That beer wasn’t mine. Wrenching and drinking don’t mix!
Photo: Eddy

The cordless ratchet made short work of removing the few bolts involved with these jobs. It is as easy as breaking loose the bolts with the tool or a breaker bar then zipping them off with the push of the button. A cordless ratchet won’t save a whole lot of time on jobs with few bolts, but it shines on jobs with lots of fasteners, like body panels or fluid pans.

The tool I used was a very old Matco model, but you don’t need to pay tool-truck prices to get a good cordless ratchet. The Project Farm YouTube channel tested a bunch of these and found that a cheaper tool works fine:

They come with lithium batteries of varying capacities and in the Project Farm test, took from an hour to just short of two hours to charge.

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A major downside to a cordless ratchet is its size. If you want to remove a bolt in a tight space, you’re back to doing things with a regular ratchet. Another downside is that cordless ratchets generally put out 30 to 60 lb-ft torque, so don’t expect these to work like an impact.

Prices for cordless ratchets range from about $60 for one from a generic brand to around $500 or more for one from one of those tool trucks that visit professional shops. They can be purchased at your favorite tool store or online.

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Do you know of a weird or unique but must-have tool that every wrencher should have? Do you want to see us put a type of tool to the test and see how it performs? Shoot me an email or drop it down in the comments!

DISCUSSION

By
njotis

I find my cordless ratchet to be pretty useless, all things considered. I have the Milwaukee M12 one shown (or similar...) and it’s the lack of torque that really does it. I usually need a regular wrench/ratchet/breaker bar to get enough torque to loosen the nut/bolt, then I would swap tools? Like you said, that might make sense with really long bolts.
I find it’s easier to just use my impact driver with a socket adapter (not an impact gun). Odds are that if the impact driver doesn’t fit into the space, the electric ratchet won’t fit or work well in the space either.