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Half-Inch Ratchet Shootout

Posted in Product Reviews on May 7, 2014 Comment (0)
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Half-Inch Ratchet Shootout

Imagine you’re at the junkyard and you’ve come across the Holy Grail of 4x4 parts. It’s the Dana60lockerdoublerbig-block chingus you’ve long-since given up finding, and it’s just waiting to be plucked from the rusty clutches of its chassis. The problem is that you didn’t bring your breaker bar, and the parts vultures are circling. Guys with reciprocating saws and impact wrenches have sniffed out your score and are just waiting for you to give up on your prize. Your only hope is your backup ½-inch drive ratchet and a length of pipe for punishing leverage. Will your ratchet be able to dish out the torque to break the bonds of rusty bolts?

We decided to find out, visiting several auto parts stores, a couple of hardware stores, and a swap meet to see what ratchets we could buy for about $20. These should represent what the average Joe has in the toolbox, especially a junkyard toolbox. We took them to Maxwell Industries and devised a scientific and repeatable test-to-failure program (see the “Breakage” sidebar). Here are the results of the tests. Endanger your knuckles at your own risk.

group of half inch ratchets

1. Craftsman
Model Number: Unknown; it’s vintage
Where It Was Made: USA
Where We Bought It: Swap meet
What Broke: Sheared internal pawl tooth edge. The action became coarse and clunky.
Max Torque: 333 lb-ft
Price: $10 Torque Per Dollar: 33 lb-ft

2. Craftsman
Model Number: 44809
Where It Was Made: China
Where We Bought It: Orchard Supply Hardware
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 808 lb-ft
Price: $23
Torque Per Dollar: 35 lb-ft

3. Duralast
Model Number: 72-125
Where It Was Made: China
Where We Bought It: AutoZone
What Broke: The internal mechanism seized and handle bent slightly.
Max Torque: 649 lb-ft
Price: $15
Torque Per Dollar: 43 lb-ft

Strongest
4. Duralast
Model Number: 72-126
Where It Was Made: Taiwan
Where We Bought It: AutoZone
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 890 lb-ft
Price: $22
Torque Per Dollar: 40 lb-ft

5. Gearhead
Model Number: 33631
Where It Was Made: Taiwan
Where We Bought It: Pep Boys
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 828 lb-ft
Price: $17
Torque Per Dollar: 49 lb-ft

6. Husky
Model Number: 877 881
Where It Was Made: China
Where We Bought It: Home Depot
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 781 lb-ft
Price: $15
Torque Per Dollar: 52 lb-ft

7. Kobalt
Model Number: 0337327
Where It Was Made: Taiwan
Where We Bought It: Lowe’s
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 828 lb-ft
Price: $33
Torque Per Dollar: 25 lb-ft

Best bang for buck
8. Pittsburgh Pro
Model Number: 69347
Where It Was Made: China
Where We Bought It: Harbor Freight Tools
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 794 lb-ft
Price: $12
Torque Per Dollar: 66 lb-ft

9. Powerbuilt
Model Number: 642505
Where It Was Made: China
Where We Bought It: Carquest
What Broke: The internal mechanism seized.
Max Torque: 632 lb-ft
Price: $16
Torque Per Dollar: 40 lb-ft

10. Powerbuilt
Model Number: 642509
Where It Was Made: Taiwan
Where We Bought It: Carquest
What Broke: The socket mount
Max Torque: 818 lb-ft
Price: $27
Torque Per Dollar: 30 lb-ft

Best bang for buck
11. Proto
Model Number: 5449
Where It Was Made: USA
Where We Bought It: Swap meet
What Broke: It seemed to skip a tooth at the indicated lb-ft reading, but seems unscathed.
Max Torque: 659 lb-ft
Price: $10
Torque Per Dollar: 66 lb-ft

Breakage
The torture test was cooked up by Steve Watt of Maxwell Industries. Steve makes fixtures for testing shocks and has a device for measuring the spring rate of torsion bars. It was perfect for our demolition test. The ratchet’s ½-inch-square socket mount was inserted into the fixture, and a hydraulic ram with a load sensor applied the force. The distance from the fulcrum to the ram was 1-foot when the wrench was parallel with the ground, so we didn’t use any conversion to come up with our torque number—it was just the force in pounds at our 1-foot distance. The fixture wasn’t altered during the course of our testing. The test reveals the maximum load under extreme flex—as when you slip a long pipe over the ratchet handle and stand on it to break loose an axle nut—and does not indicate performance under impact loads (hitting with a hammer).

View Slideshow

What We Learned
The old, clunky ratchets we bought at the swap meet for peanuts are still kicking, although the old Craftsman seemed to “reset” itself at about half the torque of the Proto. The rest of the affordable ratchets were all imports, but all of the new teardrop-head ratchets look better than a new $25 tool should. They don’t feel as high quality as the 72-tooth Snap-On ratchets found in high-end toolboxes, but we also wouldn’t dare bring those into a junkyard. Also noteworthy was that the new Craftsman held its max torque level the longest before breaking, and the Duralast teardrop ratchet, which looks an awful lot like a truck-brand clone, posted almost 900 lb-ft. If you’ve got a bolt that won’t budge after you’ve hit it with 600 lb-ft, let alone 800 lb-ft, step aside and let the vultures have it. It just wasn’t meant to be.

broken ratchet gear set

Sources

Maxwell Industries
805-649-1070
www.maxwellindustries,com

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