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7 Tips to Choose The Right Cordless Ratchet (Buyers Guide)

In this article, you’ll learn how to choose the right cordless ratchet for your work.

I understand. You may be tempted to buy a cheap cordless ratchet set that includes (basically) everything you need. The price – check, the specs – perfecto! What could possibly go wrong?

cordless ratchet buying guide

To be clear, I have nothing against those cheap tools. They’ll do a great job if you take off some nuts every once in a while. However, I tested many tools in the past ten years, so I can tell you that specs are usually just marketing. And I learned that the hard way.

So, in this article, I’ll sum up all of my experiences to choose the best cordless ratchet for your needs.

Checkout the best cordless ratchet according to the Gmundcars.com.

Choose the Right Cordless Ratchet

Following are the tips to choose the right cordless ratchet for your work.

  1. Determining the price
  2. Drive size – Determine which socket size to use
  3. Speed – Decide the RPM of the ratchet
  4. Considering torque
  5. Things about which battery should consider
  6. Choose the tool with size and weight
  7. Brushed or brushless

#1 Determining the Price of Cordless Ratchet

Price is not everything! But it’s almost. If money is no object to you, skip this part and move on.

Ok, are you still here? Good. Depending on what your tasks are, you can decide “how much” is good for you.

There are many factors affecting the price, but I divided them into two major groups to make your decision easier.

Under $100

These cordless ratchets usually come in a set, including:

  • Two batteries
  • A charger
  • A few common impact sockets
  • And a case.

That’s a very typical combo you can find on the market. However, don’t expect those cheap tools to perform as the manufacturers advertised. Not even close!

But yea… they’ll do the job, though. If you’re a DIYer, you work with cars every once in a while, those cordless ratchets are more than enough for you. There’s no point going for the expensive ones.

Over $100

As a mechanic, I’m confident to say that those cheap tools under 100 bucks will be in my trash can after two and three months of abuse.

That’s why you need something much better if you regularly work on cars. For cordless ratchets with higher prices ($100+), manufacturers often sell them as bare tools. If you want the tool with a battery and a charger, just pay more.

And I didn’t mention impact sockets. You may already have a full set in your garage, but that would be an additional cost if you don’t.

However, you can’t really argue about the tools’ quality. They’ll last for years or even decades. If you want an affordable yet high-quality tool, consider Milwaukee or Makita. I myself always stick to Milwaukee.

Mac or Matco cordless ratchets are way too “luxury” for me (nearly $500). And the quality they offer does not really justify the price gap.

#2 Drive size – Determine which Socket Size to Use

Drive size will decide what sockets you can use with the tools. There are two drive sizes for cordless ratchets:

  • 3/8″ – probably all you need. It can pull off almost every task in your house. At the same time, it’s small enough to work in the engine bay. If I have to choose either of the drive sizes, this is the one!
  • 1/4″ – smaller drive size than 3/8″. It’s used for small fasteners or some tight spots that 3/8″ sockets are too bulky to fit in.

Some ratchets offer an interchangeable drive. That means you can switch between 3/8″ and 1/4″. Quite convenient, but I’m not a big fan of it since things will get loose when you’re keeping switching the drive sizes.

#3 Speed – Decide the RPM of the Ratchet

RPM (revolutions per minute) is the next thing you want to look for.

Cordless ratchets’ RPM (without load) often range from 150 to 400. Everything in this range is good to go. You may tend to pick the 400 RPM ratchet over the 150 RPM one. I mean, the math is quite obvious, right?

However, there is something you should know:

  • First, this is no-load speed. The actual speed depends on how much torque the tool can deliver.
  • Second, the number 400 can be inflated by the manufacturer. If you buy a cheap tool for less than $100, just don’t believe the specs you see.

Speed control is another factor that you should consider. And that’s where the variable speed trigger comes into the game.

Basically, every cordless ratchet on the market comes with a variable speed trigger. But you need to choose a ratchet with a trigger that is not too sensitive. Why?

Here’s a story that you don’t want to happen to you. You gently push the trigger, and the RPM is 20. You push it a little harder, it jumps up to 200. Guess what, you just broke the bolt.

#4 Considering Torque

Treat torque like money, never enough!

Nah, I’m joking. Torque is never my priority when it comes to cordless ratchets. Here’s why:

A good cordless ratchet’s torque ratings range from 30 to 60 ft-lbs. However, the actual number is usually much lower than that (except for expensive ones).

It does not have enough power to break loose a rusty bolt. Most of the time, I have to use the tool like a hand ratchet to break the bolt loose, and then I pull the trigger. The same thing happens when I tighten a bolt.

Note that these tools are not breaker bars. They’ll break if you apply too much force. In case the fasteners are too tight, use a hand ratchet (or a breaker bar if they’re extremely tight).

Over-torque protection is also something you should consider. What it does is shutting down the motor when you try to loosen a too-tight bolt, which prevents the tool from overheating.

Bad news. If you buy a cheap cordless ratchet, don’t expect it to have this feature.

#5 Things About Which Battery Should Consider

There are two main things about battery that you should consider:

  • Capacity
  • Voltage

Voltage

When it comes to cordless ratchets, the 12V version is probably all you need. What you really want to focus on is the battery capacity.

Capacity

The capacity of a battery is given in amp-hours (Ah). It decides how long the battery can power the tool.

Most of the cordless ratchets on the market have a 2Ah battery, and I recommend going for those, not lower, not higher.

Lower capacity is insufficient, and the battery will run out of juice faster. That is something you don’t want to happen when you’re in the middle of the job.

Higher capacity will make the battery too bulky. Trust me, when you work in the engine bay, an inch matters.

Battery capacity also decides the output current, or should I say, how powerful the tools are. Let me explain:

A 2.0 Ah battery has 5 cells connected in a row. A 5.0 Ah battery has 10 cells, so you can make two rows of 5 cells. So based on basic physics, the voltage stays the same, and the current doubles.

Still don’t understand? Well, just imagine a group of 10 people and a group of 5 do the same task. It’s obvious that the group of 5 will have lower productivity and durability.

#6 Choose The Tool With Size and Weight

There is no such thing as “the best designed tool.” Different designs are meant for different tasks. So, pick the one that is suitable for what you do.

And how to pick “the one”? Size and weight is your answer.

Size

Once again, when you work on cars, an inch matters. The ratchet’s head and the handle should be small enough to fit into some tight spots.

In some situations, you will encounter a bolt in a weird position that no tool can reach. A cordless ratchet with extended reach is the solution for that. Of course, the extended reach versions are more expensive than the standard ones.

Weight

The lighter the tool, the more thankful your wrists are.

That being said, cordless ratchets are not that heavy. If you regularly work with a 1/2″ impact wrench, you’ll know that these cordless ratchets are nothing.

The more important factor than weight is weight balance. An unbalanced tool will give your wrist a hard time. So, the ideal ratio between the head’s weight (with a socket on) and the handle’s weight is 50:50.

#7 Brushed or brushless

This is the major factor that affects the price.

Long story short, brushed tools are much cheaper (usually under $100). And yes, “cheaper” also means less power and a shorter lifespan. If you’re a DIYer, go cheap with brushed tools. You won’t make the most out of the brushless version anyway.

On the other hand, brushless tools come with a higher price and higher quality. You don’t have to worry about the annoying burning smell or overheating motor.

Wrapping it Up

So, that would be it – all of my experience when choosing the one true cordless ratchet for your needs. Let me sum up the lesson for you:

  • “Cheap” doesn’t mean bad, “expensive” doesn’t mean good. It’s all about what you do with the tool.
  • Specs are just specs. Don’t trust them 100%.

Now, let’s pull the trigger and bust some nuts.


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About Tim Miller

My name is Tim Miller - a car mechanic and blogger. I come from Denver, Colorado. Cars, Engines, and Mechanic Tools are everything to me and they drive me to discover more and more.

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