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How Does a Ratchet Wrench Work?

By Sandi Stritch

Function of a Ratchet Wrench

Basic wrenches have been around for a very long time, and their usefulness has not diminished since their inception into the standard tool sets of millions of people around the world. The introduction of the ratcheting wrench has allowed people to apply force to fasteners without having to remove and reset the wrench on the fastener each time he wishes to move it. This improves the efficiency of the tool and shortens work time.

Construction of the Wrench

The ratchet wrench consists of the wrench body, which houses a geared unit and a switching assembly at one end. The switching assembly is set up so that an engaging member moves with the switch, and, depending on which direction the wrench is to be turned, engages a different side of the geared unit. A small spring applies force to the engaging member, so that when the gear is turned one direction, it engages, but in the other direction, it slips. The geared unit is connected to an output shaft of sorts that is accepted by sockets in a variety of sizes to fit different fasteners.

Other Ratcheting Wrenches

Non-switchable ratcheting wrenches are also common, though in some cases more expensive, because a whole set is needed rather than just one wrench with several sockets. The advantage to unidirectional wrenches is that there are fewer moving parts, and, therefore, less to break. These are made without the switching assembly, but rather just a spring-loaded engaging member on one side of the geared member. To switch the direction of the ratchet, all you need to do is remove the wrench from the fastener and turn it over.


About the Author


Sandi Stritch specializes in alternative health and mental-health topics. She has more than five years experience working in a psychiatric hospital. Valentine began writing online in 2007 with pieces appearing in "The Main ARTery" and "In the Panhandle." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Shepherd University.