How Does a Ratchet Wrench Work?

A ratchet wrench makes use of a gear and pawl mechanism to maintain force when spun in a single direction while releasing in the opposite direction. Ratchet wrenches are also commonly called socket wrenches.

The ratchet mechanism provides the ability to speedily tighten and loosen screws without removing the wrench from the socket. The gear and pawl system that is central to the ratchet mechanism allows this by locking additional force into each step of the toothed gear inside the wrench. Each turn of the wrench multiplies torque inside the socket, allowing for an extremely tight hold.

Unlike a simple wrench, a ratchet wrench holds its force even if the wrench is spun backwards, since the pawl simply slides over the teeth of the gear without releasing. Mechanics that use ratchet wrenches to tighten and remove screws are able to apply enormous amounts of force without having to stress their muscles in the process.

Automotive technicians commonly use ratchet wrenches to quickly tighten or remove bolts from vehicles, according to home improvement expert Bob Vila. Additionally, workshops that focus on building or servicing machine tools often make use of ratchet wrenches; they can prove useful for home improvement tasks as well.