1/4" Ratchet reviews

I just  snapped pictures of all of the 1/4" ratchets that we have at work, and I will just post some of my recommendations for what works well and what does not.

Here are the ones that I personally own:

Mac Tools MR4C
My personal favorite.  I love the compact size and pushbutton socket release (a huge plus when trying to manuever with a long extension attached), as well as the 72 tooth design.  This is the smallest commonly available ratchet that I have found.  It is really handy for tight spots under the glareshields/dashboards.  Got to love the lifetime guarantee at this price!  Honestly, this is the ratchet I use 75%+ of the time.  You could probably get away with this and one other  bigger ratchet (for more leverage).

Proto Challenger 1060-1
Found this one in a trash can.  It is a good backup ratchet, but seldom leaves my toolbox, mainly because the 32 teeth necessitate a big swing and have too much slop.

Harbor Freight thumb wheel ratchet
I used this for the first time ever this week (after a year plus).  The Mac one is much more compact, and I think that they have a fine tooth one.  This one is very large (probably could turn it down on a lathe, but not worth the time), and 32 teethed, so it has a lot of slop, but for a $5 ratchet, it isn't that bad.

Mac Tools MR18
This is a cool ratchet, but not very useful for me to this point.  It has an extremely compact 72 tooth head, and the indexible part is cool, but it is very expensive for no more than I use it, and I have never really needed it.

Snap-on THL72
My second favorite ratchet.  This is what I grab when I will need some extra torque.  I have  used this very roughly, and it has never so much as hiccuped.  I love the 72 teeth, the sealed head, the marked reverse button, and of course, the warranty.  I am not a big fan of the rubber handle (hard to clean, always nasty), and this is a pretty bulky ratchet overall, plus expensive.   

Gearwrench 81224
This is probably my third most favorite ratchet.  I would highly recommend this and the Mac MR4C as a top two set of ratchets.  99% of the work I do could be done conveniently with those two ratchets.  I really like this ratchet, especially at the value.  I got it and an identical 3/8" drive for $38 at Sears, and they are guaranteed forever.  This is basically a very good knock-off of the the Snap-on Swivel head, down to the colors, shape, and size.  It is 72 tooth, with very tight tolerances.  I personally do not care for the rubber handle, but that is a personal thing, and this is a relatively bulky ratchet, but that is the design.

Craftsman 44807
This is my "at home" ratchet, and that is all that I would recommend it for.  It isn't terrible, but the reverse switch has a nasty habit of reversing itself.  I haven't broken mine, but the 3/8" version I have broken 3 times with light use, and it is terrible to use because of the self-reverse tendency.  This is also a very bulky ratchet and it has 32 very sloppy teeth.  It is fine for home use or starting out, but you will want to upgrade it for sure.

This is the end of the ratchets that I personally own, so keep in mind that the other reviews are based on very limited borrowing and usage.

Craftsman 43187
This is a pretty vintage Craftsman (c.1980s), so it is a very good tool from my  experience with it.  I especially love the knurled section on the head.  It is great for spinning things off by hand.  I also am a fan of the pushbutton release.  This has 32 teeth, but it does seem tighter than the bottom end Craftsman.  I am not a big fan of the reverse switch, but overall, this is not a bad ratchet.

Plomb 4751
Hands down, this is the coolest ratchet in the shop.  It is a 66 year old co-workers, and he got it from his grandfather who was a machinist.  This ratchet dates from the 1940s most likely, and it is by far the smallest ratchet I have ever seen. It is not heavy duty, but I have borrowed it several times to get into spots where even the MR4C would not go.  It is a 32 tooth, but the action is very smooth and tight.  I would love to find one, but they go for the $50-$70 range on ebay, which is a little steep for a used ratchet that you can't get parts for anymore.

Snap-on TM739
This is a good older ratchet.  All of the newer Snap-on are 72 or 80 teeth, which is nice, but these are a nice compact ratchet.  I prefer the Mac MR4C because it is smaller and has the pushbutton release and toggle reverse switch, but this is a good possible substitute as a compact ratchet.

Ace Professional
This is a decent older ratchet.  32 tooth with jumbo size head, otherwise not much to see here.  This would be a good backup ratchet.

Snap-on TB60MP
The Snap-on indexible is not as good as the Mac version.  Bigger and bulkier means tougher to fit in the spots  where you might need an indexible ratchet.  Otherwise a good build quality Snap-on.

Unidentified Stubby flex-head
This is a really cheap ratchet, but the flex point being below the head is unique.  I personally have never needed one like this and it is pretty bulky and cheap.

Kobalt 23737
This is basically identical to the Gearwrench reviewed earlier.  I suspect  they are built by same company and then molded with a different handle.  Pricing is also similar, so it mostly comes down to which one you would rather go to for warranty, Sears or Lowes.

Snap-on TM831
Another good Snap-on, with the different pivot point flex head.  Good ratchets, but very expensive.   I think the Gearwrench or Kobalt offers comparable performance at 1/3 the price.

Pittsburgh Pro from Harbor Freight
This is actually a surprising nice ratchet.  It has a nice smooth 72 tooth action, and a relatively compact head.  I love the reverse switch and the pushbutton release.  Hard to go wrong at less than $10, but you don't really need it if you are going to invest in a good quality brand name ratchet.  This doesn't offer any extra functionality.

E-Z Red SR14 8G Ratcheting Handle
Probably the second coolest ratchet in the shop.  It has the ratcheting handle, but what really sells this ratchet is the compact size.  This thing is as compact as a regular ratchet, but it can save a LOT of time in certain situations where you need it.  It is a fine tooth ratchet besides.  I probably will try to add this to my collection at some point. 

Stanley 89-961 Ratcheting Handle
The Mac guy sells and warranties this off the truck, but it is expensive and really bulky, so there will be spots that it does not reach.

Ratcheting Handle from Harbor Freight
This is an ok budget option for a ratcheting handle ratchet, but the head on this is massive, and the action is pretty rough (on this one, anyway).  The handle on the bottom is pretty nifty though.

Pittsburgh Pro by Harbor Freight Insulated Ratchet
This is a surprisingly good ratchet.  It is great for pulling battery posts.  I actually really like the 72 tooth action on it.  It feels really tight, and at $8, this is a really good buy if you will use it.

Mac MR5
This is a pretty good little older Mac ratchet.  It is about the same price as an MR4C though, and there is really no comparison between those two ratchets.

This is my favorite ratchet redesigned as a flex head.  It is everything I indicated earlier, but you give up a little bit of size for the addition of the flex head.  I still think that I would go with the straight ratchet and the Gearwrench as my flex, but this one would make me think twice.  I don't really like using the flex-head when I don't need it though, so that is what tips the scale for me.


  1. Just went through your whole blog, wanted to let you know how helpful it is to an A&P just starting out. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  2. just ran across this while searching for a ratchet that hit on your part numbers in descriptions.

    if you want a small compact usa made and CHEAP cost to buy ratchet, look into wright tools. the 2426 model is around 25 bucks. it is tiny(4.5 inches long) and the head is small as a nickel if not smaller. fits in a ton of places. If you want the same 1/4 body w/ 3/8 guts--then get the 3430.

    lastly, that plomb ratchet can be found branded as proto more easily and cheaper. plomb changed their name to proto in the late 40's. the plomb branded stuff--especially what they call pebble finish plomb-- pulls a premium to collectors. I have the same in my work box due to how thin the head design is. however, since buying the wright i never use it.

  3. I'm also just starting out as an AME, great blog post!