All home auto-repair enthusiasts will usually have a box full of tools they’ve collected over the years but there is always the ‘go-to’ tool that you use over and again.
With many people, it’s a ratchet. When fitted with the correct size socket they can make even the tightest and most awkward fastening job, seem easy.
If for some reason you’ve lost or someone has ‘borrowed’ your favorite ratchet and you need to replace it, here is a quick and easy guide of the best 3/8 ratchet for the money.
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Comparison Table of 10 Best 3/8 Ratchet for the Money
Choose wisely, these tools have been constructed to last a lifetime, you should only need to buy one. Unless you fall in love with it so much that you get 1 for the garage, 1 for the car and 1 for a friend!
If you’re looking for a ratchet that is approved by many professional auto technicians, then this one is absolutely worth your consideration.
It arrives in a smart foam storage tray along with a bonus ¼” ratchet and the chrome finish adds to its high-quality. The cushioned handle gives it a more comfortable and controlled grip when doing awkward and heavier tasks.
Double-stacked pawls allow the ratchet to alternately engage with 60-tooth gears, giving 120 ratcheting positions overall. A regular 120xp will not have the same strength as this double-stacked one. So many teeth allow the ratchet to operate smoothly, you will barely feel a click.
This 3/8” ratchet has a very impressive tiny arc swing of just 3°.
It has a flex-head that can be adjusted into 6 positions, making those harder to reach jobs that much easier. It is tough, strong and durable, perfect as a breaker bar as it holds up under high-stress.
Here we have another GearWrench ratchet, the company that brings high-end quality products at affordable prices.
It is chrome finished to be rust-resistant, easy to clean and to look great. The handle is also chromed but if you prefer a cushioned grip then they are available to order.
This ratchet is 17-inches long, longer than most of its competitors, which allows for great leverage and accessibility. It is also available in off-set and stubby handle or with a flex-head.
The teardrop shape is designed to make access to harder to reach places easier. This is also helped by the narrow profile of the head; it’s around 0.7”. This depth includes the flush-fitting fwd/rev switch.
There are 84 fine-toothed gears which allow for smooth and faster usage and a very small ratcheting arc of just 4.3°.
This really is a master for reaching into fasteners in narrow, confined spaces.
Stanley has designed a highly-polished chrome ratchet that is universal to fit all 3/8-inch sockets. They are a trusted reliable brand, who doesn’t own at least 1 Stanley knife?
It will wipe clean easily whilst remaining strong and durable due to its stainless steel construction.
Its head is pear-shaped to fit into confined spaces and has a simple thumb-operated reverse switch. It has a 72 tooth mechanism and a 7° arc sway.
There is also a quick-release feature, this can be flicked whilst working to make for easy changeovers.
This really is a cost-effective piece of kit that has a very long service life.
If you are looking for a reliable name within the tool industry then who is more recognizable than Craftsman? The long-time suppliers of affordable top-quality products to auto enthusiasts.
This teardrop-shaped ratchet wrench is ready to fit all of your 3/8” sockets. It is made from stainless steel so is tough and durable. It has 72 teeth to allow it to engage quickly and tightly to the head of the fastener.
The large markings on the handle make it easy to recognize sizings when reaching for the correct tool.
The reverse button is simple to operate using the same hand that is holding the tool, just 1 touch with your thumb and it’s done. This allows for easy operation when the space you’re working in is restricted.
The 10° arc lets fasteners keep moving in tight spots.
Wera is a German company who seem to be making a big noise in the auto tool industry. When you take a closer look at this product it is easy to see why.
The design has been given a great deal of thought, the metal has been finished to a satin effect, enabling it to be gripped better by greasy hands, The odd-shaped, flattish handle works well for the same reason.
It is very narrow and long, to reach awkward places, the longer than usual handle allows for greater torque.
The quick-release switch sits just beneath the surface so it won’t get knocked during use.
The secure socket locking mechanism and 72 teeth maintain a small sway arc, just 5°.
The reverse direction switch is simple to activate, just 1 thumb operation.
If you can’t already tell, we love this ratchet, it looks, feels and behaves like the high quality that it is.
This Tekton tool the 1st swivel head 3/8-inch ratchet we’ve looked at. Its long handle and the fact that the head turns easily through 270° make it the perfect tool for particularly tricky tasks.
The round head can swivel constantly allowing you to get good torque at any angle.
It is made out of molybdenum steel that has been chrome plated. Therefore, it feels lightweight yet is sturdy and durable and as it will resist rust, it will have a long service life.
It has simple lock-on, quick-release technology. This means that your socket will lock on with 1 click, and stay in pace, no having to hunt at the bottom of your engine for a fallen socket! The touch of 1 button will release it just as easily.
The grip is designed to be comfortable and non-slip.
The pivoting action is tight enough that when the ratchet is being used in a straight line, it acts as a screwdriver.
Tekton really is a market leader of ratchets as even the quickest look at this one will tell.
This regular length ratchet has 90 teeth in a single, half-moon shaped pawl. At any 1 time, there will be at least 6 teeth remaining in contact with the gear ensuring it doesn’t slip or drop. This allows the arc swing to be an impressive minimal 4°. The tiniest turn and the teeth will catch and move smoothly.
The head is particularly compact, there are no switches or buttons on it to increase the profile. Sockets simply pull and push on or off, powered by a classic ball and spring mechanism.
The handle looks a simple design but a lot of thought has gone into it. It allows for safe 2-handed grip for those jobs that require more force. When 1 hand is all that’s needed it provides a comfortable grip.
The ratchet head can be easily disassembled for servicing, a few drops of light machine oil is all it takes to maintain your ratchet for many years ahead.
If you prefer your ratchet to feel a little more weighty and robust, then DeWalt has a pear-shaped ratchet that just might suit you.
It is made from Chrome Vanadium Steel with a highly polished finish that is easy to clean.
Just as we’ve come to expect from DeWalt, this 3/8” ratchet has been built to last, it feels robust and solid.
The 72-teeth mechanism provides high torque with a nice low arc of just 5°.
It has a quick-release button that is very low-profile, just as the directional lever is. This should prevent it from being knocked whilst in use.
The pear-shaped head is useful to get into confined spaces.
Overall, this looks and feels like a high-quality tool that will hold up for a long time, at a great price.
If it’s a stubby ratchet for those difficult to maneuver spaces that you’re looking for, take a look at these from Powerbuilt.
There is a ¼” ratchet supplied along with the 3/8”, both of which are made from Chrome Vanadium Steel, which gives them a high-quality, weighty feel.
The 72-teeth allow for great torque, the arc swing is a small 5° which is ideal when you’re in a tight spot. The ratchet fits perfectly in the palm of your hand where you can operate the directional switch with a thumb.
Sockets simply push-on and quick release button is barely noticeable on the head. Both switches have low-profiles to prevent accidentally catching them mid-job.
When just a stubby handled ratchet will do, consider this, it is heavy-duty and sturdy and will easily do an equivalent job of those much higher priced brands.
This stubby ratchet from GearWrench really is all-singing, all-dancing.
The teardrop-shaped head is very thin and even then the on/off switch lays flush to prevent it being accidentally bumped as you work.
It has a flex-head that gets you into the most awkward jobs, it will turn through 180° and has a tiny 4.3° ratcheting arc.
The 84-tooth mechanism makes for smooth operation, it is difficult to feel the click as it works so well.
The polished Chrome finish means it is easy to keep clean, even after the muckiest jobs.
GearWrench offers a Lifetime Warranty though it’s hard to see how you will ever need it as this ratchet feels so strong and durable.
What is A 3/8-inch Ratchet?
Ratchets come in 4 sizes, ¼, 3/8, ½ and ¾-inches. The ones we are looking at are simply ratcheted handles in which you place any 3/8” socket or bit and use it to loosen or tighten any bolt or fastener. They work faster and more efficiently than using a regular spanner or wrench as you don’t have to remove them from the bolt at any point, the action of moving your hand back and forth does the work for you.
Also read: Best Penetrating Oil for Rusted Bolts
How Does A Ratchet Work?
A ratchet is a mechanical device basically consisting of a wheel with evenly spaced, slanted teeth, and a control finger, call a pawl.
With each turn of the ratchet, the wheel spins freely, the pawl just drops from 1 tooth to the next. Each time the pawl passes a tooth it makes the clicking sound you expect to hear. If you move your hand in the opposite direction, the pawl will sit deep in the tooth recess and stop it from turning. This is what allows you to keep the ratchet on the fastener head and not have to move it and start again.
Most modern-day ratchets are designed with a reverse lever. One flick and the action will reverse, allowing to loosen the bolt.
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Do More Teeth Mean Greater Torque?
No, completely the opposite. If it’s torque you need then we suggest you look for a ratchet with fewer teeth.
Having more teeth allows you to get the job done quicker. More teeth give a smaller return arc, meaning you will have to move your hand less for the return stroke.
Therefore, the more teeth the ratchet has, the better it will perform in tight spaces where accessibility is difficult. Think about the deep, dark confines of your vehicle’s engine!
1. Cost: As with most things, the most expensive isn’t always the best and the cheapest may not be the worst. Choose a budget and stick to it. Buy the best 3/8 ratchet for the money, that you can afford, our reviews have around a $70 dollar difference between the 2.
2. Size: Choosing between a regular, stubby or long-handle ratchet isn’t the only option, you will also need to look at thickness. The profile of your ratchet will determine what size spaces it can fit into. You will also need to decide between a round, teardrop or pear-shaped head.
3. Fabrication: Look for a ratchet made of a solid steel alloy. This will give it a long service life as it will remain resistant to corrosion. It will also feel durable and robust. The finish might be important to you, you may prefer a dull satin finish or a highly-polished chrome. Do you prefer a soft-grip handle or metal, most companies offer both or the option to order non-slip grips.
4. Teeth: As we have discussed already, more teeth = faster and more efficient job.
5. Arc Angle: The degree that you will need to swing your hand back and forth to achieve a full ratchet turn. The smaller the figure, the more efficient. Our review has covered sway angles between 3° and 5°.
Also read: Best Shock Absorbers for Light Trucks
When using my old ratchet it became so annoying when the directional lever was bumped as I used it, this made the job much more difficult than it needed to be. Is there any way to overcome this?
Yes, you need to look for a ratchet with ‘low-profile lever’ in the description. This means that the switch stands only slightly proud of the ratchet head.
Some companies have realized that this is a problem and make levers that sit flush or below the metal so eliminating the possibility of them being knocked.
Is it recommended to use the same brand socket as my ratchet?
You don’t have to, a universal 3/8-inch ratchet will fit any 3/8-inch socket.
Although, if you spend a lot of money on a high-quality ratchet and use cheap, weak sockets that aren’t up to the job, that seems pretty wasteful.
I see some ratchets have quick-release buttons and some don’t, which is better?
It is totally down to personal choice, some users prefer the more traditional push-on and pull-off method, this works with a simple ball and spring mechanism. Others feel that the quick-release system offers a tighter grip.
Who or what is ANSI?
American National Standards Institution. Every 3/8 ratchet that we have reviewed either meets or exceeds the high standards that have been set.
Once you have made your well-informed choice from the 10 of the best that we hand-picked, we are sure that your ratchet will take pride of place in your tool-box and be the piece of kit that you reach for 1st and most often.
Simple to use, easy to clean, time efficient, and relatively low-cost, the 3/8 ratchet should be the centerpiece of all DIY and car enthusiast’s tool kit.